The uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives has become more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity, I’m keeping a daily diary of what I find around my garden. Share your pictures on the Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table Facebook page.
Things are really heating up in the garden now. There's so much activity, especially around the wild flower patches in the garden. I can't walk out into the garden without losing myself amongst the birdsong, insects and flowers for half an hour. It's so addictive and its giving me such a fix of wildlife that I keep forgetting that I have barely been out of the cul-de-sac for two months.
I mentioned on Day 51 (here) that a Brimstone butterfly had been laying eggs on the Alder Buckthorn bush in the front garden. I was particularly happy about this because I had planted the Alder Buckthorn with the sole purpose of feeding my local Brimstones. Well, I'm pleased to report it's doing just that. I've been searching the bush for the telltale leaf damage caused by the Brimstone caterpillars. They tend to sit on the leaf and eat downwards causing a distinctive perforated pattern. Here's one I found yesterday. You can see the leaf damage and the little caterpillar lazing on the midrib of the leaf.
A Dingy View
Speaking of butterflies, I got really excited the other day when I thought I saw a Dingy Skipper butterfly nectaring in the wild flower patch. I've never seen one of these skippers in the garden before but after chasing it up and down the garden it turned out to be a Burnet Companion moth.
This is a day-flying moth which does a pretty good impression of a Dingy Skipper until it opens its wings to reveal that lovely flash of orange on its hindwings. They their lay eggs on Birds-foot Trefoil and Red Clover and theres plenty of that in the garden. In the same way that I can't say 'Bee Hotel' without singing this I can't see a Burnet Companion without launching into the Johnny & June Cash classic (here)
Anway, the weird thing was, about half an hour after I had photographed the Burnet Companion I was watching it flying around the garden again and thinking how much it looked like a Dingy Skipper until I realised what I was watching was actually a Dingy Skipper!
This is the first time I've seen one of these butterflies in the garden. Dingy Skippers are small, drab and don't have a particularly nice name but I love 'em. They're really aggressive little insects. They suffer from 'small butterfly syndrome', constantly picking fights with bigger insects as if they have something they're trying to prove. It didn't stick around. After I took a photograph it skipped off over the fence, probably looking to beat up a bumblebee.
A Snakeskin Suit
While watching some Azure Damselflies egg-laying in the pond the other day I spotted the Grass Snake's sloughed skin. As the snake grows it has to shed it constrictive suit. I carefully managed to retrieve it without damaging it.
I measured it and it's 46cm long. Grass snakes can grow to well over a metre but the skin was evidence that the snake is still around...and that it's growing.
Here's some photos of the insects that have been courteous enough to stay still for long enough for me to find my camera, work out what setting it should be on and press the button.
There's plenty of these Dark Bush Cricket nymphs around at the moment. They'll reach full size at the end of the summer.
The red and black Corizus hyoscyami is one of our most distinctive bugs. I'm not sure I've ever seen one in the garden before.
This Alderfly may well have emerged from the pond where they spend the larval stage of their life cycle. It spent the first moments of its adult life enjoying the fluffy softness of this towel on the washing line. There are 3 species in the U.K. and you need to have a close look at their genitalia to tell them apart. This one was probably pleased that didn't carry out an in depth examination. I assumed that it was probably our commonest species Sialis lutaria and left it to enjoy its towel.
I was washing up a wok the other day when I noticed this Blue Tit which had somehow become trapped in the greenhouse. I was about to take off my Marigolds and release it when I noticed it was actually methodically flying around every pane of glass and picking off small spiders from their webs.
After it worked its way through the greenhouse it flew out of the gap where a pane had fell out. It's been back in the greenhouse again most days. Clever bird.
The Giant Spider Invasion (Part Two)
There were a couple of spiders that the Blue Tit missed though. Regular readers may recall that on Day 12 (here) I confessed to my fear of spiders and I told how we had to brave the cluttered greenhouse to evict the house spider that lived there (well, my wife caught it and escorted it down the road where it was re-homed).
That was back in the day when I was planting tomato seeds worried that the pandemic would affect food supply chains and that we would all be eating grass and berries by now (as it turns out the shops are well stocked and I even have a van visiting the cul-de-sac twice a week to supply me with sausage rolls and Twixes). Yesterday evening I decided to transfer the tomatoes to some grow-bags - I had a few stacked up by the back door. As I moved them a large Tegenaria house spiders were waiting for me. It was as startled as I was. Luckily my brave wife managed to rescue me (again). OK, I know there's more than one house spider in the world but I swear, as I stared into her eight eyes - that I recognised her. And I'm worried she recognised me too.
I managed to get a photo of her. So, if you want to see her you'll have to do what you did on Day 12 and scroll down.
I have to keep her hidden out of the way as not to freak out any arachnophones (like myself)
Although, I always like to point out that spiders are such incredible creatures. And a six-foot two middle-aged man should really have gotten over this fear by now.
Although I do have a spider secret. Maybe I'll confess it next week. Anyway here she comes....
You were expecting that this time weren't you?
Right, there she is. It still looks like the same species that I photographed on Day 12 - Tegenaria gigantea. Maybe I should have marked her somehow so I can see if she ever wanders back. Although I'm not sure I'm in a situation when I'm going to ever get close enough to her to paint a red cross on her back. Just getting this picture meant socially distance myself 5 metres away with the camera on full zoom.
Someone once suggested that giving a name to the spider helps you become more familiar with it and and may help you overcome your fears. If you have any name suggestions for her put them in the comments.
Well, thats Day 64. Sounds like a cue for a song.