Friday, 25 May 2012

Allow me to introduce...

...The Duke and Duchess of Burgundy! ... well in this case its just the Duke, and he may not appear as you might think....

The Duke of Burgundy as actually a species of butterfly, significantly rare in the UK, dependant on very specific habitat requirements and caterpillar food plants. Over the last few years much conservation work has been undertaken in locations in West Sussex which are a stronghold for this grandly named insect, in efforts to maintain viable populations and prevent extinction. One such location is Heyshott Down and, as this is the time of year to see Dukes and the sun was shining, I could not resist a visit earlier this week. Firstly I must say a big Thank-you to Mark Colvin and his companions for their directions and assistance in finding both the site and the butterflies. When you can track them down these really are enchanting creatures, flighty and feisty with strong territorial instincts and beautifully marked and patterned in shades of glorious orange and brown.  
The site was also home to Dingy and Grizzled Skippers and Small Heath butterflies to name a few. 
I was lucky enough to persuade one or two individuals to pause for a photo shoot, here are a few of my shots;

 Duke of Burgundy

Dingy Skipper

This lovely Fly Orchid was also a welcome surprise. 

Summer is a time to spend enjoying the delights of gardens.

It feels as though, this week, we have been transported to high summer in a far-off Mediterranean land, with bright cloudless blue skies, and glaring sun. From recent rainy days, and cold damp days, the change seemed to happen almost overnight. Garden flowers are bursting into bloom, dragonflies and damselflies are emerging from ponds and rivers, and it seems as though bees are buzzing in every flower. 
A number of Red Mason Bees have taken up residence this year in a bee/insect box I installed a few years ago in a sun baked corner of the garden. The box is filled with hollow tubes into which the bees are happily and busily laying a sequence of eggs then blocking the end with a 'home-made cork' of chewed wood pulp. 
In the last few weeks another wildlife neighbour that has taken up residence nearby is the Swallows. A pair of these delightful birds nested in our neighbours' open-raftered barn-like car ports last year, and it seems the family have returned again and can frequently be seen whizzing through the gardens into the rafters where they sit and chatter and chirp as if excited to be back and house hunting. 
The local House Sparrows have hatched at least one brood, and judging by the noise, a pair appears to have taken over the old house-martins nest in the eaves of the house next-door. 
A Great-spotted Woodpecker has been a regular visitor recently, as has a Nuthatch, whilst Blue Tits dash around the neighbourhood hunting down every aphid and insect they can find. I am sure they all are feeding hungry growing families. For many of us Humans though, this weekend will mean some the years first days of deckchairs and BBQ's, ice-creams, tourist traffic jams, fĂȘtes and festivals and enjoying all things 'Summer'. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Sunshine between the rain

Every year, I always find it amazing how quickly the countryside and gardens change from winter battered grey and brown, to fresh luminous green. This week's rain showers have triggered a rush of growth and the road side verges are beginning to fill with the white-lace-blossom of cow parsley and the bright pink of herb robert whilst the woods are carpeted with bluebell and dogs mercury. The bright new green of the emerging leaves on the oak, the beech and the linden trees stands out in beautiful contrast against the rain-darkened trunks and leaden skies, highlighted by sunshine breaking through a gap in the clouds.