… sunny warm days and eating outside! We have finally had a taste of summer for the last ten days – just lovely! So today I don’t mind at all the slightly dull and cooler day although I do hope the sunny days return.
Lavender cake and lavender coffee sitting outside in the sunshine at a picnic bench at Norfolk Lavender (in the south east of England) is how we started our summer holiday this year. The cake was lovely but the coffee – well let’s just say I nearly drank it all! It was ‘rather’ flavoursome. I did try it though.
Unfortunately we missed the last trip of the day to see the main lavender fields – maybe just as well. There were good sized rows planted beside the plant sales but with the heat the scent of the lavender was quite heady and my daughter took a headache. I could understand how she felt. I tried to take photos and video of this area but the wind was blowing the plants about quite a bit – that’s probably why the scent was so strong. The bees were funny to watch bobbing about on the flowers.
Butterflies, I decided before I left home, would be the subject for my camera on holiday this year. Once again, prior to writing this online garden diary I hadn’t really paid too much attention to them. Yes, they were pretty to see and that was about as far as it got. However, late in the summer last year I noticed a few visiting my garden and as with new birds to my garden I found myself wishing to ID them. I patiently stood trying to photograph them. The small tortoiseshell, peacock, painted lady and red admiral were all seen. Ah… but I now knew that I could see butterflies on holiday that were local to the area – there lay the challenge!
The small tortoiseshell butterfly shown on the cone flower above seen at the plant sales or on buddleja, verbena Bonariensis, sedums and other flowers was where I initially looked for butterflies. However back at the cottage where we were staying I was to discover a whole new world of butterflies. They maybe weren’t as bright and colourful as the ones that visit my garden but they caught my attention much more! Ah… but I left my book at home! I was too busy with other very last minute stuff – like my Bloom Day post which I didn’t want to miss. Sorry I missed out plant names – I will come back to that.
Wild areas set aside in gardens, no matter how small, definitely do help the insect population of our gardens. However in a small garden it is not practical to leave boundary hedges like privet to grow as it pleases. I have neighbours with this and it very quickly gets out of hand. I occasionally see its simple white clusters of flowers before it is trimmed from higher branches. Ah… but I had no idea that butterflies and bees loved these flowers so much. The photo montage above, taken on a boundary to a field at our cottage, was a very popular feeding spot. The butterflies I spotted were the Large White, Ringlet and Peacock.
A much smaller butterfly became my real challenge and was definitely my favourite of all the butterflies I saw. This butterfly was quite quick in flight and could be seen on the ground, on blades of grass and on thistle flowers. I struggled with an ID on this one. I bought a fold out laminated butterfly ID sheet which helped trace it to being a skipper.
However the book I left at home, Complete British Wildlifeby Paul Sterry, had photographs in it which makes it much easier to use for ID. This general book has served me well although it covers a limited number of wildlife in each section it is a great starting place. I have noticed that it has recently had a reprint but the content is the same. I was thinking the skipper in my montage above was an Essex Skipper and on my return looking through my book I was almost certain.
Image searches on the internet are another way to ID photos of wildlife but I have to say I still like searching through books too. Yesterday I picked up a pocket book on Butterflies and Mothswhich also has some photos of the underside of the wings which helps a lot. It has location maps too which are easy to see at glance. Here I noticed that although Essex is an area in south east England this butterfly is also pretty widespread through other parts of Europe too. I am pretty confident now that my photos are of the Essex Skipper. Great, I found a butterfly local to my area after all!
Following the large white butterfly to a grass verge of the field next to our cottage I came across the Gatekeeper butterfly – another that I would see a lot of on my holiday. However as I stood still just watching from the edge I noticed that this field was just alive with tiny wildlife. The farmer had to let this field settle for the year (I think that is the right term). Apparently he is paid to do so too. I stood fascinated watching butterflies, bees and other insects.
At my feet I saw some movement beside clover and then spotted, for the first time, a common grasshopper. How well camouflaged it was! Can you spot it in the larger photo above? I was thrilled to get photos. I looked up again to the grasses gently blowing in the wind and then noticed ladybirds and soldier beetles. I saw a number of single soldier beetles on grass flowers and watched them fly from grass to grass. Although you are more likely to see it with company as it is always mating! I spotted one pair on a nettle leaf.
Every time I pass a grass verge now I will think of the field and grass verge beside our holiday cottage in Norfolk. Unexpected memories are always special and I enjoyed a few more special ones on my visit to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve. Much to my surprise it was just a 45 mins drive from our cottage which was great as we visited it twice!
My posting on Pensthorpe (Host to this year’s BBC Springwatch programme) will have to be spread over two – I have no doubt. I have treats for the birders, wildife enthusiasts and the gardeners from here. Although we have been home since last Friday we are still on our hols however Pensthorpe is coming soon – at least my spin on it!
All photos above were taken in Norfolk during July 2008.