Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Insect antics

Well, the Green Tortoise Beetle eggs hatched after 12 days (indoors – the outside ones haven’t hatched yet), and they are now almost two weeks old. But they have very strange ways…  Do not read on if you are of a sensitive disposition.  You have been warned.

This is one that was only just hatched, in side view.  It was all of about 2mm long, so getting things in focus was tricky.  The leaf hairs of the woundwort leaf look like a forest.

At the rear end of the larva, there are four dark spines.  In between the spines is the anus, which is extensible and can be  directed towards the upper two spines.  The big brown blob is excrement, which they use as a disguise.  Delightful.

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle larva (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

These next ones were probably the first to hatch, as they have had time to accumulate quite a decoration. It’s a slow process – about twenty minutes to produce each of those little brown sticks (maybe they have to let it dry gradually – ugh!)

Green Tortoise Beetle larvae (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

Green Tortoise Beetle larvae (Cassida viridis) on Hedge Woundwort (Stachys arvensis)

This is how they looked a few days later, after giving them some fresh woundwort leaves:

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle larva about five days old

And here’s how they look now, looking nothing like beetles at all, but about 5 mm long, and carrying a huge load. It includes cast larval skins as well as more excrement.

Green Tortoise Beetle larva

Green Tortoise Beetle, two week old larva

While I was checking the woundwort, to see if the outdoors ones had hatched, I came across another woundwort specialist. I would have missed it, thinking it was just a bit of dead leaf, if I hadn’t seen something very similar on the ispot wildlife identification website. The woundwort was a big clue for identifying it, and a bit of googling led me to the Woundwort Case-bearer moth. It’s also described on the UKmoths site – but it’s hardly an exciting looking moth.

The hairs on the casing come from the woundwort leaf – I think it cuts bits of leaf to make a cover like a tea-cosy. (Do you remember those? My aunt made one – it was thickly padded and had a clip at the top like a handbag – I’ve never seen another one like it.)

I assumed it was a pupa, and put it in the bottom of the box with the Green Tortoise Beetles, hoping that it might eventually hatch out. However, the next day, I realised it had moved, and that there was other evidence that it was a larva.

Woundwort Case-bearer moth's larval case

Woundwort Case-bearer moth’s larval case

It has been in there for several days, moving around when I wasn’t looking, but today I found it on the bottom of the box, looking dried out and dead.

Woundwort Case-bearer moth's larval case

Woundwort Case-bearer moth’s larval case

However, when I looked again, it had moved itself back onto a dried-up leaf, so I put it onto the fresh leaves.

It came out to say hello!

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

It clearly didn’t like being exposed on the top of the leaf, and within a few minutes it had crawled over the edge to the underside – very hazardous when all it has to hang on with are tiny little feet, amongst all those long hairs, and dragging round its huge case.

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva looking over the edge

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva

Woundwort case-bearer moth larva – let’s see what it’s like down here

Well, that’s turned into rather a long post. I also have loads of photos of colourful bugs from last weekend, when I repeated the Garden Bioblitz that I did a year ago. I was surprised to find quite a lot more different species – but I think I’ll save that for another day.

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Burgundy-drop Bonnet and Greensleeves

Mycena haematopus

Burgundy-drop Bonnet (Mycena haematopus)

I found this pretty little fungus growing on a rotting log in the garden. It’s only about 2 cm across the cap, and when I broke the stem, it bled! Dark red-brown juice oozed out. There are a couple of ‘bonnet’ fungi that do that, but I think this one is the Burgundy-drop Bonnet, Mycena haematopus (‘bloody-foot’ is more gory than burgundy).

As there’s a big storm forecast for this weekend, we’ve picked the rest of our apples, and I’ve bagged them up and labelled them according to recommended eating times.  We have: Scrumptious (those are past their best now), Ellison’s Orange, Gala, Fiesta, Greensleeves, Herefordshire Russet, Sunset, Laxton’s Superb, Tydeman’s Late Orange and Bramley.

Apples to store

Apples ready for winter storage

 

The Apple Book  (which is full of beautiful apple paintings and very good descriptions of well over a hundred apple varieties) recommends using plastic bags with pencil-thickness holes poked in them. I prefer the idea of old newspapers, but the bags do make it quick to check whether any are beginning to rot, and last year they did keep very well in the bags. They didn’t shrivel up like ones I’ve paper-wrapped in the past. Some of them should still be good to eat into January.

The box of apples is kept in the shed.  Some of the apples were picked last week, but a mouse had got in and started nibbling one of them, so this is my high-tech solution to keeping the mice out:

Apple storage to avoid mice

Anti-mouse technology


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Mini-beasts

Apologies to any squeamish readers, but I went out on a woodlouse hunt, to see if I could find the three different species that I found back in June when I did my ‘bioblitz‘.

It didn’t take long to find them, but taking their photos was a bit trickier, as they really don’t like sitting still in bright light.  I deleted a large number of blurred shots to get these more reasonable ones.

I don’t expect everyone to appreciate their beauty, but I do really rather love them.  When I was little, we used to collect them in jars, and have woodlouse ‘farms’ in cardboard boxes.  I was vaguely aware that they didn’t all look the same – I thought the flatter ones looked a bit scary – but just thought they were different stages of the same thing.  But no!  I think these are correctly named, but please let me know if you know otherwise, thank you.

Here’s the Rough Woodlouse again – great sculptural detail on the body plates.  I don’t think these roll up.

rough woodlouse

Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber) – I presume the scientific name means ‘rough piglet’, which is rather cute.

Now the Common Shiny Woodlouse (the ones I used to be scared of).  I don’t think these can roll up.

Common Shiny Woodlouse

Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus) – I don’t think this one rolls up.

And finally, the Common Pillbug or Common Woodlouse or Roly-poly – which definitely does roll up.  this was a particularly shiny one (or maybe I’ve misidentified it).

Pill Woodlouse

Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare) – I presume that means common little armadillo – even cuter.

Pill Woodlouse

Pill Woodlouse – rolled up

And finally, a beautiful little yellow snail – only about 1cm across.

A small yellow snail

A small yellow snail


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A wonderful breezy autumn run

A couple more rainbow pictures added from this afternoon, to this morning’s run report.

double rainbow

Double rainbow over Sumach (Rhus typhina)

Rainbow over Rowan

Rainbow over Rowan tree

Well, I was inspired by ‘juicyju’ the panther-runner on c25k, who was doing a half-marathon today. Others c25k-ers on Facebook had pledged to run at the same time, to give her moral support. As I’ve not run at all for four weeks (and then only for twenty minutes) I decided to push myself to get back out and do a bit of a run, even if it was only ten minutes. I went out before breakfast (I suspected I might not do it if I didn’t get going straight away), so a bit before the 10 o’clock start for the others.

The thought of all those other virtual running buddies pushing themselves to run ridiculous distances kept me going and going, and I did 5k! I am soooooo pleased! It’s two months since I last did that, so my joints will probably be reminding me all about it in a couple of days, but they were fine while I kept going. The pace was (of course) slow and steady, but I kept going for 47 minutes.

I just kept thinking that at least I wasn’t doing 10k or a half-marathon. I nearly stopped at 30 minutes, but then noticed it wasn’t quite ten o’clock, and it seemed a pity to have stopped when everyone else was about to begin, so I carried on, and then it seemed silly not to go all the way to 5k – though I can now see that meant I did more than half as much again!  Not sure I’d have done it, if I’d realised that at the time, but it just goes to show that bodies can often do a lot more than we think.

It was lovely out – sunny and blowy, perfect temperature for running.  I have always loved autumn – all the leaf colours and hedgerow fruits really brighten things up.  I must remember to take a hair-tie when I run though, as I kept getting mouthfuls of hair – yuk!

I didn’t take the camera on the run, but here are two pictures from the garden after I got back.

Rough Woodlouse - Porcellio scaber

Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber) on moss (Grimmia pulvinata).  This makes me think of Dr Who monsters.

young frog

Young frog, about 5 cm long. I found him underneath a piece of spare pond-liner that we’ve left out on some bricks and grass, in the hope of attracting snakes. Until now, all we’ve found has been ant nests – black ants and yellow meadow ants. I imagine the frog had been feasting happily.


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I can still run – and the Big Butterfly Count

I have just been looking at my Garmin (running watch) stats. In May I ran for 30 minutes or more on six occasions, during the 5×50 challenge. In June, just three times. July was even worse, as I only did one longer run, though it was for 45 minutes.

And so far in August, I hadn’t run at all. So off I went this evening, once it had cooled down, and ran for 30 minutes. The first 5-10 were tough as ever, but I knew they would be, so that was ok. Then I kept using the ‘just to the next…’ trick to keep me going. I was going to stop at 20 minutes, but then decided that would be a bit lame, as I could run for 30 all the way back in February when I graduated from the NHS couch to 5k programme.

I even managed to speed up a bit at various points, and although I’m still slow, 13:51 min/mile, or just over 4 mph, considering I’m out of practice, I was quite pleased.

But I really mustn’t let it be two weeks before I go out again. 🙂

Other than running, today I’ve watched butterflies, for the Big Butterfly Count and was really pleased to see my new buddleia being well-used by a Peacock, some Large Whites, Small Whites, and Green-veined Whites. There were also several Gatekeepers on the marjoram and on the apple cordons, and one gorgeous Common Blue male on the lavender.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly feeding on buddleia

Common Blue male

Common Blue male on lavender

Sadly, I also had to bury a young hedgehog. 😦 We found it munching a slug on the day we got back from our holidays, and now, just two days later I found it dead and covered with flies. It’s about ten years since we’ve seen a hedgehog in the garden, so it’s very disappointing. Perhaps the fact that it was out in daylight when we saw it first was an indication that it wasn’t well. I’ll still send in a record that we saw it though, through irecord, as the county biological records office welcomes all hedgehog sightings, alive or dead – and other wildlife too.

On a more cheerful note, we watched a female Field Grasshopper laying eggs in the dry earth in the meadow part of our garden. She took ages, maybe twenty minutes or more, and then when she’d finished, she used her hind leg to scrape loose earth over the hole, very daintily!  She appears to be a unicorn grasshopper – one antenna is missing.

Field Grasshopper laying eggs

Female Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus, laying eggs


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Garden Bioblitz final total

Nothing to do with running, but I’ve got to the end of totalling up all the plants and animals found living wild in my medium-sized garden.  Most of it is only a few metres wide, on a steep bank behind the house.  As mentioned before, it includes a small pond, as well as some mature trees (it is on the site of what used to be an orchard, so includes two very old perry pear trees), some hedge and quite a few shrubs.  Part of the lawn (which was originally orchard) still has wild flowers like Lady’s Smock and Lady’s Bedstraw and Meadow Ants’ nests, and we have several log-piles that have been left to rot for beetles and other beasties.  Wildlife, including weeds, are encouraged.

Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum

Red Dead-nettle, Lamium purpureum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grand total was… 127!  (And looking through the photos to find one for on here, I’ve seen several more things that didn’t get named.  Next time.)

That includes 12 species of birds, 64 flowering plants, 22 insects, 6 molluscs, 3 spiders, 6 mosses and four crustaceans! (3 woodlouse species and a water-slater – like a woodlouse but in the pond.)  It doesn’t include any garden plants, not even ones that self-seed themselves – that would have added quite a few more on.  It took ages, but was really enjoyable.  The ispot website was great for identifying things I didn’t know (particularly the animals).  Our Great Crested Newt did not deign to show his face, so he isn’t included, but we did see him last week when visitors came round.

So next year, how about having a go – you don’t need to know loads of plants and animals, or spend ages on it.  Even recording just a few common ones is a good start.

I love wildlife.  🙂


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Cycling along country lanes

Another day of garden bioblitz.  Seven frogs seen in our tiny pond all at once.  Here’s one peeping out under a lily pad.

Frog under water-lily

I decided to cycle today, as my foot still feels a bit bruised from all the jumping in the Jillian Michaels shred!  About 40 minutes along country lanes, seeing hawthorn, cow parsley, buttercups and red campion in flower, and I spotted an Orange-tip and two Brimstone butterflies too.  Lovely.  I didn’t have my camera with me though.  Cycled just over 10 km in 40 minutes.  It was lovely in the sunshine.

This Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima or Rosa pimpinellifolia) is in full flower in our garden and is beautifully scented.   Later on it has black hips.

Burnet Rose