Summer’s here with…

… 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.

21 thoughts on “Summer’s here with…

  1. What wonderful photos! I never manage to get such focussed photos of butterflies. The cake looks nice 😉

  2. Wonderful butterfly pictures – I have to say that there are more of them about now – after such a slow start this year.
    An Artist’s Garden

  3. You have butterflies on the brain which is, I suppose, an improvement on having butterflies in your stomach. 😉 It’s great to read that you’ve had good weather during your holiday. Pity about that coffee though, although that scrumptious cake probably made up for it.

    Lovely pics of gorgeous butterflies. Are you aiming to be a butterfly buff too, not just a bird one? 🙂

  4. Hi Shirl, I’m pleased you enjoyed your visit it my part of the world!
    Beautiful butterfly photos – I’m not sure how you can tell a Small Skipper from an Essex Skipper without a hand lens!! Isn’t it to do with the black tip on the underside of the antennae?

    I’m sure you had a wonderful time at Pensthorpe. I love the Piet Oudolf planting scheme – at its best a bit later in the season, but I’m sure it was a good display.

    I can well imagine the heady scent of Norfolk lavender !) and dazzling purple in the sun (not sure about lavender coffee as I don’t like any coffee.

    My latest discovery is ‘Handmade Norfolk Soaps’ especially the ones using the tradional coastal plants – juniper, seaweed, lavender and Boudica’s woad! (No it doesn’t turn you blue!)

    From Sunny Suffolk

  5. I’ve had a great time catching up with all your recent posts, Shirl:)

    I enjoyed your videos of the squirrel peeling the skins off the peanut, the baby goldfinch being fed and the siskins at the bird table 🙂

    I also loved the wonderful shade of pink of the mecanopsis…just gorgeous 🙂

    Lastly, I enjoyed all your butterfly photos too. Well done, as always 🙂

  6. The lavender cake and coffee sound scrumptious! Your butterfly photos were really great, it’s nice that you were able to get such wonderful photos on your holiday. I would of loved to see the lavender fields, and I’m sure they smelled heavenly. Thanks for sharing.

  7. spectacular images.I enjoyed your post. I like lavender in desserts, but that would be different in coffee!

  8. I am glad you are finally having some summer weather. Our weather has gone a little past summer to the hellish side. It is so hot, humid and dry. Hopefully a break in the weather will be tomorrow when we are ‘possibly’ going to get rain.

    Your photos of the butterflies are great. I wish I could see them in person.

  9. Hi again happymouffetard, Bobbi, Karen, Yolanda, Celia, Nancy, Wildlife Gardener, Philip, Perennial Gardener and Lisa 🙂

    happymouffetard – Thank-you! I took quite a few photos and was just lucky some came out nicely. It is tricky when they move so quickly as you will know. The cake was tasty! Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Bobbi – Yes, it was very nice and thanks I was happy with the photos especially as I wasn’t using a tripod. Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Karen – Thank-you, yes I think the sunshine does make a difference. This afternoon I was delighted to spot the first on my young buddleja – a small tortoiseshell. I wonder if I will spot any new ones in my garden this year. Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Yolanda – lol that is true 😉 Yes, we were very lucky with the weather. Sorry to hear you’ve had so much rain in the Netherlands. I can just imagine your clay soil! Yep, I thought I’d give the coffee a go and let everyone else try it too. They cringed as I kept trying it. The cake was nice though we all agreed on that! Thanks, A buff? lol no I don’t expect so but I don’t see myself as a buff with birds either. I just enjoy watching them although my next post will have a strong bird theme! Last year on holiday in Wales I took photos of wild flowers there. It did make me pay attention to our local ones after. It was fun, so I thought I’d try the idea again with butterflies. As with the wild flowers I will appreciate butterflies more after doing this and I will be drawn to catch different ones with my camera – Moths perhaps too. Oh… Yolanda I got quite a surprise at Pensthorpe!! There is a Piet designed garden there. It is the largest in the UK and was looking wonderful. I was going to keep this a surprise for you but Celia mentions it below (no probs Celia). I had no idea it was there when we arrived that day. I took a guide book and discovered it then!! That made my holiday as you can imagine!!!! Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Celia – Great to have seen a bit of your area of the country! Yes, for the ID I used the zoom when I previewed my pics and when I got home found out in my books that it was the black and not orange-brown antennal club that finally confirmed it. Oh… Pensthorpe was great! Well laid out – I could only fault the toilets!! Ah… another fan of Piet! Yes, by his planting style the autumn is probably the best time to see a Piet Oudolf garden however I just love it as it is now too. It was colourful and absolutely stunning. I love the huge blocks of textural planting flowing through it. Yes, it was heady with the lavender and I could feel it too. The coffee? Well I was holiday so gave it a go. I won’t be trying it again! Lol, the soaps sound very interesting. Enjoy the rest of your sunny week 😀

    Nancy – Neither had I and it was. Yes, thanks it was a lovely holiday! Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Wildlife Gardener – Nice to have you visit again 🙂 I have enjoyed catching the squirrels and birds on video and look forward to catching the hedgehogs in my own garden sometime soon. I’m glad you are still enjoying my videos. Yes, that red/pink meconopsis was gorgeous and every time I scroll past that post it stops me. Thanks, the butterfly photos were a fun project for the holiday and I did enjoy them too! Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Perennial Gardener – Yes, the cake was but the coffee not so! Thanks, I enjoyed my search for the butterfly photos. In the warm sunshine the blue of the lavender fields we saw was really quite stunning. With the wind blowing the flowers the scent was just too strong but on a calm day I am sure it would be quite different. It is great we can share the parts of our world like this isn’t it? Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Philip – Thank-you! Yep, lavender it coffee must be an acquired taste! Enjoy the rest of your week 😀

    Lisa – Yes, it has been nice for a change although a bit humid some nights here too. Nothing though to what you will be having – I don’t think I could bear that. Thank-you, just before we went out earlier I spotted the first on my buddleja. I’ll try and catch some video for you to see them better. Enjoy the rest of your week – wishing you some rain 😀

  10. I must admit it was that delicious looking slice of cake that caught my eye and the welcome cuppa too…. and as if that wasn’t enough – some more beautiful photos to go with it!Hope everthing is a little less hectic with you than it is here! It’s raining as I type so not sure what sort of weekend we’re in for but as always plenty to keep me occupied with here! Take care Miranda

  11. Lavender….yes! Intoxicating…
    What a great selection of butterfly and insect pictures. Most enjoyable indeed.
    This evening am just back from touring 4 private gardens in the Southern Berkshires and am chocked full of inspiration…. for another year!! Hope your summer is going well.
    Carol in Mass.

  12. Hi Shirl,
    I saw your most recent post and saw your great butterfly pics. I did a post on Butterflies recently too!

  13. Hi there Mike, Barbara, Miranda, Jan, Good Acres, St, Carol, Joe and Ginger 🙂

    Mike – Thank-you! It was fun following them around Have a good week 😀

    Barbara – Yes, it was tasty. Thank-you I was thrilled to see butterflies I had never seen before Have a good week 😀

    Miranda – Thank-you! Nope this has been the busiest summer for a few years – hence my slow replies! Hope things are better with you now too and the rain is giving you more of a break than it is here! Have a good week 😀

    Jan – Thank-you! I have to say I really only started paying attention to the butterflies about last year at this time and that is the first time I had noticed and identified the peacock butterfly. It is quite lovely. Have a good week 😀

    Good Acres – Thank-you! Sorry my posts have been slow in coming but I’ll get there! Have a good week 😀

    St – Hi again and thank-you! You have some great (albeit creepy) close-up shots of insects on your blog and I would recommend others to visit you. I had actually never seen a grasshopper like that before so I was thrilled that one of my shots was almost in focus! Have a good week 😀

    Carol – Yes it was and glad you enjoyed the pics! Ah… touring gardens (especially private ones) is a great way to go for inspiration! Yes, weather has been wet but our summer has been busy despite it. Hope you are enjoying yours. Have a good week 😀

    Joe – Thank-you I’m glad you liked them. Yes, you got some good pics yourself. Great to see your new blog coming along with interesting posts like your recent one on the Harlequin Ladybird visiting your garden. I will have to look out for it here now. Have a good week 😀

    Ginger – thank-you I’m glad you like it. A tea party? That’s an interesting idea. Have a good week 😀

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