High summer: thermals are active and many moths and butterflies are about, our grass snake has shed its skin and dragonflies have emerged.
Mary looks up to the sky and spots a glider corkscrewing upwards around the invisible rising hot air thermal (and then spots a second) and, as a former glider pilot, explains how to identify a thermal from the dark based clouds that develop above the rising plume of hot air so that gliders can glide from one thermal to another and travel considerable distances (image 1). Then we spot a Buzzard doing exactly the same thing in the same thermal with another almost out of sight higher up (image 2).
As well as buzzards and red kites, we often see Kestrels seeking small mammals while hovering over the village green and local grass fields (image 3).
It is that time of year when the large Oak Eggar moths are active. We saw several males flying fast and furious at the back of the house and two attempting to get under a flower pot. I moved the pot to release the moth and it just flew back. Why? I lifted the various bottles and boxes out of the pot and there in the bottom was a female Oak Eggar being attended by a much darker male and at the same time another male was attempting to reach her through the drainage hole in the pot (image 4). Female moths give off pheromones to attract the males and presumably this was happening at the back of our house.
‘Neighbours’ may have ended but good to have our own neighbours as friends. Our neighbour left a message to ask if we were in and left a glass jar on our porch and inside was a magnificent tropical-looking female Purple Emperor butterfly that had landed on their garden lounger. Purple emperors spend their time high in the tops of deciduous woodlands rather than on garden loungers but so good to know that they are about. After taking its photograph I released the butterfly in the woodland at the end of our garden (image 5).
Green Woodpeckers have been calling locally and are seen in Stroud gardens. Our other neighbour had one land in their garden perhaps injured and brought it around. We released it at the end of the garden when it flew straight off and so must have been just stunned.
On the subject of purple, I was amazed to find a Purple Hairstreak butterfly on our garden buddleia (image 6). These members of the blue butterfly family are seldom seen and generally restricted to mature of oak woodlands and of which the nearest potential habitat is Furzefield Copse about 700m to the south of us.
Now is the time of the Big Butterfly Count and butterfly enthusiasts are out recording what they see in a 15-minute period and entering the results on the website https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/.
I have been out about in Stroud and Petersfield counting butterflies, the results of which are plotted on the Big Butterfly Count map on the website. I found another member of the blue family, the pale blue coloured Holly Blue on the village green (image 7) and its close relative the Common Blue on the track alongside Langrish School (image 8).
A brilliant orange Comma was sunning on brambles at the back of the village green (image 9). Large White butterflies were the commonest species I found while Gatekeepers (image 10) were almost as common. The first gatekeeper (also known as the Hedge Brown) I found was to the front of the Seven Stars and they were generally common in most village hedgerows including those around the village recreation ground. Out in the meadows along the footpath west of Langrish School, the Meadow Brown was the commonest species that almost disappears from sight when it settles (image 11).
A treat from our runner bean flowers are the Brimstone Butterflies (image 12) and apart from a bean crop, are a good reason to plant runner beans alone.
While searching around the recreation ground hedgerows, I saw a Hornet but which was off before I could raise my camera. And then, I spotted these two Big Headed Flies (image 13). This species known variously as the Yellow-banded Conops or more descriptively as the Four-banded Beegrabber (Conops quadrifasciatus) spends its time on flowers waiting to pounce on a visiting bee which it grabs and lays its eggs in the bee where the larvae develop eventually killing the bee. After mating, the male defends the female against other males and this is what is happening in the photograph (image 13).
Finally, our young grass snake that shelters under one of our wildlife tins has shed (sloughed) its skin (image 14) and our Southern Hawker dragonflies have emerged from our pond leaving their empty ‘exuvia’ pupal cases behind (Image 15).