More mild nights, last night the minimum temperature was 13.5 celsius and though it rained later the first part of the night was mild and muggy. I caught my first Green- brindled Crescent, a beautifully marked creature. Tawny Owls were very vocal last night. As far as I could tell there was a pair and another male calling near the house with more in the distance arguing over their territory boundaries. We can hear and see Little Owls and Barn Owls from the house too, but it is the Tawny Owls, the female who shrieks “kewick, kewick, kewick” and the males who “hoooo”, who are loud enough to disturb our sleep. Hedgehogs have not been seen by the feeding bowl much recently, this is probably because we have had more rain which means worms, slugs and snails are much easier to find. Moths are still flying and Pipistrelle bats seem to have found the area of the moth trap where many insects are attracted to the ultra violet light. Time to move it!
The fallen apples continue to attract butterflies. Up to 7 Red Admirals at a time today with single Commas and Speckled Woods. Sitting sketching in the warm September sun smelling the fermenting fruit and watching these impressive strong flyers I marvel at the distances they will fly as they head towards the south coast then out over the English Channel to breed near the Mediterranean in October or November. They will then die. Knowing the weather is set to turn much colder this weekend I wonder whether it will be next year before I see this number of Red Admirals again? The Speckled Wood will hibernate and emerge next Spring to produce a new generation.
A warm night with the temperature not dropping below 13 celsius. The Dark Sword Grass is an immigrant species from the Continent. This individual could be the offspring of an adult which came over to Britain in the spring or a fresh arrival from abroad. This perhaps likely as we have had a couple of very warm days with southerly winds. Stangely it left a considerable quantity of fluid on my hand! It smelt quite pleasant rather like caramel. The Red- line Quaker is a species which flies only between September and November. The Snout moth is very distinctive with delta wings and well, a snout!
Recent nights have been very mild. Last night the temperature did not drop below 16 celsius- ideal conditions for setting the moth trap! The Angle Shades moth was the species which first had me hooked on mothing, in particular the art of ‘sugaring’! This is a means of attracting moths by mixing a concoction of black treacle, old bananas, jam and beer- well at least this is my recipe! I remember going out after dark and inspecting a ‘sugared’ fence post to see two Angle Shades moths feeding, what stunning insects. Soon I was attracting more species including the spectacular Large Red Underwing. This is a great activity to try with children as you can have a trail with lots of ‘sugared’ posts or trees. You never know what will turn up as you turn the torch on, sometimes nothing of course, but on good nights moths can be clammering to feed! Even if there are no moths it is wonderful to be outside after dark on an autumn evening hearing Tawny Owls proclaiming their territories and Hedgehogs shuffling in the borders. Ideal conditions for sugaring would be warm, muggy and cloudy nights. The species below were caught overnight in an ultra violet light trap and released in the morning.
I filled a peanut feeder with very ripe plums and soon attracted Commas and Red Admirals.
House Martins still visit. We have three roosting in one nest on the front of the house. They arrive to roost at about 7.25pm and leave the nest at about 7.30am. About ten gather above this end of the village in the morning. The vast majority of House Martins departed after big flocks gathered on wires near the front of the house at the end of August.
Butterflies and Verbena bonariensis
As the sun evaporated early fog and warmed the herbaceous border butterflies started feeding. The most popular plant was Verbena bonariensis. Many butterflies and moths enjoy feeding on the nectar of this plant. A beautiful border plant which is superb for attracting insects, especiallly butterflies. It is also popular with Hummingbird Hawkmoths. Earlier this year I saw two feeding in one border containing this plant.
As summer turns to autumn I look forward to the sight of butterflies feeding on fallen fruit. Red Admirals and Commas visited the garden today to feed under the apple tree. In the case of the Red Admiral it is feeding up for a long journey back to southern Europe to breed on nettles there in October and November. The Comma is building up energy to enable it to spend the winter in hibernation, camouflaged perfectly as a fallen leaf.