Sunday, 27 July 2008

Southern Hawker

We had a Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) in the garden today and for reasons best known to itself it did what Large Whites, Speckled Woods and other insects have a habit of doing – it came into the conservatory.
After flying around the conservatory and dining room for a while it settled on the lampshade a couple of times before I eventually chased it out where it belonged.


I have a number of different forms of Buddleia in the garden including Nanho Blue, Pink Delight and the gorgeous rich dark Black Knight. The ones which seem to be most attractive to the butterflies are Nanho Blue and the common un-named form.
We had Speckled Woods, Comma and Large Whites in the garden today.

Episyrphus balteatus

This is a very common hoverfly - Episyrphus balteatus. It was hovering around a Buddleia leaf and then landed on it and kept flicking its abdomen up and down. Egg-laying perhaps?

Arion ater

A Great Black Slug (Arion ater) was wandering about on the patio when I went out there at 6 o'clock yesterday morning. I decided to see what a slug's eye view was like...

Friday, 25 July 2008


I have been working in the garden all day. This female blackbird has been keeping me company the whole time – my weeding yielded lots of worms for her.

Cuckoo Pint

I have a number of Cuckoo Pint plants in the wild part of the back garden but they never flower. I wonder why not. This year Helen and Ian gave me some from their garden and already I have beautiful berries on them. Hopefully they will encourgae my others to flower!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Ocypus species

This beetle was hiding under a piece of log in the garden yesterday. It was quite long – about 25mm – and very fast. It is one of the 13 British species within the genus Ocypus which includes the Devil’s Coach-Horse. Despite my constantly moving it about to try to get a photo it didn’t seem threatened at all and consequently didn’t adopt the body waving posture that Ocypus species often do.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Hosta francee

Most of my Hostas are either in the shade of the front wall of the house (which faces North) or under the trees of the back hedge. Those by the wall tend to be kept clear of slugs and snails by the surrounding gravel. At one time those under the hedge were kept OK by the Hedgehogs eating the slugs and snails – the Hedgehog home was right by the Hostas. either this year the Hedgehogs have moved on or they are not doing their job properly.

The above photo was taken in July 2005. The ones below were taken the other day and it was hardly possible to find a single leaf that hadn’t been chewed.

Friday, 11 July 2008

A hoverfly

Baccha elongata is a common hoverfly, often found along woodland rides and hedgerows where it enjoys the dappled sunlight. It is seen here on a Viola Princess in the front garden. It is the fiftieth species of hoverfly I have photographed.

Apple mint

Apple mint (sometimes called woolly mint) (Mentha suaveolens) is a member of the mint genus that ranges through southern and western Europe and the western Mediterranean region. It is a herbaceous, upright perennial plant that is most commonly grown as a culinary herb and/or ground cover. It typically grows to 40-100 cm tall and spreads by rhizomes to form clonal colonies. The foliage is light green and can be variegated, with the opposite, sessile leaves being oblong to nearly ovate, 3-5 cm long and 2-4 cm broad. They are somewhat hairy on top and downy underneath with serrated edges.

California poppy

I have lots of different poppies in the gardens - various native red ones, yellow Welsh ones, and exotic red and purple ones. But my favourites are undoubtedly the orange Californian Poppies. The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is native to grassy and open areas from sea level to 2,000m (6,500 feet) altitude in the western United States throughout California, extending to Oregon, southern Washington, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and in Mexico in Sonora and northwest Baja California.

It can grow 5–60 cm tall, with alternately branching glaucous blue-green foliage. The leaves are ternately divided into round, lobed segments. The flowers are solitary on long stems, silky-textured, with four petals, each petal 2-6 cm long and broad; their color ranges from yellow to orange, and flowering is from February to September. The fruit is a slender dehiscent capsule 3-9 cm long, which splits in two to release the numerous small black or dark brown seeds. It is perennial in mild parts of its native range, and annual in colder climates; growth is best in full sun and sandy, well-drained, poor soil.

It grows well in disturbed areas and often recolonizes after fires. In addition to being planted for horticulture, revegetation, and highway beautification, it often colonizes along roadsides and other disturbed areas. It is drought-tolerant, self-seeding, and easy to grow in gardens. It is also pictured in welcome signs while entering California.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


These Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum) are the variety Ben Nevis. I picked a glass full in the garden yesterday and had them with some double cream and a spot of brown granulated sugar. My idea of Heaven in a bowl.

Owl Midge

This is an Owl Midge - Pericoma fuliginosa in the garden. Also known as Moth Flies, these midges have very hairy wings with many long veins. They breed in decaying matter of all kinds and come to light at night. They tend to be abundant at sewage works.

Aruncus dioicus

This is yet another Carpet Beetle but the photo was really taken because I had found the name of the plant it is on – see UGO. It is Aruncus dioicus (Sylvester).

Calla Lily

This is Zantedeschia aethiopica – the Calla Lily. The amazing thing is that I lost it for at least two years. It just disappeared and yet this year it has quite happily been resurrected, putting forth its lovely spotted leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers. It is in a plant pot so I can only conclude that the pot was in a location it didn’t like and so the tuber remained dormant.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


Garden Carpet

Leaving the windows and doors open in warm weather inevitably invites in some of the garden wildlife. Some of it is unwelcome like the occasional wasp and the all too frequent bluebottle. Among the moths that tend to find their way indoors are two very common species - the Large Yellow Underwing and this one, the Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata).

On the wing from April to October it has two or three generations during the year. It can be found throughout the British Isles and is frequent to abundant everywhere, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats from gardens to woodland, open coastal areas to rough ground of all sorts. Its caterpillars feed on plants of the cabbage family including Shepherd's Purse, Garlic Mustard, Alyssum, and cultivated Brassicas.


There are a lot of different forms of Mimulus (commonly known as Musk). This one has been in one of the ponds since its creation and it loves the water round its roots. Unfortunately it reaches about two foot six tall - I’d rather have a lower one.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Insect eggs

I don’t know what insect these are but like so many insect eggs they are pretty, don’t you think?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mock Orange

It would be nice to have a stronger sense of smell, mine has never been very good. This is Mock Orange (Philadelphus coronarius) of which I have three in the garden A huge single one, a small double one and a middle sized one which has never flowered as yet. I can just about smell the double one but not the single one. I remember Mock Orange as having a much stronger scent when I was younger – is that old age affecting the memory or the nasal passages, I wonder.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Ladybird pupa

Helen recently mentioned that she had dug up some moth pupae which had wriggled away to try to find shelter again. At the time I had been surprised since I tend to think of the pupal stage as a static one with the creature inside broken down to a sort of soup from which it reassembles itself as the adult insect. It was only with hindsight that I recalled that the pupal stage of some ladybirds are supposed to raise themselves up in a threatening defensive posture when touched. So off I went today to try it out – and it worked.

Museum Beetle

I have previously featured the Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) on this blog but never the slightly smaller Museum Beetle (Anthrenus museorum) which I found today on a Mock Orange flower. This is a pest of museum collections where its larvae feed on materials containing chitin and keratin such as dried specimens.


Two of my lilies – Elfin Sun and Orange Pixie – began to flower today.

A Leech

I cannot recall having seen a leech for years but I netted one in the pond today while clearing out some duckweed.

I think this is a Horse Leech (Haemopis sanguisuga) which, despite its name, does not feed on mammal blood but on snails, midge larvae and worms. They are common under stones near the banks of lakes and in ponds and ditches, often just under the water surface.