"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Garden Butterflies and Moths

I've had a lot of fun in the last week or so doing Big Butterfly Counts in the garden. You can do as many counts as you like and what can be lovelier than wandering round the garden counting butterflies.

Monday 21st July

Peacock x 1

Small Tortoiseshell x 1
Comma x 1
Green-veined White x 1
Gatekeeper x 2 (the first I've seen in the garden this year)
Speckled Wood x 1
Large White x 1

Thursday 24th July

Large White x 2
Peacock x 1
Gatekeeper x 4

Saturday 26th July

Peacock x 3
Large White x 2
Small White x 3
Holly Blue x 1

Speckled Wood x 2

Tuesday 29th July

Speckled Wood x 2
Peacock x 3
Gatekeeper x 1
Holly Blue x 2
Large White x 1
Small White x 1

The moth trap has been out several times since I last wrote a post on moths.

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua fimbriata)

and its very pretty "underskirt".

Willow Beauty - there are quite a few similar species - I am sure half the time I miss new garden "ticks" as I don't always look as closely as I should at more common species.

Scarce Footman (Eilema complana) (with furled edges of wings) - hope I am right on this one - I do struggle with the Footman species. (new for year) Dean will never forgive me if I get this wrong as he's always correcting my Footman id's :)

The very similar Common Footman (Eilema lurideola) - New for Year

Most of the moths I tend to trap tend to be noctuids so its always pleasing to get something a bit out of the ordinary - here the lovely Sallow Kitten (Furcula furcula) again New for Year)

Bordered Pug - this is one of the larger pugs - many are very small (Eupithecia succentariata) - New for Year

Square-spot Rustic ((Xestia xanthographa) - New For Year

Crambus pascuella

Bird-cherry Ermine ((Yponomeuta evonymella) - New for Year

Marbled Minor Aggregate - Marbled Minor, Rufous Minor and Tawny Marbled Minor are all very similar and can only be separated by genitalia dissection - a route I am not prepared to take!!

Dagger Agg - again Grey and Dark Dagger are that similar that they can only be 100% identified by the dreaded genitalia dissection

Common Rustic Agg - again Common Rustic, Lesser Common Rustic and Remm's Rustic can only be separated by, yes you guessed it, genitalia dissection!!

I had a lovely walk this afternoon round Marsh Lane NR - lots of butterflies, hoverflies, bees, dragon and damselflies about. I have a few insects to identify so I'll do a separate post in a few days.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Packhorse Bridge NR, Checking out a Site for Butterflies and Another Plea on Behalf of English Badgers

D and I paid a visit yesterday to a small nature reserve we have been meaning to explore for ages.

The reserve comprises part of the River Blythe (a Site of Special Scientific interest as its a superb example of a lowland river on clay), hedgerows, wet woodland (carr) with many alders and willows and a waterside meadow.

The Reserve is situated on the other side of the Railway line to Marsh Lane NR and you can make out Marsh Lane reserve in the distance through the arch of this bridge.

The Packhorse Bridge itself is interesting - it was built in the fifteenth century and has 3 stone segmented arches. Its fascinating to stand on the bridge and think of all the many people who have passed this way over the centuries.

There were dozens of Banded Demoiselle damselflies on the river bank. Unfortunately, apart from wading across the river, there was no chance of getting a photo.

The HB engraved on this stone marks the boundary between the Hampton and Berkswell Parishes.

Himalayan Balsam and Meadowsweet

Unfortunately, there were many many Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) plants along the side of the river. This is a non-native invasive plant which has spread from gardens along river banks and damp areas. It is very attractive to pollinating insects but there are concerns that this may result in less pollination of native plants. The plant, which grows up to 2.5 metres high, spreads quickly forming dense thickets which suppresses the growth of grasses and native British plants. It is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is an offence to plant or cause this plant to grow in the wild.

There have been several attempts in and around the Coventry area to eradicate Himalayan Balsam and replace it with native plants to help water voles.

We saw many butterflies on the walk - Peacocks, Whites, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and this Comma which was the only species prepared to pose for a photo!

We walked along a public bridleway.

Lots of Meadowsweet flowering here and this lovely purple flower - I am not sure of the species but I do know I have seen it in marshy areas at Brandon Marsh in the past.

It was quite a surprise when the path emerged at Barston Lake - I hadn't realised this was so close to the area where we were walking.

Greater Reedmace

Bindweed was trailing along the sides of the paths and among the hedges.

White Dead Nettle

On the way home we made a detour to a public footpath not far from the airport (where we waited recently for a Spitfire to appear in the skies). We walked through crop fields - in the distance you can just see an area known as "Castle Hills" which I've noticed from another local blog is a very good site for butterflies. It was further away than we thought and we were running out of time but I will return to this area at some stage in the future.

Scentless Mayweed

Ragwort - no sign though of any Cinnabar moth caterpillars

The usual planes going over en route for Birmingham International Airport!

We stopped off at the village of Bickenhill on the way home - this telephone box has an interesting story. A few years ago BT were thinking of removing phone boxes as, due to the advent of mobile phones, they were no longer used. The villagers were reluctant to see their local telephone kiosk disappear so the Parish Council bought it from BT for a £1.


The good news for English wildlife is that a certain Owen Paterson has been given the boot as Secretary of State for DEFRA but the bad news is that Elizabeth Truss, Paterson's replacement, is determined to continue to treat badgers as scapegoats and plans to continue with this year's pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Anyone who has read the IEP Report following the badger cull last year will know how inhumane and ineffective the slaughters were. I've done several posts in the past on this topic so I won't be ranting on again too much about this issue. A quick look at the DEFRA twitter feed suggests that the vast majority of the new SOS's trips and meetings so far have been connected with farming, Game Fairs and fishing so it doesn't take much imagination to see where her sympathies lie. I can't see one mention of a meeting with an environmental/conservation/wildlife group.

I find it very sad that the Wildlife Trusts who have a combined membership of over 800,000 (and yes I am one of them!) have only managed to get 5,563 people to send an email to David Cameron urging him to drop the badger cull. So, please, if you are against the slaughter of badgers in the misguided attempt to prevent bTB then please visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/dropthecull and send an email - it really does only take a minute or so. Thanks so much.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

I had a few hours to spare on Tuesday afternoon and couldn't decide whether to visit Marsh Lane NR or Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens. As it was so hot I decided to visit the Gardens in the hope I would find more shady areas there. It was with horror that I realised I have only visited the gardens once this year - I usually go at least once a month! Where does the time go to?

Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens began their development as formal walled gardens during the 17th century reaching their peak by the middle of the 18th century. During the 18th century Capability Brown introduced a more natural approach to gardens and landscape. The Bridgeman family, who owned Castle Bromwich Hall. were living at Weston Park at this time so the gardens were not drastically altered in the way that many formal gardens were. For many decades in the twentieth century the gardens were neglected and were only discovered by chance in 1982 when their importance was recognised. In 1985 a trust was set up to restore the gardens to their former glory.

The Gardens are very beautiful and exceedingly tranquil and peaceful.

"In green old gardens hidden away
From sight of revel, and sound of strife..."

Violet Farne

Lady Bridgeman Garden

I really love the way the planting displays are changed each season so there is always something new to see.

There were lots of butterflies around the gardens - "Whites", Red Admirals, and here on Verbena bonariensis Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell. Unfortunately I couldn't get any closer for a photo without trampling all over the border so you'll have to enlarge the photo to see them.

My Lady's Border - always a picture in the summer when its full of perennials.

Echinops were covered in insects - bees, wasps and hoverflies. I have "buds" on the ones I've planted at home I can't wait for them to open to see what species they attract.

Melon Grounds

One of the yuccas is in flower. I am really thrilled that the one we have at home which split in two and looked as though it had died is now actually sprouting from the base as though its been coppiced.

The Greenhouse built around 1729 - at the same time as the walls that surround the formal parts of the gardens.

Bear's Breeches (Acanthus mollis)

I left the walled gardens to wander round what are known as the "Extra Gardens" where quite a few new features have been introduced since my last visit.

Sadly, I had managed to miss the new Orchid and Wildflower Meadow as the area was closed off and it looked as though they were cutting it down now the flowers have seeded.

As part of a Jaguar Land Rover Project a team from the company has constructed a new interactive wildlife friendly area which includes a Bird Viewing Hide which overlooks feeders, an area of woodland edge wild flowers and habitat piles. A great place for visiting school parties to look for wildlife - local school children also helped seed the orchid wildflower meadow and were due to make visits to check on the flowers and insects that visited them.

Poppies have been planted to commemorate the Centenary of the First World War (1914-18)

Renovation of the Mirror Pool has also been completed.

Back in the Walled Gardens I visited the Batty Langley Vegetable Garden which is based on a design by Langley from his book "New Principles of Gardening" 1728.

The Beneficial Plant Border was humming with insects.

Lots of honeysuckle growing over the old walls.


Upper Wilderness

These gardens mean a lot to me - I used to play in the derelict, overgrown grounds when I was growing up in the area and over the last few years when I have had problems and worries over my mother's deteriorating health and looking after her house and affairs, they have provided a place to which I could escape to forget my concerns and recharge my batteries.

The gardens were looking lovelier than ever this summer and well done to all the gardeners, staff and volunteers who work so hard to make this a very special place.