Saturday, 31 May 2014

Very hungry caterpillars

Oops, the Death's Head Hawk moth caterpillars have eaten everything! They are total eating machines now and will demolish a big bunch of leaves overnight. They're so heavy that they end up upside down where they eat the leaves left at the end of the branch and bend it over. They must soon be ready to pupate. They look like they're going to burst!

There that's better! More leaves will keep them going until tea time.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sticklebacks, stream creatures, caterpillars and trails through the weeds

The sun actually came out for a few minutes today, so we went for a walk to another stream. This time we were very quiet (or at least we tried to keep quiet, which only lasted about 5 minutes) and actually saw some Stickleback fish. Some had red tummies, which apparently are the male fish.

Then we had a go at stream dipping and found some great big leeches, a caddis fly larvae, water snails and some shrimpy things.

We also saw some 2 spot ladybirds, day flying moths and lots of Peacock and Tortoiseshell caterpillars. A few had to come home with us and have now been rehomed on our nettle patch in the garden.  (I knew growing nettles in the garden had to be a good idea, because now we put Bug Mad Girls caterpillar finds on our nettles and I don't have to keep them in the kitchen!)

We also found a trail though some weeds - must have been made by something quite big, maybe a badger (?)

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Rainy Day fun

Yet another rainy day in Half Term!  We braved the weather and went on a Dragonfly Trail, even though there was no chance of seeing anything flying. Oh wait a minute, what's that I can see?

We did see some lovely lichen...

Back at home we spent quite a lot of time trying to tame a Robin. Eventually we want it to feed from our hands, but at the moment we've got it to eat mealworms from the patio while we are looking on from the dining room. It is very close to us, but the other side of the glass door. Next step (if it ever stops raining) is to sit out on the patio and try to get it to feed next to us.

We've also had a pair of Great Tits on the bird feeders all day.

Bug Mad Girl has spent the rest of the day painting her favourite birds and the Deaths Head Hawk Moth caterpillars.


Monday, 26 May 2014

Foraging for lunch, plus bunnies, Roman Snails and Orchids

We decided to go for a walk in the rain this morning to forage for leaves we could eat for lunch. The rain had brought out loads of huge slugs and snails. The snails are called Roman Snails and are the largest snails in Britain. They're found in the Chilterns, but are rare elsewhere in the country.

We saw lots of Rabbit holes and even saw a few Rabbits.


There were also lots of Orchids starting to flower. I think these are Common Spotted Orchids.

Then we went home for lunch, which was a salad of mixed salad leaves from the garden, with Dandelion, Hawthorn, Wild Garlic and Wild Marjoram (that I sniffed out when I had my head down a Rabbit hole!), topped with a salad dressing made of mushed up nettles and olive oil. Delicious!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Red Kite's nest

Here's Katrina the Red Kite, who's still sitting on her eggs. Looks like they haven't hatched yet (judging by the lack of food being taken up there), but she seems to be taking good care of them. She's been seen fussing over the eggs, which is probably her turning them. She does most of the sitting, but Kenny also takes his turn. 

I took these out of the bathroom window. She hadn't noticed me for the first one, but definitely knew I was there for the second. If looks could kill!

Kenny is much more relaxed. Here he is sitting in the Ash tree in the garden next door, keeping watch over the nest and Katrina. Earlier today he was seen taking a great big worm up to the nest, which he then gave to her. What a good boy, looking after Mum!

Two unusual nests

Bug Mad Girl found two very unusual nests in the garden today. The first one was in the branches of a bush and had a big brown egg in it. The second one was in the middle of the lawn and looked like a pile of sticks. Who could they belong to? It was a bit of a mystery....

Not really! Bug Mad Girl and I made the first one. It was much tougher than I was expecting and really hard to weave the sticks together. In the end we used lots of sticky weed to hold it all together and lined it with dandelion leaves, moss and feathers.

The pile of sticks was Little Brother's nest. I think he was modelling it on a Red Kite or Pigeon's nest. He then decided to sit in it and flap his wings!

Snail surprise

I found a snail in one of my flower pots this morning, so picked it up to find it a new home. To my surprise it had dug a hole in the soil and was busy filling it with eggs. Bug Mad Girl helped me to move the snail and its eggs down to the nettle patch.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Looking for fish

We've been looking for fish today, exploring the stream in the field at the end of our garden. There were no fish to be seen anywhere, but I suspect they saw (and heard) us coming! We did find lots of little shrimpy things though and some very pretty yellow irises.


We also saw lots of very shiny green beetles and an unusual orange ladybird with a white head.

It was a very muddy business!

The sun came out on the way home and we saw a Small Copper butterfly.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tea Time

Looks like one of the neighbours put some food out for the Red Kites. There must have been about a dozen of them circling overhead, for about 10 minutes. We're lucky enough to see Red Kites all the time, but seeing so many from your back garden is still quite a sight.

The aphids are coming ....

We've seen the first aphids in the garden ... they're on our nettle patch (which we've grown specially for the Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies). I don't mind them being there and it would be fun to see if we can find any ants 'milking' then for honeydew. We'll keep an eye on them .. if nothing else the ladybirds will like them. I just don't really want them to move onto my vegetable patch!

Growing out of your skin

The Death's Head Hawk Moth caterpillars are eating like mad and growing very fast. They've changed their skins again and now have black stripes down the side of their faces. You can also see the little white spots on their feet. When they change their skins they stop eating for a day, then literally burst out of the old skin and walk out of it.

The old skin, left behind - you can see their little black feet and wrinkly tail.

The new skin, complete with black stripes down the face and white spots on the feet


Two of the caterpillars are yellow, but one is green. I always thought they were different colours if they ate different food, but they're all eating Buddlea,so I'm not sure why they are different. The green caterpillar is much better camouflaged than the dayglo yellow version though!


Tuesday, 20 May 2014


One of our squirrels only has half a tail, hence the name Stumpy. I can only guess at what happened to him - perhaps a cat caught him, he could have caught it in something, maybe he was born that way or perhaps somebody shot it off (just like fantastic Mr Fox).

Anyway, he seems to cope just fine and leaps around and balances with no problem. Only thing he can't do is hang upside down by his tail from a branch and raid the bird feeders. He looks in good condition though and eats plenty off the bird tables. He does seem a little more shy of humans than the other squirrels, so maybe it was a run in with a nasty human ...