Sunday, 30 August 2015

Garden Butterflies - Summer 2015

This has been the first year in which I have monitored the butterflies visiting the garden, to be honest not a great variety, the Buddleia tree planted last year did its best to attract the butterflies into the garden, but the flowering blooms were disappointing, hopefully this will improve next year as the plant matures. 
The most common butterfly to visit the garden has been the Holly Blue,  hardly a day goes by without a sighting of this butterfly, the mature Ivy we have growing over a wall is a favoured area for this butterfly although it can be seen almost anywhere around the garden. I have never seen this butterfly with its wings fully open in the garden.

Holly Blue
Holly Blue

The Peacock Butterfly has been another regular visitor to the garden, favouring the mature Privet Bush when its in flower.

Large White's seem to fly into the garden but always seem very restless not settling for long before they are over the garden fence and lost to view.
Large White

This one was unusual, it seemed particularly interested in the top of the Weigela tree, allowing me to get a lucky photograph as it appeared to hover in slow motion, unknown to me at the time , another large White was resting there, probably a female.

Small Whites have also been seen visiting various shrubs around the garden, here one was actually captured on one of the Buddleia blooms 

Small White
Small White
Another Butterfly interested mainly in the privet flowers and Buddleia blooms was this Tortoiseshell,
although a fairly common butterfly not seen very often in the garden.


Another fairly common butterfly but only an occasional visitor to the garden, and one of my favourites.

This female Gatekeeper has been the only sighting I have made in the garden.

The only other Butterflies that I have seen in the garden has been the Red Admiral, occasionally seen sunning itself on the trunk of the Pear tree. I have not managed to capture an image of these yet.
And there we are, not a spectacular list, I definitely need  some more attractive plants to bring in the Butterflies for next year. Eight species in all.

[Additional note - one Speckled Wood butterfly seen in the garden today 4th September, increasing  garden records to nine species.]

There have been a few Moths seen around the garden , Swallowtail, Red underwing, Small Magpie,the most spectacular for me was the Lime Hawkmoth which spent the day on some Hydrangea flowers, before flying off in the evening, these are attracted to Lime Trees which just happen to be planted on the roadside verge at the front of the house.
This one was quite faded and seen in early summer.

Lime Hawk-moth

Friday, 14 August 2015

New Bee for the garden !

I have had a good selection of Bee's around the garden and pear tree this year, including the Tree Bumblebee, Early Bumblebee, Garden Bumblebee, Red Tailed Bumblebee, White Tailed Bumblebee,  Buff tailed Bumblebee, and the Carder Bee, these are all fairly common Bumblebee's but nice to see them all in one small patch of suburbia, albeit not at the same time.

I blogged earlier this year on the Honey Bee's that were visiting one of my flowering shrubs, and of course, not forgetting the Hairy footed flower Bees that kept me entertained earlier in the summer. 

I have also recorded a solitary Bee in the form of the Ivy Mining Bee, although not this year yet.

Ivy Mining Bee

So a few weeks ago ,while wandering around the garden, I noticed this little Bee just sitting on a leaf, not feeding, not doing anything in particular.

I just couldn't  seem to correctly identify it, and to be honest I wasn't even sure it was a Bee, I did even consider some sort of Hoverfly.

I didn't think much more on it until recently while looking at Rainham RSPB blog site, there was my  unidentified Bee, a female Leaf-cutter Bee or to be more precise   Megachile centuncularis  

A quick read up on it and the article stated that rose leafs were one of its favoured materials for  building the 'cells' in which their larvae live, I checked the few Rose bushes in the garden and there was the evidence, the little semicircular cut outs in the leafs, and as sad as this sounds I have even counted the cut outs to check if there is any more activity around the roses.

Evidence of Leaf-cutter Bees at work

The crazy thing is that I have had one of those 'Insect hotels' in the garden for some time now, with plenty of vacancies. I don't know why I did not consider that earlier.
 Some more research revealed that my insect hotel is in totally the wrong place, I had placed it within the ivy, in the shade, and next to the pond, they need to be positioned where they will receive the early morning sunshine so that the bees can warm up. so I have now repositioned this to receive the early morning sun,

I know they are in the garden although I have only seen this one Bee on the leaf, I am now checking the Insect hotel daily now in the hope that the Leaf-cutter Bees will discover it.

It would be really nice to capture an image of the leaf-cutter at work or around the insect hotel.
so fingers crossed.

The Leaf-cutter Bee is on the wing from April to August, and feeds solely on pollen and nectar, so there's still a slight chance I may see one in action.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

River Darent

This lovely little riverside walk, no more than a quarter of a mile, can be found in Lullingstone country park, you can combine this with the much longer walk around the Lullingstone Loop, all of which makes for a very nice country walk.

I particularly like this little stretch of river, which is very good for Dragonflies, Brown Hawkers patrol up and down the river, Banded Demoiselles can be found on the sunnier stretches of riverside vegetation and Common Blue Damselflies are quite common here

River Darent, Kent

As we approached the River and started walking slowly along the river side path, we disturbed a fairly large Grass Snake, must have been at least thirty inches long, which decided to make a dash across the river, as I watched the huge grass snake swimming across the river I realised that I should be taking some photographs, by the time I had focused it had reached the other bank and slowly disappeared into the reeds.

Grass Snake in River Darent

As we waited for another view of the Snake, a Brown Hawker made its way down the river, a few male Banded Demoiselles flew out from the reeds but quickly disappeared.
And a family group of Grey Wagtails, with at least three juveniles made their way along the edge of the river always staying well in front of us.

female Banded Demoiselle

male Banded Demoiselle
I think these have to be one of my Favourite Damselflies with their green metallic bodies glistening in the sunlight, and the males fluttering display flights.

Common Blue Damselfly
The Common Blue Damselfly always looks stunning when you can take a close look.

Speckled wood
This Speckled wood was the only butterfly seen along the river.

We came across a huge nest of Wasps that had probably been dug out of the ground by a badger, luckily I had a zoom lens with me and managed to get a few shots of the activity within the broken nest before we made a swift exit.

European Wasp Nest

And that's why you should always have a camera with you, you never know what unexpected natural delight awaits you around the next corner, as I have found out through bitter experience.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


As I mentioned before in my 'Dragons in the garden' post I had spent the morning searching unsuccessfully for dragonflies at Rainham RSPB reserve.
I spent some time waiting for the Kingfishers to show in the DMZ area, having now successfully reared a second brood, little did I know that they had fledged two days earlier, and had left the immediate area, while I was patiently waiting I was entertained by a family group of Little grebes or Dabchicks as they were called in my day, the mother was very attentive, diving down catching fish for her two youngsters right in front of the glass window, the water is quite clear and you could watch the grebe under water searching for food .

Little Grebe ( Dabchick)

A brood of Reed warblers were using the Dragonfly sculptures as a feeding station, interestingly a young Reed warbler displayed the same begging routine as the House Sparrows in the garden.

Juvenile Reed warbler

Always nice when you come across a water Vole this one was busy munching away on the reeds totally oblivious to me watching.

Water Vole
As I mentioned before Dragonflies were in short supply today, but this Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (also known as the 'Belted Hoverfly') the largest in Britain provided a nice  photo opportunity.

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria
And finally an Essex skipper sheltering in the long grasses, and showing off those black tips to the antenna. 
Essex skipper
Not a complete disaster, summer's not over yet, and there will be more days to go dragon hunting,
 still lots of wildlife to see.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Dragons in the Garden !!!

 I spent the morning walking around  Rainham RSPB in the hope that more Dragonflies would be on show, it's usually very good for Dragonflies and Damsels, but once again, not much on show despite some good weather conditions.
Perhaps I'm losing my touch, but all I could find was a few Blue Tailed Damselflies, one Common Darter, and one Black Tailed Skimmer.

So feeling slightly disappointed it was back home for some afternoon gardening, as I sat down with a cup of tea contemplating the afternoon jobs, a large Dragonfly flew down to the pond briefly and then flew around the garden, another Migrant Hawker was my first thought, I have had two previous visits by this species the last two years.

Unbelievably, it flew past me very slowly and landed on a hanging basket next to me. I could see that this dragonfly did not look quite right for a Migrant Hawker, the 'frons' on the head was very yellow, the two so called 'headlights' on the top of the thorax were pretty obvious, three blue coloured bands at the end of the abdomen could be seen, a Southern Hawker or Blue Hawker new dragonfly for the garden and only the second time that I have seen this species, luckily I always keep the camera to hand.
 The Southern Hawker was not bothered by my presence or my panic to get some record photographs and remained on the hanging basket for at least ten minutes or so.

Immature Male Southern Hawker

While I was watching the Southern Hawker another Dragonfly caught my eye as it flew briefly around the garden, a Brown Hawker, it didn't stay long but another good sighting for the garden.

Another day, and another new Dragonfly for the garden list, a female Common Darter was flying around the pond, it landed on one of the dead wood branches  I had placed over the pond, just for this purpose, and I was feeling really pleased that it had been sucessful.

Female Common Darter
And just one new Damselfly for this year around the pond. this was seen in June.

Azure Damselfly

This is quite a small garden pond, no more than two metre square, so its nice to see some Dragonflies visiting.

The garden list now looks like this.

Migrant Hawker 
Large Red Damselfly
Southern Hawker
Brown Hawker
Azure Damselfly

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Holly Blue !

I was beginning to think I was one of the few people who have not seen an open winged Holly Blue, they are notorious for landing and immediately closing their wings, revealing only the very pale blue almost white underside, and the black and silver dots characteristic of this blue butterfly.
This is one of those blue butterflies that appears in the garden quite early in the year, and one which I must admit, I take for granted not really giving it much attention, especially as my past experience has shown that I am pretty unlikely to see the fully open wings  
My butterfly field guide says that they will occasionally open their wings in weak sunshine to warm up, but I have never witnessed this until recently.

So this is the typical view I usually have of the many sightings of Holly Blue that I have had.

Holly Blue 
I could not believe my luck as I walked past some bramble, this Holly Blue flicked its wings open giving me a flash of blue, just for as brief second, but enough to grab my attention, It did not seem bothered by my presence as I remained perfectly still close by.
Very slowly, it started to open its wings again revealing that gorgeous blue of its upper side and the black wing tips indicating a female of the species.

Holly Blue female

And then, as close to fully open that it was going to go, an open wing view at last, absolutely beautiful, it wasn't long before they snapped shut and back to the usual view.

This view certainly rekindled my interest in this lovely little butterfly.