Tag Archives: butterflies

Five Favourite Photos

I’ve decided on a post to cover up my lack of recent photography. I will, of course, be dressing it up as a listing of my favourite photographs. It will also make a change of pace from the last post,

Common Blue

Male Common Blue

I was on the way to visit Men in Sheds when I stopped to take a picture of round bales. We have a Hockney post card showing a scene like this and I keep trying to reproduce it photographically. So far I haven’t managed, but this Common Blue flew past and after twenty minutes of stalking I had a couple of decent shots. That’s about as good as it gets – butterfly photography can be tricky.

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Small Copper on castor oil plant

This was one Julia spotted in the front garden. It’s a small garden and relies on self-seeded red valerian to attract butterflies, though it has plenty of marigold and allysum as back up. We’ve had quite a variety this year, with the favourites being the Hummingbird Hawk Moths.

Though they are great things to see, they are very difficult to photograph, so they haven’t made the cut.

This was the opposite of the previous photograph – no stalking needed. All I did was get the camera out as I walked from the car to the door.

Goodbye, cruel world

A Puffin thinks about ending it all

I know it’s only contemplating flight, but it does seem forlorn as it looks down. The clown face adds to the general air of despair. This photograph was taken as a group of birds loafed about just below a viewing platform at Bempton Cliffs.

We also went to Flamborough Head that day, and spent an enjoyable time on the cliffs there too. With a mixture of poor health, work and creaking knee we’ve not been out and about much this year – which makes the good days all the more special.

Bee-eater at East Leake quarry

Bee-eater at East Leake

This is a poor photo, but we had an interesting trip out and saw, albeit distantly, some exotic birds. The quality of a photograph, for me, lies in the memories of the day it was taken on, as much as in obtaining a pin-sharp picture of an event. Even people with top quality equipment were struggling because the heat was making the air shimmer and at the distance we were working this was causing problems. With low quality optics and a dirty lens I never expect perfection…

They were very much on the edge of their range, despite global warming and the nests failed in the end, but it was a brave attempt.

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This one always  cheers me up. The photo, that is. The subject of the photo always has a list of jobs for me.

This was taken as a new profile photo when Julia started the new job at the Mencap Garden. It’s a typical pose – outdoors, dressed for gardening and with that enigmatic smile. It’s a smile that shows how happy she is to have been married to me for all this time.

Well, I think that’s what it means.

Pictures of Peacocks

According to Laurie Graves, commenting on my last post, she likes pictures of Peacock butterflies as they don’t see them in Maine. I don’t feel too sorry for her though, she does have Hummingbirds in summer.

Anyway, as I have plenty of photographs of Peacocks I thought it might be in order to put a few up.

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Peacock Butterfly on Buddleia

The featured image is a Peacock on crocuses, taken in February a few years ago. It’s the earliest butterfly I’ve ever photographed, though they can, according to reports, be seen on every day of the year.

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Peacock at Mencap gardens

I’ve always liked Peacocks. My first memory of butterflies dates from around 1960-61 but I only  recall them as either white or reddish brown. We were living outside York at that time, and went on to Blackburn, Clitheroe and Lincolnshire before noticing them again in 1967. At that point we moved to a house near Peterborough. It had a sheltered paved area with a buddleia and one day in our first summer there I noticed that the bush was hosting a Peacock convention. It’s tempting to say it was covered with them, but this would be an exaggeration. However, there were more butterflies in one spot than I remember seeing before or since.

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Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshell at the Ecocentre

And not just butterflies, but big, bright, velvety butterflies.

From that day on, I was confirmed as a butterfly enthusiast.

The Morning so Far

It is grey, I can see parents taking children to school, but at least it isn’t raining.

I had a strange dream last night, involving stone-built houses, planning permission and failure. The first two came, I think, because I had fallen asleep in front of the TV during an episode of Grand Designs.  The feeling of failure, on the other hand, seems to have been creeping more and more into my thoughts recently.

It’s strange how negative thoughts are the ones that seem to persist. Yesterday I thought about plans for earning a living, new sweets for Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and, by association, growing liquorice.  I then thought of other exotic crops, how James Wong has always disappointed me and gave serious thought to a seed bombing campaign.

I have no personal animosity towards James Wong, in case you are wondering, it’s just that when I’ve tried to grow his alternative crops they have never seemed worth the trouble.

I bought, for instance, two kiwi berry vines when we started Quercus Community. They are hardy, prolific and vigorous to the point of being invasive. Not mine. Mine are like a couple of stroppy teenagers, sulking and refusing to cooperate. When we did get fruit, which was not often, we didn’t get much and my dreams of selling bags of unusual fruit to boost our funds all came to nothing.

I keep telling myself that seed bombing is not the way forwards for my dream to make Nottingham the Butterfly Capital of the world, as it will invariably involve a lot of buddleia and make the locality look like a bomb site. Somehow I always come back to the idea though…

So there you are – my morning has consisted of blogging about yesterday.

 

Fortunately it is only ten o’clock so I still have time to pull things round. Has it really taken an hour to write this?

I must learn to type faster.

Spiders, Shopping and Dead Butterflies

A couple of days ago I noticed something fluttering in the front garden, It turned out to be the remains of a Small Tortoiseshell, enangled in a sider’s web. It was past help, but I thought I’d take a few pictures. If I ever need a picture of a dead butterfly with a spider I now have one in stock.

It was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the spider, stringing a web between the Red Valerian flowers and lying in wait for a passing pollinator. I imagine that it wou;d have preferred a nice juicy bee, but it got a butterfly. There must be plenty of food in a butterfly, but the wings are a bit of a waste.

I  tried to get some close-ups, but must have touched a web, as the spider made a rush for me, defending its lunch. In such a David and Goliath situation we were always going to have a non-traditional outcome. I was never going to fall over after taking a rock between the eyes. Fortunately the spider didn’t push its luck and, after a sneer, it went back to eating.

Moving forward to Bank Holiday Monday,  we went to the garden centre so that Julia could buy more plants. We always seem to be buying new plants. After the first half of the trip I hobbled back to the car, making much use of my walking stick, and allowed her to enjoy the centre without me holding her back. I am so noble.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with me, apart from laziness and the inability to put up with heat. I’m just a very bad husband. However, I was able to sit in a car in the shade and enjoy the breeze instead of sweating round a variety of converted polytunnels masquerading as a shop. I feel a little deception was good for my health.

Whether or not it remains good for my health if Julia reads this, we will have to see.

As I sat in the car I took a few photos. There wasn’t much to photograph, but when in doubt take a picture of things that look like a pattern. That’s why I took the pots and compost bags.  They aren’t good photos, but they look like they could be. The one with the pots would have been better if they’d been stacked on the level. Or if I’d noticed they were sloping when I took the photo.

 

It was nice day, even if it was too hot for me, and even better when we were able to drive round with the air-conditioning on.

At least we weren’t disappointed by this garden centre.

What is this life…

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

“Leisure” – W H Davies

I have, as I have said recently, been seeing more butterflies in the garden this year. It’s not due to good weather or better plants, just that I’m finding more time to stand and look at our garden. For the last couple of years I’ve hardly seen it.

I was reading a copy of Garden News from last month as I waited for Julia to leave work this afternoon. The head gardener from Helmsley Walled Gardens makes a good point towards the back of the magazine – make time to sit in your garden, consider improvements and enjoy it. She also suggests not over-gardening, but letting nature do the work for you. That’s my kind of gardening. I like her approach.

There’s a useful bumblebee ID chart on the garden website, though it’s slightly confusing that a buff-tailed bumblebee  has a white tail, as does the white-tailed bumblebee, and the garden bumblebee and heath bumblebee.

I have to ask about the wisdom of calling something white-tailed when it’s a common featureI also feel slightly cheated that the early bumblebee has a red tail, an ID feature it shares with the red-tailed bumblebee.

Anyway, enough of that, I’m going to sit and stare, at ebay, as W H Davies, may have said if he had lived longer.

Though I’ve just noticed Cockneys vs Zombies is on. It’s not the finest work Richard Briers and Honor Blackman ever did, but it’s not a bad film, and it’s streets ahead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If only Jane Austen knew, she’d be emerging from her grave…

 

 

A Painted Lady Comes to Call

I’ve had a few problems with WordPress today, including the complete loss of a post. This was annoying as I’d spent a significant amount of time looking for links and photos.

Julia picked plums in the early afternoon and saw a Painted Lady in the garden – another first for the garden. Added to the Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk Moth we saw earlier in the year it’s all coming together nicely.


When we left home to do some errands this afternoon we spent a few minutes watching the front garden and were rewarded by two small brown butterflies hustling past in the swirling wind, then a larger one, which proved to be a Painted Lady. It took some photographing, as it was quite skittish and there was a stiffish breeze once it left cover.

We’re not doing too badly for butterflies in the garden, partly due to looking a bit more than usual and partly due to a good showing of Red Valerian. We’ve also had Mint Moths on the marigolds, which is a first, as I’ve always seen them on mint or oregano before.

As for the plums, Julia has picked over 200. As usual, it’s a case of picking them when ripe and then using them quickly before they start to go over. We’ve given some to Angela Across the Road, who gave us figs and tomatoes in return. We’ve also given some to the Young Couple Next Door, because they give us cake.

I’m going to make sure we feed the tree properly next year, and ensure the pruning is done properly. I’ve been a bit slapdash with pruning recently and it’s turning into a biennial bearer. This is my fault, not the tree’s. If the feeding works it should fruit moderately next year, which will take some of the vigour out of it for the year after. If not, it looks like I’ll have to remove fruit buds two years from now.

I think this all started about six years ago when we had a bad spring that killed all the blossom. The next year was a bumper year due to all the stored energy and the one after that we didn’t harvest any fruit at all. I should have got on top of it when we had the first bumper year, instead I added neglect to the problem by letting the pruning slip by.

We are having Plum and Apple Crumble for tea.

All in all this has been a good day.

Butterflies, Moths, Buddleia and Mint

The Butterfly Count is upon us for 2017 and Julia is preparing  the materials for the group.

We had a preparatory look in the garden on Friday to get some idea of what was about, and had a good result, considering it was a cold day. The buddleia didn’t attract much (possibly because it’s planted in a shady spot) but the mint attracted a lot of pollinators and the Mint Moths. (Mint Moths are only about quarter of an inch across (6mm) in real life – don’t go looking for something the same size as the photo). I didn’t see butterflies on the mint, but they were mainly seen in the area around the mint.

Comma

Mint Moth

Painted Lady

Red Admiral

Speckled Wood

White, Large

There was also an unidentified white, an unidentified brown (probably Meadow Brown or Gatekeeper) and an unidentified brown Skipper.

We need to add a few more plants around the place – more buddleia would be good, and oregano used to attract a lot of butterflies when we were at the Ecocente. Although the Mencap garden isn’t anywhere near as good as the Centre garden for attracting butterflies, it’s still as exciting to try to spot new species and plan to attract more. We have a few buddleia seedlings to donate and I’ll have to persuade Julia to grow oregano.

The last week has been reasonably good in the house garden (which is a bit of a butterfly wasteland), with Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and Orange Underwing moth all seen this week. There are Mint Moths in a herb garden along the street and I live in hope of seeing another Hummingbird Hawk Moth on the Red Valerian like we did (twice) in 2015.

Time to start giving some serious thought to our own garden, after a year of hacking back in 2016.

I’m slightly ambivalent towards buddleia as it’s a non-native species and can be considered a pest. I think it’s best summed up here by Butterfly Conservation – it’s a valuable source of nectar and is OK in gardens. However, it doesn’t feed caterpillars and it can be invasive in the wrong place.

There are other plants to feed butterflies and caterpillars, as this list shows.