Monday, 29 June 2015

I saw loads of butterflies in the sun

The Rowley Fields are mown and with the scent of fresh cut grass we can turn attention to the margins of the fields where the butterflies and bees are now concentrated. And so I did earlier this afternoon. What a treat. Marbled Whites, Small Skippers, Meadow Browns, Ringlets, a Small Tortoiseshell and my first Red Admiral of the year. All pictures below taken today. A heatwave is promised this week so expect there to be more butterflies about.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Restharrow and a Red Kite

I'd been looking out for the Common Restharrow for some time but to my disappointment it hasn't appeared in the usual places. Then today walking up the slope beside the Welcombe Hotel towards the Monument I saw this patch. It's called Restharrow because its strong stems and roots would snag the harrow. That would be in pre-mechanised days of course.

Then we went on to the Monument Field. We're used to the Buzzards so tend to take little notice of them but this large bird of prey that soared up in front of us and wheeled away looked very different. The forked tail was a give-away - Red Kite. I fumbled for my camera - wrong lens was in of course -and managed to take a few clumsy snaps. This was the best of a sorry lot but you can just make out the shape if you enlarge it.

The Red Kite is a common sight around the M4 and the M40 as far as High Wycombe. It's not common this far north.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

I saw my first Marbled White butterflies in Rowley Fields today

Much as I love the showy Peacock butterfly and the ornate Small Tortoiseshell, the simply coloured Marbled White is my favourite.  It's another of those butterflies that drops its eggs in the grass and leaves them to fate. Well it seems to work. You can see these butterflies in the margins of Rowley Fields and in the back field that goes down to the Warwick Rd. You will almost certainly see them in twos and threes.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Small Tortoiseshell…again

One of the reasons why I write this blog is to show how the common and ordinary things you can see in Rowley Fields and the Welcombe Hills can give pleasure. Plants you wouldn't want in your lawn (and probably spend a lot of time trying to get rid of) like the Black Medick or Clover can be very pleasing in places where they seem to belong.
The Meadow Brown butterfly isn't all that pretty but they do have their own beauty and when they are very much a part of the experience of walking through Rowley Fields at this time of year when they suddenly appear from out of the long grass, flutter away and disappear again.
Then, now and again something like the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly comes your way. So, no apology for posting another picture.  This one was in Rowley Fields this morning sunning itself on brambles. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

I saw this Ringlet butterfly up the Welcombe Hills

The Ringlet is another butterfly that drops her eggs in the grass just like the Meadow Browns I saw the other day.
This was my first sighting of the Ringlet this year. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

I saw this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly in Rowley Fields

The Small Tortoiseshell has to be one of the most striking butterflies around. I was fortunate to see this one feeding on bramble flowers this afternoon in the baking sunshine.  

Thursday, 18 June 2015

I saw the Meadow Brown butterflies in Rowley Fields

The Meadow Brown is thought to be our most common butterfly. Compared to the Small Skipper that I wrote about the other day, the Meadow Brown is a careless parent scattering her eggs freely amongst the meadow grass. Now, when the grass is high the Meadow Browns emerge fluttering in front of you as you disturb the grass.

 Some consider the Meadow Brown dowdy and plain but it has a beautiful underside with the distinctive black spot with the white dot in the middle. 

According to my Vere Temple butterfly book, the male has a remarkable feature to attract females:
'He bears on his wings a tuft of hairs connecting with scent-bearing scales that emit their perfume when the hairs are raised and opened fanwise, and uses this scent as an enticement to his bride'.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

I saw a Speckled Wood butterfly and loved those Oxeye daisies in Rowley Fields

Emerging in April the Speckled Wood may well be one of the first butterflies you will see in the Spring. It really does prefer the shady glades and half light of leafy lanes where it's dappled wings sometimes make it difficult to spot.

I saw this beauty in the reservoir area of the Welcombe Hills. It was late afternoon and it found a spot to catch the sun amid the lengthening shadows.

 Aren't the Oxeye daisies in the margins of Rowley Fields splendid this year? I remember just a few years ago seeing a small patch by the benches at the top and now they have spread and thrived all along the side by the golf course. The bees and butterflies favour the bramble blossom and in those patches in Rowley Fields when the sun is on they are alive with insect activity. 
 The Oxeye daisy doesn't have the same attraction so it was good to capture this bumblebee on one.

Monday, 15 June 2015

I saw a Small Skipper butterfly in Rowley Fields

Walking through the long grass in Rowley Fields today I caught the flicker of brown out of the corner of my eye. It circled me and then landed a few feet away in the sunshine.

Lucky me. The first Small Skipper of the year. 
I've a 1948 book by Vere Temple, Butterflies and Moths in Britain. More than a field guide, it has some interesting details about the life cycles of these creatures. The Small Skipper female for example, 'evinces the tenderest care for her eggs, which she deposits for protection within the sheath of the grass. The young caterpillar, which hatches in August, sensibly makes provision against the cold by wrapping itself in a cocoon  in which it hibernates through the winter. Emerging in May, it chooses a grass blade, across which it spins silken cords that contract when dry and draw the edges of the leaf together in the form of a tube. In this snug shelter it lives until the time arrives for it to spin its pupal cocoon, coming out only to feed'.

Butterflies aren't just amazing because of the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly but their individual and sometimes complex lives. This little creature had gone through that whole process and will now seek a mate for the whole process to start again.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

I saw an Early bumblebee in my garden this morning

Digital photography is great. People like me can take zillions of pics of things that the naked eye can't take in, find the one or two good pics, crop them and share with others. 
I saw this Early bumblebee on geranium in my garden this morning. You can see lots of these up the Welcombe Hills on the blackberry and bramble flowers.

Checking the snaps on my computer I was lucky to have caught this little one (actually all Early bumblebees are small…). 

The smaller picture isn't the sharpest but the bee colours are so strong. No editing used save for some simple cropping.

It promises to be a sunny day today so looking forward to a good Sunday stroll up the Welcombe Hills. Hoping for some different bumblebees and maybe some butterflies with luck...

Friday, 12 June 2015

On the theme of bees, I saw the Bee Orchid in flower up the Welcombe Hills today

I posted back in April that I'd found a group of Bee Orchid plants in the woods up the Welcombe Hills. On the theme of survival and since then have been keeping an eye on them and even moving branches to protect them. A few never really got going. Those winds we had a little while back scattered debris and some of the orchids broke. Two survived to grow the flower stems. Over the last few weeks buds appeared and finally today I saw that one had fully opened.

 As I've mentioned before, there are many bee orchid plants up the hills. Unfortunately though few get to flower because they aren't very good at selecting safe places to grow. Over the years a number of us have played the 'have you seen any bee orchids?' game. Some years there have been lots but often only a few. Last year I don't think we found one.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

I saw Tree Bumblebees and Early Bumblebees in Rowley Fields

Buoyed by the success of my walk earlier today when I saw bumblebees on blackberry blossom up the Welcombe Hills, I paid particular attention to the same blossoms when we went for our evening walk around Rowley Fields. It was not a disappointment. 

It's important that a margin of 3-4 m  around these fields is left un-mowed because these areas create a particular habitat where small mammals thrive and flora that support insect life    can grow. It's because we have these areas that there are voles. When there are voles we have the barn owl who feeds on these. 

In these areas the blackberry bushes grow and as well as providing blackberries for our pies and, in my case, wine, attract bees and other insects.

It's still fairly early in the season and there are two bumblebees that seem to be prominent. The Early Bumblebee and the Tree Bumblebee are both very active. Here are some pictures taken of both this evening.

                                                                                  These first two images are of the Tree Bumblebee. It's small and quite distinctive, having a black head, ginger-brown thorax and white tail.

This bumblebee was first recorded in the UK in 2001 (see Bumblebee Conservation Trust) and is now very common. They like to take over nest boxes and it may be that you have had them in your garden or even in your roof.  

The other bumblebee active at the moment is the Early Bumblebee. Here are a couple of images of them taken this evening in Rowley Fields.


I saw bumble bees and a deer up the Welcombe Hills

About this time of year the brambles and blackberries begin to flower. For me that signals the time to start looking for bumble bee activity up the Welcombe Hills. I find it's best to locate south facing bushes as these will tend to flower earliest. Early days with just a few flowers showing amongst the wild roses that have been flowering a week or so.
Until now, most of the bumble bee activity has been in gardens where the jasmines and thymes have been flowering for several weeks. Well at least that's been the case in our garden. I'll post some bumble bee pics I took this week end in our garden.
Anyway, I took to one of my favourite spots for bumble bees this morning where sheltered bushes of blackberry catch the morning and early afternoon sun. Sure enough I came across these fellows.

I find bumble bee identification quite difficult. This is because the male, worker and queen all differ, colours can fade on individuals and key identification features include the shape of the head, banding and tail. That means you have to get a good range of pictures to positively ID. Then there are cuckoo bees…these are solitary bees and don't collect pollen so they tend to have have hairy legs. Otherwise they can resemble true bumble bees. Luckily Bumblebee Conservation Trust  and the Natural History Museum both have excellent tools to help.

The bumble bee on the left is probably (!) an early Bumblebee.

On the way back home we caught sight of this deer nibbling at the hedgerow.

Not the clearest of pics I agree. I thought I knew my deer but when it came to naming this one I was stumped. Then I came across the short video from Spring Watch. It seems the surest way of identifying deer is to look at their bums. The Roe deer has virtually no tail and a plain backside.

NB I edited this post to correct the line about hairy legs and cuckoo bees. In the original I got it the wrong way round!

Monday, 8 June 2015

I saw these Coprinus Micaceus (Glistening Inkcap) up the Welcombe Hills

When walking through the woods up the Welcombe Hills I came across this clump of Glistening Inkcap on a stump. It's a common enough fungus, seems to spring up quickly and like the other ink caps becomes a mushy black when it matures. As the name suggests this ink cap appears to glisten. Close inspection reveals the many tiny shiny flecks on the caps that give the glistening effect.
It's thought to be edible see  Rogers Mushrooms. I would steer clear of anything 'thought to be'….

I saw this perfect male Common Blue up the Welcombe Hills

 This perfect male Common Blue butterfly and I came across each other by the reservoir area up the Welcombe Hills. It's not such a common butterfly nowadays having suffered from successive wet springs. Not so many years ago I photographed a group of 5 of these on a single plant settling down for the night. 

Look how small this one is - not much bigger than the clover leaves. Apart from the small nick in the upper left wing tip he's pristine. He stayed basking in the sun gaining warmth and energy and wasn't bothered by me being near - butterflies can be a bit frustrating to photograph as they lure you then fly off. 

I let him go onto my hand and as I moved to get a better view he kept turning so that his wings stayed in the  the full sun. Silly me didn't put the SD card in the camera so I only got a couple of pics using the camera's limited internal memory.

The blue is so intense and the markings on the antennae so clear. If you enlarge the image you will just be able to make out the fine blue hairs covering the body.

The female has brown and blue colouring and both have the distinctive spots and orange triangular shapes close to the wing edges.

This little chappie made my day.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Monday, 1 June 2015

I saw Cockspurthorn blossom up the Welcombe Hills

The Cockspur thorn is aptly named. It belongs to the same family as the common Hawthorn (crataegus) but differs significantly in the shape of the leaves and those long thorns. I know of three of these trees which you can find in front of the entrance to the Welcombe Hotel car park. It makes for a pretty tree and seems not to grow tall and has a good shape. The fruits are much larger than the Hawthorn's. These may be the Broad-leaved Cockspur thorn but I'm not too sure.

A native of North America, it has been planed widely here as an ornamental tree particularly as it provides a fine autumn display of colour.