Monday, 29 June 2015

#30DaysWild Day 28: Glowworms

We had a night time adventure on Saturday night, joining a guided walk organized by the Chiltern Society to look for glow worms on Brush Hill.  Bug Mad Girl and I had looked for them this time last year without any success, but I think we gave up too early in the evening (as it was a bit scary up there on our own!) and we weren't really sure what we were looking for. This time we had safety in numbers and were with John Tyler, who knows everything there is to know about glow worms.

We got out onto the hill at about 10pm, just as it was getting dark. The view was even more amazing in the twilight, with Princes Risborough at the bottom the hill and the lights of Aylesbury, Oxford and Didcot off in the distance.

We split into two groups and started searching for the green light emitted by the female glow worms. They were quite hard to spot as they were low down in the grass and you had to be almost on top of them to see them. When we'd found the first one, we at least knew what we were looking for and soon found more, even though it involved quite a lot of crashing around in the dark.

Glow worms are actually beetles from the firefly family. It's only the female that produces the green light, from the last few segments of her abdomen. She's completely wingless, so glows to attract the smaller, winged males. She spends two years as a larvae, then pupates in a burrow in the ground emerging in June or July. She climbs out of the burrow, glows, mates then crawls back into the burrow to lay her eggs. She dies soon afterwards and is only an adult glow worm for about a week.

Female glow worm

Mating glow worms
At one point John found a female glow worm and several males. He picked them up so we could take a closer look and realised that the female actually had one wing. He believes this is the first recorded case of a hermaphrodite glow worm! He took her home to photograph and study and was going to return her to the same spot the next day.

3 winged male glow worms and one larger female (with one wing)

Hermaphrodite glow worm
We found another glow worm and everybody had the chance to hold it. We made sure she was put back in exactly the same place as we found her so she could crawl back into her burrow.

What an adventure! 

We left the moth trap out overnight and checked it first thing in the morning (still in pyjamas!)

It was full of moths, but we also found a male glow worm in it. I think we would have just thought it was a little black beetle if we hadn't seen them the night before. It's exciting to think there are glow worms in our back garden!

Male glow worm from the moth trap

There were no hawk moths in the trap this time, but there were lots of moths again, some with rather spectacular hair! Our totals for the night were 3 dark arches, 2 common white waves, 5 riband waves, 2 brimstone moths, 1 common wainscot, 1 white ermine, 1 burnished brass, 1 the flame, 1 yellow underwing, 21 heart and darts, 1 clouded silver, 1 mottled beauty, 1 Hebrew character, 1 small magpie, 1 spectacle, 1 small fan foot, 1 reddish light arches and about 15 small brown ones (that I haven't identified).

The Spectacle is one cool dude! Love his spiky hair do and glasses

The Spectacle from side on

Burnished Brass

Burnished Brass - another great hairstyle!

We also caught two shield bugs
The kids collected their favourites to take a closer look and we let the rest go (as far away from the birds as possible, who get very excited when they see the moth trap!)

Favourites collected

This cheeky robin was looking for an easy feast

Saturday, 27 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 27: Privet Hawkmoths and Musk Orchids

We put the moth trap out last night and were thrilled to open it this morning and find two Privet Hawkmoths inside, our largest resident moths. There's something very special about catching a hawkmoth and these two were huge. Bug Mad Girl couldn't resist holding them and one even ended up on her nose!

The moth trap has been a bit quiet so far this year, but there seemed to be much more in it last night including 2 Privet Hawkmoths, 1 Burnished Brass, 7 Small Magpies, 1 Mottled Beauty, 1 Common White Wave, 1 Beautiful Hook Tip, 1 Riband Wave, 18 Heart and Darts, 2 Large Yellow Underwings, 1 Marbled Minor, 2 Brimstone Moths, 1 Common Footman, 2 Common Wainscots and 3 Dark Arches.

Burnished Brass

Beautiful Hook Tip

Common Wainscot

In the afternoon we took the dog for a walk around Pulpit Hill and Grangelands. It's such a fantastic place at this time of year, bursting with thousands of orchids and alive with butterflies.

We saw Common Spotted, Chalk-Fragrant and Pyramidal Orchids in abundance. We also found a beautiful Bee Orchid on Grangelands and checked on the very rare Musk Orchids that we'd found last week.
Chalk-fragrant Orchid with a dog
growing out of it!
Most Chalk-Fragrant orchids were pink, but
we saw several white ones as well

Bee Orchid
The musk Orchids had grown since our last visit and there were at least 40 within a small area. I tried to convince Bug Mad Girl that they were fabulous, but she was less than enthusiastic about them - I think they're too small and green for her!

Lovely Musk Orchids

Musk Orchid
It felt like there were butterflies everywhere and we saw lots of Meadow Browns, Speckled woods and Marbled Whites. We also saw several Large Skippers, a Brimstone and a Small Blue. A large orange butterfly dashed past us but I didn't get  a chance to look at it carefully. Although I'm fairly certain it was a Fritillary, probably a Dark-Green Fritillary.

Large Skipper

Friday, 26 June 2015

#30DaysWild day 26: Red Kite babies

Our brilliant news for today is that Whistlejacket the Red Kite and his wife have two fledged babies. They brought them to say hello to us this evening and all four were sat in their tree. What a wonderful view to have from our back door!

They're all a bit soggy as it had been raining, but the parents are the two birds in the middle, with one baby each side. You can see the stubby tails on the babies as they haven't grown their long tail feathers yet.
The first baby is on the right
The second baby
Well done Whistlejacket family!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The little things in life ...

Sometimes it's the little things in life that can make the great big dark clouds bearable. Get out there and look around and you never know what you might find ...

This little fly, pretending to be a bee, caused a bit of a twitter buzz yesterday. I just happened to take a photo of an orchid and this fly was sitting on it. A fly fan spotted the photo on the blog and said it was very rare. Turns out it's an Ogcodes gibbosus, the Smart-banded Hunchback Fly and this is the first one recorded in Oxfordshire since 2006. That's quite exciting, even if I had no idea at the time! The larvae of the fly attach themselves to the body of spiders, then feed inside the spiders body (yum!)

I've found two different parent bugs on the Silver Birch tree in the back garden. They lay their eggs, then brood the eggs and the young. I can't think of many bugs that are such dedicated parents, hence their name.
Parent bugs and her eggs
I think these are newly hatched eggs - still being protected by the parent bug
Ladybird larvae are out and about in the garden - they remind me of tiny monsters, munching mouthfuls of aphids, before pupating and turning into beautiful ladybirds.

We've had a song thrush singing in the garden every evening. It's such a treat! Looks like it's been enjoying some of our snails too!

A couple of weeks ago we watched an Orange Tip butterfly laying her eggs on the Night-scented Stock in the garden. The caterpillars have hatched and we keep catching a glimpse of them, even though they are really well camouflaged and are still tiny.


We found this tiny cricket on the nettle patch. It's just changed it's skin and you can see the old skin next to it on the leaf.

We had a huge bumblebee (maybe a buff-tailed bumblebee) that was stuck in the window. We launched a rescue mission and caught it in a pot, before putting it outside. It seemed really cross, so I was slightly worried when we released it, but it dived straight into the flowers and was actually very happy to be free (and very hungry). Eventually it flew off and seemed fine.

Stuck in the window, but not for long

Very cross about being in a pot

A happy ending - getting stuck into the flowers and very happy to be free
A sunbathing blackbird - just because they look so funny!

Not so small, but I can't resist a Red Kite! I was walking the dog and several Red Kites were very low down in the trees. When I got closer I realised a couple of kites were eating a Woodpigeon on the ground and the others were hanging around waiting for their chance to get some of it.

Sorry - bit gory!
And finally, Bug Mad Girl decided to teach the dog all about bugs!