Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Look, it's a chequered skipper...or is it?

It's high time that I updated you on the blue tits that are nesting in the garden. I have tried not to disturb them too much, as I really want them to succeed this year.
There were seven eggs laid by the female: this was the picture taken on May 17th but I am unsure of exactly how long there had been eggs in the nest at that stage...

They seemed to be doing well, although I think perhaps there are only five or six babies?

There is definitely one egg that has failed, as you can see in the next picture...

And here's how they are looking  today (May 29th) Amazingly, there seem to be six of the original seven that have made it this far...

So far so good! They are well past the stage when the cat raided the nest last year and so I am hopeful.

Now I am probably not able to claim full credit for this, but...I think I am going to anyway. You might just recall this update from September of 2016...

Well...it may have taken close to two years for the change to happen, but happen it has; to my amazement, and I might add, great satisfaction, the makers of this product have now altered the image on the packaging...

The old design is on the right of the photo. So then, little 'JJ' beats the corporate giants into submission and forces change upon them! Alright then, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but still, as the great 'Wolfie Smith' once said..."Power to the people".

Let's get back to my recent trip to America now: I didn't feel the urge to try out this restaurant by the way. Should you fancy a 'gob full of garlic', it's at Columbus Avenue in San Francisco. I did have something of a hilarious moment at another eatery, when I overheard a large lady order the following "Could I get a double big mac, extra fries and a DIET soda?"

I was determined that not only was I going to try and be in the moment and enjoy America to the max, rather than arriving back home thinking, did that even happen? I also wanted to try and do better with my photography, as last time the strong sunlight, along with the excitement of just being there, foxed me somewhat.
It didn't even phase me that I arrived on April 18th, the very same date as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Anyhow, I don't really know too much about that earthquake, I do know it was all San Andreas' fault?

I couldn't help noticing that there were some fabulous looking birds in the area where I was staying...

Not THAT kind!

No, I was of course thinking of the Aves variety. I don't know if this cutie is a type of sparrow but it attracted my attention...


And the American Robin, is totally different to our own red-breast here in the UK...

They  belong in the thrush family, and so are quite a bit larger than ours.

A Buffalo Treehopper (Possibly Stictocephala spp.)
Let me get this one out of the way right now: I was so frustrated with myself for not getting a better photo of this critter. It was something I had hoped to see, but when I did spot it, it surprised me, and was much smaller than I had imagined (I am unsure if this is actually an adult). It also allowed me just one shot and as I had been using flash in a darker area previous to this photo being taken, had not adjusted the settings, hence the blown highlights.

You may have seen on BBC Springwatch this week, the story about re-introducing the chequered skipper butterfly to the UK: this is from the Springwatch website:

Extinct in England for over 40 years, our long lost chequered skipper has been reintroduced back to where it was last seen in the woods of the East Midlands and Springwatch went along for the ride!

Well I too saw chequered skipper butterflies, whilst I was in America. But...they were not the species that Springwatch featured; in fact, they more closely resemble the one we call a grizzled skipper (Pryrgus malvae). The species I photographed is Pyrgus communis.

Pyrgus communis - A Common Chequered Skipper Butterfly

I hinted in my last update that I had found 'other' creatures by looking under stones and bark etc. Well this has to be the most exciting of those finds for me: a scorpion...

I think this is a California common scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii as they are the species that seem to be most commonly found where I was looking.They are almost always not a danger and are very rarely seen unless you go looking for them. They are nocturnal and hunt after dark. Most stings are not serious and have only a local effect unless the sting victim is allergic to the scorpion's venom.

It's apparently much easier to search for them at night (when they are most active) using a UV light. Scorpions fluoresce under UV light, glowing yellow or green.,,

This picture (above) is of another under-bark find; I have tried to identify it to species level, the cricket that is, not the tree. I know the tree was dogwood, you can tell by the bark! Spotted Camel Cricket (Ceuthophilus maculatus) seems to be the best match. They seem to be quite secretive and are mostly nocturnal. I am not sure if that thing, to the left is connected in anyway.

The last creature I found concealed, this time under a large stone, was this...

I am going to plump for, or should that be plumb? No, you plumb the depths don't you; otherwise you wouldn't still be here reading this drivel ? (Big smiley face) so, plump for either Gryllus pennsylvanicus, or Gryllus veletis on this one. G. veletis (the Spring Field Cricket) seems favourite, as the adults are most abundant in spring and G. pennsylvanicusadults are most abundant in autumn/fall. Described as a solitary, aggressive, omnivorous, burrow-inhabiting species of field cricket.

On one particular outing, I spotted a butterfly (pictured below) on, well, shall we call it poo! It looked very much like our painted lady butterfly and so I wanted to photograph it of course.

As I was crouched over the....poo, trying to get my photo without distracting the insect from its delicious meal, a lady appeared behind me and seemed quite disturbed, not by the sight of me apparently photographing dog plop, no, it was the poo itself that had enraged her.

She muttered something about it being disgusting, and why hadn't it been picked up? Was she perhaps suggesting that I removed it? Before I knew what was happening she removed her hat and ignoring me, took a side-swipe at the butterfly to dislodge it, and bent down and picked up the poo with a bag. 'Nowt as queer as folk' as....somebody used to say. I'll leave you to judge whether it was her or me that was acting oddly.

I assume this is either an American painted lady, or just painted lady, there is a difference. The American painted lady has 2 eye spots on the underside of their hind wings, whereas the painted lady have 4. Which does the butterfly in my photo have? Dunno, not a scooby doo, ...you?.

Much as I love compiling these updates, I think this particular one is now bordering on outstaying its welcome and so I shall put it to bed and return as soon as I possibly can.
I actually have a rather important thing I need to check out anyway: I have a terrible habit of listening in on other people's conversations, just snippets, as they walk by, nothing sinister. Anyhow, I heard a girl say to her friend "I must go shake my lettuce" and I need to know exactly what that meant. I have lived a sheltered life, so don't know these things....yet. Then I must go do my goat yoga...

Pimps and Cheerios...I mean, pip, pip, cheerio...


  1. So good to see the blue tits faring so well with your help! Lovely series of images!
    Looks like you had a brilliant trip across the pond too! First bird reminds me a bit of our dunnock. Very pretty anyway!

    The Stictocephala sp is indeed an adult. Such gorgeous hoppers aren't they? I think it's a superb shot! Love the variety of inverts you found there! The scorpion is a beauty!

    So funny about the lady and the dog poo!! Would love to have been a 'fly on the wall'!!

    Did you find out about shaking lettuces?! I've never heard that expression before either...

  2. Thanks. Yes, it was great to see them doing so well this year Maria. So...the hopper IS adult. Amazingly small then ;-) I enjoyed the scorpion very much too. Yeah, that was a surreal moment about the dog poo. ;-)

    Erm...YES...I do know what 'shaking your lettuce means' modesty prevents me from sharing though Maria ;-) I suggest you google it? ;-) ;-)


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