THE NATURE REPORT
August 2002
Home page

As I predicted last month we would see many insects in August and these butterflies prove it.

Our first butterfly is the "Small Cabbage White". This one is a female as it has two dots on the wing, whereas the male has none or occasionally just one.

They can usually be seen from May, through to September. It derives its name from the fact that its caterpillars are, as any farmer or gardener will tell you, mainly to be found feeding voraciously on cabbages.

As its name suggests the "Meadow Brown" is normally to be found in hay meadows and tall grasses upon which their caterpillar feed.

Its numbers have declined in areas of intensive agriculture, as the hay fields and meadows are replaced by cultivated crops.

Our third butterfly is a "Speckled Wood". This one was a little out of its normal woodland environment as it was found sunning itself on a small rock at the edge the cattle drive.

They are more commonly found in woodland glades of the south and west of the UK

The "Painted Lady" is a migratory butterfly that arrives in the UK in early summer, having made the long journey from North Africa. (Not bad for such a fragile creature)

They commonly lay their eggs on thistles

There is some evidence to suggest that as autumn approaches our friend here may attempt the return journey to Africa, how far they get is not clearly known.

The "Peacock" butterfly is one of about five British butterflies that hibernates during the winter, with the survivors seen in early spring (weather permitting).

The large eye-like markings are thought to be part of a defensive mechanism in that if the butterfly is disturbed it will open its wings suddenly and hopefully startle the predator.

This is a "Small Tortoiseshell" butterfly, like the Peacock butterfly, it can be found hibernating over winter in sheltered places such as garden sheds.

The female can often be found laying its eggs on young nettles.

As you may have read in the farm journal, this year we have had a rather large "crop" of thistles and nettles and the Tortoiseshell along with the Painted Lady have been frequently spotted, as this picture of a Tortoiseshell and Painted Lady feeding together shows.

 

A less frequent visitor is the "Comma". Taking its name from the white 'comma' shaped marking on the underside of its wings, this is another butterfly attracted to our nettles, upon which it lays its eggs.

More widely found in the southern parts of England and Wales they have been increasing in numbers from a low about a century ago.

At that time they were almost unknown outside of the Wye Valley.

Another butterfly more common to the south of the UK, is the "Gatekeeper" or "Hedge Brown".

Having said that they are common in the south, they have been very common in the hedgerows around the farm this year, perhaps we're moving south?

They appear to favour the flowers of the brambles in our hedges, which may account for the large amounts of blackberries found on the plants.

Judging by the mating pair on the right, I would say that they may be common next year as well :-)

Another of our insect population which has a taste for our fine thistles is this Bumble Bee, seen here helping itself to the nectar of a thistle flower.

This one is known as a "Buff-tailed" bumble bee. It is perhaps our biggest bee.

Any of you like honey? then you must thank this little lady and her family, she is a Honey Bee and is seen here gathering nectar from a Tansy flower. I say "she" because all worker bee's are female, she may have 50,000 plus sisters.

If you don't want an unpleasant surprise it's worth remembering that bee's have stings, although the species we have in the UK. generally will not sting you unless you provoke them (unlike wasps which seem to take pleasure in it:-)

This fearsome looking creature is a Zebra spider. Unlike the picture in reality it is quite small, this one was maybe 5mm (1/5 of an inch) across.

It belongs to a family of spiders known as jumping spiders. They catch their prey by leaping upon it. Spiders are fierce predators and will take on prey many times their own size. Having eight legs they are not insects, but belong to a family of animals called Arachnids.

This well camouflaged grasshopper was spotted and photographed after its position was given away by the chirrups produce by the rubbing of its back legs against its forewings. It makes these chirrups to attract mates. (and photographers).

Insects were not the only animals spotted this month.

These baby swallows were eagerly awaiting the return of mum and dad who were out inviting some of our insect friends home for dinner!!!

Another bird found looking for insects was this Treecreeper.

It would jerkily climb up the bark of the tree searching for any insects, when it reached the top of the trunk it would fly down to the bottom of another and begin searching again.

 

As well as birds our mammal population was keen to show off some of its young.

This young rabbit was spotted hiding in the bottom of a hedgerow as webby tried out the telephoto on his new camera. Not bad for starters :-)

A somewhat lesser challenge was this mouse.

It had inadvertently fallen into a bin of rolled barley, and due to the steep sides was unable to effect its escape. (after it was photographed it was gently caught and safely released).

Webby was not the only one to have an easy photo opportunity, Paul, his brother, took these pictures of a young hedgehog which had been found by smidge.As you can see by the picture on the right, when it rolls up into its defensive ball it is little bigger than a china teacup.

As this closeup of the spine's shows, this posture makes for good defense, as smidge will testify.

As hedgehogs are a nocturnal animals, most people, sadly, only see them dead at the side of a road having been hit by a passing car while crossing the road during the night.

If you are lucky enough to see a hedgehog in you garden (usually late evening) try putting out a little dish with some dog / cat food on it as well as a little something to drink, and you may find you have a regular guest. Our friend here was checked over and released in a safe place by Sarah and Becky well away from both the road and Smidge neither seemed hurt by the experience.

Finally, Webby new camera in hand managed this picture of a stoat as it was hunting rabbits, mice and voles (its staple diet) quite early in the month.

In more northern parts the stoats coat becomes white, and is then known as ermine.

Next month will see the first autumn report summer is now nearly over and our summer visiting birds will be gone.

See you next month PHIL.

(Webbies note: This has been a rather long report but also a somewhat shortend one, due to time constraints, amongs other factors, a large amount of information has been put on hold, sorry but I will try and present it at a later date.)

e-mail

Back to August Journal / Home page

JULY 02