Monday, 8 December 2014

Over the last day and night we have had high winds, sleet, snow and hail and now we have bright sunshine. The mice have moved back in for the winter, it wouldn't be so bad if they kept the same hours as us, but they sound like they are doing re-modelling work in the attic at night. The jays have started visiting the bird feeders so wild food must be getting low. I stayed in doors and did some paintings of sheep one of which is below.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I have spent the last couple of days excavating a hare skeleton, cleaning it up and attempting to put  it back together. We found the dead hare during the summer and buried it in a container of sawdust with drainage holes in the bottom and a mesh lid. The bones are beautifully clean and there is no smell. The hard part is putting it together, especially the feet which have some tiny little bones more like flinty stones. It's a crash course in anatomy but fascinating. There are some photos at  the bottom of this post. I noticed this queen wasp in a log I was just about to put on the fire, it has been saved and placed in an outbuilding log and all. Every year the wasps pollinate my gooseberries so it was nice to do them a favour in return. Our pet ferret Bramble looks amazingly fluffy in her new winter coat, hope it doesn't mean bad weather ahead!

Fluffy Ferret (not fat).

Queen wasp hibernating in log.

Excavating hare skeleton.

Cleaned up skeleton.

Friday, 5 September 2014

It's dusk  when we walk Bramble in the evening now and dark by the time we get home, seranaded by the Tawny Owls in the woods. It's harder to get up in the mornings too, dark and chilly with mist curling down the hill. The leaves are turning yellow on the trees, I can hear them falling as I'm weeding the vegetable bed. We have a mouse, a vole and a shrew using the same hole in the wall of the house; they are very fond of spaghetti, we put a little in the entrance last night when we made the most of the late evening sun to eat our tea outside. We could hear them squeaking inside the wall.
The hawthorns and rowans are covered in berries and colourful fungi are sprouting in woods, fields and hedgebottoms, welcome food for our wildlife. The young pheasants have all been released  and look comical sprinting around the fields after insects, like big chickens as they haven't got their tails yet. On Tuesday we went for a walk in Gisburn Forest and the paths were covered in flying ants. .

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Swallows have had a really good year. We had two or three pairs that we knew of in the barn and now there are at least 40 skimming around the yard and fields. Whether they are all ours or have been joined by other juveniles in the area I don't know but its a lovely sight. They all sit on the cables behind the house, little black silhouettes against the blue sky, tails lifting in unison as a gust of wind swings the cable, their white undersides bright in the sun. The trees and hedgerows are full of berries and Barrie has offered to make me a jam cupboard, as I've made so much  of it and thats only with the fruit from the garden. The garden is full of voles zipping across paths and around planters picking up bits dropped from the bird feeders; they also appear to have a fondness for borage seeds. One lives under the the flags in the path and its very entertaining to leave a piece of toast by the entrance and watch it pluck up the courage to squeeze out and grab it.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

It seems such a short time ago that we were still shivering and looking out on dark bare trees. Now the garden is at the height of life and colour and already I'm making jam from the blackcurrants and harvesting the first early potatoes. The blackbirds pulled holes in the netting covering the blackcurrants and were flapping around and sounding ever so sad when I was picking the fruit so I've left them the rest to go ripe; I've got 8 jars of jam and I'm worried about our teeth if we have any more.

Borage looks beautiful in the early morning sun

I think this is a Meadow Brown one of the few butterflies I have seen up here

The Corn Marigolds all turn to face the sun

Ox-eye Daisy, Cornflower, Corn Marigold and Dames Violet
I got eight jars of jam and left the rest for the blackbirds 

First potatoes of the year

One of many teasels 

Monday, 7 July 2014

We've had a lovely spell of sunny weather recently, the hedgerows are full of wildflowers and fledgling birds and the trees are all starting to have berries, keys and cones on them. Last year was a good year for oaks and this year looks like it will be good for beech as they seem to be covered in mast. I spotted a strange gall growing on the alder "cones" its caused by a fungus and only came into this country in the 1940's and has been spreading since. It doesn't seem to be harmful. The pheasant breeding season seems to have fizzled out and most of the males now look really tatty so I think they must be moulting. The tame pheasant had disappeared for a while then turned up with two chicks, sadly they were probably the last of a large brood and over the weekend they too seem to have gone.  I think the squirrels must have young too, judging by the photo below. There are lots of nettles in the garden and on the lane and we saw this mass of Peacock caterpillars on an evening walk.

Alder tongue gall

Pheasant and chicks

Peacock caterpillars
Female squirrel

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Silent Bob and Malevolent Moths

Silent Bob the tailess squirrel turned up at the bird table today, he looks like a Hyrax wandering around the garden. I found a Comma caterpillar on a blackcurrant bush, when it knew it was rumbled it contorted itself so it looked like a bird dropping. I keep the moths I catch in the fridge during the day so I can release them at dusk, I think one must have been very annoyed as it seems to be trying to get me with its death ray vision. (Moths have good eye sight and like cats eyes make the most of low light levels by having a reflective layer of cells that double the amount of light hitting the back of the eye. When looked at from the same direction as the lights source they appear to glow.) The ichnumon wasp flew into the porch; they lay their eggs in the larva of Horntails.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Ox-eye Daisies have self-sown everywhere in the garden, the bees love them and I love them as they dance in the breeze. I grew some cornfield wildflowers and the poppies are being visited by lots of insects including hoverflies, I scattered the seed along the path and also grew some in a window box. Barrie found the stinkhorns in the wood, they were covered in slime in the morning and it had all been eaten by flies by evening. The moths were two of very many that came to the light trap last night, I'd never seen a Green Silver Lines before, very beautiful.

Green Arches

Green Silver Lines

Hoverfly on Field Poppy in windowbox



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Nettles are always a good place to look for insects going about their lives, or losing them in the case of the aphids.

14 Spot Ladybird

I think its a Small Tortoiseshell caterpillar, not sure.

Silken threads hold leaf edges together as they feed.

All that's left is a skeletonized leaf and lots of poo.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The garden looks beautiful, full of colour and life. Especially midges, who are starting to make gardening difficult, biting and getting in eyes and mouths. At night they come in, get stuck and end up piled along window bottoms. The sheep were sheared last week and not only did they no longer recognize each other,running around calling and head butting each other they also had to contend with the new and unpleasant sensation of midges on their skin. I've bought a black head net to weed in, very effective, although I almost killed the postman when I stood up to stretch one morning.

While chopping firewood for winter Barrie found this puffball amongst the leaf litter, it was about 3 inches across and full of jelly. It was remarkably heavy and attached to the soil by thin white roots. We also noticed an old nest under the bark of a tree at around head height and wondered if it was an old Tree Creeper nest. This morning I found a Mayfly sunning itself on the car or perhaps it had mistook the shiny surface for a pond. We have been watching a Hornet flying around in the garden, it sounds like an mini old- fashioned fighter plane as it buzzes around. We found the start of what looks like a wasps nest in the shed - they nested here last year - or maybe its the hornet.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Ladybird Parasite

Ladybird parasitized by D. coccinellae
I found this unfortunate ladybird on the underside of a nettle leaf. I really hope its dead and not just paralysed. I think its the work of the parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinellae, which lays a single egg inside the ladybird. This hatches after about a week. Initially it absorb nutrients directly from the ladybird. Later it feeds directly on the ladybirds fat and gonads, not it's vital organs thereby keeping the ladybird alive. It then passes through 4 larval stages, taking around 18-27 days after which it immobilises the ladybird by biting through the nerves in its legs. It then chews its way out  and spins a cocoon under the ladybird so  it is protected by the ladybirds body and warning colours from birds and other predators. After 6-9 days out hatches another female wasp who is ready to parasitize another ladybird around an hour after emergence.

Moths and Moonlight

I put the moth trap out last night even though the moon was almost full as it was the only chance I will get this week

Silver Y
Tawny-barred Angle

Middle-barred Minor

Pale-shouldered Brocade
Beautiful Golden Y
Beautiful Golden Y
Clouded-bordered Brindle

Broom Moth