Saturday, April 07, 2018

Les Dawson, Tony Blackburn and Lady Ga Ga drop in...







Even so, I eventually made it back here to publish another exciting blog update. Alright then, a moderately arresting update!

Yes! At long last spring has decided to poke its head out from behind a cloud and give us all a big, warm hug...

“Awake, thou wintry earth. Fling off thy sadness! Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth your ancient gladness!”- Tony Blackburn


You may want to check the validity of this attribution: it may not have actually been the owner of a grin so cheesy that it's cheesier than a lump of cheese wrapped up in cheesecloth inside a cheesy sock!


Before I get to the update, I guess I should provide an answer to my mystery object from a couple of updates ago: You might recall it looked like this...


Well it wasn't some kind of plant as was suggested to me, and it wasn't fungi or slime mould. So here is the full image that I cribbed (or should that be cropped) the picture from...

The Alder moth and caterpillar (Acronicta alni)
Yes, just a little caterpillar/larva of the alder moth.




This video will not show in the e.mail version of my update; you need to view on the internet site...

One of my emperor moth cocoons has been twitching a little and so I have been watching closely to see if it may eclose soon: so far no signs that it will though.

However, I did find that one of the large white butterflies had emerged...




I had to keep it for a couple of days whilst I waited on the weather, but then was able to release it on a sunny day and saw it fly off quite happily (although, I am not sure exactly what a happy butterfly looks like to be honest).





And I think it was on a willow sapling that I spotted this tiny wasp. I wondered if it was egg laying and that got me to wondering if this is perhaps a gall wasp? I do know that willow leaves very often have galls attached, but seem to remember that they are usually produced by sawflies? 









Now that spring has officially sprung and there is even an upturn in the weather, as if it knew what was expected of it, I have been finding increasing numbers of invertebrates to observe and try to hone my photography skills on. After what seems like an inordinate amount of time passing without even picking up the camera, things are on the move...

At first I found a bee...


Then I found a fly...


Then I found...a bee-fly... 




Then I found a lady...


Then I found a bird...


Then I found a ladybird...

10-Spot Ladybird


I think I may look for the meaning of life next!


A Brimstone Butterfly

My butterfly count is coming along for this year. Okay, so they are the species that you might expect to see early spring; being the ones that hibernate, but still, so far I have seen comma, small tortoiseshell, large white, peacock and brimstone: in fact there already seem to be above average numbers of brimstone butterflies locally this year.

The last thing I can update you on is the progress of the nesting blue-tits in the garden. They are doing well actually. I think the nest building stage may be nearing completion: the tempo has certainly increased over the past couple of days and there was still nest material being added at well after 7pm tonight...



Even if at times there has been a struggle to enter the box...


This video will not show in the e.mail version of my update; you need to view on the internet site...






Saturday, March 17, 2018

Another cold weekend, little wonder the tits are blue...

I had hoped to be able to begin this update by conveying that we have turned a metaphorical (or perhaps, more aptly, meteorological) corner. However here in sunny Kent this morning, the skies have become ashen and snow is once again in the forecast. Not to worry; I have given myself a good, stiff talking to and promised that it won't last more than a nano-second or two. 
Let's concentrate instead on the past few days, which have been most encouraging. 

As with many of my finds, and indeed photo opportunities at this time of year, they come when out walking the dog. In fact this first find came when dog-walking somebody else's doggies: Benny, the German Shepherd, and Dotty the Jack Russell...


Walking around yet another plot of land that will soon become a building site, I spotted a square of roofing felt which I carefully lifted to reveal these little beauties...




These are quite young, female slow worms. As I am sure you know, slow worms are not snakes but legless lizards: they have the  ability to shed their tails and blink with their eyelids. These were probably still in hibernation mode and so I quickly replaced the felt, which I assume had been placed there for exactly this reason.

After last year's debacle with a neighbour's cat destroying the blue-tit nest in the garden, I have taken some measures to try and protect the nest-box this time around...


OK, so it looks a bit messy, but if it works I shall be more than happy to put up with how it looks until nesting season is done for another year. It doesn't seem to have phased the birds at all because they have already been checking out the box again...


On the front wall of the house I saw my first Salticid of the year. A little jumping spider that was sitting in the sunshine. I don't like to photograph bugs and insects in direct sunlight and so I was attempting to provide some shade with one hand, whilst taking the photo using the macro in the other, hence the shallow depth of field...


In my little work studio that is situated at the bottom of the garden, I had a visit from a rather dopey wasp. I say it was dopey: mainly because it was quite docile and also when I asked it who is the current reigning monarch, it had no answer!




In previous years Comfort's Wood (a real favourite bug-hunting area) has by mid March seen both primrose and wood anemone in flower, as well as the odd violet and green bluebell shoots. That's green shoots by the way, not green bluebells. I have often seen bee-flies in the woods too. However, this year, on a recent visit, all I could spot were the primroses...



10:05am Saturday March 17
Image result for it's snowing again

It's okay though, are we down about the weather? Noooo.... as Dame Vera Lynn sang back in 1939: 'Keep smiling through,Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away'. 


This next discovery should be enough to put a smile on anyone's face. I had seen this animal a few times on my early morning dog walks, but it took a few tries to get even a half-decent shot, as no sooner had I spotted it, than the dog did too...


Yes, it's an albino squirrel. According to the BBC the odds of a squirrel being born white is thought to be about one in 100,000.  Only a few white squirrels are albinos, recognizable by pink or blue eyes and the absence of pigmentation anywhere on the body. The gene for such an absence of the pigment, melanin, is recessive, so each parent must carry it to produce an albino squirrel. Albino squirrels have vision problems and are at a disadvantage in the wild. Many white squirrels  are genetic colour variants of the grey species, as are the less common black squirrel.

I have seen albino squirrels before, here in Kent, but not for a while. This was the last time I photographed one, it was 2016...



I think I may have saved my best find until last? Well, for me it has to be a favourite. I love the longhorn beetles and finding one out and about in March was a real treat for me. This is 'Rhagium mordax' and is a species of the Lepturinae subfamily in the long-horned beetle family. The adults favour open-structured flowers, particularly hawthorn and umbellifers where they feed on nectar and pollen. I have already seen some thorn in flower this year, but thought it was blackthorn, rather than hawthorn...







And that is a wrap as they say. Yes, another update comes to a close. Thank-you for reading this far and for your continued support: I very much appreciate you being there.

I am entering my seventh year of writing for 'The Wealden' and my latest little article can be found HERE as well as on the dedicated page accessible from the button at the top of the homepage, where you will also find every other article since 2012


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The B from the E...

As a nation we are somewhat obsessed with the weather: Oscar Wilde famously said that conversation about it was 'the last refuge of the unimaginative'.
According to recent research, 94% of Brits admit to having conversed about the weather in the past six hours. The other 12 percent said that they would rather discuss how good we all are at math(s).

 And so you won't mind me being true to type will you. 'TYPE'...there, I've done it...and that's true! You will probably already have guessed that, a.) I need nursie to  adjust my medication, and b.) I am referring to the polar vortex nicknamed "The Beast From The East". More of that in a twinkling. First, let's do as Julie Andrews does, and start at the very beginning; although I have to say here that I much prefer the song 'Do-re-mi' penned by the great Woody Guthrie, to the song of the same name from 'The Sound of Music'. However, like the Brits at the winter Olympics, I have gone off piste.

I know, I know, blog updates here for 2018 have already become as rare as...as rare as...the UK winning the Eurovision Song Contest, and I have my reasons for being AWOL but I am here now, so I had better stop bitchin' and get on with it.

A short while ago, it all seemed to be going well regards the onset of spring...




Every year I go check the crocus flowers under the plane trees that line Tenterden High Street. On a rare sunny day this year, I found them already in full flower and to my delight, the honey bees that I always think herald the coming change of season, were busily working away...




At another local haunt, I spotted an orange ladybird out and about...



I even came across a dock bug on one of my walks...



Then one, not so fine day; there appeared a few flakes of snow...



Soon there were real, 'proper' snowflakes falling from the sky...




Then, before you could say 'Taumatawhakatangihangakoayauo-

Tamateaturipukakapikimaungahoro-Nukypokaiwhenuakitanatahu' (Quantum Jump if you are interested: you know, the ones with a drummer that looked like Animal from the Muppets?), the beast from the east blew in from Siberia, and this green and pleasant land was transformed overnight into something more akin to Greenland itself. Although the pedant inside me says that Greenland actually has more ice than snow?




Bug hunting would have to be put on hold again. Not that it ever got into full swing, but there had at least been a little oscillation which had now been almost literally frozen stiff. Still, as somebody once said to me: 'for every downside, there is an upside waiting in the wings'. 

The sudden proliferation of the white stuff would at least provide me with an excuse to visit and photograph one of my very favourite little lanes in this fair county... 



A stroll down this magical lane leads eventually to my favourite local woodland. I ignored my wellington-clad, already starting to freeze, tiny toes, long enough to have a quick squiz round and grab a few pictures...








March is but a few days away and so bug-hunting and the associated blog updates should soon be underway with renewed vigor, vim and...vitality.

Meantime, who knows what this last photo is?