Susie

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Susie
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Susie

Postby Susie » Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:49 pm

Well, I've only seen two butterflies so far this year, a Red Admiral at Wakehurst Place and a peacock in my back garden on Monday, but I think it would be nice to keep a record of the coming year's events. It will probably be full of lots of brown hairstreak comments :lol:

There were brown hairstreak eggs in the front garden but I can't see any now. Perhaps they were all eaten by birds or perhaps I am just not being very observant.

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:35 pm

In this dreary damp weather the garden looks absolutely ghastly at first glance. There are plenty of green shoots if you take the time to look though.

The only item of obvious interest in the pond which is a seething mass of hormonally charged frogs. I've lost count of how many splodges of spawn there are but we certainly won't have any shortage of tadpoles this spring. Around the edge of the pond the maroon shoots of ladies smock are a couple of inches tall. These are very easy to propagate and have tiny roots along the stem at leaf nodes later in the summer. It's easy just to pinch off a bit and pop it into some moist compost. From one garden centre bought plant three years ago there are dozens around the pond now and I hope they prove a draw for the orange tips in a month or so.

Tucked away in the ivy covering an old tree trunk is a robin's nest. I've been keeping my distance as the robins appear to be very wary and I don't want to disturb them at this critical stage but I think there are eggs as they ceased their toing and froing with bits of twig, leaf and later spiders' webs and moss a week ago.

The first of the minature daffs are just about in flower which is nice as they can carry on from where the snowdrops are finishing off around the oak in the front garden. Only one aconite is in flower there this year, they obviously don't like that site. As the grass around the oak doesn't get cut until summer because of the daffodils I'm going to put in some wildflower plugs to liven up the area. Ox eyed daisies should look a treat.

In the main beds there are plenty of honesty and sweet rocket, these did so well last year for the butterflies.

I've just come back from Elmhurst Farm where my eldest is going to help with lambing. We just missed the birth of one lamb and the pens of mothers and babies were absolutely gorgeous and should taste delicious too in time! I'm looking forward to visiting the farm regularly as it is on the south facing side of the hill and should be good for butterflies and I know there are purple emperors over there although I have never seen them myself. As the front door by the lamp had half a dozen moths on it I am thinking a trap on the farm would be a good idea too, but it's early days yet. ;)
Lamb-at-Elmhurst-Farm.jpg

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sun Mar 21, 2010 3:34 pm

What a difference a day makes! The sun is shining, the birds singing, spring is sprunging and butterflies are on the wing. Hurrah!! :D

This tatty old peacock was feeding on Daphne odora aureamarginata which is in a large pot by the kitchen door and smells heavenly. It could possibly the same peacock I saw at the start of the week, but that one was in absolutely pristine condition so if it is the same it must have had an awfully tough time in the past few days.

IMG_6678.jpg


I also had something flying around the garden which looked very like a Painted Lady :o As it didn't settle and as I didn't get a photo I will give it the benefit of the doubt as my id skills are a bit ropey at the best of times but, just think if it was, how exciting!

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Tue Mar 23, 2010 6:10 pm

A spot of gardening was in order this morning and it was good to see while out there that the dots in the frogspawn are turning into commas (not the butterfly ;) ).

Several seven spot ladybirds were on the hellebores and I was pleased not to find any of the bright red lily beetles today. There arent many insects I kill but these always get squished. As much as I admire their appearance I'd rather kill them as adults than as the grubs which live in a slimey mess of their own waste and are very unpleasant.

Even better was while at the garden centre later on they were giving away free packets of seeds :) Butterfly attraction mix was just one of the several packets available which I chose. Now I just have to work out where to put them as I have no room in the garden!

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Fri Mar 26, 2010 6:55 pm

Still no butterfly sightings to report but the first tadpoles have hatched, there are four eggs in Mr and Mrs Robin's nest, the wild primroses are starting to flower along the roadside around here and the first cherry plum and sallow blossom is out.

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sun Mar 28, 2010 3:56 pm

There was a beautiful male brimstone at Southwater Country Park this afternoon. :D

Perfectly timed to the opening of the lungwort in the garden was the appearance of a bee-fly yesterday, this means there should be solitary bees about. I've seen bumbles and honeybees but no solitaries as yet although I did hear a hairy footed flower bee yesterday; they are really noisy little critters! I always think that bee-flies look like they've been put together with odds and ends that someone had left over, they certainly aren't the prettiest, but I am uncommonly fond of them.

IMG_6690.jpg

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Tue Mar 30, 2010 3:20 pm

Over the last few days we have had more than our fair share of April showers so outdoor activities have been limited and butterfies nowhere to be seen. In the meantime the garden has been busy with lots of new green shoots appearing; the comfrey and alliums seems to be growing at the rate of an inch or two per day at the moment and I keep seeing shoots of plants I forget I had. :lol: I've potted my seeds up and moved a few things about.

A local cat has been trying to get the robins' nest so I don't give the chicks much chance of survival once they hatch. :( Nesting birds don't seem to do very well here; last spring a wren nested in one of the hanging baskets at the back of the house. It faces south and the poor little chicks were cooked in the heat of last May.

I hope the Easter weather will be better. I had a trial run at making meringue nests for the kids to fill with whipped cream and chocolate eggs during the holidays. I'm an old hand at cake making but this was a first for me and I was quite pleased how they turned out, crispy on the outside and delicously mallowy inside. Next time I'll bake at a lower temperate as my oven runs hot to keep them white. We had this batch with mixed berries after dinner last night and they were yummy.
meringues.jpg

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Neil Hulme
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Re: Susie

Postby Neil Hulme » Wed Mar 31, 2010 7:57 am

Hi Susie,
It's already time for Sophie Dahl to move over and make way for your cookery programme. :D
Neil

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Wed Mar 31, 2010 8:17 am

Lol. At least her meringues were white! :lol: I tend to make Eton mess for Christmas supper as it is a nice light pudding and goes well with a cold buffet as no one tends to have much room after the gluttony of dinner but I use raspberries and bought meringue and by god it's good! Nicer than her rhubard thing :) Not sure I approve of her use of peas either! I'm definitely a Nigella girl at heart; I don't like the food she makes either, I just like her! :lol:

Sorry this isn't about butterflies but this is my diary and so will probably have a fair sprinkling of gardening, other plants, and cooking - especially til the butterflies appear. :wink:

Speaking of plants, in the front garden there is a shady patch which has walls on three sides and the only open side faces north-west. It isn't as daunting as it sounds to get plants to grow there and cyclamen, primroses, minature daffodils, crocus, lungwort, creeping comfrey, celendines, quince and hellebores are in flower at the moment. There are a couple of wild hellebores and some cultivated ones. The bees and ladybirds love the stinking hellebore, which is much nicer than the name implies. Some of the cultivated varieties are very pretty, in particular the doubles, and others less so. It's a shame they hang their heads as it is hard to see how nice the flowers are and it is easy to walk past without noticing.

The Sophie Dahls of the hellebore world, which are pretty enough:-
lenten-rose-5.jpg
lenten-rose-1.jpg
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and the Nigellas:-

lenten-rose-2.jpg
lenten-rose-3.jpg

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Wed Mar 31, 2010 6:19 pm

Poor old robins.

I've just been out to look at the nest as the adults were acting perculiarly. The male was in the garden, dipping his tail and looking alarmed. He kept flying in and out of the nest. Then I saw him feeding the female, who was sitting on the other side of the garden. It seemed decidedly strange so I went to investigate.

The eggs weren't visible as part of the nest was folded over on top of them, I unfolded it and the first one I saw was smashed; all blood and eggshell. The remaining three were intact but they were cool to the touch. I retreated back indoors and immediately the male went to the nest, now at least he could reach the eggs and he flew straight back out again with the broken egg in his beak, then back to the nest. I wondered what he was thinking as he flew from the nest to the female and back to the nest again, he gave the impression he wanted her back there. Eventually she went back in but a short time after she was out. Again he seemed to try to encourage her back but she wasn't having it. Perhaps she knew the eggs were dead or perhaps she was so scared by the cat attack, because that is what I think happened, that she didn't want to go back.

I hope they get a chance to try again this year but in a safer place.

I wonder how long eggs can stand the cold before they cease to be viable? I did briefly consider putting them in an incubator but I couldn't look after them if they did hatched, I'm too old for babies. Best to let nature find its own path.

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:58 am

This weather's hideous. COLD and WET. Meh. There's quite a lot of flowers out now but not a sniff of a butterfly, they'd have to wear scuba diving gear to survive this. The tadpoles are starting to swim though and all the rain water is stopping the spawn jelly from going stinky and poisoning the pond so there is a positive to the horrible weather.

On days like this it pays to do something constructive that wouldn't get done at other times so later I'm going to sit down a list the plants in the garden. I may even post it on here, then if anyone wants a cutting of anything all they need to do is ask. :D

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:28 pm

Deep joy. I have just been bombed by peacock butterflies! :D Behind where I live there is a strip of grass alongside a busy road. On the side nearest the houses there is a blackthorn hedge and edging this is a drainage ditch. Now I am sure you have no interest in this, and neither did I, until today. The semi dry ditch is full of butterflies!! There must be a dozen peacocks and at least a couple of small tortoiseshells within it. I assume they are sheltering from the wind and the place is a sun trap as it faces south and with the wall and hedge behind it which must reflect heat; a logical place for butterflies really. The peacocks were very territorial and were chasing each other, three up in the air sparring at a time, chasing off queen bumblebees and trying to chase me off too! It was wonderful :lol:

I only had my pocket camera on me but manage to get a snap to show just how close these butterflies were to each other.

Peacock-and-tortoiseshell.jpg


I took the kids for a walk over the fields and high wood this afternoon and the hill is a mass of wood anenomes, primroses, violets and celendines. The first of the cuckoo flower is out too. :D

I forgot to mention, in all my excitement, there are loads of bees around too. A good few hairy footed flower bees as well as some others and the usual bumbles in good numbers.

Over the weekend we went to Suffolk to attend my nephew's wedding. We had a lovely time and the weather was kind and the sun shone on Saturday afternoon. It also felt a lot milder there in Kersey, Suffolk than at home, but I still didn't see any butterflies. I did see a Little Egret in a field on the journey there though. The wedding afternoon was particularly memorable because my sis-in-law arranged for a Spitfire to give a display. It looped the loop, wing waggled and goodness knows what else for a good 10 to 15 minutes and was spectacular.
Spitfire.jpg
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Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:16 pm

It's gutting when you have to go to work and you know that it is going to be a warm sunny day and perfect for seeing butterflies but isn't it always the way? To make the most of the glorious weather I took a walk at lunchtime down to the market in Cranleigh (supposedly the largest village in England), there isn't much there but a short stroll back to the office along the Downs Link was productive. A small tortoiseshell was the first butterfly I saw circling over a patch of nettles, it was very flighty but did settle from time to time. An attempt on my part to get a pic ended up with very sore and stung feet as in my haste I had forgotten I was dressed for the office and not for stomping around in undergrowth. :lol: I soon gave up on that idea but further on there were a couple of peacocks and a brimstone feeding on dandelions. Walking back from the office this evening there were more peacocks and another small tortoiseshell. This is far more butterflies than I would expect to see, will this be a good year for them? I do hope so! :D

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Fri Apr 09, 2010 5:30 pm

Another brief walk along the Downs Link at lunchtime turned up more brimstone, peacocks, small tortoiseshells and a red admiral. I am not sure if there are more butterflies around at the moment or I am getting better at spotting them. Most of the butterflies I saw today were initially spotted feeding on sallow and once upon a time I would never have thought to look up there for them.

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:58 pm

We popped along to Buchan Country Park this afternoon with my Dad as it had an event on. There was a lot less there this year, just a few stalls of wildflowers and nothing I wanted that I didn't have already. There was one brimstone flying. The husband and my Dad spent most of their time talking about whether we could nick some logs off of the wood pile (obviously they didn't). They've become obsessed with logs since we got a woodburner last year and there isn't a dead tree or scrap of waste wood in half a mile of my Dad's house that isn't cut down, chopped up and carted down to us. It probably costs him more in petrol to bring the stuff than it would for us to buy it but it keeps him busy. :lol: My middle brother has even bought a chainsaw to help so Hanwell had better look out too!

This afternoon there was a small white flying around the garden feeding on forgetmenots and loads of bees and bee flies. One bee fly was dipping her abdomen in the soil and I think she was laying eggs*. It is the first time I have seen this behaviour. Usually they drop eggs in flight.

When digging I came across half a dozen or so unformed solitary bees in the ground. I covered them back up but I reckon they're done for. :( This is the only patch of unimproved clay left in the garden and I am going to try and leave it like that as the bees do seem to love it. It's a bit of a dilemma when gardening as to what species it is best to encourage. I've done my best to improve the soil here so it can better support the flowers to encourage in insects but at the same time I am reducing the habitat for one of my favourite species. :?

*Edit. I've since found out that she was dipping her abdomen into the soil to coat her eggs in dust so that she'll have better accuracy when flicking them towards the solitary bees' nests. I must remember that next time I go ten pin bowling. :wink:

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sat Apr 17, 2010 4:53 pm

At last a home grown Orange Tip! His flight was a bit ropey to start off with but after a feed on some honesty and cuckoo flower he took off. Hopefully be back with the Mrs soon to start a new family in the garden.
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Orange-Tip.jpg

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Sun Apr 18, 2010 8:27 pm

Sussex Butterfly Conservation were taking members on a walk around their new reserve, Rowland Wood, today. Unfortunately I was stuck in traffic and then it took me a while to find the reserve and so arrived late but the butterflies were there even if the others weren't when I arrived. There were good numbers of brimstone about as well as orange tips, peacocks, commas and my first speckled wood of the year. Park Corner and Rowland Wood really are lovely reserves and the BC volunteers have worked very hard to make them very special. I bumped into the others half way around and met another UKButterflies forum member there.

One of the enjoyable things about going on these walks is what can be learnt about things other than butterflies. How to make wine from silver birch sap, the correct name for toad tadpoles (toadpoles is what people came up with, but I am sure that can't be correct, can it? Frog tadpoles aren't called frogpoles are they so I can't see any logic to it) and how to remember the call of the stonechat (like two pebbles being knocked together) were a few of the things I learnt this morning.
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Rowland-Wood.jpg
Speckled-wood.jpg
Comma.jpg

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Dave McCormick
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Re: Susie

Postby Dave McCormick » Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:17 pm

One of the enjoyable things about going on these walks is what can be learnt about things other than butterflies. How to make wine from silver birch sap


Thats something thats new to me, interesting though. Like the speckled wood shot, still waiting for my first one here
Cheers all,
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Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:01 am

Thanks Dave, I don't think it will be long before you see one where you are. :)

Susie
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Re: Susie

Postby Susie » Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:16 pm

I'm starting to get that feeling on sunny days where I don't know where to go first, there are so many opportunities to see interesting things. As I only had a short while this morning I opted to keep it very local. :) A walk over my local woods and fields turned up plenty of orange tips, small whites and a couple of peacocks. Surprisingly no brimstones about. The wood is still looking a picture, wood anenome, celendines, ground ivy, violets and primroses are everywhere. The bluebells are just starting to come out. The ramsoms will be flowering in a week or two as well; I don't like the smell but they look pretty spectacular when they fill a valley nearby. Mind you, being by the sewage works even wild garlic is an improvement. :wink:
wood-anenomes.jpg


I do wonder what might be in this wood. There are so many primroses and violets around. I am sure there are purple emperor here too but I haven't seen one yet. Maybe this year.

violets.jpg


The daffodils in the garden are just about coming to an end.
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Sitting in a beer garden this afternoon I saw my first holly blue of the year and plenty of brimstones, peacocks, orange tips and a small tortoiseshell.

Back home this afternoon and a couple of peacocks flew over but didn't stop. My orange tip was back though and feeding on honesty again.
OT.jpg


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