30 Days Wild – Day 14: Getting Brown

A hot day and at this time of year one when you need to take care in the full sun. I was in the office for much of the morning, which was at least cooler. At lunchtime I went outside, hoping to see some hoverflies and soldierflies on the hemlock water-dropwort, but all I saw was bees. I think it was too hot for many insects, on these kind of days they often sit out the hottest part of the day in the shade and can be found clinging to the underside of leaves.

A number of people have commented on the lack of butterflies in recent days, it is true there are not a lot, but this is not that unusual at  this time of year. The spring species have mostly finished and the high summer species are just starting, the “gap” is often bridged by lots of white butterflies, but this year they have been quiet scarce. At Blashford the mid-summer butterflies are the browns and the meadow brown are just starting to appear in numbers now. They do not bask with wings open very much once the day has warmed, up so it was no surprise that they were all sitting with wings closed today.

meadow brown

meadow brown

Meadow brown has just one generation a year and they will fly from now until early September. Some species, like small tortoiseshell and comma have two generations, with the second over-wintering as an adult hidden away out of the worst of the frost. Another of the browns, the speckled wood has three overlapping generations so can be seen from late March to early November, it can also over-winter as ether a caterpillar or a pupa.

speckled wood

speckled wood

In other news, I saw the larger of the lapwing chicks today from tern hide and it must be getting close to fledging now, as is the one remaining oystercatcher chick. The three smaller lapwing chicks seem to have been reduced to two, but they at still growing well. Out on the rafts most of the common tern eggs have now hatched and generally they seem to be in broods of three, with lots of small fish being brought in, so they are growing fast. Today many of the chicks were using the shelters to get out of the strong sunshine, over-heating can be a real problem for small chicks, so shade is important.

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A Sunny Start

A suitably bright morning as befits a Volunteer Thursday, in fact right at the start of the day it was actually sunny and warm, so much so that I came across a painted lady butterfly in the main car park as I opened up the Tern hide.

painted lady

This is the first painted lady I have seen for a couple of months and it is interesting to speculate if it is a new migrant or the offspring of an earlier arrival. The same can be asked fo the some of the red admirals that I have seen this week, although they have been of two distinct types, either very battered and faded, possibly after a long flight, or pristine as though just hatched. The only other potential migrants recently have been a few silver Y moths, all of which have been fresh looking, below is one from the trap yesterday.

silver Y

The volunteers finished clearing and stacking the brash from the tree we felled yesterday, dead hedging it beside the path. We also cut some sections of the trunk to make seats for the education team to use with visiting school groups. Meanwhile the rest of the group sorted out the bird feeders and continued installing cable ducting. As there was a little time left at the end of the task we went  to take a look at an area we had been working in last autumn near Ivy Lake, the habitat has developed really well and it was good for everyone to see the results of their labours.

Unfortunately the sunshine gave way to cloud during the morning and by mid afternoon showers had started as the next weather system started to assert itself. Overnight we are promised another burst of heavy rain and a wet weekend to follow, not the weather to help nesting waders and common terns. I hope the quality of our tern chick shelters will at least keep them dry, but they will not help the adults as they battle to catch enough small fish to keep the chicks fed.