Wheat Ripening in Lone Pine Field

The crops growing around Charlton Down are ripening and changing colour. Wheat in the field which has a solitary pine in the middle, beside the path to Charminster that goes up and over Wood Hill, is changing from blue green to yellow gold. It makes a lovely countryside view.

Mullein Moth Caterpillars

Not so many Great Mullein plants this year in the village. They are the ones with the basal rosettes of grey-green woolly leaves that develop into tall stalks about a metre high with yellow flowers.. They are the main food resource for Mullein Moth caterpillars which are one of the few insects able to eat them.

The larvae make a real mess of the leaves eating lots of holes and depositing black frass everywhere so that affected plants are easy to spot. The caterpillars are beautiful with a satin smooth appearance and distinctive white, black, and yellow markings. Once they have reached their full size, they migrate down the plant and pupate near the roots. Surprisingly, the adult moth that hatches out from the chrysalis is a rather boring brown looking thing with none of the bright colours and patterns of its earlier instar.

Lesser Stag Beetle

I remember my excitement as a child in a London suburb when I found a huge male Stag Beetle in our back garden. It seemed so exotic and monstrous. I have never seen one since even though I have been looking, and have visited sites where special places have been constructed as homes for them. The beetle shown here is the nearest I have come to achieving my goal – but it is a lot smaller than I imagined so I think it must either be a female of that species or the Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipedus) – and unfortunately it is dead.

Bumblebee on Lavender

Bumblebees were enjoying the lavender larder yesterday between the blustery showers – but butterflies were lying low in my usual haunts around the village.

Mini-Meadow Bedstraws

The area of lawn behind Greenwood House that we have left to grow wild for the last couple of months, our mini-meadow, has some lovely colourful patches of small frothy yellow and white flowers. You might at first glance, if you notice them at all, think that they are just colour variations of the same plant but they are actually two separate species of the same genus. They are both Bedstraws but the yellow flowers are Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) and the white ones are one of the eight species of white-flowered Bedstraw in the wild, maybe Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo). The yellow flowers are noticeably scented and in the olden days were cut and dried to put in mattresses to make them fragrant.

As far as I know, no-one has seeded these flowers. They are occurring naturally. It is amazing the number of wild plants that are actually present but inhibited by frequent mowing from developing, blooming, and thus providing resources for wildlife .

A Type of Mallow

There are various types of wild Mallow. This low growing one amongst the tall grasses, the Ladies’ Bedstraw and budding Wild Marjoram in the Charlton Down Nature Reserve is, I think, Musk-mallow (Malva moschata). There are only one or two plants there tucked well down in the herbage. Let me know if you think it is something different, please..

Ringlet Butterfly

Ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus) feeding on a buttercup flower, quickly rotating its position to get the nectar from every petal, and only showing the full identifying pattern of its underwings for a fraction of a second.

Meadow Brown

Meadow Brown butterflies Maniola jurtina (?) feeding on Knapweed and Bramble flowers on a piece of rough pasture at the beginning of the path from the village that leads to Charminster via Wood Hill. The slightly pleated wings of the one individual might indicate perhaps a more recent emergence. Or have I got two species here?

A Darwin Wasp

I managed to glimpse this insect on some Hogweed flowers (not Giant Hogweed – I haven’t seen any of that dangerous and poisonous plant in the village so far). This little creature is a solitary parasitic wasp belonging to a group of 32 families and 6,600 different species in the British Isles. It is an Ichneumon wasp and gets its common name from Charles Darwin who studied these insects in great detail.

Given the number of species, it is difficult to be confidant which one this is – but I would hazard a guess at the Yellow-striped or Tiger Darwin Wasp (Ichneumon xanthorius) but I am not certain. This insect group has an interesting and somewhat macabre lifestyle. The adult lays her eggs inside the larvae and pupae of moths of certain types; the eggs hatch and the larvae slowly eat the internal soft body parts of the host organism while it is still alive; then they pupate and ultimately break out of the husk of the host when they hatch. Nice!

What’s this Bird?

I am not very good at birds. There will always be someone with more knowledge than I. As a rule birds move very fast and that makes them difficult for me to photograph. But back in early June this small bird was hopping uncertainly along the dirt path beside a barley field just ahead of me. It made a some practise flights a few inches from the ground and then scurried into the wayside vegetation. It paused long enough for me to photograph. I think it is an immature female Blackcap (with the lovely scientific name of Sylvia atricapilla). Does anyone else have other ideas about its identification?