Grafton Wood

Lovely day yesterday out and about at Grafton Wood, one of our favourite butterfly hunting spots. Forecast was for sunny spells in the morning so we headed over, hopeful of a good day’s butterfly spotting. The sunny spells were slow to materialise and for the first hour we hardly saw a butterfly. Nor did we see anyone else, it was as if everyone else knew the butterflies were having a day off! Eventually though the butterflies started to appear – a slightly dopey Common Blue was the first to pose for us.

After the initial dozy one, more blues arrived plus Green-Veined Whites and our first Painted Lady of the year.  All in all we tallied up 11 species – not bad after such an unpromising start.

The one butterfly we’d particularly hoped to see though, the Brown Hairstreak, eluded us. They are notoriously tricky to find and we’ve only ever seen one, right here at Grafton Wood in 2015. So it was no great surprise not to find one yesterday. We did however meet  a very helpful gentleman who gave us some top tips for spotting them and showed us some new areas of the wood to look for them in future.  So butterfly-wise we were very happy.

But Grafton Wood is buzzing with more than just butterflies, there are plenty of other insects to enjoy. We kept seeing beautiful big hornets – either Grafton has lots of them or we were being stalked by the same one everywhere we went.

There were lots of small moths flying about in the grass, but the mothy highlight was spotting a group of Buff Tip moth caterpillars that had almost stripped a young tree bare.

We also saw a few shieldbugs, including this nice specimen of a Forest Bug (Pentatoma rufipes).

In the sunnier periods we could hear crickets chirruping in the grass. We saw several of these particularly large ones, which turned out to be a new species for us  – the Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolour).

Grafton is also a great place to go for dragonflies and damselflies. Darters (like this female Common Darter (thanks to Neil for ID)) were reasonably common all over the wood.

We also saw several of the much larger Southern Hawker dragonflies, particularly around the small pond. They seemed to be inexhaustible though and never once did we see one land. Both of us spent ages trying to get a photo of one in flight over the pond; this blurry shot was the best we managed.

Damselflies were also common around the pond – again another new species for us – the White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes), which has, as the name suggests, white legs! (although to be honest the legs look more like pale blue to me)

I found one individual sitting on a flower, seemingly staring straight at me. It stayed so long and I spent so long trying to get the perfect photo, it ended up feeling like we were having a bit of a staring contest – if we were then he won!

One insect we’d been trying to get a photo of all summer, was a scorpion fly.  These are seriously weird looking insects, with a long beak like structure on the head and a scorpion style tail on the males. We’d seen lots of them at Trench Wood a few months ago, but then only the females which don’t have the scorpion bit. Grafton Wood however was buzzing with males. It still wasn’t easy to get a photo of the tail as the wings kept getting in the way, but here are our best efforts.

Final surprise of the day was a cheeky little deer face, peeking at us over the wheat field as we walked back to the car.

Grafton Wood has never disappointed us and this weekend was no exception.

30 Days Wild – Day 30

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_30So it’s Day 30 and the final day of the 30 Days Wild Challenge. It’s been a fantastic month, with a wide variety of activities. I’ll probably do a bit of a review of it all in a couple of days, but for the time being, here is the final blog post of the challenge. Day 30 started for us with a kebab in the early hours of the morning – pretty wild for us to be out that late these days and we saw all sorts of “wildlife” staggering the street, but I won’t go into that here!

After the slight excesses of last night we’ve been having a quiet time for the final day of 30 Days Wild. We went out to the Bridge of Feugh on Deeside near Banchory in Aberdeenshire. This is a beautiful place where, at the right time of the year, you can see the salmon leaping as they head upstream for their spawning. Of course we were there at the wrong time of the year, so no salmon jumping, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

View

View 2

Chris had a go at taking arty style photos where you use a long exposure to blur the water. The result was pretty good for a first attempt.

View 5

The whole of Deeside is a stunning area, it was just a shame we didn’t have longer to explore today.

View 3

View 4

The Feugh is only a small river but the power of the water rushing over the rocks was incredible. The sound felt like it was all around us as we stood on the bridge watching the water – very hypnotic. The brief clip hopefully gives some idea of the sound of the rapids.

 

So that’s our last wild activity for 30 Days Wild. We may not have been very wild ourselves today, but it felt like we were out in the Scottish wild by the river. It seemed a fitting end to the month. It may be officially the end of 30 Days Wild, but we’ll definitely be trying to include as much “wildness” as we can from now on – which I guess was the whole idea – result!

This is a bit of an addendum to my original Day 30 of 30 Days Wild post, as after I’d written the original piece, we drove over to Chris’s brother’s and spotted some quintessential Scottish Wildlife. The Red Deer were actually farmed animals, but they were so beautiful and the stags so impressive, we couldn’t resist taking photos.

Red Deer family

Red Deer family 3

Red deer family 2

We then saw a pair of pheasants – the male of course resplendent next to his slightly dowdier female.

Pheasants

But the most amazing sight was this genuinely wild female Roe Deer (actually seen early morning the next day), grazing in the field next door. She stayed there for 5 minutes or so until she spotted Chris and his camera and bolted for the woods. A truly beautiful creature and wonderful for her to be the last thing we saw on our Scottish holiday and also the final thing for 30 Days Wild – absolutely the perfect ending!

Roe Deer

Roe Deer 2

 

Willowherb 30 WEEDS

The final weed for 30 Lazy Garden Weeds is this Willow Herb – I think it’s the Broad Leaved one. I’ve gone through the 30 weeds in no particular order, so it’s not like I’ve saved the Willow Herb to last deliberately. This one is more delicate than some of its showier cousins like the Rose Bay Willow Herb, but I prefer its subtlety. All the 30 weed species I’ve featured here have a place in our garden. They all provide something –  ground cover, shelter and hiding places, nesting material, colour and beauty, seeds for birds, food for insects –  even food for us in the case of the brambles. The more diverse the weed flora, the more diverse the rest of the wildlife. Seems like a Win-Win to me!