A black and white Brown!

This is a Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galathea) and until two weeks ago I’d never seen one before in my life.

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Don’t they look like those butterfly splot paintings we used to do as kids?

Despite being quite obviously black and white in colour, this butterfly is classified as part of the Brown Family and that is what I am seeing them with, in the fields where I walk Sadie.

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The undersides to their wings look like hand-painted stained glass.

Indeed, this year there are impressive numbers of Browns emerging, particularly Ringlets, mixed in with Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. The Brown family butterflies seems to be on the increase generally.

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Ringlets on the increase!

So I don’t know whether it is an especially good year for Marbled Whites or whether I’ve just been more observant, but I’ve gone from seeing and IDing just the one a fortnight ago, to encountering dozens on a daily basis. From what I’ve read about Marbled Whites they are not found in much of eastern England, so possibly I am seeing a change in their range occurring?

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When I first spotted these butterflies they were in continuous flight, flitting low down in the rough grass areas of the newly planted Silver Jubilee Wood. I despaired of getting a picture to show. However, as more Marbled Whites have appeared in the unimproved meadows near the river and since the thistles and knapweed have started to flower, the butterflies are more settled, pausing to feed and mate.

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Mating Marbled White butterflies

I was showing the butterflies to a friend when she spotted this mating pair deep in the grass. Sadly my camera battery died on me shortly after, but not before I managed to take a shot of one resting on my arm:

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Have you seen a Marbled White before?

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Ice skating to Ravel’s Bolero

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A beautiful blushed variant of Papaver somniferum

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Much loved by the insects nevertheless

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A honey bee and leaf cutter bee enjoying the ruffles and pollen

 

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In a Vase on Monday – A Summer Salad

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The cephalaria had to go! I’ve two large plants at the back of the border, but as giant scabious is a prolific self-seeder I also have slightly smaller samples all along the edge of the driveway, in the gravel. I’d been leaving them to flower before pulling them up, but after last week’s horizontal westerlies the plants have re-orientated themselves to a sideways position and they are now drumming the cars each time we leave! So in a vase today we have several of the cut down primrose yellow flowers of Cephalaria gigantea, together with a smorgasbord of other summer staples.

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Our opium poppies have been lovely this year, but are getting to the stage where there are more seed heads than flowers, so I’ve cut a few of those too. I love their carousel tops and pumpkin-like bodies.

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Adding a bit of colourful zing (always important in making salads!) are some cornflowers and lychnis. Sadly, my Penstemon ‘Sour Grapes’ is a bit muted here. It was brighter and more interesting a couple of weeks ago. Maybe the heat and dryness are bleaching the colours from it? They still provide such wonderful bells though and it’s fun to look inside at the rib-cage like anthers:

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Looking inside a penstemon bell

Filling out the rest of the vase are some stems of long flowering staples feverfew, linaria and nepeta. It certainly feels like summer now (OK obviously, ‘cos the solstice is only two days away) and with melting temperatures of 31+ degrees today I am lucky to have got away with picking the flowers for the vase in the afternoon heat.

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I’ve retreated indoors for the time being and brought the vase with me. It hasn’t stopped the bumblebees coming in to visit the cephalaria though. They sure love those blooms!

Hope that you are enjoying the sunshine! I am joining in with Cathy’s unstoppable In a Vase on Monday meme. Many beautiful flowers are on display there if you fancy a visit.

 

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Colour-coordinated pollen baskets

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Blue filled pollen baskets on bees enjoying Phacelia tanacetifolia

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Bright orange filled pollen baskets on honey bees visiting the Foxtail lilies, Eremurus robustus

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Pale yellow filled pollen baskets on bees visiting spring blossom

Posted in Bees, Flowers, Nature, Whimsy, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Wildlife roundup – If only I could fly too

May’s warmth and sunshine brought out many winged creatures and my favourites are always the dragonflies and their relatives. Early on in May, at the edge of our small pool, we saw the first Large Red damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) basking in the sun.

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They are tremendously beautiful creatures and the golden/bronze details on the thorax and abdomen can’t help but catch your eye. Their two year lifecycle consists of the first year being spent in still water (such as garden ponds and ditches) first as an egg and then as a nymph. When they finally emerge from the water they like there to be a thick cover of vegetation, which they climb up as they wait for their wings to harden off.

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Large red damselfly with kaleidoscope eyes!

After mating you will see males still clasped around the females neck flying around in tandem until egg laying is finished, warding off other males.

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Males will often remain in tandem with the female until the eggs are deposited

Soon after the Large Red damselflies appeared we started to see blue damselflies too. I think that I have identified these as Variable damselflies, Coenagrion pulchellum. For some reason these look smaller and are harder to see than the red ones. They seem to phase in and out of sight. However, they are typically the same size as the Large Red and like the same kinds of places and environment.

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Variable damselfly eating a moth

They are fairly camera shy, but the easiest time to take a picture of them is when they have their mouths full or are otherwise occupied!

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Variables flying around in tandem

There are plenty of both these species of damselfly about the pond on sunny days, but they are having to keep a good look out now because there are Four-spotted Chaser dragonflies (Libellula quadrimaculata) about too. What a beauty!

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Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly on its preferred cane view-point

This one spent an afternoon buzzing the other inhabitants of the pond, but I didn’t see it catch anything.

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Looking into the face of the dragon

I grew pennisetum macrourum around the pond last year and this is providing very handy perches for the dragonflies to watch the pond for easy prey. They mostly seem to zoom off to hunt when the male damselflies end up fighting over a female.

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Four-spotted chaser watching the pond for prey

There are a number of other winged sources of food fluttering around the area too. For instance, Holly Blue butterflies have been busy laying eggs on the flowers of a holly hedge.

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With the holly flowering mostly over, they now seem to be flitting around the flower buds on the olive trees that we have in large pots around a pebbled area beyond the pond. I’ve not noticed that before.

I was very happy to see the return of a humming-bird hawk-moth last weekend.  This moth is a migrant to the UK and its numbers vary tremendously from year to year. The Butterfly Conservation Trust monitors these numbers and would be please to hear from you if you see one (online form here).

I grow centranthus rubra around the patio mostly in the hope that its tubular flowers will attract this visitor. Unfortunately, these moths move so fast that I have only blurry pictures of it:

Hopefully you get the sense of the humming-bird action and don’t you love that tongue!

One other piece of good wildlife news is that the local goldcrests have had babies and we now have four perky, tiny birds hopping around the strawberry tree waiting for their turn in the waterfall.

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Goldcrest on the waterfall

I am once again linking up with Tina at mygardenersays for her monthly wildlife meme. It is always interesting to see what others have spotted in their gardens, so do take a look!

 

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Wordless Wednesday – Cornfield poppies

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Wordless Wednesday – A double-sided magic

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It looks idyllic: Muntjac deer in the garden – eating everything!

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