My first Guide duty at Greystones Farm, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve for a month or so, and it was a beautiful Cotswold morning. The hedges are yawning with berries, including wild hops - not something you come across too often. Lovely colours, and lots of food for wintering birds later in the Autumn. Some bird passage was in evidence, with a fly-over Meadow Pipit and a flock of Pied Wagtails, with one White Wagtail, feeding around the cattle.
Up until the end of July the only sawflies I'd found were caterpillars, but I ended up in an identification mess when the first adults emerged, rather negligently putting them down as soldier flies. Among other things the antennae of the sawflies look very different from those of soldier flies. Having finally identified Rose Sawfly (Arge ochropus) and Berberis Sawfly (Arge berberidis) found among the insects on flowering fennel during mid-August, I went back and realised I'd had adult Large Rose Sawfly (Arge pagana) during July, perhaps hatched from the caterpillars I correctly identified back in early July. Rose and Large Rose Sawflies look a bit similar, but the former has distinctive black & white "football socks" on its legs.
Including #159 Lesser Willow Sawfly (larvae on willow tree) I only recorded four species of sawfly since June, which means as there are 600 species in UK, I should be able to find many more - even if it means waiting for next summer.
It's colder today and the lavender is coming to an end, but here's a few snaps of butterflies that have been in the garden over the last couple of weeks. One or two of Common Blue, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown butterflies have been through on a more or less daily basis during early August. Though there have been plenty of Large and Small Whites, often they've not stopped for the flowers, and I've had Comma and Red Admiral visiting a few times. Other species which I might have expected, like Small Tortoiseshell, which I remember as being so common when I was a kid, seem very scarce - only seen 2-3 times this year. And so far I didn't see a single Peacock or Painted Lady in the garden despite it seemingly being a good year for butterflies. It's thought the decline of some of these butterfly species might be due to a parasitic fly (Sturmia bella) that has spread from the Continent in recent years. We sent in some counts to Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count - be interested to see the outcome from their UK survey when it comes out.
Back at the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserve at Greystones Farm, Bourton-on-the-Water today to pick up my cheese. I went on a cheese-making course last week with Simon Weaver Cotswold Organic Dairy. The course was a pilot for a series of courses to be run at the farm starting sometime in August, and it was really great. Learned so much about about different types of cheese and how to make them, and now I have a big Tomme de Savoie maturing in the kitchen, ready to eat in about a month. There's not many places where you can see the cows, visit the wildflower meadows that feed them, watch the milking and then make cheese from the fresh milk. Big thanks to Roger Crudge, the Simon Weaver Dairy team and GWT for a fantastic day.
Details of forthcoming courses are to be found at https://www.simonweaverorganic.co.uk/courses
On the banks of the River Severn, Wildfowl & Wetland Trust at Slimbridge is the best birding site near here. In winter the flocks of wildfowl and waders are huge, but on a beautiful summers day it's pretty good too - lot's of chicks from breeding avocets, lapwings and shelduck, cranes from re-introduction in Somerset Levels out on the meadows and plenty of butterflies too. Amongst all this you can see the first signs of autumn as returning waders such as ruff, greenshank & green sandpiper start heading South from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.
Spent some time, between World Cup matches, with my youngest son checking for bugs around the garden, and in the process adding several species to the list and learning about some garden inhabitants I'd previously overlooked. Checking the brown wheelie bin for garden waste always yields something after I've been doing some pruning - in this case #154 an oak bush cricket nymph. Bashing some bushes & trees and catching the falling bugs on a white sheet was fun and also got some results.
I've just done my second visit to my BBS square on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border near Broadway. This British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) survey counts breeding birds, with two visits in April and June to log the birds encountered along two transects running through an assigned 1 km square. The BBS itself is great to be part of: it's been running annually since 1994 and the data enables a detailed analysis of population trends for over 100 UK breeding birds. This provides massively valuable input to discussions about the impact of changing climate and land-use on the nation's wildlife for the Government and organisations like RSPB. I'm lucky with my square that it's very scenic and has plenty of wildlife, so as well as feeling like a worthy citizen I get to enjoy some good birding.
I was wondering when I was going to find my first garden dragonfly or damselfly. Where here he (I think) is; a Blue-tailed Damselfly resting up in my tomato plants.
Had a good few days adding some new species including my first pipistrelle bats of the year, a passing speckled wood butterfly (no photos sadly) and even a couple of trees I hadn't noticed before (very small ash and beech saplings). Small fauna included a smooth glass snail, pollen beetles (which really seem to like yellow Hypericum flowers) and a Capsus ater capsid beetle which flew in through the window, but should normally be sucking the sap out of grass stems in a nearby meadow.
Gabi and I have joined the team at Tewkesbury Nature Reserve doing some hedge laying and cutting back grass (the old-fashioned way). The reserve is on flood plains near Tewkesbury and is often totally submerged in winter, hence it is set aside as a green space for the local community. There's no shortage of work to do to manage and improve this site. Sessions are on Tuesday evening, so if we're aching a bit on Wednesday mornings, that's why!
A couple of Scarlet Tiger moths (#81) around the garden this morning enabling me to get decent photos, and my first ladybird, #124 a Harlequin Ladybird. These ladybirds are non-native ones from Asia that have been accidentally introduced and are increasing fast in population - I hope that they can co-exist ok alongside the native ladybird species.