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National Insect Week, hot birds and RIP

Date posted: Tuesday 30th June 2020

National Insect Week, hot birds and RIP

Last week was National Insect Week. Days of temperatures in the low 30s and too hot for me to go to the plot during the heat of the day! I went up one morning at 7.30am and others were leaving; my neighbour had been watering for an hour before I got there! But perfect for the bees, butterflies and other sun loving insects.

Tortoiseshells, commas, red admirals, large whites, meadow browns, skippers all seen in the past couple of weeks around the site. Nettles and bramble are particularly important for several native species and luckily we still do have patches of both around the site. What I thought was a Painted Lady got me excited a couple of weeks ago but it was in fact a Small Tortoiseshell, foraging on the nepeta: “The small tortoiseshell is a medium-sized, pretty butterfly that is common in gardens where it feeds on buddleia and other flowers. It is on the wing throughout the year, having two or three broods and overwintering as an adult. The caterpillars feed on common nettle. Male small tortoiseshells are very territorial, chasing each other, other butterflies and anything else that appears in their space. They court females by ‘drumming’ their antennae on the females’ hindwings. The small tortoiseshell is mainly reddish-orange in colour, with black and yellow markings on the forewings and a ring of blue spots around the edge of the wings. The similar painted lady is also orange with black spots, but lacks the yellow and blue markings.” (www.wildlifetrusts.org)

To celebrate last week’s National Insect Week, a gallery of some of the regular visitors to my plot:

!/perch/resources/1593529945-common-blue-damselfly-w610.jpg!!

The ground feeding birds have been having a hard time of it and the heat has got to them all; panting is their way of staying cool and any accessible water is a life saver for them:

“Although occasionally disappointing, the summer weather hit new heights on Monday as thermometers soared past the 30°C mark – making it the hottest day of the year. With the scorching heat expected to last until the weekend, spare a thought for wildlife when you’re firing up the BBQ and cracking open a few cold drinks. While we revel in the warm temperatures, it can have a devastating effect on many of our favourite garden birds like robins, blue tits and blackbirds. The extreme heat can cause many water sources in the countryside to dry up, meaning birds will desperately be searching for a new source. Unlike us humans, birds lack the ability to sweat, meaning they have developed their own, fascinating mechanisms to keep cool during the arduous conditions. Birds need fresh water to drink – but also to bathe in. Taking a dip in water and shaking the drops through their feathers doesn’t only help to keep their feathers clean, but also cools them down. If you have a birdbath, keeping it topped up with fresh water can be a life saver for our feathered friends, but if you don’t, there are many other simple things we can all do in our outdoor space to help.

Creating a mini pond in your garden has many benefits for nature. Not only can it be exciting to see pond skaters, water lice (like long-legged underwater woodlice), freshwater shrimps, and if you’re lucky, a few damselflies darting around the water, it can also double up as a bird bath. A mini pond can be made with an old washing up bowl and be really simple to make.

Do continue to feed your garden birds! Temporary food shortage can occur at almost any time of the year, and if this happens during the breeding season, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young.” (www.rspb.org.uk)

Very sad news about the beautiful ornamental apple at the entrance to the site – taken down at the weekend. It was dying but apparently there is no sign of pathogens and the tree surgeon suggested that it may regrow. RIP lovely tree, that provided such beautiful spring blossom and a perch for our songbirds.