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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Butterflies and Moths make an appearance in the sun

Yesterday morning actually started warm and sunny for a change and at last there were more butterflies and day flying moths in SSW than there had been for weeks. There were quite a few Meadow Browns flitting about, occasionally landing on the grass.

Meadow Brown

I also spotted this lovely creature below on a Corn Cockle flower, and my thanks to Rob Grimmond, who identified it for me as a Large Skipper, apparently the first record for the wood!
Let's hope we get some more if the weather deigns to warm up now.

Large Skipper (female?)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Robins are still feeding their young

Many birds have been having a go at second or even third broods, especially if they had to abandon earlier attempts because of the wet, cold weather this year.
Robins are certainly still doing so and a pair have been visitng my Mum's garden to collect the live meal worms she put out for them three or four times a day.
They have become quite tame and even sit on her window ledge looking into the kitchen as if to say where are our worms!
Once the worms are placed in a pot on the wall outside the kitchen, they waste no time in dashing down to see what is on offer

and choosing a tasty morsel!
Mum is now looking forward to when they bring their spotty offspring down to collect their own worms. Going by the number of worms they must have been eating (£7 worth per week) they are likely to be quite tubby!

"Ducks" on the River Isle

Today, the Duck Race took place on the stretch of the River Isle that flows beside Court Mill Lane.
The Ducks were not the usual Mallards, often to be found swimming to and fro here, but more like the ones you might float in your bath!
They were launched at 11am and accompanied on their journey by a duck herder, who was there to ensure they did not get ensnared on the lush undergrowth along the banks.
Everyone dashed down to the bridge over the river and waited in anticipation for the first Ducks to arrive.

 After some anxious minutes, the first Duck finally "swam" into sight, closely followed by the rest of the flock, and of course the duck herder!
The winning Duck in the first race was number 71 and despite appearing to arrive on its side, survived the ordeal with no lasting damage!
(Apologies to the more serious readers of this blog, but this local event deserved a mention, occuring as it does on the River Isle which rises in and flows through the parish, before wending its way to Ilminster and then on to join the River Parrett downstream before reaching the Severn Estuary at Bridgwarer Bay. As such it provides an important habitat in the parish for wildlife, so whilst today's Ducks were not real, records of Kingfisher, Dipper and even Otter have been recorded here, so it is worth keeping an eye open when passing by).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Orchids seem to like the damp weather!

Whilst many plants have not relished the damp, cool weather this year, the orchids seem to have done very well.
The ones I saw earlier in the season on my "Magical evening" have now been joined by some beautiful Common Spotted Orchids (I think?) in SSW

and a good few Pyramidal Orchids along the verges near the Humpty Dumpty fields in Combe Wood Lane. Sadly, the cattle in the field have eaten the ones that have appeared on their side of the fence!

Apologies for quality of the pictures below, taken with my phone!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sparrowhawks don't always succeed

As I walked alongside the field adjacent to the barns at Frog Lane Farm the other day there was quite a commotion as about six swallows were seen chasing a Sparrowhawk! The tiny birds were clearly acting together, diving at the much larger bird to chase it away from their nesting area and it was doing its best to dodge them. They were all  twisiting and turning in the air, just above the ground and eventually the Sparrowhawk landed on the ground in the middle of the field as if exhausted. Instead of giving up though, the Swallows continued to dive bomb it and so it had no choice but to take off again, with the Swallows still in hot pursuit. It finally landed in a small ash sapling in the hedge boundary and after circling the tree, the Swallows finally returned to catching insects in the air.
If only I had my camera with me, it was a really exciting sight and good to know the smaller birds do sometimes have the upper hand!

Bees at Barrington Court

A couple of weekends ago I spent a fascinating afternoon with an expert in bees, learning how to identify different Bumble Bees. First we had to catch some, which we did use sampling bottles and carefully approaching the bees, which were busy gathering pollen from the cat mint in the gardens.

Then we were shown how to decide if they were male or females. The latter having an obvious point at the tail end of the body. Also, only the females collect pollen, so they are the only ones with pollen baskets on their legs! When they have been busy these get very full and are quite obvious.
To decide which group of bees they belonged to you then looked at the tail colour, white, buff or orange.
We also had to decide if they were true Bumble bees or cuckoo bees. The cuckoo bees do not collect pollen and their leg is coverd in thick hair, whereas the true Bumble bee has a shiny pollen sac.
I think I still need more practice, but I was amazed at how easy it was to catch them and then apply some id steps.For more info have a look at

Gold on Blue

One  morning recently I saw the bright yellow flash of a Goldfinch as it flew into our garden. It alighted on the head of some blue cornflowers and on closer inspection I realised there were a "charm" of at least four all feeding on the seed heads. So much for Niger seed feeders!  The cornflowers appeared in the garden a few years ago having sown themselves, perhaps from the birdseed and gradually spread along the border adjacent to a leylandii hedge. Nothing else has grown there successfully as it is rather dry, so the splash of blue in spring and often a further flowering later in the year has meant, despite their somewhat untidy appearance I have left them to flourish.  I am pleased I did as it is lovely to see these beautiful birds in the garden!