Monday, 30 June 2014

Low fly the Swallows, rain to follow

The Swallows are flying very low today, just above the house and trees. According to the saying that means we should expect rain, although it is lovely and sunny at the moment. Apparently it's all to do with the air pressure. Swallows feed on the wing, so they are flying where the insects are flying. When the air is hot and dry (high pressure) the insects are carried up on the thermals and can fly high easily. In low pressure there is more water vapour in the atmosphere and the insects can't fly as easily so tend to be lower down.

Yesterday the Swallows were very high up in the sky ... but it rained a little bit later in the day!  We'll just have to see whether they've got it right and it rains later today.

Weather update: It's now three hours later and it's raining. Perhaps there's something to these old sayings!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Looking for Foxgloves

We went for a walk today to see whether the Foxgloves were flowering. In the past the woods have been full of the tall pink flowers, but this year they were very thin on the ground. We found a few (maybe a dozen) but we had to look quite hard to find them. I don't know whether it's a bad year for all Foxgloves, but they have definitely struggled in this wood.

The sun came out and the butterflies appeared. We saw three Red Admirals, several Meadow Browns and Speckled Woods and one Small White. They're the first Red Admirals I've seen this year and one of the first Small Whites.

A Red Admiral enjoying the sunshine

Small White
We heard a Greenfinch and a Chiffchaff in the trees, but couldn't see them. We also stumbled across a few other things including a couple of Puff Balls that had been eaten by the slugs, some King Alfreds Cakes (a strange black fungus) and a mossy stump that I just thought looked interesting!

Puffballs that look like the slugs have enjoyed

King Alfred's Cakes - a type of fungus
A mossy stump - I just liked the look of it!

Friday, 27 June 2014

We're ready for you, butterflies!

I know we're in the June gap when the butterflies are scarce, but come on, we're waiting for you! The early Spring butterflies have flown, laid their eggs and died. The new set of caterpillars spent May/June eating and should now have pupated, ready to emerge in the next couple of weeks. It's the same at this time every year ... we end up waiting and wondering where they are.

The sun is out (most of the time), the Buddlea is ready and it's almost July. Come on butterflies ... we're getting very impatient!


Little Brother had a pre-school trip to Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital this morning. We had a lovely time looking at all the animals. People bring in all sorts of wildlife that's in trouble and they care for it and try to release as much back into the wild as possible. Some things can't be released, in which case they live at the hospital.

They had lots of sick Hedgehogs, ducklings and baby birds. They also had a pair of Herons (with two babies) that were nesting in the duck pond, some foxes and lots of injured Red Kites.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Red Kites

Our next door neighbor was feeding the Red Kites tonight. One of them will spot some food on the lawn and then start circling, making a high pitched whistle. More birds soon appear until there could be 15 - 20 birds circling over head. They get gradually lower and lower, all circling and whistling and looking down. Then one of them decides they're ready to try and get the food and they fold their wings back and dive straight down. They swoop down very quickly and quietly and they're gone in seconds. Blink and you'll miss it (which is why the photos are a bit rubbish!). As soon as one Kite swoops down, they all tend to swoop, one after each other. It's seems like they're all waiting for one of them to pluck up the courage to go, then they realise they'll miss out on the food if they don't get on with it.

These were taken from the patio doors in our dining room.

Swooping down behind the hedge, into next doors garden.
It was too quick for me, which is why I missed it's head!
You get the idea though!!

Orchids, thistles and a lovely ancient Beech tree

We went for a walk today, looking for Fragrant and Musk Orchids. After a bit of hunting and climbing up some steep banks, we found Pyramidal, Common Spotted and Fragrant Orchids (and yes, they do smell very sweet!). We even found a white Fragrant Orchid.

No sign of any Musk Orchids, but they're short and green-yellow and are supposed to be very hard to spot.
Fragrant Orchid

Fragrant Orchid

White Fragrant Orchid

Pyramidal Orchids

Common Spotted Orchid

Common Spotted Orchid
We found an enormous ancient Beech tree, which was definitely worth a couple of photos.

There were lots of pretty Thistles, which the butterflies are going to love. I hadn't really noticed before that they come in all shapes, sizes and colours!

Very pretty flower, full of little black beetles

There were low growing thistles

Tall thistles

Thistles with extra spiky flower heads

There were even Thistles with white flowers

We saw a few butterflies, including a Marbled White and this lovely Speckled Wood.

 There was plenty of Great Mullein just starting to flower.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Red Kites joined us for lunch

It's such a lovely day today that we sat outside for lunch. We had salad and cold chicken legs, so threw the bones on the lawn in front of us to see what would happen. The lawn has quite a lot of over hanging trees and is covered in toys (a paddling pool, swing ball, bouncy castle, trampoline and a space hopper), so didn't think any Red Kites would be able to get through that lot to pick up the chicken. We were wrong ... they swooped down, almost completely silently, grabbed the chicken and were off again. If you weren't looking, you wouldn't know they had been there. They are so fast and so quiet!

I took this off a video, so it's a bit blurry

This one was hidden behind a geranium!


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Big Wild Sleepout

We slept in the tent last night ... first thing we did was let the Elephant hawk moth (from the moth trap the night before) go.

There were lots of bats flying around at dusk. Good to see them as there don't seem to have been so many for the last couple of years.

Safely tucked up in the tent, we didn't hear anything creeping around outside, although a cat and a hedgehog paid us a visit during the night.

I stuck my head out of the tent at one point during the night and the sky was completely clear and full of stars. It was a lovely night for star gazing!

We woke up very early thanks to the birds. The blackbirds were first at 4.25 am, closely followed by the rest.

When we got up, we checked the moth trap and found a few new moths that we hadn't seen the night before. No Hawk moths tonight, but there were still lots of moths in the trap. We let them all go and tried our best to hide them in the bushes, but the birds were watching us and nabbed quite a few!

Buff Tip - cleverly disguised as a twig

Burnished Brass

Swallowtail moth
Then as a special treat, the Robins brought their newly fledged baby to meet us (and eat some of our moths). This is the first time we've seen him and feel that all our mealworms have helped to raise him!

We had lots of fun and have hopefully raised some money for the RSPB. Now I'm off to bed for another hours sleep!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

RSPB Big Wild Sleepout

The tent is up, the sun is setting, the moth trap is on and the trail camera is ready ... it's time for the Big Wild Sleepout. Wish us luck, it could be a long night!