Wildlife Wednesday – A sense of hidden things

There is plenty of stuff going on in the garden and countryside around here, but with the explosion of new green leaf cover and birds sitting on nests etc. I don’t have that much to actually show. For instance, today I heard a cuckoo. It has been calling each day this week as I walk the dog. I tried to record the sound on my phone, but on playback heard only the wind. I have never actually seen one, but they are a bit like a cross between a pigeon and kestrel. They are a summer visitor to the UK and (I didn’t know this before writing) a Red List species due to a recent trend to population decrease.

I also hear owls at night, but have not spotted one out and about in daylight for some time. Furthermore, I’ve been told that there are water voles and otters on the stretch of river (Rhee) that I walk each day, but I’d have to go at dusk, without the dog, to see the former and at roughly 2am to see the latter. A friend has managed some video footage of the otter, but the difficulties of remote observing are obvious (not to mention that a badger lobbed the camera in the river later on).

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So what have I seen? Well, here is a muntjac deer that we regularly encounter on our walks. Since I never know when we will see it, this is unfortunately a poor quality phone picture. I have various shots of its white tail too!

Orange-tip butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) are on the wing in good numbers.

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Male orange-tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines

Only the male has the tell-tale orange wing tips, but both sexes have the delicately mottled undersides.

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Orange-tip butterfly on honesty, showing its very furry body, curled up tongue and spotty eyes

The beginning of April saw the swallows arrive. I spotted my first on 10th April, that’s four days earlier than last year.

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Swallows are back in the UK

They’ve been flying very close to the ground, so I guess that the insects aren’t thickening the air high up yet. It’s been very dry in East Anglia and soil moisture is still very low.

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Swallow skimming the ground

One insect I’ve spotted earlier than normal this year is the St Mark’s fly. They are named after St. Marks Day (25th April), which is when they appear with surprising regularity. This photo (below) was taken 14th April. There were several just sitting on the lettuces. For a short period in May the flies tend to swarm by the hedgerows, hanging around in the air with their distinctive long hind legs daggling. This can be annoying hazard on walks, but they are useful pollinators.

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St Mark’s fly, Bibio marci

With no puddles around and rivers running low, providing water in our gardens for the birds, insects and animals is especially important. Our bird bath remains the best place to see who is visiting at this time of year. This robin certainly enjoyed his wash the other day.

In fact, I think that we have a robin nesting in the conical buxus by the pond. I’ve not seen any evidence of babies yet, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

We were away for a bit of the month and one of the highlights of that trip were the lizards that we saw everywhere, mostly hiding in the lava walls that delineate the island of La Palma. So I thought that I would share a photo of a blue throated lizard (locally Lagarto tizon, Gallotia galloti) that we enticed to just about stay still for some bread. They are apparently fond of bananas too. This example was about 30cm long and they can reach ~40cm.

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Lagarto tizon, Gallotia galloti palmae

And to finish the post I just wanted to say that, although she doesn’t count strictly as wildlife, I would be happy to hire out our labradoodle, Sadie, for cleavers/goosegrass (Gallium aparine) weed clearance jobs. She is inordinately fond of eating the tips of this annoying weed and usually pulls the whole plant out!!!

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Sadie and the cleavers

Wildlife Wednesday is a meme hosted by Tina at mygardenersays. Click through to be rewarded with some great photographs of birds, including a lovely series of Summer Tanagers.

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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20 Responses to Wildlife Wednesday – A sense of hidden things

  1. pbmgarden says:

    What an interesting butterfly and variety of birds. Sadie is a saint to help you out so.

  2. Sam says:

    I could do with Sadie here; our dog eats grass but not cleavers. For a startling moment I thought you’d spotted a giant lizard in the wild in the UK! Lovely photos.

    • Our walks are twice as long these days with all the cleavers snacks. She wouldn’t be nearly so helpful in the garden of course! Sadly, there are no big lizards in Cambridge, but we do get newts occasionally. 🙂

  3. Tina says:

    Great shots and I know what you mean by critters covered up by foliage–good for them, tricky for us! Those orange-tip butterflies are so pretty–upwards and downwards! So great that you have a garden helper in sweet Sadie! Thanks for joining in!

  4. Eliza Waters says:

    Many cool sightings. Love that orange tip butterfly and blue-throated lizard!

  5. I just love the photo of the underside wing of the orange tip butterfly, such a pretty marble pattern,

    the cuckoos have not yet arrived in the north of Scotland yet, I’ve seen them a few times once being chased away by much smaller birds, they are quite large I was surprised much larger than the collared doves here,

    I really enjoyed reading about the wildlife in your part of Britain, you have my sympathies on the deer and rabbit problems, and how nice to have a four legged garden helper 😉 Frances

    • The underside markings on the orange-tip are interesting because they are intrinsically fuzzy. For ages I struggled with focus thinking I was messing up the shots. You are very lucky to have spotted cuckoos, but who can blame the smaller birds!

  6. I haven’t heard a cuckoo for a few years now, I wonder what the problem is. Lovely post and great photos, interesting to see the underwing of the Orange tip butterfly – they seem very flighty subjects!

    • The trick with orangetips seems to be to catch in the morming when it is cool and they are sleepy, otherwise you are necessarily traipsing all over the show! I expect that it is a habitat problem with the cuckoos. Fortunately, they are only just on the red list (‘least concern’ category)

  7. FlowerAlley says:

    My rabbit Charlotte eats weeds. I say she is helping mommy in the garden. I have never seen such a butterfly. I have had to look at this three times.

  8. Brian Skeys says:

    The underside of the orange tip wings are beautiful, I have not noticed that before. I have been fortunate in the past to see cuckoos on several occasions. Early in the morning, I have seen them flying and calling or from tree tops. I hope you see one, they are becoming more rare.

  9. Sue says:

    Wow, those orange tip butterflies are beautiful! And good spotting of the deer too!!

    • Thanks. That deer was disturbed by the dog who was rooting around in the bushes, but it didn’t run very far away luckily and then it just watched us from a distance.

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