Isle of Wight – Part 2 Thwarted By Fog

Our first full day on the Isle of Wight coincided with the first day of 30 Days Wild – the Wildlife Trusts’ annual event to get people to engage with nature.  Perfect day then to go looking for our next two species of butterfly – the Glanville Fritillary and the Adonis Blue. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and a thick blanket of fog seemed to have covered most of the island. No self respecting butterfly was going to fly in that, so our chances of seeing them were virtually nil. We did make a short half-hearted attempt and had a bit of a wander around the chalky slopes on the southern coast. Fortunately we like all sorts of invertebrates besides butterflies and many of these are fog tolerant.

Snails of course don’t mind a bit of damp weather and we found two new (to us) species in the hedgerows. This beautifully coiled one is a Kentish Snail (Monacha cantiana).

This tiny pointy snail is in fact called a Pointed Snail (Cochlicella sp.). It was only about a centimetre long, but still managed to have at least 8 whorls on its shell.

The other group of invertebrates that braved the fog in reasonable numbers were moth caterpillars. We saw several species, but these two were particularly striking. We’ve never seen them before either in caterpillar form, nor as adult moths. The top one is the caterpillar of the Lackey Moth and the bottom one of a Dingy Flat-Body Moth (thank you to the good people of iSpot for identifying the second one for me).

The other notable invertebrate was a cricket – there were large numbers of these Dark Bush Crickets (Pholidoptera griseoaptera) in the undergrowth. We only saw immature stages such as this nymph.

After an hour of enjoyable but butterfly-less searching, we went to Plan B. Isle of Wight is also known for its thriving population of Red Squirrels. Thankfully the grey squirrels haven’t made it across the water yet, so for the time being the reds have free rein over the island. So we headed inland to Borthwood Copse, a small woodland managed to support the red squirrels. The first interesting animal we spotted when we got to the wood, was another insect. This female Scarce Chaser dragonfly (Libellula fulva) is, as its name suggests, fairly scarce, so it was a really nice find. With its yellow veining and dark tips to the wings, it was clearly different to any dragonfly we’d seen before.

The wood was full of birds, all singing their hearts out (or all shouting warnings that we were intruding possibly). We could hear, if not see, lots of species, but the only one we really managed to photograph was this male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

After a lot of dizzying staring up into trees, we eventually spotted our first red squirrel. I think we had both fondly imagined that the squirrels would come down and somehow just sit waiting to be photographed. Needless to say, they did no such thing and remained steadfastly high up in the branches. Over the course of the next hour we spotted a few (or possibly the same one taunting us over and over) and although they were a delight to watch, they never came close enough for any really good photos. But we did eventually get some recognisable red squirrel photos, so here are our best efforts. We watched this one for a while carrying a bundle of nesting material, jumping from branch to branch.

We followed it by eye until it disappeared with its bundle of nesting material into what looked like a denser patch of leaves. It stayed in there for ages, so we wondered whether this might have been a nest or drey? You can just about make out the denser patch in the photo below.

When it eventually emerged it no longer had the nesting material, but decided to sit nearby watching us below. I know the next picture is really dark, but you can see the squirrel staring directly at us.

 

We had a few more sightings after this. In some they were again carrying nesting material, although we lost track of them in the branches so couldn’t see if they took them back to the same place.

The final photo I know is really rubbish, but I just love the way it looks like he’s just dangling there, when obviously we just caught him mid-jump.

So Plan B worked out pretty well in the end. The fog may have stopped us seeing butterflies that day (don’t worry we got there in the end – see next blog post), but there was plenty of other wildlife to enjoy. That’s one of the things about wildlife watching I love, you are never really disappointed, as there is almost always something amazing to see if you look.

 

 

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 4 – Garden Bioblitz Part 2

It’s day 4 of 30 Days Wild and I spent the morning taking more photos of the wildlife for our Garden Bioblitz. I’d started the bioblitz at about 09:30 yesterday, so I was trying to cram in as many more species as I could before 09:30 this morning. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my camera has packed in (I hope temporarily) so I was having to use Chris’s camera and swap lenses back and forth.

The day started at 04:30 to beat the birds to the contents of the moth trap. I had hoped for a good haul to boost my species tally, but the trap was fairly quiet – possibly because it had been quite windy last night. Still there were some nice moths including a few of these beautiful and distinctive Angle Shades – virtually impossible to mistake these for anything else, which I like in a moth!

Star of the moth show was the Elephant Hawkmoth making a timely debut for the year in our garden. I’ll never tire of these stunning moths with their bright pink bodies. If you were to make a toy moth, I reckon this would be it.

I put a specimen of each moth in the fridge (it does no harm but keeps them calm until  you can photograph them) and went back to bed for a couple of hours. 8 o’clock though and I was back up photographing said moths, then scouring the garden for more wildlife. I hadn’t managed to photograph any birds yesterday, so I topped up the feeders and waited expectantly to see what would show up. As usual the sparrows were the first to show, landing on last year’s teasels to check things out before heading to the bird table.

The starlings and jackdaws came next, followed by the blackbirds and pigeons.

There were several no shows for birds that normally frequent the garden – no sign of the robin, wren, collared doves, great tits or gold finches. A blue tit just appeared in the last minutes to scrape into the bioblitz total. For the last few days I’d been seeing a big black bird, bigger then the jackdaws, so was disappointed initially when it didn’t show for the camera. But then I downloaded the trail camera which had been running for the last couple of days and there he was – a carrion crow.

The trail cam also picked up a couple of hedgehogs – one of which looks like our old foster hedgehog Meadow – i.e. it was a big chunky looking hog!

There were of course bees in the garden, although being a busy bee myself chasing everything else around I didn’t actually manage to get that many photos of them. But here are two favourites – a Buff-tailed Bumblebee and a Common Carder Bee.

There was also this bumblebee mimicking hoverfly (Merodon equestris).

Our snails were also being sneeky and hiding away over the last 24 hours – several species that I know we get refused to show. Fortunately both the White Lipped (top) and Brown Lipped (below) appeared out of the Pendulous Sedge to get their photos taken.

I also found three species of slug including this large yellow one and the stripy ones which I think are Iberian slugs.

I spotted this tiny nymph of the Speckled Bush Cricket, when I saw its antennae poking over the edge of a buttercup. Unfortunately the buttercup was blowing about in the wind a bit – hence the less than perfect focussing!

While turning over stones, I disturbed loads of woodlice. The top one is a Common Striped Woodlouse and the ones below that are Common Rough Woodlice. The bottom pinky one may just be a variant of the latter, but I hoping it might be a 3rd species – just waiting for someone on i-Spot to confirm one way or another.

 

Beetles are the largest insect group in the world, so it would have been a bit weird if I hadn’t found any in the garden. My favourite Swollen-thighed beetle of course appeared, but so did this lovely shiny Black Clock Beetle.

This tiny carpet beetle was making the most of the flowers.

One group I’ve never really studied is the centipedes/millipedes. This beauty turned up under an old piece of wood. I’ve yet to work out the species though (suggestions gratefully received).

So that’s a selection of our bioblitz species for 2017. As always I ran out of time, so didn’t manage to root about in the pond, or look for ants, flies, grass moths and a host of other things. It was also a bit disappointing that no butterflies or shieldbugs or ladybirds appeared in the last 24 hours, but then that’s the way it goes. The bioblitz is just a snapshot of what you can find in the garden over a day. I love that it gets me looking for groups that I don’t normally study (easy to get in a bit of a rut with the bees and moths and butterflies and forget the others sometimes) – always good to broaden my wildlife horizons.

I’m still identifying photos and gradually uploading them to the i-Record website, so I won’t know the final tally for a while yet. So far I’ve only managed to load 32 species, which apparently puts me 10th on the bioblitz league table. Sounds good until I realised the person in the top spot at the moment has 167 species – I’ve got a way to go yet!

 

Out and About – Prestbury Hill – The Return!

I’m not normally given to the expression OMG, but OMG Prestbury Hill is an amazing place! We made a return trip today to see the Chalkhill Blue butterflies that we didn’t see a few weeks ago (because I’d got their season wrong!) We ended up seeing 15 species of butterfly, a beautiful bird of prey, some moths, a new snail and a lizard! Pretty amazing for a few hours walking in beautiful countryside.

We started leisurely by heading to a bench for a picnic (I’d love to be able to claim that I’d loving crafted cucumber sandwiches and other home-made delights, but actually it was left-over fried chicken from the night before!) We spotted our first Chalkhill Blues before we even reached the bench, but decided to eat first then take photos later. Said bench has glorious views out over Cheltenham and beyond and is the perfect place for a picnic. We could see a bird of prey hovering over fields below – turned out it was this beautiful kestrel. We couldn’t get very close, so this is taken zoomed in from a fair distance, but you can still see what a stunning bird it is.

Kestrel

It hovered round about for much of our visit, never coming close enough for a better photo though. But by then we were distracted by the object of our desires – the Chalkhill Blues. The beautiful blue butterflies need either chalk or limestone grassland (Prestbury is limestone) and are one of the last species to appear each year. The males have gorgeous bright blue upper wings edged with black.

Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue 3

The underneath of the wings have a pattern of dots quite similar to the Common Blue.

Chalkhill Blue 2

As is so often the case with butterflies, the female is much drabber. We saw mainly males today, but that could be just that they are easier to spot with their bright colouring. The few females we did see were often being pursued by more than one admirer. This one was having a quick rest between suitors.

Chalkhill female

Already delighted with having bagged our Chalkhills we got chatting to some fellow butterfly twitchers, who knew much more about the area than we did and were very helpful. They mentioned that they’d seen Brown Argus further up the slope – a species that we’d never seen before. Needless to say we puffed our way back up the hill to the area they’d described in the hope of a second prize for the day. Chris caught a glimpse of something different, which turned out though to be some lovely Small Coppers. Our photos don’t really do them justice, but they were positively glowing a coppery red in the sunshine today.

Small Copper

Small Copper (2)

While Chris was concentrating on the coppers, I noticed a tiny, fairly plain little butterfly, so took a few quick photos thinking it would probably turn out to be a Common Blue. So we were amazed when I downloaded the photos later and realised it had actually been a Small Blue! Another new species for us – two in one day!

Small Blue open

We carried on back up the hill and about half way up saw another small butterfly. This time we’d found it – a male Brown Argus. Our third new species of the day! Again they look quite similar to the female Common Blues, but have the orange dots going right the way to the end of each wing.

Brown Argus male

Obviously seeing three brand new ones was the highlight of the day, but we also saw 12 other species, including our first Small Skipper of the year and some nice fresh looking Gatekeepers.

Small Skipper

Gatekeeper

We also saw lots of these interesting snails. They are Heath Snails (Helicella itala) and seemed to have the habit of climbing grass stems like this.

Heath Snail

As we got back onto level ground, Chris found a lizard basking on the path. Of course the lizard spotted him before he spotted it, so it dashed into the grass – this was the best shot we got of it.

Lizard

And finally we couldn’t have a day out without finding a moth – this time a Shaded Broad-Bar as we headed back to the car.

Moth

So if you want to see butterflies, I can’t think of many places better to go than Prestbury Hill. And it still has more to offer – Duke of Burgundy butterflies in the early summer apparently, so we’ll be back again next year.

30 Days Wild – Day 24

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_24Day 24 of 30 Days Wild and this is the first day I haven’t really had chance to get out and about doing something wild. Instead, having got home from a trying day at work (not to mention the vote!), I thought I’d spend the evening on the sofa (with very large glass of wine) and analyse the results from our Garden Bioblitz of a couple of weeks ago. It took me a couple of weeks to get all the photos identified and logged onto the Bioblitz website and I’ve been so busy since, that I’ve not really had chance to sit back and really see what we found. So tonight’s the night.

All the results had to be logged by last Monday. So I got as many on the database as I could. There were still quite a few things that I’d got photos of but couldn’t identify – either due to my lack of skills in ID or my lack of skills as a photographer! So we potentially had a few more than the final tally shows. But equally I may have got some things wrong, so they won’t be allowed when the experts check everything, so perhaps that balances it out? So our grand total was 119 species and I was thrilled to discover that our little garden is currently 13th in the Recorders League table. I took this screenshot from the Bioblitz website – just in case no-one believed me! I’ve obscured the names of the people ahead of me – not in some jealous pique (although I am jealous), but in case I was breaching anyone’s privacy by leaving in the full names.

Trending

119 species isn’t bad for an ordinary town garden like ours, so I’m really pleased. Of course if we’d had more time, we could have raised this figure, but then that was the whole point of the Bioblitz – it was what you could find in 24 hours.

So our 119 species covered a pretty broad spectrum of flora and fauna. Maybe not surprisingly the moths represented our biggest group – 42 species in total. This probably reflects our experience with moths – we’ve been moth trapping for a few years, so can identify most of the common species. There were probably just as many fly species in the garden that day, but we didn’t have the skills to ID them.

Spruce CarpetOf the 42 species of moth some were perennial favourites and spectacular ones like the Elephant Hawkmoth, but others were just as exciting as they were “firsts” for our garden – like this Spruce Carpet. (Our moth list for 2016 to date is currently 97 species!)

CJL_5302Bees were of course one of our prime targets and I was pleased we spotted 8 species that day. We’ve actually found 22 species this year, but to get 8 in the one day wasn’t bad. But the bee highlight was seeing this little chap flying around carrying his precious leaf – a Leaf Cutter Bee and a first for the garden.

 

Iberian SlugMolluscs might have done better if it had been a rainier day (if we’d done the bioblitz the following week, we’d have done really well by that reckoning!) But we still managed a respectable 7 species – 4 snails and 3 slugs. One of the slugs was even a new one for the garden, although I suspect they’ve been around for ages and we’ve just not bothered to identify them. It was this Striped Slug – Ambigolimax valentianus no less!

Bordered Shieldbug

We got two species of Shieldbug on the day, but again one of them was new to us – this Bordered Shieldbug, which I initially thought was just a small beetle, until I enlarged the photo. Really chuffed to be able to add this species to our Shieldbug list – currently 8 now I think.

 

Sexton beetleBeetles came in at 8 species (11 species actually if you include the ladybirds which I had counted separately). Beetles are a group that we’re just getting in to, trying out pitfall traps to see what we’ve got. This one however flew into the moth trap. It is a Black Sexton Beetle and was absolutely covered in these mites. It looks lifeless in this photo, but honest it was just playing dead, because as soon as I turned away it was off. The mites are apparently harmless and just hitch a ride to the next dead animal that they and the beetle feed off. Can’t help thinking that so many mites must be really irritating though and affect his flight?

Lucilia green bottleThere were of course flies buzzing about all the time, but with virtually no knowledge of this group we didn’t pay them too much attention. This big Greenbottle though was quite photogenic and the good people of iSpot identified it to genus for us – Lucilia sp. We did manage to get 2 other fly species to genus as well, but they weren’t as “pretty” as this one!

Frog hopperOne of my favourite finds of the day was this Red & Black Leafhopper, which I’d previously only seen in photos. Not seen it in the garden before or since, but I’m glad it chose that day to make an appearance! It was a stunning little insect, so I hope we see more of them.

 

 

JackdawFor the birds we only managed a slightly disappointing 8, all of which were the usual suspects like robins, blue tits and this Jackdaw. We do get quite a few other species, but I suppose it was a bit much to expect the Sparrowhawk to make an appearance within those 24 hours!

 

FrogAnd finally for the animals, we managed a grand total of 3 vertebrates – a frog, a newt and the hedgehog.  The bats were around, but we didn’t actually see them in our garden and without photographic evidence (still not worked out how to get a photo of one flying), I’m not sure the Bioblitz database would accept them.

 

PimpernelOf course the Bioblitz included plants as well as animals. I did originally intend to go around the garden the week before and pre-identify all the plants, then all I’d have to do on the day was take a quick snap of each. But of course that didn’t happen, so instead we zigzagged about the garden photographing everything in sight with no real plan. But we still managed to record 24 species. With hindsight I realised we didn’t make any attempt at the grasses, the mosses, the lichens – oops!

Beside all of the above we also saw 1 butterfly, 2 crustaceans (woodlouse and water louse), 1 hoverfly, 2 spiders, 1 earwig, 1 weevil, 1 cranefly and 1 leech (from the pond), which round off our 119 species.

This is the second time we’ve done the Bioblitz and I find it a really interesting thing to do. I think lots of people would be amazed at how much is going on in their gardens if they just took a day to have a look!

Daisy Fleabane 30 WEEDSAnd finally as always the latest weed in 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – this daisy like flower is, I think, Fleabane. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to spot it during the Bioblitz, although it was almost certainly growing in the garden at the time, so that’s another species missed. These little flowers always remind me of kids’ drawings – what an archetypal flower looks like – petals sticking out all round a central disc. There’s something charming about them, so as always they are welcome in the Too Lazy garden!

30 Days Wild – Day 11

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_11Day 11 of 30 Days Wild and last night’s drizzle has turned into today’s rain. We had planned on a trip to the Wyre Forest in the hope of seeing the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries – they would have been a new species for us. But no point going in the rain, not much likelihood of seeing butterflies on a day like this.

So thought I’d just go with the flow today – if it’s raining, find something to do with animals that like the rain! It may be nice weather for ducks, but our pond is too small for them. I did see a frog this morning when emptying the moth trap, but of course it was long gone by the time I decided on the wet weather plan. So what’s left? Well one thing our garden produces lots of is molluscs. And in the rain this morning it was heaving with snails and slugs.

A quick trawl round produced 5 species of snail (we have others, but they would have required more hunting than I was prepared to do in the rain).

Assorted snails

Garden SnailFirst up our largest species at Too Lazy To Weed – the Common Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum). Plenty of these today hiding amongst stones and a few intrepid individuals heading across the grass.

 

Next up two very similar species, the Brown Lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) and the White Lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis). The Brown Lipped has a brown band around the opening of the shell (top image below) and the White Lipped has (not too surprisingly) a white band at the opening (bottom image). Other than that the two species both vary hugely in colour patterns from near white, yellow, brown and all manner of stripes in between.

Brown lipped

White lipped

Fourth snail today was a Girdled Snail (Hygromia cinctella). This species is a relative newcomer to the UK, being first seen in the south in the 1950s – well it’s now reached Malvern. It has a keel or girdle round the middle, defined by a white line. (the photo below was actually taken a few months ago, because for some reason I couldn’t get today’s one to focus!)

Girdle Snail

And finally we found one of the Glass Snails (Oxychilus sp.) These glossy little snails have a blue/black body and some supposedly smell of garlic.

Glass snail

In addition to the snails, there were at least 2 slug species around. I think the big one is part of the Large Black Slug group (Arion ater agg.) When I moved it, it rolled up into almost a ball and started rocking from side to side – apparently a characteristic of this group. Not sure yet what the smaller slimmer slug is – any suggestions welcome.

Arion ater

Slug

Having assembled a selection of molluscs for the photos, I decided to do something I haven’t done since I was a child – have a snail race! My sister and I used to collect and race snails all the time (mainly when we were killing time with our friends on a Sunday afternoon in the pub garden while our parents were all inside!) I did consider inviting my sister down for the race, but figured she has probably sensibly moved on from such things, while clearly I have not!

When we were kids we would of course just race any snails. But since I am now older and if not wiser, at least a bit more knowledgeable about snails, I decided to pit one species against another. Oh yes the fun never ends in our garden! The girdled and glass snails were a bit small and the garden snail was too big, so the obvious choices for this gladiatorial contest was the Brown Lipped versus the White Lipped.

So I set up a track, with a finish line and “raced” 2 Brown Lipped against 2 White Lipped.

The finish line

Race 1

The snails of course did exactly what they used to do when we were kids – veered all over the place – they have no concept of sticking to their lanes!

 

It took a bit of time but eventually 2 snails did approach the other end of the course, although one was not technically between the finishing lines, but I decided not to be picky. In a nail biting finish, the White Lipped Snail won by an eye stalk!

 

After so much excitement, I thought perhaps it was only fair to let the garden snails have a go. Unfortunately though, they really didn’t seem to get the hang of racing and made the other racers look positively professional!

 

Don’t think you can draw too many conclusions from this non-scientific competition – pretty sure another time a Brown Lipped may well have raced ahead instead. But for today at least the White Lipped Snails were the fastest molluscs in Malvern and I was back being a kid again!

Herb Bennet 30 WEEDS

And finally today’s weed in my 30 Days of Lazy Garden Weeds is Herb Bennet or Wood Avens. I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with this one. I love 5 petals interspersed with the 5 sepals into form a star shape. But I hate the seeds – they form masses of curved or hooked seeds that are designed to stick in the fur of animals that pass by. They do of course stick in clothing (towelling dressing gowns in particular!) just as well, where they seem to burrow in only to emerge later to stick into you like a splinter! I guess no pain no gain though, so I’ll put up with the seeds for the sake of the flowers.

30 Days Wild – Day 4

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_04Day 4 of 30 Days Wild and today we took part in another event – the National Garden Bioblitz, thereby ticking off two targets with one activity (in true Too Lazy fashion). The aim of the Garden Bioblitz is to find and record as many species of plants and animals as possible in the garden in 24 hours.  Since we’re always identifying things we find in the garden anyway, a bioblitz is just a natural extension of that.

Garden BioblitzLast time we did this a few years ago, we recorded about 120 species; but that was before we got into moth trapping and bee identifying, so hopefully we can beat that this time.  I’m writing this late evening – we’ve been busy in the garden all day, photographing and listing everything we could find. I’ve still got loads of things to identify from the photos and then everything has to get logged onto the i-record site.

It has pretty much been the perfect day. It started at about 4:30 am when I got up to empty the moth trap (to beat the cheeky robin to the catch). Then went back to bed for a bit more sleep (always good), before resuming the challenge at a more reasonable hour. For once the sun shone on the righteous (questionable I know) and we had the perfect conditions for trawling the garden for photo ops. Pretty much the whole day was spent crawling about the garden with the cameras. We finished off by cranking up the BBQ and cracking open a bottle of Prosecco – the perfect end to the perfect day.

Elephant Hawkmoth 2During the day we tried every trick we could think of. Obviously the moth trap had been out over night and produced at least 20 species of moth – I’m still working through the photos, so this total may rise. Highlight was the always stunning Elephant Hawkmoth.

 

Diamond Back mothI was also really pleased to get several Diamond-back moths – tiny moths that migrate over from the Continent. They’d been mentioned on Springwatch and social media was full of people saying they’d had loads of them this week, so I felt ridiculously glad that Too Lazy’s garden hadn’t missed out. Moth envy is a terrible thing!

 

CJL_5328We also tried pitfall traps for the first time, using old plastic tubs buried in the ground. This produced this rather splendid (and still to be identified) beetle, plus a couple of woodlice and a spider (also still in need of ID). I suspect pitfall traps take a bit of practice in sussing the right location – we might try them again at other places in the garden.

We tried the “suspend an umbrella under a tree and wack the branches” technique as demonstrated by Chris Packham on Springwatch.  We only have the one mature tree (an apple) so this didn’t produce too much, but was interesting to try.

FrogWe dipped in the pond, which produced mainly duckweed, but also some leeches and water louse. It also meant we spotted one of our two amphibian species of the day – a Common Frog, watching us warily from his duckweed blanket.

 

 

NewtWe of course turned over stones and pieces of wood, which yielded our second amphibian – the Common Newt. We also found most of our molluscan species this way, both snails and slugs. We achieved a respectable 4 species of snail, but sadly the Girdled Snail, which I know we get in the garden, remained steadfastly hidden today.

 

Collared DoveThe rest of the day was spent generally bird watching and chasing various bees and insects round the garden.  I haven’t tallied up the birds properly yet, but we managed at least 10 species including this Collared Dove. At least 6 bee species put in an appearance, with possibly a new one – we spotted some kind of leafcutter bee carrying (not surprisingly) a piece of leaf – hopefully we can get an ID on it soon, although the photo wasn’t brilliant. DSC_3856Fortunately other bees were more obliging.

Only 2 butterflies showed their faces today – a Small White and a Holly Blue. Assorted insects made up the remainder of the animal count, while the plant count is at least 25 species, with probably a few more to ID.

We’ve spent the whole day in the garden photographing our wildlife and it will probably take several days more to go through all the photos and get them loaded so that they count for the Bioblitz. But it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and has got us rooting about bits of the garden, that we may otherwise ignore. We won’t know the final tally of species for a couple of days, but I’ll post an update when we do. I’d recommend having a go at a Garden Bioblitz for anyone – you don’t need to be especially skilled – just take it to whatever level  you can manage. You’re sure to learn something new and hopefully enjoy your garden all the more for it. There’s still time to do it for this year – http://www.gardenbioblitz.org/ for more information.

Bindweed 30 WEEDSDay 4 of 30 Lazy Weeds and a truly beautiful if sometimes bothersome flower – Bindweed. The bane of many a gardener, but if you take the time to look at the flower itself, it really is stunning. Pure white and beautiful in its simplicity. Gardeners will plant similar looking flowers, but weed out these, which seems a shame. I know their stems do wind themselves round pretty much everything, but for me the flowers more than make up for this.

 

 

A Frost , A Moth and A Snail

Finally this week, the frosty morning I’ve been waiting for! Jack Frost had visited my beloved teasels leaving them glinting in the early morning sunshine.  The asparagus fronds (long overdue for a haircut)  took on an almost ethereal blue hue, making them far more attractive than they are in their non-wintry state.

Frosty teaselFrosty asparagus

The cold snap didn’t last long though and last night was mild enough to put out the moth trap, although I didn’t hold out much hope. But I got up this morning to the triumphant catch of one moth and one caterpillar!

The caterpillar turned out to be that of an Angle Shades moth – one of my favourites (I’m conscious of sounding a bit like Bruce Forsyth now “You’re my favourite” to every moth I find!) The photo of the caterpillar was taken this morning; next to it is an adult Angle Shades moth snapped in warmer months.

Angle Shades Caterpillar

Common Quaker 2The moth turned out to be a Common Quaker – quite early in the year for this species, which I guess just shows how mild the winter has really been here in Malvern at least. In hunting round to find a suitable leaf for my Quaker to sit on for his photo shoot, I also found this teeny, tiny snail. It was only a couple of millimetres long, so apologies for the less than perfect photograph. I think it may be a Common Chrysalis Snail (Lauria cylindracea), Tiny Snailbut it was so small and I’m so not good at mollusc identification, that I can’t be sure. If anyone has any other ideas, I’m happy to be corrected. There are probably lots of other species of mollusc lurking in the garden – I clearly need to rummage around in the leaf litter more!

 

One final random fact  – it is apparently a Wolf Moon this weekend.  Not expecting too many wolves to be baying at the moon in Worcestershire this weekend, but I like the idea that each full moon of the year traditionally had its own name.

Garlic Snails

Glass SnailIt may be that I have too much time on my hands as I spent about 10 minutes yesterday waiting for this little snail to come out of its shell, so that I could get this “action shot”! It is almost certainly one of the Glass Snails, named for their glossy, see-through shells. The trouble is there are three very similar species and the identification depends a lot on their smell. The Garlic Snail apparently smells strongly of garlic when disturbed. There is also the brilliantly named Slightly Garlic Snail, which only smells slightly of garlic. Then of course there is the one that doesn’t smell of garlic at all (I really wish they’d called this the Not At All Garlic Snail, but the powers that be went with Draparnaud’s Glass Snail, which shows a serious lack of humour). So not only did I spend 10 minutes watching this snail, I also had to sniff it – I really hope the neighbours didn’t see that one. The trouble is how strong does a garlic smell have to be, before it ceases to be only slightly garlicky? And could I really even smell garlic at all? Perhaps my snail wasn’t “disturbed” enough to be giving off the appropriate whiff of moules mariniere? So I have returned him, unidentified, to his damp corner of the garden, where he can continue to smell (or not smell) of garlic in peace.