Peacock

Haiku for a peacock butterfly

Two eyes gazing up

Staring blindly up above

Gone in a moment


Yesterday I saw my first peacock butterfly of this year. However due to a couple holidaying in Hornsea asking directions I only managed a blurry photo. I was a little disappointed to miss out on photographing such a lovely specimen at its full potential.

Then today after putting Alice down for her morning nap I saw a dark flash out the window. I rushed out to investigate, heart fluttering, to see it was what I thought. Another peacock. This time settled on my hydrangea. The hydrangeas would probably not have been something I’d choose to plant. They came with the garden, but they are very vibrant at the moment and make a rather pleasant backdrop.

 

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Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

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A first for the garden

Yesterday I spotted a previously unseen butterfly in the garden. It was a tiny little pale blue butterfly. I think it’s a holly blue. It’s nice that after a year in the house there are still new discoveries to make.

The dragonflies were still active. This one settled on the hydrangeas. I haven’t had much practise on ID of dragonflies but I think this is a hawker. Probably just a common hawker.

I’ve been working hard on the garden the last few days changing the compost heap and knocking out walls on the patio to make space for a better seating area. I will share progress later in the week.

Bees in need

This week is bees needs week. The week is organised by DEFRA and a number of charities. It aims to raise awareness of the role of bees and other pollinators. Today I’ll discuss the aims of the week and a few things you can do to help and share some of my bee photos from the last year.

Bees are vital to gardeners to pollinate many flowers as well as significant to farmers to pollinate crops.

The week is pushing five simple acts.

1: Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees. Having planted in more variety of shrubs, perennials and annuals this year I can see the difference in the number of bees in the garden. Amongst the bees favorites ate the foxgloves and the lavender. Bee and butterfly flower mixes are easy to buy these days. Once sown many will grow easily and self seed allowing the benefit continue. I grow some in my borders, but also in pots for easy management.


2: Let your garden grow wild.

There are a number of parts to this. Leaving grass in winter. Leaving pernial plants uncut gives hibernation shelters. Leaving a few wildflowers like dandelions of thistles gives pollinators there early source of pollen in the Spring. Nettles and brambles are important for many species to lay eggs on. Behind my garden there is a narrow path where nettles and brambles grow. I trim it back as little as possible, so I can still get the wheelbarrow down. This area is particularly good for moths between the thick ivy and nettles.

3: Cut grass less often. Most people don’t need an excuse to leave their lawns. But leaving grass to grow provides a number of species of butterfly good egg spots for caterpillars. Leaving grass after September gives bees nesting sites. With Alice I don’t really want the whole lawn long so I just have areas on the edge I leave to grow longer.

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4: Avoid disturbing nests. Many bees build underground nests in old mammal holes. Trees, walls and dead wood can also be nest sites. So again its about trying to leave them alone over Winter. Bee hotels can be bought or made for many solitary bees that nest above ground. While I haven’t had much luck with bees in mine they are filling with other life.


5: Think about whether to use pesticides. Many pesticides harm bees. Check labels and think carefully before buying. If you do use them try to avoid spraying flowering plants.

The wildlife trust had put out more information sheets here. Nothing very strenuous there, but will give you enjoyment of these vital, wonderful creatures.

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Weekends in gardens

On Sunday we headed out to my parents for lunch.

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Alice a nice time in her ladybird tent.

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Alice enjoyed watering the flowers.

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The bees enjoyed the passion flowers.

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Then we went onto Amy’s sisters for her birthday. Lots of red admirals were out and about and a few moths.

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Alice was excited to go on the trampoline. Although her feelings were mixed when on.

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The youngsters altogether.

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In my own garden the butterfly house is seeing visitors. Bananas I put out during 30 days are now attracting red admirals. They like their fruit matured a few weeks. So if you are looking to do the butterfly count leave fruit out now to over ripen.

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Focus on small tortoiseshells

Having covered the more drab speckled wood I decided today I’d research something with a bit more colour: the small tortoiseshell.


These are common garden butterflies, but numbers have taken a bit of a pounding he last few years. One theory explaining why blames a parasitic fly killing the caterpillars. Numbers are lower in the tropical South of England where the parasite does better. Might be grim up North, but better for tortoiseshells. 

The eggs are usually laid in large batches, of 60 to 100 eggs, often on nettles, so leaving a little wilderness for caterpillars will do them a world of good. When the caterpillars emerge from their eggs they form communal webs before spreading over more plants. The nettles form their main food supply.
Interestingly the butterfly can be found almost all year round on the wing if the weather is warm enough. So keep your eyes on the look out all year.

Focus on speckled wood

Over the day I’ve had a lot of butterflies in and out the garden. The showier tortoiseshell is rather pretty, but its the speckled woods that has poised for photos multiple time in different positions. 
The speckled wood is a common butterfly, but apparently only has scattered colonies in the North so I’m lucky to see them regularly. It’s never going to be the poster species for butterfly conservation, not being colourful or rare enough. But it is still a delightful sight settling in the garden. They vary in colour across the country with different shades of brown and orange rather than cream or white spots in the South.


The name gives away their main habitat, but they can be found through gardens and hedgerows. They feed on honeydew at the top of trees. Normally they only come down to flowers later in the year. However you can see mine fancied my flowers with the proboscis (butterfly tongue equivalent) lapping up the flower.

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The caterpillars eat grasses including common couch. They can be found through the year. Numbers are currently good as a result of climate change. The butterfly can be seen April through to October.

The wildlife trust has helped with woodland management. A mixture of coppicing, scrub cutting and nonintervention giving the speckled wood the habitats both the caterpillars and butterflies need. 

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