Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Here be dragons

Alan sent me this email with several photos of an impressive dragon fly.

'While I was raking down the woods this afternoon I was accosted by a hawker. Not one trying to sell something but a rather splendid dragonfly that I think is a male Southern Hawker (blue form) (Aeshna cyanea).
It circled me a few times then headed towards the hedgerow near post 19 where presumably being worn out by chasing around me it perched on a convenient stalk and had a rest in the sun.
It has amazingly big eyes which seem to touch each other on top of its head and I think it kept looking at me.'

It uses its legs as a sort of basket to catch other flying insects.  You can see the spines on the legs and the beautiful venation of the wings.  What a creature.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Syrphus ribesii

The Common Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii), also known as The Summer Fly, is around from March to November, during which time it passes through several generations.  There ae over 270 species of hoverfly in Britain and this one is one of the easiest to identify with its waspy jacket - but that's only for disguise; it doesn't sting.

The adults do a lot of hovering and feed on nectar 
especially from umbellifer flowers like this Hogweed.  

The larvae feed on aphids and are thus the gardener's friends, 
although rather less attractive than their parents.
Here's one with a doomed aphid nearby.

Photo from flickr

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Some more flowers at Filnore

 This is Betony, a close relative of hedge woundwort.  It was widely used as a medicinal herb by monks in the middle ages. 

Here are some Greater Willowherb flowers with some Wild Clematis behind.

And here is a closer look at the pretty but understated flowers of Wild Clematis, also known as Traveller's Joy or Old Man's Beard.

And then there is this.  Not sure what it is, though it's a bit like a form of purple loosestrife.  I think it must be a garden escape that found its way to Filnore.  Very pretty anyway.

Friday, 16 August 2019

These flights have not been cancelled

Two butterfly species currently on the wing (in fine weather), photographed by our lepidopterist Alan Watts:

The Gatekeeper, so called because they are often found sunbathing in the short grass near field gates.

And the Painted Lady, a frequent immigrant from France, but this year flying across the North Sea from Scandinavia.  There are therefore lots in Northern Britain for once - they love it.

Where do butterflies go in the rain?

 Stop press.  Just had to add this photo of another gatekeeper from butterfly whisperer Alan

Wednesday, 14 August 2019


 Easy to overlook, this is the wild Achillea, or Yarrow

The foliage is very divided and fern-like.  
The individual flowers are clustered in bunches at the top of the stem.

Coloured varieties of this plant are very popular for gardens.  
You may also find the ferny foliage in your lawn.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Green shield

The common green shield bug flies around from tree to shrub to undergrowth, sucking out plant juices.  Notice the overlapping transparent wings showing at the end of the body.

   Far from modest, these two carried on on the back of my hand.  Really!  I had to look away!

Monday, 12 August 2019

Mauve flowers

Three species flowering now at Filnore:

Beloved of butterflies the Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)

Each flowerhead is made up of up to 50 tiny flowers - short ones in the middle and long ones round the outside.  The male stamens stick out, which earns the plant the name of 'lady's pin cushion'.

Rather more common are the flowers of the Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense).  Seen here amongst the grasses and willow herbs, this is what produces the thistledown now blowing across Filnore Woods.  Thistles spread by seed and also with their creeping roots.

But the flowers are great for butterflies, and goldfinches love the seeds.

Our third mauve butterfly flower is the Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa).  

Like the scabious it has shorter florets in the centre and long ones round the edge.