Magpie Moth

This attractive Magpie Moth (Abraxus grossulariata) was photographed the other day by Marilyn, one of my fellow Greenwood House residents. It was resting quietly on the path, making it easier to get up close and take the picture. It is lovely to see what other people spot as they are out walking and enjoying the nature we have around us here in Charlton Down.

Autumn Leaves – Brambles

Small and ordinary can be beautiful and delight the eye. I have been watching the Bramble leaves turning red in this early autmn as the berries are in various stages of ripening.

Horse Chestnut Leaf Miners

The foliage on the village horse chestnut trees may seem to have been changing to autumn colours for many months already. Look closely and there is a sort of pattern to the dying patches on the leaves. These patches are where a small caterpillar has been eating its way to fatness and maturity between the inner and outer layers of the leaf, following paths between the veins. The small moth that lays its eggs on the leaves is a native of the continent but warmer weather has enabled it to extend its range further north to Britain where it now flourishes. The infestation has an effect on the tree but only in a general way because the tree does not die and can still produce conkers. At this time of year the damage inflicted on the leaves is made more dramatic in appearance because of the dying back of the leaves. I have written in greater detail about this on earlier posts over on Jessica’s Nature Blog if you want to click the links below to read them:

Oak Spangle galls

Galls smother the undersides of oak leaves this September in and around Charlton Down and further afield. The oaks in the Nature Reserve and in the grounds on the south side of Greenwood House are affected. The galls are common and I have often seen them in other years too. The exact shape is dictated by the type of wasp that has laid its eggs in the leaf. The ones like small rough brown discs with a raised centre are Spangle Galls made by the Cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum. The small round golden galls with a depressed centre, a donut-shape of silk threads, are made by the wasp Neuroterus nimismalis. Some leaves have both species of gall.

Click on any image to enlarge and view in a gallery.

Autumn Silhouettes 1

Thistle flowers going to seed, Hawthorn berries, and Blackberries in the hedgerows, and flowering Stinging Nettles in the fields, on the first official day of Autumn in Charlton Down.

Arable Weeds 5 – Nipplewort

This flower I am not a hundred percent certain about the identification but I think it is Nipplewort (Lapsana communis). It certainly is a common yellow flowered plant and is not confined to this particular habitat in the strip of arable weeds that I have been investigating. There are so many similar yellow flowered plants that I am never absolutely certain what they are. Anyway, this is my best attempt. If you know better, please do let me know.

Nipplewort is said to have useful medicinal and culinary properties.

You can click on an image to enlarge it and view in a gallery.

Arable Weeds 4 – White Campion

White Campion (Silene latifolia) occurs all over the place around Charlton Down and is more commonly found in hedgerows and verges, but there were a few among the Common Poppies and wealth of other types of arable weeds in the uncultivated border of a maize field. The white flowers stood out among the greens, reds, yellows and blues 0f other native wild plants with which they are intertwined.

Arable Weeds 3 – Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is one of those beautiful little wild flowers which seem utterly familiar, and makes me think of early childhood days and spending long hours out of doors in the garden. In a way, it is surprising that there were any weeds at all in our garden because Dad was out every day hoeing the soil to prevent anything establishing itself among the rows of vegetables and fruit bushes. Control was the name of the game. But we lived next to an open field, and intruders were bound to come in despite his control measures. Scarlet Pimpernel has dainty and colourful flowers which in reality are usually a pinkish orange but with a darker red centre (the petals can even be blue). Seeing these tiny flowers scrambling over the bare chalky soil in Charlton Down fields somehow makes me feel the same way that I did as a child discovering the natural world in a way that was mixed with fantasy and dreams.

Arable Weeds 2 – Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica) grows on bare soil, cultivated arable fields and disturbed ground. It has a prostrate form, spreading horizontally over the ground surface. The small blue flowers will be a familiar sight to many, and it is part of the lowest growing of wild flowers in the plant association that characterises unsown field margins, almost forming a ground cover mat in some places..

Brimstone Butterfly

There was a flurry of butterflies on my Buddleia bush yesterday. Lots of Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals as expected but also, for the first time, some beautiful Brimstone Butterflies (Gonepteryx rhamni). They looked very fresh – as if they had only just emerged. It made my day.