Six birds in a bush on Saturday

The Pyracantha bush just behind the house is in its full glory, covered in bright scarlet berries and looking wonderful in the autumn sunshine.   At this time of year it attracts a wide range of birds, some come to feast on the berries each day, others like to simply sit and soak up the morning sunshine on a cold morning whilst for others it is a safe place to rest on route from A to B.

This week I have tried to capture some of the visitors to this one bush on camera.   Here are six:


One:  Redwing – an autumn and winter visitor to the garden enjoying a meal after flying in from Scandinavia

RedwingTrim_Moment

Redwing audio:

 

Audio credit: Patrik Aberg , Xeno-canto


Two:  Pied wagtail – although not an uncommon bird we don’t often get these in the garden so I was delighted to be able to catch this one on camera.

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Pied wagtail audio:

 

Audio credit: Tomas Belka , Xeno-canto


Three:  Blackbird – a very common bird in many gardens but lovely to have them nesting here and singing their hearts out all the same.

P1020225

Blackbird audio:

 

Audio credit: Niels Krabbe , Xeno-canto


Four:  A family of sparrows just sitting and enjoying the sun and chatting amongst themselves (now a very much rarer sight than they used to be)

P1020222

House sparrow audio:

 

Audio credit: Jarek Matusiak , Xeno-canto


Five:  Greenfinch – the numbers of greenfinchs have declined in recent years partly because of Trichomonosis, the name given to a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae. It is nice to have them as an increasingly regular visitor to the garden now.

P1020215

Greenfinch audio:

 

Audio credit: Sander Bot , Xeno-canto


Six:  Bullfinch – this stunning male bullfinch has been a regular visitor this week and has been joined towards the end of the week by two female bullfinches as well.

P1020209 (2) Bullfinch

Bullfinch audio:

 

Audio credit: Niels Krabbe , Xeno-canto

To complete the record I have also seen Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins on this Pyracantha during the week but have not managed to capture them on camera.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

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Late summer butterflies in the garden

As the year progresses we see a notable change in the butterflies that visit the garden.  Early in the year I posted a selection of pictures from July but whilst the ‘whites’ continue to flutter around the flowers there are a number of others that I have captured with the camera during September.   Here are my ‘Six on Saturday’ for this week


One:  Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Normally the Small Tortoiseshell is very common in the garden always gracing the buddleja.  This year however we have seen very few and only in the last few weeks have we seen a couple enjoying the pink Phuopsis stylosa blooming for a second time this year.

The Small Tortoiseshell can spend the winter hibernating as an adult.²  Hibernating with their jagged wings closed shut they are well camouflaged looking just like a dead leaf.

The caterpillars feed on nettle (Urtica dioica).

P1020163 Small Tortoiseshell


Two:  Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)

The painted lady is a migrant species to the British Isles coming from North Africa and southern europe each year. It is reported to have a worldwide distribution existing almost everywhere accept South America. ¹  In his charming book, “The Butterfly Isles”, Patrick Barkham reported seeing swarming of these migrating butterflies in 2009. ²

The caterpillar feeds on thistles (Cardus), burdock (Arctium) and other plants. ¹

P1020127 Painted Lady


Three:  Small White (possible – rather than Large White!) (Pieris rapae

The ‘whites’ have to be included here simply because they enjoy the garden throughout the summer and are still present into the late summer.  Although clearly a bit of a pest in the vegetable garden I do love to watch them on a still summer day working their way around the flower beds.

I am certainly not an expert at distinguishing between the various white butterflies but there is a very helpful guide on the Butterfly Conservation website  ³.  The caterpillars feed on Brassica species along with the wonderfully fragrant mignonette (Reseda) and nasturtium (Tropaeolum). ¹  This adult is soaking up the late evening sunshine on the hornbeam hedge.

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Four:  Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

As with the Small Tortoiseshell this is usually a common butterfly in the garden but this year we have seen very few.  Possibly the long cold winter took its toll on the overwintering butterflies and hopefully they will get a chance to recover their numbers this year.

The Red Admiral’s are interesting to watch when you sit out with a glass of wine on a summer evening.  If you sit in their perching spot they will continually pester you until you move.

According to David Carter ¹ the Red Admiral is a migrant species with the first butterflies arriving in Britain during the spring but does not normally survive the winter.  However Patrick Barkham ² indicates that the Red Admiral is one species that is already a beneficiary of climate change as it can now increasingly survive the winter in southern England where it once perished.

The caterpillar feeds on nettles (Urtica).

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Five:  Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

I have written a longer piece on these but they have increased in number over the last few weeks and have emerged from the woodland edge into the rest of the garden.  They seem to particularly like sunning themselves on the large leaves of the grape vines.

The caterpillars feed on various grasses such as couch grass (Agropyron repens) and cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata). ¹

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Six:  Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

This is such a small but beautifully formed butterfly.  It seems to particularly like the bed with the late summer asters and perennial rudbeckias.

The Small Copper is a species of meadows, hedgerows, roadsides and downlands and enjoys a similar habitat to the Meadow Brown, Hedge Brown (Gatekeeper), Orange-Tip and various blues.  The Small Copper caterpillar feeds on various species of dock and sorrel (Rumex) and also knotgrass (Polygonum). ¹

P1020072 Small Copper


For the record we have also seen a smallish blue butterfly around the garden but I have not yet had a chance to capture it on camera and identify it precisely.

The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Further reading

¹ “Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe” by David Carter (ISBN:  0 330 26642 X)

² “The Butterfly Isles” by Patrick Barkham (ISBN 978-1-84708-127-8)

³ https://butterfly-conservation.org/news-and-blog/how-to-identify-white-butterflies

 

 

Garden Ecology – Speckled Wood Butterfly

When I wrote about butterflies visiting the garden in July we had seen the Speckled Wood in the copse and amongst the orchard trees but I had not managed to capture it on camera.

The Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) is a relatively common British butterfly that frequents the dappled shade of the woodland edge.  Although I had seen them in the garden they were so well camouflaged that as soon as they landed they seemed to just disappear!  Finally however I have managed to have some success.

It is reported¹ that both sexes feed on the honeydew in the tree tops and are rarely seen feeding on flowers except when aphid activity is low.  The butterflies are on the wing from May until October².  It appears this butterfly is unique among the butterflies of the British Isles⁴ as it can hibernate and over winter either as a caterpillar or a chrysalis³.

The food plants¹ ² of the caterpillars include various grasses including Cock’s Foot (Dactylis glomerata), Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) and Couch Grass (Agropyron repens).  I knew there was a reason why I should have couch grass growing in the garden!

Family:  Nymphalidae

P1020032 Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood Butterfly – 14 August 2018 – Warwickshire

Further reading

¹ https://butterfly-conservation.org/butterflies/speckled-wood

² “Butterflies and Moths of Britain and Europe” by David Carter (ISBN:  0 330 26642 X)

³ “The Butterfly Isles” by Patrick Barkham (ISBN 978-1-84708-127-8)

⁴ https://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species.php?species=aegeria

 

Six on Saturday: July Butterflies

There is so much movement in the garden on these very warm sunny days.  It is just lovely to see the butterflies flitting from flower to flower and amongst the long grass.

Photographing them is more of a challenge but here are six that I have managed to capture in the last few days.


One:  Comma (Polygonia c-album) (Family: Nymphalidae)

Comma butterfly on grape vine
Comma butterfly on grape vine

This second picture shows the very characteristic white comma on the underside of the wing that gives it is common name.

Comma butterfly on grape vine showing distinctive 'comma' on underwing
Comma butterfly on grape vine showing distinctive ‘comma’ on underwing

Two:  Large white (Pieris brassicae) (Family: Pieridae)

Large White butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
Large White butterfly on Verbena bonariensis

Three:  Peacock  (Inachis io) (Family: Nymphalidae)

Peacock butterfly on Lysimachia Clethroides
Peacock butterfly on Lysimachia Clethroides

Four: Small White (Pieris rapae) (or possibly Wood White) (Family: Pieridae)

This white butterfly is very much smaller than the Large White and seems to rarely land to have its photograph taken.  I am not entirely sure which species this is so happy to be corrected.

Small White (or possibly wood white) on buddleja
Small White (or possibly wood white) on buddleja

Five:  Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) (Family: Nymphalidae)

Meadow Brown butterfly on Lysimachia clethroides
Meadow Brown butterfly on Lysimachia clethroides

Six:  Gatekeeper (Pyronia tithonus)  (Family: Nymphalidae)

Gatekeeper butterfly on Lysimachia Clethroides
Gatekeeper butterfly on Lysimachia Clethroides

In addition there have been others over the last week or so that I have not yet been able to photograph.  These include the yellow Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.

Creating a romantic and intimate space – the patio garden

When we moved to Waverley some 25 years ago we had the wonderful opportunity to work with a virtually blank canvas. Most of the new garden was a grazed meadow and although there were more mature gardens and plants closer to the house the design was rather bland and uninspiring.

Part of the plan over the years has been to create a number of more intimate spaces that have allowed us to develop a different look and feel in different areas. Some are more formal and some more relaxed creating both structural interest and variation as you walk around the garden.

Close to the house on the north facing side we wanted to create a cool area that could be a refuge from the sun on hot sweltering days. They do happen! Being close to the house we wanted somewhere to sit out, eat and entertain with easy access to the kitchen.

Rose 'Margaret Merril'
Rose ‘Margaret Merril’

But the sun does not always shine and for the six months of the year, when eating out is not possible, the area needed to be an attractive place to look out on. Somewhere to watch the winter garden birds in the colder months whilst keeping snug and warm indoors ( Autumn and winter residents – our feathered friends ).

To provide year round interest the underlying structure and enclosure is created by using living walls of evergreen ivy over trellis. The different leaf shapes, variegation and colours give added interest. A Fatsia provides an evergreen canopy with the large leaves giving an almost tropical feel whilst Skimmia, Buxus and Sarcocca give additional texture and early spring scent.

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As the year progresses a succession of shade loving plants provide additional interest and colour. Our growing Hosta collection creates a striking and luxuriant feature in the patio garden offering a range of leaf colours, markings, shapes and textures. They have been purchased or gifted to us over the years and so we don’t know all the names. Keeping the slugs at bay has been a continuing challenge but we find the use of copper tape around the pots works particularly well.

Hosta 'June'
Hosta ‘June’

Adding a further woodland note are the ferns. We love the way the fronds unfurl provide a very different leaf texture. The green undergrowth provides a haven for wildlife. Birds nest in the ivy whilst mice and voles are regularly seen foraging amongst the leaves.

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Complementing the lush green backdrop we have a range of flowers that seem to love this shady area and perform well year after year. These include the saxifrages, London Pride (Saxifraga urbium) with its haze of tiny pink blooms and the bronze foliage of Saxifraga fortunei with its later delicate white flowers.

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Lily-of-the-valley, Kirengeshoma and clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ all do well as does the wonderfully fragrant rose ‘Margaret Merril’ which flowers profusely year after year, its white blooms shining out in the shade and evening light.

Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)

The ivy ‘walls’ also provide climbing structures for honeysuckle, clematis ‘Jersey Cream’, ‘The President’ and Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’. These are not strictly growing in the shade but grow up the sunny side of the trellis and poke their flower heads around the side and over the top of the ivy walls so that they can be seen from the house.

Clematis 'Nelly Moser'
Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’

As autumn approaches there is still colour to brighten the shortening days. We find that Schizostylis ( Schizostylis coccinea (Kaffir Lily) ) do particularly well in this area and spread themselves amongst the gravel between the paving.

The effect of all these components is to create an intimate and romantic space ideal for sitting out for a relaxing lunch on a sunny day or relaxing with friends on a hot balmy evening.

Six on Saturday: Woodland Edge

Over 25 years ago our garden benefited from a Warwickshire scheme to plant native hedgerow and woodland trees.  These saplings have now all grown into mature trees and provide a number of wooded areas across the garden.  Along with the trees we have also seen the introduction of a number of smaller woodland and woodland edge plants.  These are not your flamboyant garden flowers but provide an interesting tapestry of small delicate flowers loved by many bees and insects.  Increase the number of insects and the birds follow.

At this time (the beginning of May) the spring flowers are taking their chance to flower and enjoy the sunshine before the leaves on the trees develop and reduce light levels on the woodland floor.  This weeks ‘Six on Saturday’ celebrates six of these beautiful flowering plants, some of which have a wonderful scent.


One: Red Campion (Silene Dioica)

Red Campion (Silene dioica)
Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Two: Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)

P1010112 Yellow Archangel


Three: Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)

Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)
Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)

Four:  Sweet Woodruff or Sweet Scented Bedstraw (Galium odoratum)

P1010114 Wooddruff


Five: Bluebells

P1010113 Bluebell


Six:  Honesty (Lunaria annua)

P1010117 Honesty


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.

Snake’s Head Fritillary

The Snake’s-Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) gets its common name from the delicate chequed pattern which looks like tiny reptile scales.  The nodding cup shaped flowers are said to resemble a fritillus or roman dice box hence the scientific name whilst meleagris relates to the spots of a guinea fowl.

As a native of water meadows I think this winter at Honey Pot Flowers will have suited them down to the ground.  As previously mentioned in our earlier overview of the garden (The Site) we have about one or two feet of top soil sitting on a bed of clay.  The water table is very near the surface for most of the winter with many standing puddles of water even though we are on a slight slope.

Flowering for a relatively short period in the second half of April they are so unique and such a pleasure to see.  They are most successful in the orchard and near the wildlife pond.  The delicate nodding heads also seemed to be absolutely irresistible to the playful young puppy we had staying recently (although he seems to have survived and it is not listed on the HTA list of potentially harmful plants).

Purple and white Snake's Head Fritillary growing amongst the grassland in the fruit orchard.
Purple and white Snake’s Head Fritillary growing amongst the grassland in the fruit orchard.

It is possible to cut Snake’s Head Fritillary for use in spring arrangements but for us the pleasure is seeing them growing naturally in grassland.   They are generally trouble free as long as you don’t cut the grass before the leaves have died back and the bulbs have been replenished.  As a member of the Liliaceae they do seem to get nibbled by lily beetle if you don’t keep an eye on them but the bright red beetles are easy to see and can be picked off by hand.

Family:  Liliaceae

Hardiness:  Full Hardy

Origin:  Europe (southern England to the northern Balkans and western Russia and naturalized in Scandinavia)¹

Height:  30cm

Further Reading

¹ “Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978-1-84533-415-4)

 


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.