Friday, 6 August 2010

Butterflies, beetles, bees, buns and beach balls

Hey, guess what happened yesterday? That’s right, I conked out before putting fingers to keyboard, coming to with computer mouse in hand, and no recollection of the TV programme that I’d been looking forward to watching...

Oh well, I had a lovely, lovely (if tiring) day yesterday (and a far, far less active day today!). Despite waking up to grey skies and a cool breeze, it wasn’t long before the sun put in an appearance, and I began to look forward to a few hours’ work ‘on the land’. As mentioned before, a group of like-minded families have been granted permission to turn a piece of derelict land into a wildlife garden. Fantastic! After several false starts and much ‘umming and aahing’ about how we were actually going to turn this overgrown ‘chaos’ of litter, nettles, ivy and lump upon lump of waste granite into a vision of wildlife-friendly gorgeousness, a few months ago, a plan materialised, and we are now cracking on nicely with turning the site around. OK, so at the moment it resembles a small, working quarry but it looks mightily different from what it did earlier in the year, and we’re feeling collectively quite proud of our achievements!

Yesterday made a pleasant change for me, as circumstances have meant that for the most part, I’m usually alone in my work. There was a proper little gang of us - young and old (well, not that old!) - and we managed to get lots done, including digging up unwanted stumps of Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), pulling up yet more unwelcome vegetation, shifting a big load of stone, and perhaps most enjoyably, having a ‘proper’ successful bug-spotting day (for those from Up Coun’ry - and that’s anywhere that isn’t Cornwall - that’ll be Cornish Speak, my ‘ansomes).

The children amongst us took great delight in investigating a bumblebee nest that I’d happened upon several weeks previously. True to form, as soon as we began working in close vicinity to their home, out came my furry friends to investigate, and it took some convincing to get the curious children to move away to a different part of the site, away from the buzzing creatures. As yet, the bees have not been identified to species level; however, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust produces a great (and printable) guide to bumblebee identification - - which I intend to take with me on my next visit. Not long after my encounter with the known resident bees, whilst shifting yet more lumps of granite, an almighty buzzing was suddenly heard, and I found myself face-to-face with one of the hugest bumblebees I’ve ever had the pleasure to see. For a while, it remained unaccompanied, and I was uncertain as to whether I’d come across another nest or a sole queen. But then there were two… this one equally as large as the first, both downright and categorically beautiful, especially as having been rather rudely disturbed, they were fairly inactive and remained still enough for me to have a good old nose at their fine figures of bumblebeeness!

Vapourer moth caterpillar
© Andrew Dunn, 8 July 2006

Soon after our encounters with bees, between us we were witness to not one but two newly emerged moths - the first a Common Footman (Eilema lurideola) and the second an Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), the latter appearing on my torso, just below my shoulder, where it was at first mistaken for a leaf and momentarily brushed to the ground! Both appeared with only tiny, un-pumped wings, and we watched in awe as, in time, the insects took on their more recognisable form. Also on the moth front, my own Small Person found and befriended a very small Vapourer (Orgyia antique) caterpillar.

Now, if I had a working camera, I would be able to adorn this blog with photographs of my sightings; but alas, that is not to be. In the meantime, I’ve located some images that can I can use legally, so all is not lost, and please be assured that a new camera is right at the top of my ‘want’ list…

Other mini-beasts observed by the gang include the following:

7-spot Ladybird
Photo courtesy:

• Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
• Large White Pieris brassicae
• 7-spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata
• Violet Ground Beetle Carabus violaceus
• Flat-backed Millipede Polydesmus sp.
• Centipedes galore (species unknown)
• Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare
• Rosy Woodlouse Androniscus dentiger
• Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber
• Common Shiny Woodlouse Oniscus asellus
• Earthworm Lumbricus sp.
• Garden Snail Helix aspersa
• Great Black Slug Arion ater (brick-red, orange and grey forms)
• Yellow Slug Limax flavus

And later in the day:

Peacock butterfly
© Lewis Collard, 2009

• Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
• Large White Pieris brassicae
• Peacock Inachis io
• Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
• Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva
• Dark-winged Fungus Gnat Sciara hemerobioides

After a few hours of hard work and good company, the impromptu decision was made to continue the bonhomie by re-gathering at the home of some of our fellow gang members’. After stopping to admire a nearby Buddleia bush, teeming with bees and butterflies, once inside the gate, a lovely time was had by all: conversation, trampolining, beach ball games, drawing, and plate upon plate of delicious food. At various intervals throughout the remainder of the afternoon/early evening, we were presented with onion bhajis, sandwiches, a Victoria Sponge, rock buns and a huge lentil curry, all happily made there and then - what more could we ask for?!

Rather annoyingly, the combination of physical exertion, chat and joyfulness soon took its toll, and I was forced to be a party-pooper and go home early, whereupon as you know already, I gobbled down my parting gift of lentil curry and that was me for the day. After eventually dragging my tired and aching body off the settee and into bed, I went back to sleep only to experience a night full of the usual action-packed adventures that make up my dreams. None of the Bard’s ‘To sleep: perchance to dream’ for me, rather, ‘To sleep, if only not to dream’… Ah, such is the life of a Narcoleptic!

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