Posts tagged ‘Brimstone’

September 23, 2013

Late wildlife in the garden

23 September 2013

We’re enjoying a late spell of sunshine at the moment, with the sun still very warm. Today it was cloudy until early afternoon, and there were virtually no butterflies to be seen, but when the sun came out, all of a sudden they appeared. Not only butterflies, but various bees, flies, hoverflies, ladybirds and dragonflies – nothing rare, but a wonderful late season reminder of the wildlife that a lot more people in the UK should be seeing, if only we weren’t mucking up this planet at such a scary rate, and if only people would be a little more wildlife friendly in their gardens. I’m going to dedicate this blog to photos of what I saw today, so you can enjoy them with me. If your garden could have this wildlife, but hasn’t, ask yourself why and see if you can do anything about it.

Comma on scabious

Comma on deep red Scabious. I like this shot because it shows both the under-wing white mark which gives the Comma its name, and its white legs, which amuse me: it looks like they haven’t got tanned yet! All the Commas in the garden today looked very fresh.

Red Admiral on buddleia.

Red Admiral on buddleia ‘Autumn Beauty’ (also called ‘Beijing’). In contrast to the Commas, this butterfly looks rather worm, so I’m guessing that it and the other four I saw are migrants, not locally bred. Five Red Admirals is the most I have seen all year, so maybe we are getting a bit of a late migration.

Brimstone on buddleia

Male Brimstone on magenta-coloured buddleia: this is one of the recently-bred buddleias which do not grow as large as most. I like the way the butterfly is backlit in this photo, so you can see the shape of the body underneath.

Speckled Wood on buddleia.

Speckled Wood on buddleia ‘Autumn Beauty’. It is quite unusual to see this butterfly nectaring: the books say it often uses honeydew in trees (which is a sugary excretion from insects which suck plant-sap, such as aphids.) I saw a Speckled Wood feeding on verbena bonariensis the other day, so maybe honeydew is in short supply this year.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (I think) on Michaelmas Daisy.

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (I think) on Michaelmas Daisy.

Male Southern Hawker dragonfly.

Male Southern Hawker dragonfly. Not the best shot, but it was very lively: it may be around again tomorrow, so I’ll have another go.

My final butterfly count was:

Whites – about 7, definitely including Large and Small Whites.

Brimstone – 1

Red Admirals – 5

Comma – 4

Small Tortoiseshell – 3

Speckled Wood – 1

Not bad for late September.

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May 1, 2013

Wildlife roundup

30 April 2013. Very sorry this is late reaching you, I was convinced I’d sent it out, but I hadn’t. Blame it on the sunshine – it’s gone to my head.

Reading KiwiGav’s blog made me aware of how a list of wildlife can give a really good picture of how Spring is doing, so I thought I’d try a roundup of what I’ve seen in the garden in the last couple of days.

The weather has been really nice – today, particularly, was not just sunny but warm, which was blissful, and has obviously done a lot to bring out the wildlife:

Butterflies: Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and male Brimstone in the garden. Still no Orange Tip, though did see one in Osmington Mills today – a very hard bit of butterfly watching, over a pub lunch in the Smuggler’s pub garden.

Peacock butterfly on aubretia - he's a rather battered specimen with lots of damage to the edges of his wings

Peacock on aubretia – he’s a rather battered specimen if you look at the edge of his wings.

Other insects. Quite a lot, though I am limited in my identification skills, so I’m not sure how many different species.

Small insect on dandelion

Small bee? wasp? hoverfly? on dandelion

Birds, in descending size: Pheasants (3 regular visitors); Crow (one); Jackdaws (several – they nest in a couple of local chimneys and particularly come down when there’s big chunks of food on the ground; Wood Pigeons (several); Collared Doves (2+); Blackbirds (sadly, I think our pair may have abandoned their nest – I don’t think anything fledged and they’ve stopped looking for multiple worms); Starlings (quite a few, though their noise makes them sound as if they are in greater numbers than they are); Chaffinches (lots); Dunnocks (2); House Sparrows (only a few: there were a lot more in winter); Robins (2); Great Tits (I particularly notice one male, who is very handsome with a solid black waistcoat, but I think there is at least one other) and Blue Tits (several: they come and go so fast, they are difficult to count). Also swallows overhead, with occasional buzzards and even a heron the other day.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Crow at foot of bird feeder. Taken from inside the conservatory, as the bird is very wary.

Other: Slow worms (three max so far; we found one dead under the tray we leave down for them: it had lost the end of its tail, which was also under the tray and looked very battered generally); Shrew (one for sure – under one of the slow worm trays – could it have had a go at the slow worm that died? I know they are very fierce, but???); Newts (max of 19 so far – a good way to count is with a torch at night); something that looked like a small Crane fly, laying eggs on some not-quite submerged growth in the pond. And – nearly – next door’s dog, which likes to peer under the gate – you could see its tail was wagging today, from the shadow it cast!

Have you done a list of what you see in your garden? Remember there are all sorts of wildlife organisations needing records, so get on the internet and see where you can help.

PS. Three cheers for the European Union and their two-year ban on neonectonoids; three boos for our anti-Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. Bees have a right to thrive on this planet – and we need them.

March 5, 2013

Sunshine and a Brimstone

5 March 2013

Amazing – we’ve had several hours of sunshine today. It was wonderful: the first time this year I was really enjoying being outside, not just enduring it for the sake of some fresh air and getting something done, and the icing on the cake was the appearance of a male Brimstone butterfly and a bee.

Left: Brimstone butterfly. Right: bee on helleore foetida.

Left: Brimstone butterfly. Right: bee on helleore foetida.

The male Brimstone is unmistakeable – bright yellow and with a distinctively-shaped hindwing. The female Brimstone is white, and so can be confused with the Large and Small Whites and the female Orange Tip. The butterfly I saw today will have emerged from its chrysalis in autumn 2012, and then hibernated through the winter, to emerge on the first sunny day of 2013.  I’m not a bee expert, so I’m not sure what the bee is, but it looks to me like it has got pollen sacs on its hind legs.

If you live in the UK, please note down any butterflies you see and send your records into your local branch of Butterfly Conservation – if you go to their website, you will find links to all the branches. If you live in Dorset, please make use of the super new recording form on the Dorset branch website. Wherever you are, we need your records to help us understand how the various species are faring, so we can do our best to help them all flourish – records of even the common species are important: what is common now might not be so in fifty year’s time.

February 25, 2013

Gardening for butterflies – adults v caterpillars

25 February 2013

When people say they want to attract more butterflies to their garden, they are nearly always talking about the adult stage of the insect – the one we see flying around in the sunshine (remember sunshine?). In a small garden, attracting the adults may be all you can sensibly aim at, providing them with nectar-rich flowers to give them energy to fly around and mate, which is very well worth doing.

Painted Lady on Sweet Rocket

Painted Lady on Sweet Rocket

It is good if you can, though, to also provide some plants which will serve as foodplants for caterpillars. I can hear you all groaning at the idea of having to have a garden full of nettles – quieten down! Nettles are good if you can accommodate them, but the butterflies are quite fussy about the nettles they use, which need to be in a sheltered, sunny position, so it’s not as easy as leaving a few behind the shed: do it if you can, but don’t worry about it if you can’t.

What you do have to do, though, is accept that the holes left in the leaves by the munching caterpillars will be visible – but what are a few holes when you’ve had the fun of watching the munching?

The most practical plants to grow to encourage butterflies to breed include:

Sweet rocket/honesty/lady’s smock for the Orange Tip and Green-veined White.  Sweet rocket is very easy, comes in white or purple, and lasts for 2-3 years. You could also grow garlic mustard,  a native wild flower which blooms early and has disappeared by the middle of summer – I’ve got some in the garden, and I can find caterpillars on it or my sweet rocket most years.

Orange tips- left to right: mating pair on sweet rocket, caterpillar on sweet rocket and adult on bluebell

Orange tips- left to right: mating pair on sweet rocket, caterpillar on sweet rocket and adult on bluebell

Holly and ivy for the Holly Blue, which uses both, at different times of year, for it’s egg-laying. You will struggle to see the egg or the caterpillar, though, so look out for the female flying around the bush.

Buckthorn for the Brimstone: this is a shrub and not very exciting to look at, but it does provide nectar in its flowers and berries for the birds, as well as leaves for the Brimstone butterfly, which is said to be able to find buckthorn from a considerable distance. There are two types of buckthorn, and you need to use the one which is good for your soil: purging buckthorn for chalky soils and alder buckthorn for acid soils.

British native grasses are also good – I’ll cover them in more detail in another post, as well as plants for moth caterpillars.

I’ll give the latin names of the flower plants I’ve mentioned here, in case you have difficulty identifying them by the common names, which tend to be different in different parts of the country: Sweet rocket – hesperis matronalis. Honesty – lunaria annua. Lady’s smock – cardamine pratensis. Garlic Mustard (also often called Jack-by-the-hedge) – Alliaria petiolata.