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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Little green flowers…

I spent today on a workshop practising identifying grasses and sedges.  They aren’t the easiest things to identify, as they pretty much all have tiny green flowers, but once you get the hang of how they are put together (and learn a bit of vocabulary, so the books make sense) they aren’t too bad at all.  Honestly.  🙂

We went out for a walk round the nature reserve (bit of Juneathon activity in there!), and found a wide range of grasses and sedges.  I’ll see if I can list them, to see how many we found.

Couch, Perennial rye-grass, Rough meadow-grass, Annual meadow-grass, Yorkshire fog, Red fescue, Floating sweet-grass, Cock’s-foot, Barren brome, Soft brome, False brome, Yellow oat-grass, False oat-grass, Tufted hair-grass, Sweet vernal-grass, Creeping soft-grass, Wood millet, a Bent-grass and Crested dog’s-tail.  19 grasses!

Pale sedge, Pendulous sedge, Remote sedge, Oval sedge, Spiked sedge and Wood sedge. 6 sedges

And on the way home I also found Hairy brome and Glaucous sedge.

The biggest problem is that it is so hard to remember the distinguishing features from one year to the next, so with the sedges I have to start from the beginning again every year.  Grasses seem easier, but that’s probably because I started getting familiar with them when I was younger, so it’s harder for my memory to lose them.  I grew up on the North Downs and it wasn’t really the right place to find many sedges – too dry.

Barren Brome spikelet

A single spikelet of Barren Brome (Anisantha sterilis). Each of the long points sticking out is an awn, on the end of a lemma, and inside each lemma will be a single seed. Barren Brome is not a very appropriate name!

Barren Brome

A panicle (flower-head) of Barren Brome – lots of spikelets.

Tufted hair-grass

Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) with beautiful silvery flower-heads.  Apparently the German name for this grass is something like ‘Pin-stripe suit grass’, because of the stripes on the leaves.  I liked that, and I think it’s easier to remember than the English name.

Pale Sedge

Pale Sedge (Carex pallescens) – pale rounded fruits, and apparently the crimped bract (leaf-like blade) is typical

Glaucous Sedge

Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) – blue-green underside to the leaves, but brighter above. I have seen this so many times, but still have to look it up every time I find it.


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Flora group walk

Went out for the day with the county flora group,  surveying a rather lovely meadow.  Walked a bit over 2 miles at a very slow pace.  We found lots of lovely plants, including the very strange fern, Adderstongue.  We also found Pignut, Dropwort, Bugle and lots of all three common buttercups.  Despite the sunshine, I only saw one butterfly – a Small White, but I did see a small frog.

Drybank Meadow

Drybank Meadow near Shipston

DSC04962 Adderstongue Fern

Adderstongue Fern

Goatsbeard - a very pale one

A very pale Goatsbeard flower.

 

A soldier beetle

A soldier beetle reading the Flower Guide blurb


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Riverside walk

Really summery day today, so I went for a walk in the nature reserve near where I work. It’s on the edge of a town, but feels really rural. I was moving very slowly, stopping to look at things and take photos, and really enjoyed myself. I probably walked a couple of miles – haven’t downloaded the Garmin route yet, and maybe I won’t bother, as I’m not all that concerned how far I went. I was on my feet and moving for over two hours, so even it if wasn’t very energetic, it was good activity.

Here’s a beautiful beetle – maybe it’ll convert some beetle-haters? 🙂

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle on Cow Parsley

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa serraticornis

I spent a long time trying to get decent photos of a pair of birds that I’d seen earlier in the week.  They were birds of prey, flying over the reed pools, but not easy to catch them in motion!  I put the earlier pictures online, and several people said they thought they were probably Hobbies, which I’ve never seen before, so I really wanted to see them better, to check that’s what they were.  Well, I did see them again, which was fortunate, and I took my binoculars, and could see the reddish ‘trousers’ and the face markings, but didn’t manage to get a clear photo.  This was about the best I got (I must have taken fifty or more!)  It’s been zoomed in from a larger picture.

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird’s-foot Trefoil, or Bacon and Eggs, Lotus corniculatus

Mute Swan with five babies

Mute Swan with five babies

Baby Coot

Not such a cute Coot – I know all mums love their babies, but maybe a bit of a challenge to adore this!

thorns on wild rose

Thorns on wild rose

Some day soon, maybe, I’ll figure out how to lay out the photos the way I want them. It’s really annoying when they jump all over the place, especially as I spent several years as a publishing specialist, doing page layout for a computer company… But I don’t want to waste time on it at the moment, so it will just have to do. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Edit- missed my damselfly.

Azure Damselfly

Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella


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Distracted by butterflies and damselflies

Any excuse.  I went to bed much too late last night, fiddling about with garden bioblitz stuff, so it was  a struggle to wake up this morning, and I really didn’t feel much like any form of exercise.  However, another gloriously sunny day, so rather than go straight home, I went for run/walk round a nature reserve on the way home from work.

River Leam Cow Parsley along woodland path

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite a few butterflies and damselflies about, which kept stopping me from running…  I am a list-maker and can’t resist recording every butterfly I can identify.  (Warwickshire butterfly records here.)  However, they don’t always want to cooperate, so I had several bits where I ran backwards and forwards trying to take a photo so I could figure out whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites – or Green-veined Whites, or possibly female Orange-tips (which don’t have any orange).

But didn’t catch any of them, so those are all are now Unrecorded Whites.  But I did see several Peacock butterflies, one Comma and one Orange-tip male.  Plus several Banded Demoiselle males, which are really spectacular. Pictures are less than spectacular as they’re mobile phone ones.

Peacock butterflyBanded Demoiselle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway, I was active for about 45 minutes, almost 30 of which were slow running/stop/start/butterfly chasing.  Grand total of…  3.7km, including the walking which is not at all impressive, but it was hot, and I was tired.  Better than nothing anyway.


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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.  🙂