The week the sun came out. Friday 4 June 2021
After weeks of rain, the sun finally came out and the trees and shrubs have suddenly greened up and many insects and other small creatures have appeared. At last the bluetits can gorge themselves and their nestlings on winter moth caterpillars now appearing on the oak trees. Our nesting starlings, house sparrows and bluetits seem to have fledged their young, while our wrens are still busy at their nest. There is so much going on at the moment.
I had a trip to Petersfield Heath to photograph butterflies, but failed to find a single one. And in compensation, this magnificent Poplar Hawk-moth appeared in the moth trap (image 1). While on the Heath, I turned over a fallen birch log and was pleased to find this juvenile Slow-worm (image 2), probably born last Autumn; I found a lizard in the same place a couple of years ago. Slow-worms (legless lizards) have been regular visitors to our garden wildlife tins, resting under the tins as they warm up in the sun.
Exploring the garden by torchlight always brings creatures of interest. In particular, many White-lipped banded snails (image 3) have been feeding on the ivy at the back of our pond, along with their yellow form. Snails have two pairs of antennae, the lower shorter pair are used to sense suitable food and the upper pair have eyes capable of sensing light and dark.
Mounted on our south-facing house wall we have several logs in which I have drilled holes of assorted sizes and the warm sunny weather has seen the holes used by Red Mason Bees (image 4). These harmless furry reddish little bees lay their eggs in the holes and seal them with mud in an attempt to keep parasites and other bees out.
I could not resist another picture of the Cockchafer beetle which are so common at the moment. These are a species of scarab beetles (including dung beetles) all of which have these fan shaped flat extensions to their antennae. In Cockchafers, the females have six extensions and the males have seven; this cockchafer has seven and so is a male (image 5).
Earlier this year we had a pair of the pretty little Collared Doves in the garden and soon we only had one. What happened to the missing dove we do not know, but just recently we have had two and so the remaining dove seems to have paired and we regularly see them foraging together or sitting side by side in our oak tree (image 6).
One of my favourite places to look for insects is around the A272/A3 roundabout at the junction of the Winchester Road and the Petersfield bypass. On this occasion, 26 May, I passed one of the grey metal junction boxes and found this little pile of sticks on top. Somewhat amazed as these had been shown on Springwatch and are protective cases made by larvae of the Bagworm Moth (image 7). Curious to see what else might be here, I looked below the metal cap and there was a tiny Zebra Jumping Spider. This fierce carnivore was devouring a fly under the protection of cap (image 8).
There were many insects and spiders to be found here, amongst them were these strikingly coloured Red and Black Froghoppers (image 9). Their bright colours make them easy to find as adults, although their larvae feed underground on roots. There were also many Dance Flies, also known as Dagger Flies (image 10). Harmless to us but not to other smaller insects which they catch with those long legs and suck dry through that long dagger-like proboscis.
Although no space for picture here (I limit myself to no more than 10 images), this week has seen a magnificent fall of goat willow seeds. Their tiny black seeds are suspended within silky down and which falls off the green catkins to blow and disperse in the wind. An unusual lack of wind coupled with hot dry conditions has seen these seeds falling down below the willows forming great carpets of snow-like frothy material which is picked up by the slightest breeze. This has happened in the wooded end of our garden and I understand has been spectacular on Petersfield Heath as well.