Wednesday 7 May 2014

Week 16: Not so Dandy

As the yoof would say, I proper overdid it last week. Bouncing bunnies, rare butterflies and merry mothing adventures were a Lepidoptera too far. I’ve had to scale back a little this week. Evidently, the curative powers of nature take a while to kick in. So, this post is all about Dellfield, or at least, the bits of it I could identify and photograph yesterday. In fact, in a glass half full kind of a way, scaling back has the advantage of forcing you to look more carefully and patiently at what you can access, and put that which is off limits to one side.

Ever since capturing the Oak, with the mass of yellow dandelions in the foreground, I have been waiting for the right weather and the seed heads to develop, in order to repeat the shot. Unfortunately, Monday night’s heavy rain drenched and destroyed many of the fluffy, white orbs I’d hoped to include. C’est la vie. You can only photograph what’s there. It’ll be orchid season soon anyway… So, we have, the not so dandy Dandelions...

If you’d like to see how a dandelion goes from flower to seed head, take a look at this great, time lapsed video clip.

Pretty pink/purple Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) is coming into flower now and is dotted all around Dellfield. On the common nettles, Small Tortoiseshell larvae (caterpillars) are emerging from their communal webs, built after hatching (left). They will continue to construct these webs as and when they move on, before, finally, individually finding a suitable site for pupation. By the middle of the summer, metamorphosis complete, the new butterflies will start to free themselves from their chrysalides.

My search for life (of a non-alien form) kept me glued to the stinging nettles (where else?!) (ouch). They are all around the fringes of Dellfield and are, as ever, teeming with invertebrates, including a couple of easily missed, day flying, Small Yellow Underwing moths (Panemeria tenebrata). According to Butterfly Conservation, they fly “actively in sunshine visiting flowers such as dandelion and buttercup.” Neither of the specimens I found had read the literature and were on Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) instead (below).

As I walked the west side of Dellfield, a male Blackcap kept me company with his scratchy song which was occasionally overlaid with the fluty melody of a Blackbird. Up in the trees, a pair of Kestrels were busy doing spring time things and overhead the resident pair of Buzzards were calling and soaring. In the midst of this, I came across a 14-spot Ladybird (Propylea 14-punctata). This is a native, british species and is about half the size of the more familiar 7-spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata). My photograph (right) won’t win any prizes but I was chuffed to capture the opening of the protective wing casings before lift off.

There are at least 2 pairs of Green Woodpeckers around Hay Wood. One pair was up in Barnfield yesterday. The male (nice red “moustache”) was stabbing the moist earth with his tough bill, trying to get at a food source. He will mainly feed on ants but he could have been after other insects. I just managed to photograph him before the pair of them flew to trees in Ryders. That superb yellow-green rump glowed in the brilliant sunshine. I'll keep my eyes peeled for baby 'peckers over the coming weeks.

Finally, a cautionary tale. Should you ever find yourself in a field of Spring flowers, about to crouch down to inspect a bee on a dandelion, make sure you check its wingman hasn’t landed on the back of your leg (almost just behind your knee, say). Wingman bee stung me, even through thick denim jeans, but it served its purpose. At the first “prickle”, I stood up quickly and the bee flew off, apparently not squished by my squatting on it. I was very relieved not to have caused inadvertent death and the bee sting is only mildly itchy now. All’s well that ends well.

Finally, finally, before I forget, Ben is hoping to run the moth traps again this evening at Box Moor. You’ll be able to catch up with the results on his blog, later this week.

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