Mid July. Grass snake and slow-worm, frog and newts, Big Butterfly Count, a couple of moths, a weasel and wild arum berries.
As I write this, we are starting a heat wave and while we may not be as hot as central England, it is certainly getting warm.
Warm weather means reptiles are active and it was a delight to lift one of our wildlife tins and find a young Grass Snake curled up (image 1). This was our first grass snake of the year, apart from a brief view of a tail a week or so ago. Whether this scarcity of grass snakes is related to lack of frogs (one of their main prey species), or that the grass snakes have taken all the frogs and moved away, we do not know. Slow-worms (a species of large legless lizard) are more regularly sheltering under our wildlife tins and here is a fine looking specimen (image 2). The coppery colour suggests a female.
We do get the occasional Frog and this youngster appeared in the pond a few days ago (image 3) and will have to watch out for the grass snakes. We still have a population of Palmate Newts in the pond, but as with the frogs, it is necessary to search at night by torchlight to see them.
Today is the first day of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count. In the garden, I was able to record Large White, Brimstone (image 4), Red Admiral (image 5), Comma and Speckled Wood all within the 15 minutes allowed. Also, a Peacock but that was outside of the allowed time. I also did a count on the village green recording Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Large White, Peacock (image 6) and Marbled White Image 7) in the allotted 15 minutes. It was good to see several Marbled Whites as I surmise that their population over the last two years crashed because of hay cutting at their critical egg laying time (the caterpillars feed on grasses) and now, while the grass is still long, supporting reasonable populations of butterflies. I also saw both Small and Large Skippers, but these are not on the list to be recorded and a Ringlet appeared later.
To take part in the Big Butterfly Count which runs until August 7th visit: https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/ for full instructions; but briefly, you watch in your garden or chosen location and list the butterflies you see in a 15 minute period and submit on the website. Would be good to get some more dots on the map for Stroud.
In the garden, I spotted a Green-veined White (image 8). Not an uncommon species but difficult to distinguish from the Small White unless it pauses its frantic flight pattern, and you get to examine the grey-green veined underwings.
Next are two moths. The Spectacle appeared in the moth trap, small and not much to look at until you look at it face to face and see those wonderful spectacle markings (image 9). A surprise was the Old Lady Moth (image 10) which, with a wingspan of some 6cm, is a very large moth indeed. The wing pattern is reputedly reminiscent of the shawls worn by Victorian ladies.
My neighbour Chris has photographed a mammal that appears to be a (dead) Weasel along the A272 Winchester Road about half way into Petersfield. Weasels are small, quick and very difficult to see and so good to get this record. Unfortunately, the parish boundary runs along the hedge on the south side of the road here and so technically, the record was perhaps 3m into Steep Parish rather than Stroud.
I could not resist a picture of the colourful fruiting Wild Arum plants with their vivid berries in the garden near our wildlife tins (image 11).
Addendum 17 July 2022. I see that the hay has been cut this morning on the village green. Of course, while the village green is a public open space, the crop belongs to the private landowner and he can cut when the crop is sufficiently dry and with maximum nutrition content (optimum sugars, proteins and vitamins). However, from a biodiversity point of view, it is a shame for the grass feeding butterflies and other insect populations developing here and that will now retreat to the edges of the field. Good of course for dog walkers who will not have to fight through waist high waving grass.