There’s been plenty of drama in the meadows this year from the Cinnabar moths (Tyria jacobaeae). Cinnabars are a day flying moth and tend to disturb easily. This results in startling flashes of red as their hindwings are revealed when they flit about. There seem to be more than usual I’d say.
The Cinnabar moth’s food of choice is ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), which is widespread around here and is just coming into flower now. Soon the plants will be covered in those very noticeable, squirming black and yellow caterpillars. Apart from their bright colouring, the toxic, bitter alkaloids in the ragwort help make the larvae unpalatable and reduces the risk of consumption by predators. So you might wonder why we aren’t awash with
sith cinnabar moths and the answer is simply that not many make it through to pupation because they often run out of food before maturity (and they are not averse to cannibalism).
I’ve been toiling away over the last few weeks making what seems like endless, but in reality is only nine, table centres for my son’s wedding this weekend. He’s keen on a woodland theme and somehow I’ve found myself up to my elbows in papier-mâché, turning glass vases into tree stumps. These subsequently have been ‘colonised’ by ivy and moss and so it was not a surprise yesterday to find a green leaf lying around on the carpet … except that when I went to pick it up I discovered that it was alive and was in fact a Large Emerald moth (Geometra papilionaria).
Doesn’t it look doe-eyed, colt-legged and super cute? The colours in the photo against our mossy green carpet are awful though. A better idea of how green the moth really is, is given in this second picture (below). This was taken in brighter light when I returned the moth to the garden.
The Large Emerald is indeed a large moth, with a wingspan of about 50mm. Its favourite food source is birch and since we have several in the garden, it is not too surprising a ‘spot’.
Skipper butterflies are just starting to appear in the garden and, continuing with the Star Wars theme, I love the way they rotate their forewings away from the hindwings so that they look like X-winged fighters. I am not totally sure which kind of Skipper this is, but the chequered pattern on its wings (admittedly not visible in this photo) points to its ID as a Large Skipper. In our garden they are most often seen supping on linaria, verbena and red valerian (Centranthus ruber).
But my favourite visitor to the red valerian, is the Hummingbird Hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum), which I eventually managed a fairly clear shot of last week.
This migrant is a sporadic garden visitor, but the best chance to see it is at this time of year, while the red valerian is in full flower.
This butterfly is a Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and is the last one I will share in this post. I’ve spent most of June on the look out for these butterflies on our dog walks, but the species seems to have emerged, either in smaller numbers than usual or just later than last year.
I’ll end with a couple of bird shots. Our patio area is currently the preferred training grounds for some young robins and wrens. It’s noisy sitting out under the wisteria-covered pergola currently, because there’s a lot of high-pitched chirping and alarm calling overhead. Here is one of the juvenile robins on the ground:
Already he has that sturdy, chesty posture, but his youth has gifted him with spots/speckled feathers rather than a red breast (it will come).
On the other hand, I’ve only detected the baby wrens as silhouettes moving about the virburnum bush, but I did manage a shot of a hard-working parent, beak full of goodies, checking me out worriedly, before moving on to feed the kids:
This is my contribution to Tina’s monthly Wildlife Wednesday meme. I recommend clicking over to her blog to see a completely different set of birds and creatures (she’s Texas based). Perhaps you’ve got some wildlife to share?