Ugh! So not what you want to see, but this is what I found en-route when I went to check on Therfield wild pasque flower colony. Large silk-spun, tented enclosures covering most of the hawthorn bushs on the heath. The webs protect hundreds of voracious caterpillars (and their food) from predators. I think that the caterpillars are of the brown-tail moth, because they are the only webbing species which are black with brown hairs and two reddish raised tubercles. In fact, the hairs on the caterpillars are urticating (causing skin irritations like a nettle rash), so in addition to defoliating the hawthorn they can cause health problems for people. Hopefully, the trees with recover quickly once they have pupated, but there are not going to be many berries.
On a more cheerful note, there are many more eye-catching butterflies on the wing now. Easiest to spot are the numerous orange tip butterflies flitting along the borders and hedgerows. The males of this small butterfly are unmistakeable with their bright tipped forewings, whereas the females lack the orange. Males are seen much more often than the females, who are either waiting for attention or busy getting on with egg laying. Mottled undersides to the wings of both sexes provides perfect camouflage when they are at rest. So they are quite hard to get decent pictures of, because they are either invisible or moving!
Another insect that seems to be having a good year numbers-wise is the bee fly, Bombylius major. This an obvious bee mimic and is harmless, in spite of that dangerous looking proboscis. It enjoys sunning itself and certainly likes to rest on the hot gravel on the driveway. Its fur-covered body makes it looks quite cute, but its dark side is that the adult female flicks her eggs towards the entrance of underground solitary bee or wasp nests so that the hatching larvae can get into the nest and feed on the grubs.
Cashing in on all this urgent insect activity are our summer bird visitors. On most walks with the dog these days we are buzzed by swallow and house martins skimming low over the crops in the fields to catch flies and midges. Their aerial acrobatics are a joy to watch and you can easily hear them coming with their interwoven hiccupping calls.
I’ve not noticed many birds nesting in the garden this year, except those dratted, noisy pigeons (collared doves) in the fir trees next to the bedroom. However, I happened to be outside, camera in hand, when I heard a strange banging noise behind the garage. So I crept around the corner to see what was going on and found the hammering sound was coming from the bird box. I switched to video mode to record the sound and a few seconds later caught the d-i-y enthusiast exiting.
I am not sure if they are nesting or not, but they come to work quite often.
So we reach the final creature of the post, which I accidentally found when I was photographing tulips. This is a 22-spotted ladybird. I counted to make sure! It is a relatively small ladybird of ~4mm and as you can see is yellow, so it is easy to ID. The best bit about this visitor is that he eats mildew. Yes, I have mildew in the garden already (on the scabious and honesty), so he might consume and grow quite a lot while he is here.
I am linking up with Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday theme today. Tina has some rather more exotic caterpillars and birds to report, so head over there to check them, and other bloggers wonderful wildlife, out.