Monday, 24 August 2015

Look out for Painted Lady butterflies in 2015

What a surprise to see you yesterday – just as I was leaving the garden.
(runs for video camera) 52sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.

Yay… early evening and we meet in the garden again (runs for still camera).
It’s been 6 yrs, last sighting in 2009 during mass migration year here in UK.

“The painted lady migration is one of the real wonders of the natural world.

Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30mph, these small, fragile-seeming creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year, even though none of the individual butterflies has ever made the trip before.”

You look so small on the sunny rock, but with a wingspan of 6cm you are one of the largest butterflies here in the UK (shame your friend was camera shy).

Buddleja ‘Buzz Ivory’ has arrived in the garden since your last visit, a tasty evening drink (all Buddleja’s are a great food source for bees and butterflies).

Your circus act of hanging upside down looked like a practical solution in breezy conditions (loving the eyespots and marbling of your hindwings, so pretty).

Ta-da… you beautifully demonstrate that a real butterfly is a much better wall decoration than ornamental ones. Thank-you for decorating my garden
last night (wishing for more sunny evenings to see you again).

Catching sightings of butterflies for surveys like the Migrant Watch by Butterfly Conservation can be tricky as you need the right conditions for them to be out flying (best chance in sunny days without wind). Catching sightings in your garden is also based in you being in it to see them too. By providing food plants for butterflies you help them survive and have a better chance to enjoy their beauty in your garden.

So could 2015 be a good year for the Painted Lady butterfly? Will we see it visit in good numbers here in the UK? Well, seeing two in my Scottish garden yesterday might suggest so. If I had read a few news items, then I would have known to be on the lookout for it (British butterfly bonanza could see 'painted lady summer and Fluttering back to Britain, millions of painted ladies: Distinctive orange and black marked butterflies expected to arrive from North Africa within weeks).

Perhaps other garden blogger’s have posted on this (sorry missed it) but I thought I’d give the thumbs up on looking out for the Painted Lady butterfly this year just in case you hadn’t heard and would like to see it. I also wanted to share my excitement at seeing it again by sharing images from my garden :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Welcome back, americana...

(Honeysuckle) Lonicera x americana

How pretty you look now - just how did I forget about you?

Flowering in morning sunshine - you'll grow up to overlook the pond :-)

Admired at Gardening Scotland a good few years ago, this impulse buy didn’t really have a proper place back in the garden. How familiar does that sound? Gail force winds knocked down its first home (a small, flimsy arch) and it was given temporary accommodation next to a free pole on a pathway garden structure.

The sulking climber was pruned after moving in an effort to encourage new growth but then it was promptly forgotten about. Again, how familiar does that sound in a garden full of other plants seeking the gardener’s attention?

Winds and persistent rain haven’t made for easy garden photo captures this summer but last Friday (with GBBD in mind) I got out with my camera in the early morning sunshine and what a surprise I was to find! Americana was flowering, looking healthy and attracting pollinators! Hoverflies were feeding and I suspect bees have been here too.

Welcome back, americana – you are clearly telling me you have found your own permanent home in my garden and I am very happy to have you stay :-) Although I love it when plants thrive on not being fussed over, I will try to keep a gardener's promise to look after and admire you - for a few years anyway ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Haze of yellow Ragwort on sand dunes

When choosing a family day out on a sunny day here in the UK, if it's within driving distance, many will choose the beach. Wildlife moments can be found by rock pooling but sand dunes are also a great place for wildlife discoveries - taking gardenwatch on tour again :-)

Just as in our gardens, once you start looking more closely there’s so much to see and you wonder how you have missed it all before. Ragwort was the big surprise for me.

Mid-August 2015, gardenwatch location: Along the grassy dunes of Kilshanny Beach, Tenstmuir Forest just north of St Andrews. Subject camera was looking for: Dragonflies and the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth. Success: No to Dragonflies, water strip sightings seen previously were overgrown. Yes to caterpillars, although only odd ones spotted in area of the dunes searched.

Bees were the success story of this location - they were everywhere feeding on a huge haze of waist height, yellow Ragwort flowers! This was a very bright, sunny day and the sight was quite mesmerising. On a dull, wet day it would have been quite different.

The small copper butterfly has always been too quick for my camera on previous visits at this location. However on this day, it too was out enjoying the sunshine and feeding on the ragwort. I was delighted to get a proper look at this pretty little butterfly with its wings open as it is usually almost invisible with its wings folded resting on the sand.

Yay… the return walk back to the car saw a yellow and black striped cinnabar moth caterpillar playing hide and seek with me! Clearly it had few friends as the plant was looking very healthy. Yep… you’ve guessed it… ragwort is a food plant for cinnabar moth caterpillars. Since seeing great numbers feeding on this plant last July (stripping it almost bare) I always find myself taking a closer look.

A Small tortoiseshell butterfly was spotted feeding on ragwort last year when I had my video camera out trying to capture the caterpillars moving about en masse. I’ve a great clip that looks like the butterfly deliberately knocked away a caterpillar that had spent ages getting to the top. I must take a search for that and upload it :-)

The shot of this trip has to be the absolutely stunning Peacock butterfly below which looks like I have photoshopped it on to a background of ragwort! It too was feeding on the ragwort and I had never seen this on previous visits. It’s brilliant to get surprise sightings when on tour ;-)

As much as I love seeing ragwort along the sand dunes of our family favourite beach, I cringe a little when I see great swathes of it in roadside fields as a drive around countryside roads.

Joining all its wild, weed friends Ragwort (Senecio spp.) is seen growing happily in uncultivated ground like roadsides, railway embankments as well as grassy sand dunes. It isn’t seen as a problem in gardens but the story is a quite different one for farmers of cattle (horse owners too) as it is poisonous to these animals and a serious issue as it readily pops up in grazing fields.

As a gardener, when adding wild flowers to my garden plantings, I try to consider what is reasonable to grow in a small rural garden and pick locations within my garden that don’t go near boundaries so my plants don’t seed in my neighbour’s gardens. If ragwort ever found its way (over my hedge) into my garden I would be diligent in removing it and wouldn't encourage wildlife gardeners to grow it.

Wildflower, Bird's-foot-trefoil growing pond side in garden, mid-June.

Ragwort gets much discussion here in the UK but as with all wildlife, when a food plant is eradicated completely it does have a serious impact on the survival of a species and that's not acceptable either. Farmers and horse owners need support in finding a solution - good luck to them. To a degree, it's possible habitat loss on both sides.

Oh dear, this was supposed to be a light, sunny post on a rainy Friday night! Returning to sunny thoughts with blooming gardens full of food plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects - tomorrow is Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day! Yep, it’s that time of the month when Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites fellow bloggers to post on what’s flowering on the 15th. Happy GBBD to all taking part :-)

Wishing everyone a great weekend for gardening, wildlife watching and getting out and about! Do remember though… if you go down to the beach this weekend... you’re sure of a big surprise for every ragwort that you might see… there’s sure to be… much wildlife having a picnic ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2015.