Sunday 22 April 2018

I saw Orange Tip butterflies in the spring sunshine this morning

One of the many delights of spring up the Welcombe Hills, is the annual emergence of the beautiful Orange Tip butterfly. As one of our earliest butterflies (the Brimstone usually beats it by a week or so) look for it at the margins of woods and hedgerows. The distinctive male is white and has the orange-tipped wings; the female, is white with black wing tips. After mating, she will lay her eggs on Hedge Garlic or the preferred Lady's Smock. There the caterpillar will hatch from the egg, eat it and any other eggs and feed on the plant. When ready to pupate it wanders off to find something more substantial to hang on to where it remains until the following spring.

The Welcome Hills has plenty of Lady's Smock. It prefers damp areas.

This morning I saw 3-4 males and 2 females. Chasing these butterflies in the hope of seeing them alight is good fun but seldom productive. My technique is simple: find a Lady's Smock in the sunshine, then wait for the butterfly to come to you. They don't rest long though so you have to be ready and quick. 

Here are today's pics. I didn't get a pic of the female though. Maybe next time.

Below are pictures of one of the Orange Tip's eggs from a few years ago.

 The final pic (below) is the underside of the Orange Tip - both male and female have this mottled green marking.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

I saw a noisy buzzard youngster calling for food, Cinnabar caterpillars and a Burnet Moth....

It's the Burnet Moth I feel sorry for. There you go, minding your own business, trying to enjoy a bit of nectar and all around you are mating insects.

Mating clearly has its pleasures but also its consequences. One of them for the Buzzard is a youngster with a feed me call that would try the patience of any parent. This one was in the woods in Clopton Park.

The Cinnabar moth was introduced to control Ragwart. 

Sunday 9 July 2017

The one-legged Bullfinch is still about...

The one-legged Bullfinch seems to have mastered the bird feeder. He can sit in the tray and eat rather than try to flutter and perch which doesn't seem to work too well. It looks as though any benefit from the food is used up expending energy trying to get it. Now he just sits there are munches. Hadn't seen him for a few days. Looks as though he's been off finding a friend. She's happily perching on the bird feeder. Not as colourful as him but a lovely bird.

Talking of butterflies...I saw a Fritillary, Comma and Peacock up the hills today

For the last few years we've had just a couple of Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies in the hills just down from the slope between the reservoir area and the road to the hotel. There is a healthy colony in Snitterfield Bushes which is maintained by the Wildlife Trust in order to nurture them. They lay their eggs of Dog Violet of which we have plenty in the woods. But whether or not our ones are migrants from Snitterfield or are reproducing here I don't know.

In flight there is a passing similarity to the Comma butterfly. However, the Fritillary glides and soars. It will also fly along pathways at low level in a mating dance.

Both are shown here.

The Comma is so named because of the white mark on its wing which resembles the punctuation mark. It has an interesting lifecycle in that when its wings are closed closed it looks just like a dead leaf. In that state it will attach itself to a twig and pass the winter in hibernation.
Comma Welcome Hills July 2017

Comma showing leaf-like closed wings and white comma mark, Welcome Hills July 2017

Comma butterfly showing distinctive shape, Welcome Hills, July 2017

Silver-washed Fritillary, Welcome Hills July 2017
Fritillary, Welcome Hills July 2017

 And finally, I found a beautiful Peacock butterfly. No doubt the culprit responsible for those caterpillars on the nettles...
Note how the underside is black - bottom picture.

Peacock butterfly, Welcombe Hills July 2017

Peacock butterfly, Welcome Hills July 2017

Wednesday 5 July 2017

I saw Gatekeeper butterflies in Rowley Fields this morning...

Yes indeed, John Worthington, the Gatekeepers are about. Wonderful butterflies with the distinctive double white spot, orange and brown wings with white trim. Called Gatekeepers because often seen at gates (!) to fields where the hedgerows part.

Gatekeeper 5th July 2017 Rowley Field

Gatekeeper 5th July 2017 Rowley Field

Gatekeeper 5th July 2017 Rowley Field

Tuesday 4 July 2017

I saw Peacock butterfly caterpillars on nettles ...

The other day I wrote about how those pesky brambles and thistles that tear our clothes and prick our skins are really important for butterflies bumble bees and other insects. In my excitement at finding so many butterflies and bees I overlooked that other nuisance plant, the stinging nettle. Well, a nuisance to us intolerant homo-eccentric humans that is (excepting the foragers who will find a meal in almost anything that grows).

Stingers host 5 different colourful species of butterfly (source) Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Painted Lady  (summer visitor). The Welcome Hills and the Rowley Fields  have masses of nettles at the margins and yes, they can be a nuisance. However, when you're next out, pause and look closely. If you see fine webs near the nettle tops these could be a sign that there are Small Tortoiseshell or Peacock caterpillars about. The caterpillars produce a fine silk which is spun into a web for protection. Look also for a curled up nettle leaf which could be where the Tortoiseshell caterpillar retreats. It spins a thread at both edges of a leaf which dries and contracts pulling the edges together to form a nest. Small black droppings are also a clue.

At the moment the Peacock caterpillars are out munching so don't destroy those nettles just yet.
Peacock caterpillar on nettle - Welcome Hills July 2017

Small Skipper on thistle - Clopton Park July 2017

Marbled White on bramble - Clopton Park July 2017
 Short video clip of Marble White and Ringlet butterflies Welcome Hills July 2017

Sunday 2 July 2017

I saw loads of butterflies and bumble bees up the Welcombe this morning...

The other day I posted a link to a Facebook page dedicated to brambles link on the Friends of Welcome Hills page. Brambles are good for butterflies and their flowering coincides with the bees and butterflies that feed off them. Thistles are also good for the same reason.

Of course they are both a pain if you're not a butterfly or bee and if they are in your garden. However, look at the following pics to see why we need to preserve wild areas, resist the urge to tidy the countryside up and go out and enjoy what we are lucky to have right on our doorsteps.

Small Skipper on thistle Sunday 2nd July 2017

Small Skipper on bramble July 2017

 Bumble bee on bramble July 2017

Comma butterfly July 2017
Ringlet butterfly July 2017