Once the clocks go back at the end of October I start thinking about spring and the return of the insects. However, if the weather is warm there is still the chance to catch a few insects still on the wing. Wasps, flies and hoverflies are feeding on the last of the ivy flowers, and a few red admirals are sometimes be seen on windfall fruits and any remaining blackberries. However, the first of November this year yielded reports of 11 different butterfly species. I’m not sure if this is a record, but it certainly seems unusual.
What was more exciting for me was that in addition to the aforementioned admirable reds, I saw my second ever clouded yellow butterfly (colias croceus) and, I had a camera with me. This caught my eye initially because it looked like a leaf fluttering, but I soon realised it was a butterfly. A much deeper yellow than the brimstone which isn’t usually seen this late in the year, the clouded yellow is a migrant to the UK but once here as many as three broods can be produced in one year. Although not visible from the underside of the wings, the butterfly has a black border round the edges of the upper surface of the wings which gives rise to the clouded part of its name. The two sexes can be differentiated by the row of spots that are present in this border on the females. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see this one close up when in flight so have no idea whether it was a girl or boy butterfly. Not that it matters, it was still an exciting find for any time of year, but more so for November.
Today was the first day of September, and, what a beautiful day it was too. I love this time of year. A clear night meant a chilly morning, but that just meant that everything was covered in dew, and therefore there were photo opportunities abounding for anyone with a camera to hand such as this poor little ladybird precariously balanced. I also found quite a few mushrooms looking a little soggy and cold amongst the grass. The birds are still about, house martins were chirping and wheeling about the sky fattening up for their long, arduous flight south, whilst the young finches of all varieties were squabbling in the garden (I have just put a smaller bird feeder out, so there is less room to perch!).
However, once lunchtime came the sun was out, the sky was blue and the crickets were buzzing – the fields sounded like they were electrified. This is a photo of a grasshopper that I saw, but there were definitely crickets about – I saw them and heard them, but didn’t manage to get a good photo. Also about this afternoon were butterflies, hoverflies, damselflies, other flies…. I spent five minutes watching a dragonfly (I know not what type) hunting insects in the sunlight – fantastic.
Although the berries are now colouring on the shrubs and trees, and many of the bright, Summer flowers have gone to seed, there are still some out there to brighten up the roadsides.
I have been thinking recently that autumn was well on its way and I might as well say goodbye to Summer. The rose hips, particularly the rosa rugosa are now very red, the rowans are covered in red berries, during the week the sun gets up after I do (although there have been some days where I am think it may have stayed in bed) and the call of the chiffchaff has been replaced by the steady tic tic noise of the robin as I walk to work.
However, maybe I have been a bit hasty in this assumption. Yesterday, the Country Park was teeming with swallows, house martins and terns. OK, so maybe they are massing and preparing to be off, but they are not gone yet. Last week I was surprised to hear a chiffchaff calling as I walked to work, again, he may have been heading south, but it was still a reassuring noise.
Whilst the damp (understatement?) weather has brought some fungi out there are still some flowers at the roadsides and in the hedgerows, primarily achillea and white nettle-like flowers, but they are there nonetheless, providing an additional source of food for the bees which are still about in good-ish numbers whenever there is a letup in the rain.
Also at the Country Park yesterday, amidst the blackbirds and thrushes feeding on the glistening black elderberries were a pair of blackcaps – more Summer warblers that are still about. So, maybe the last observation doesn’t count, I have seen an increasing number of blackcaps overwintering around here, but they are still a bird that I primarily associate with Summer, and for now I am sticking with that thought!
I went out yesterday with the intention of utilising the sunny weather and the autumn colour to take some nice, if formulaic, photographs. Although the autumn display does not seem to be as bright as last year, I assume because of the wet Summer, there did seem to be a lot of yellow around.
Although I was thwarted by the fact that a large army of grey clouds turned up to hide the blue sky, I still managed to get some nice photos.
However, it did occur to me that it takes more than some yellow leaves and sunshine to make a spectacular autumn scene. Without the contrast of some evergreens or trees that shed their leaves later in the year I am sure even the brightest field maple would appear less attractive. I took the photograph below to illustrate this point. If you cover the green shrub next to the maple it starts to look a little less interesting.