MY FAVOURITE CARTOON AS A BOY..

Sunday, September 30, 2007

'FOLDED-WING' CRANEFLY

Click the image to greatly enlarge it.

There are many species of this glossy, speckled-wing type of Cranefly in the UK, and they are always found with their wings held flat along their back, at rest. Found this one by the boiler vent on the exterior wall and identified it via the excellent bugsandweeds.co.uk site (now a link with "Blue-Grey").

These Craneflies are found all year, and prefer the cover of woodland or hedges...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

NEW ON BLUE-GREY!

I've added a few features to the front page of "Blue-Grey".

Firstly, as will be immediately apparent at the top of the blog's front page, is a live weather forecast for the Reading area, Berkshire, UK. (This is updated automatically, every day).

Second is a list of visitors to the blog from different countries. I've added this purely because I've been titillated (in an ocelot fashion) by recent visitors from Russia and Colombia! The list of countries stands at 22 at present - I'll update this as and when new nations visit "Blue-Grey".

Third is a live news feed. This can be found near the bottom of the front page of the blog. At present it is set to "current wildlife crime" news, but I will change this periodically, to, oh I don't know, maybe "Bovine tuberculosis", "flooding" or "sightsavers"; whatever I fancy at the time...

Fourth, and last, is a Photo of the month image, which can be found right at the bottom of the front page of the blog. I'll use whatever photo I can (that I've taken) for the current month.
At present the best photo I took (in my opinion, anyway) in September, was one of a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, basking on a cotswold cottage wall, in Kemerton, on September 2nd.

Friday, September 28, 2007

LARGE YELLOW UNDERWING


This is the Large Yellow Underwing moth, possibly our most common large moth in the UK. I found it on the exterior of the back door early this morning, took it inside for a photo session and will release it tonight, when it stops raining.
Unlike the Lesser Yellow Underwing, which I found (and posted on) early in the year, this moth has less well-defined oval marks (above its kidney-shaped marks) on its forewings, and exhibits a black mark near the posterior of the forewings, which doesn't quite touch the wing margins. (That will be quite important in terms of identification, if I am ever lucky enough to find and photograph a Lunar Yellow Underwing Moth)! It has bold yellow/orange underwings bordered by a black margin. Visit my photo and post on the Large Red Underwing, and substitute an orangey-yellow colour for the bright red found on that moth's underwings, and you'll get the idea. Both moths use these bright colours as a predator deterrent.

The Large Yellow Underwing is a fat, chunky moth, (as can be seen from the last picture I took). A Noctuid moth (like the Lesser Yellow Underwing and Large Red Underwing (posted on HERE) it feeds on many wild and cultivated plants, often in gardens, and probably is the most likely candidate for the creature which deposited those unidentified eggs on the clover leaf in the "Lower Paddock"...).

It rests with its antennae folded right back under its wings (as below) and when it starts to feel a bit frisky, it unfolds them and starts to quiver its wings rapidly to warm up and start to fly (see second picture).

Its numbers are boosted in the south of the UK by migratory Large Yellow Underwings, but it is fair to say that if you find a large brown moth in your house, chances are it will be this one.





NB. (later). Just in case you were wondering if I did manage to successfully release the little niblet or not - here's proof...

You can just about make out a flash of the moth's yellow underwings in this shot, as it quivered, readying itself for take-off...


I popped the moth under the hide (which is incidentally falling to bits, and will be thrown in next doors skip this week I think); it immediately perked up, uncurled its antennae, took a short stroll, quivering its wings, and flew strongly into the large Lime tree above. Where it was promptly eaten by a blackbird. XXX(Not really).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

HARVEST MOON


After posting about the "Wyrt Moon" a month ago, I thought I'd best mention the most famous monthly moon of all, the Harvest Moon, which has quite literally JUST turned full NOW. (20:45hrs BST to be exact).
I've just taken some photos of it with the phone, from the garden, but to be honest, the phone may take good macro photos, but as for night-time moon photos, its a no go.
The moon does look fantastic tonight.
I'll upload a decent photo of tonights Harvest Moon, tomorrow. (If you see what I mean).

But for now, well... my palms are feeling a tad itchy, and I think I can smell the fresh blood pumping round a sheep, grazing in some fields a mile away. MMmmmmm...!
I'll see you all in the morning.
Mwah ha ha ha haaaaa!



NB. 27/09/07 7am.
Here is a photo (not mine - from "Ambriel", a member of WAB who has taken some great photos of the moon) of the Harvest Moon, last night, (from Scotland). Ambriel's site can be found at http://www.the-carradale-goat.co.uk/
Incredibly bright, full, and still so, in the lower western sky this morning.



No Neil Young comments please.

DRAGONFLY WING

I found this Dragonfly wing on a little walk along by the Caversham Lock today. I'm not sure which species it belongs to, but it is an anterior wing of a Dragonfly in case you were at all interested. Apologies for the slightly battered, dirty appearance of the wing, although I do think it still looks amazingly intricate with its veins and membranes intact.

Wonderful things, Dragonfly wings.

Four of them, capable of giving the adult Dragonfly incredible manoeuvrability and speed - between 20 and 38mph if scientific experiments are to be believed. That (as my Uncle has said, and I quote), is virtually supersonic considering their size.

Dragonflies can travel vast distances in a day also - up to 85 miles in some cases, and DO eat mozzies (unlike the Crane-Fly posted on below) together with all manner of other flying insects.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CRANE-FLY

More commonly known round these 'ere parrz as the "Daddy Long Legs", scientific name of Tipula paludosa, the second most feared spindly creature to enter our houses, I suppose, after the House Spider.

Other common names have been applied to the Crane-Fly, especially in North America, including, mosquito hawks, mosquito eaters (or skeeter eaters) (they do NOT eat mozzies though) , gallinippers, gollywhoppers, and jimmy spinners. NB. I should point out here, that Americans call (what we call) Harvestman (arachnids), "Daddy Long Legs". I think thats correct. I'm sure my sister will correct me if I'm wrong.

I was just mentioning in my previous post how Daddy Long Legs are emerging later than normal, and I put it down to a lack of rain in the past few weeks. It turns out that this would be a factor, but once again, a driving force, possibly the significant driving force behind the late emergence of our autumn Craneflies is.... you've guessed it - Climate Change. (NB. Note how Climate change has no trademark - unlike Global Warming TM).

We have 350 species of Crane Fly here in the UK, present most of the warmer months, though Tipula paludosa is our most encountered Crane-Fly, emerging en masse around October time.
There are approximately 14,000 species of Crane-Fly worldwide though, making this family the most numerous (in terms of species numbers) family of True Flies, (order Diptera).
When I say emerging, the adults only live for a few days - most of the Crane-Fly's life cycle is spent underground, nibbling grass roots as the infamous "Leatherjackets".



This one I photographed in the lower paddock, resting just an inch or two from my Diadem (Cross) Spider's orb web.
Crazy fool.

ALL CHANGE...

Just a few thoughts regarding the impending change of season - yes really, the (cough cough) change of season!

As you know, my Swifts left early this year (10th August roughly), 6 weeks ago. I've had a few reports of Swallows and House Martins still about. I've seen the odd one or two, but its fair to say that although there will be reports of the odd one or two of these species for a month or two yet, the majority have left northern and middle UK and the HUGE majority will leave the south in the next 2 or 3 weeks.
I do know of a couple of reports of Blue Tits checking out nest boxes in the past few days, not for nesting I assume, but for roosting purposes over the harsher season. I hope all your nest boxes are cleared out and blow torched (to rid them of lice and other parasites). One of our chicks (in full adult plumage now, and looking very dandy) has been checking out our seed feeder.
The Common Terns have left the river Thames as have the Grey Wagtails.

Ladybird (larvae) at least are very short in numbers, apart from the late breeding Harlequin larvae, and Crane Flies are (very slowly due to the previous month being quite dry) appearing at the moment.
There are a few large Dragonflies still hawking, but their numbers will dwindle dramatically soon.
The Male House Spiders are very much beginning their mating prowls now, and I know Foxes are beginning to give their winter screams at night.

The Horse Chestnut Trees are looking very withered and brown - the high winds (11 mini tornadoes reported in Britain yesterday) spilling conkers all over the ground.

The summer triangle (3 stars in the night sky I so appreciate seeing) are slipping away, and The constellation of Orion the hunter is now slowly taking up its winter position in the south sky. Orion is rising at dawn at the moment, you'll know when we're in the midst of winter when Orion will be visible, low in the southern sky at 7pm!

NB. (later). I've just read the above and I suppose it could be taken to be a little depressing? Well, those that know me do appreciate (I'm sure) that I'm more of a summer person than anything else. I was once asked to name anything I could which was good about winter. All I could come up with was "stews"!

This is not to say however, that there are lots of things I suppose to look forward to and appreciate about autumn and winter. The amazing colours of leaves during autumn, the rolling mists, the "mellow fruitfulness", the incredible clarity of the sky on a cold, crisp morning, frost lining the blades of grass and dare I... snow?!!
It would also seem from my comment above that everything is leaving us for the months ahead.
Well, not so, as I'm sure you're aware. Exactly now, there will be vast numbers of wildfowl, ducks, geese and waders winging their way to our shores, estuaries and inland bodies of water, not to mention large numbers of northern passerines and Scandanavian Thrushes such as Redwing and Fieldfare flocking here.

Anna and I are very much looking forward to erecting a makeshift birdtable of sorts, to go alongside our Niger seed feeder, to see what gems we can attract to our tiny wee garden.

Finally, soon, pretty soon anyway, it will be possible for us to "take tea" outside again, without sitting in a cloud of mosquitos! Now that will make the colder months worth it, eh?

Monday, September 24, 2007

CHANGE TO VIDEO(2)

For your information, I've changed the video on the title page of "Blue-Grey" from the Stoat playing with a rabbit, to a video of a domestic? cat at its most vicious. I suppose this may be why some people are scared of cats...
Turn the volume up on your computer, but I warn you,

watch the video from behind a chair!

By the way-
At the last count, I think "Blue-Grey" has had over 150 individual visitors from all over the world since the 14th of this month. New visitors have come from Iceland, Latvia, Sweden, New Zealand, Algeria and Malaysia.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD FORMS ITS SPOTS...

This is not a ladybird from the pupa that I posted on "Blue-Grey" a week or so ago, but another one that I found on the rear of one of our garden recliner chairs yesterday.

It went through the process of eclosure (hatching to you and me), last night sometime - possibly very early this morning, and emerged a plain orange colour with very little marking indeed.

Over a period of 7 hours, it stayed by its pupal case, hardened up and formed its spots as can be seen by the series of photos below.

This is how all Ladybird species form their spots. They emerge from their pupal cases without markings, and develop them over their first day as an adult...

NB. After a little research I have discovered that most of our native species of Ladybirds should pretty well all be in adult form by now, having one generation per year. This year seems pretty strange anyway, as there are some of our native Ladybirds that are still in larval or pupal form at the moment. Whether they survive the winter is a tad doubtful.

Harlequin Ladybirds however, (not native remember) have up to 3 generations per year (another reason why they may well become problematic for our British fauna), and the Harlequin Ladybird can still be found in larval and pupal forms (like the recent photos on "Blue-Grey") all over Britain, as far north as Edinburgh.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

LILY BEETLE

Click to enlarge

A real problem to gardeners in Britain these days, a non native species which like many other insects is increasing its range north.


I found this very destructive pest a day ago in the lower paddock, but couldn't get a decent shot. I have done tonight though.


The Lily Beetle was first noticed in the south of England in the 1940s and has now got as far north as Scotland.


A beautiful scarlet insect (sometimes called the Scarlet Lily Beetle or Asiatic Lily Beetle) with a destructive nature, no natural predators in the UK (I think, apart from parasites possibly) and distinctive larvae which cover themselves in their own excrement to appear to be a bird dropping to any possible predators! See photo (not mine) below.

Poke one and it may well emit a high pitched shriek - a warning to other beetles possibly?
Try it!

LIVING ON THE EDGE

You like to take risks? You like to live life on the edge? You think so, eh?!

You've got nothing on the mole that made this molehill!


Moles don't like water. They don't even like it when their tunnels flood. Who does?

There were a few of these molehills that we saw on the bank of the Thames last night, probably made by the same mole.

For your information, the mole is actually a creature of the woodland. If you, on your travels, witness molehills in fields, or on your lawn - what you are actually seeing is the handywork of an outcast mole, a mole looking to establish (eventually) its woodland territory, a nomadic mole, a young mole, a mole way down the mole pecking order.

All moles want to be in the wood.
Oh to be a dominant mole.**






**Oh to be a dominant mole.
You don't get to hear that sentence too often...

PLUME MOTH


I got up early this morning and found this Plume Moth (Emmelina monodactyla) resting on the internal kitchen wall. Only the outer third of its wings are divided into plumes, but you'll need a magnifying glass to see that I expect, they look solid at a glance!

This is a very common moth in the UK, it can be found all year round (but dormant in winter), loves hedgerows, and its favourite foodplant is Bindweed. Not surprising then that I've found one - we are constantly cutting back the rampant Bindweed in the back garden.

You'll have seen this moth I'm sure, although their defence strategy relies on NOT being seen - their wings are rolled up at rest, so that to passing predators they resemble a bit of dried grass.

Friday, September 21, 2007

TURNIP SAWFLY LARVA(E)


I found this in the lower paddock yesterday evening, and it had me very confused. It looks very much like a caterpillar doesn't it, and that's exactly what I thought it was (they were, there were two) at first.


I was pretty sure I'd never seen a caterpillar like this before though, and my field-guide didn't help, so I posted a photo on the WAB site.


Always very helpful, I was quickly told it was a Sawfly larva, NOT a caterpillar, although the WAB mamber who told me that couldn't tell me what species of sawfly it belonged to.




I have taken photos of mating sawflies in the garden, click HERE, but I'm not convinced it's this species I'm looking for.




I think my sawfly larva is a TURNIP SAWFLY LARVA (or Coleseed sawfly larva), Athalia rosae. You can identify it by its black colour (when it nears adulthood), with a grey/olive green underside. Mine were feeding on my Field Mustard plant, but I'm sure you'll see them on Oilseed Rape, should you care to look...


This was considered to be a massive pest a hundred years ago, especially for turnip and brassicae growers. It was thought to have been pretty well eradicated until the 1940s, but recently it seems they are once again on the increase, sometimes swarming and mating in vast numbers.




One doesn't need turnips in the garden to have turnip sawfly larvae. They are voracious feeders on Oil Seed Rape also, (getting to be a real problem) and if conditions are right, they'll turn up anywhere.


My larvae seemed distinctly keen on my Field Mustard Plant in the lower paddock!


NB. (Later). After a little research on the web about Turnip Sawfy (larvae) it seems after we eradicated them, it was in France that they reappeared first. They then flew over the channel and have now become a problem again in the southeast of England especially.


There you go.

Blame the French. As always...!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BLUE-GREY GOES "LAST"

I've added a link to "Blue-Grey", to increase my enjoyment of my blog, and maybe yours too?
If you are spending any time on "Blue-Grey" (or the web in general for that matter), right click on the LAST FM link on "Blue-Grey" before doing anything else.

NB. You'll have to RIGHT CLICK on the LAST FM link to open it in a new window or tab, otherwise you'll lose "Blue-Grey", and you wouldn't want that, I hope!

Last FM is like having your own personal radio station going on in the background whilst you read "Blue-Grey" or any other site on the web.
Click on it and you'll see what I mean about it being personal. Tailor it to your tastes, Rock, Funk, Ska, Reggae, 80's pop, Motown, Folk, Punk, Classical. It's completely up to you.

Just type in the name of one of your favourite bands or artists and Last FM will play tracks from that and other similar artists. The only drawback is that to start with, Last FM decides which artists / bands are similar to your original suggestion. Music snobs will also pooh-pooh it because one does not get to hear the "story of an album" etc...
Delve a little deeper into the site though, and it becomes clear that eventually YOU choose the music.
All this without annoying DJs telling you what they had for breakfast or adverts.

There it is.
You can now enjoy "Blue-Grey" listening to whatever background music you choose!
Might I suggest NOT cranking up "similar bands to Zodiac Mindwarp" in the office though...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GLOBAL DOMINATION OF BLUE-GREY!

Still they come.
From all over the world.
Recent visitors to "Blue-Grey" include Ghana, Taipei (Taiwan), Belgium, Spain, Paris (of course) and even the Russian Federation!
Should I be scared yet?

HARLEQUIN CHANGING

Not MORE Harlequin-related posts?!
I'm afraid so.





You might remember this....



taken over 6 days ago now.



Well, that particular Harlequin has hardly moved since. I had a sneaky feeling something like this was about to happen...

The Larva after 6 days of sitting on our kitchen wall, is now forming its pupa. It will very soon (if everything goes to plan) eclose, (hatch) and fly away.
Should I crush it betwixt thumb and forefinger, it is a pest after all?
I don't think so.
Watch this space...





NB. A day later (19/09/07), and the pupa has turned its normal black colour and really hardened up. Looky here -




NB. 17 days later (today) , this Harlequin underwent "eclosure". (Hatching).


It was a glorious day today, the week's weather looks very settled at present. (Pity I'm on nights I suppose - I'm in bed most of the day!). Anna noticed this Harlequin had left its pupal shell today, in the warm weather, 16 days after it formed its pupa, and 23 after it chose a spot on the wall to undergo its tranformation.


NB. There are still Harlequins all over the garden - pupae, some larvae and adults. I saw a "target"** coloured Harlequin in the Lower Paddock for the first time today, but didn't manage to get a shot. I will try again if I see it again. ** Harlequins are quite variable in their markings - this one is basically black with 2 red and black RAF Bullseyes on its elytra. You'll see what I mean when I grab a shot and make a new post, with any luck...

BLUEBOTTLE

Nothing particularly special about this. Maybe "Blue-Grey" has fully evolved from a site on which I post about things that interest me, to a comprehensive (getting there anyway) blog on UK wildlife identification and sitings. I might have to re-think the whole point of the blog...

Annnyyway.

This is the Bluebottle fly. Latin name of Caliphora vomitoria! (From its habit of throwing up on foodstuffs to soften it up ready for eating).
Unlike the Greenbottle see earlier post), this WILL (and likes to) get inside your house and feed on any meats etc... it can find. Bluebottles are very common in the summer months, but do appear in the winter, and can often be found warming themselves on tree trunks in the winter sunshine.

It was noticeably colder last night than its been for some months - this fly was doing just that - warming itself on the back gate.

Bluer than the Flesh fly (without the checkerboard markings on its thorax), bluer than the Greenbottle though often less metallic, hairier and less striking silver jowels.

I caught one in the kitchen t'other day, trying to infiltrate a couple of nice pieces of Haddock I had de-frosting under a tea towel.

Get your thieving snout out!

That's your Bluebottle.

AN END TO THE UNIDENTIFIED LARVAE...

Yes. I've posted more than my fair share of Harlequin Ladybird larvae photos on "Blue-Grey", but I wanted to introduce you to this particular villainous individual, for it is this larave that I am pretty sure has munched all of my unidentified larvae, that I saw hatch from eggs - HERE.




One day they were all eating their Clover leaf, the next, they were all gone - and this fat Harlequin Ladybird larva was the ONLY thing on their leaf (pictured above).
Smoking a tiny cigarette and putting its 6 feet up....

NB. 19/09/07 After much research I have come to the conclusion that the undentified eggs and larvae on this Clover leaf did in fact come from a moth. I cannot identify the species, but a type of NOCTUID moth looks likely - ie a Yellow, Copper or Red Underwing etc...

A real shame they died...

ICHNEUMON WASP

I've wanted to get a photo of one of these ALL summer. They are amazing looking insects when adult, and on the hunt.

Long and evil-looking, a black (or dark) body and bright orange (when adult) legs, with a huge ovipositor at the rear.
They do not sit still for long though - always twitching, moving quickly and flying far too quickly for me to get a decent shot.

This is the Ichneumon wasp, of which there are many species in the UK. I think this species is Pimpla hypochondriaca.

I've seen them on and off all summer, but never seen one sit still. Until now.
Unfortunately for me, this individual is probably the most dowdy example I've seen. Very often the legs of this Ichneumon are very bright orange - this one has dull orange legs.
Never mind. I managed to sneak up on her before the sun had warmed her up sufficiently to move off.

Most ichneumons are endoparasites of Lepidopteral pupae, or to put it a different way, they parasitise the inside (endo) of moth and butterfly pupae, or grubs.
The very long ovipositor( no thicker than a human hair really) is inserted needle-like often through the bark of a tree, into the pupa, and the eggs are laid inside the victim.
Just to make sure everything goes to plan, the female ichneumon also injects venom into the host also, which interferes with the immune system of the pupa.
The poor moth or butterfly pupa doesn't stand a chance!

You may have seen dried up, open or yellow fluffy pupae under your gutters. This is the work of an ichneumon. The larvae of the wasp hatch, and eat the moth or butterfly pupa from the inside out.

Fascinating insects, and strangely beautiful, in (like I've already said), an evil way...


MIRID BUG (3)

Got home from work about an hour ago- still no photos of any hedgehogs I'm afraid! I thought I'd make do with a little safar around the lower paddock to see what I could see.

I'm glad I did! Not only did I manage to photograph a nice Green Shieldbug nymph (which I've posted on my post on Green Shielbugs (April 17th 2007)-HERE, I saw a few other little insects which I'll briefly post on here (and above).



The first of these is another species of Mirid - this one being (I think), the Lucerne Bug. Look for the very distinctive pale cuneus (V shaped), 2 dark pronotal spots (not visible here) and if you have the eyes of a hawk, very spiny tibia! It is relatively common, even in gardens, and tends to feed mainly on Lucerne (obviously) and Clover (of which the Lower Paddock has masses...).








NB. I suppose there is a possibility that this Mirid could be Calocoris roseomaculatus (no common name) which looks very similar to the Lucerne Bug, but with rosy markings on its wings. I may get corrected by a real entomology expert on this...

NB. 25/10/07 After a month or so of casual research, it turns out this could be the Tarnished Plant Bug, Hippodamia variegata. Very confusing, these Mirid Bugs!

Monday, September 17, 2007

CHANGE TO VIDEO(1)

Not many votes yet. Just the one in fact, in favour.

I thought I'd change the video this morning for the one I'm sure you've just watched.
Impressed?
Horrified?
Startled? (Like a Leveret)!

NB. You will notice that the rabbit getting slowly killed by the stoat (just nature being nature, lets face it) in the video is your staaan'ard grey-brown rabbit. In case you were wondering, Black Rabbits, as folklore would have it, are never touched by stoats. One particular (quite spooky) legend describes a Black Rabbit killing and eating a fox! So no worries on my part, posting videos of stoats playing with dying rabbits...

This post also gives anybody a forum in which to make a comment relevant to the current video, should they be too horrified with the stoat, and so wish to voice any opinions as such.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

HEDGEHOG (2)

I found a VERY noisy Hedgehog last night. Only 40 yards or so from the exact location where THIS was found, on July 25th this year, before the floods and before we went to Kephalonia.
Maybe its the same individual?

I heard the little hog in the dark last night and went over to investigate. When I found him (her?) I whipped out my phone and attempted to take its photo. Unfortunately, my phone's camera settings were on landscape, no flash and infinite focus - NOT what I wanted.
As I struggled to get the settings right, the little blighter raised itself up on its stubby little pink legs and shot aross the concrete where I found it, right over my feet, and into a thick bush, where it continued to snuffle around noisily, out f the way of the strange giant with his one neon-glowing hand. (Thats my phone by the way. I haven't got a strange neon-glowing hand- though... thinking about it... I'd like one)!

I've heard and or seen this noisy little speedster for the past 2 nights now. I want its photo. I know where it lives....

Watch this space.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

NEW ADDITIONS TO "BLUE-GREY"

The more astute amongst you might have noticed that there have been some changes recently over at "Blue-Grey Towers".

I have recently put a web counter on the blog, to see how many individual visitors "Blue-Grey" gets, and where on this fine, fine, blue planet of ours these grey people come from.
It has been running for 2 days now, and already (since I last looked anyway), "Blue-Grey" has had over 40 visits from all over the world.

All over the world? Yes. Unbelievable eh?!
I guess when you stop to think about it for more than a second, it's not really that surprising. Our planet is pretty small really - the internet has a good chunk of it tied up. I've had visits from Chicago (of course), Norway, Nova Scotia, California, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Trinidad and Tobago, Saskatchewan and Darwin, in the northern territories of Australia. Not to mention all over the UK.

The second big change is the video clips found on the title page, to be watched in a slump of almost terminal boredom I expect. Because primarily "Blue-Grey" is a diary, and a wildlife diary in the main, if not a general visual diary, I'm not too sure how this will go down with regular "Blue-Grey" visitors.

That is why I've popped a poll up beneath the videos. Do, please take part in the poll (no multiple entries though please). If the majority opinion is in favour of keeping the videos, then they'll stay.
I should tell you that they'll vary from week to week (mainly between wildlife videos and my favourite comedians I suppose - I haven't really thought much further than that just yet)... and I may... I may just give you a choice of an upcoming selection, (in a future poll).

You know. What 4 clips do YOU want to see on next week's video selection. Pick one:

a) Stoats and Weasels
b) Birds of Prey
c) African game animals
d) Exotic fish
e) Les Dawson clips at his piano.

You'll see the first topic of video I selected was just 4 little sketches from one of my favourite comedians, Bill Bailey.


If, however, I get a big thumbs down from the poll, the videos will disappear. It would be Coytuns for the videos. Poymanently.

So. There you have it. You have no choice with me spying on you, all over the world, but you DO with the videos. Vote to keep them. Vote to lose them.

Friday, September 14, 2007

NOCTURNAL GROUNDED SQUAB?

I heard some rustling in some dead autumn leaves, early this morning, in the pitch black, and was slightly confused.

A rat was my first guess, but that would have scarpered. A Blackbird** was my second guess, but as my mother will tell you, should you care to ask, a Blackbird will make FAR more noise.

So, I wandered over, phone (not camera) in hand, and slowwwwly, carefully..... took the rustler's photo. With a flash!



Well, I could just about make out the sad, individual bird's silhouette before taking the picture, but couldn't make out whether it was a Collared Dove, a Stock Dove or a Woodpigeon.

I know its not the first option after looking at the photo, and I know its a young pigeon or dove of sorts. An unfledged pigeon (less than 30 days old or so) could be called a "Squab", (as can a pigeon bred for eating). This looks like it has fledged. So maybe it isn't strictly a squab, but as it very clearly has not fledged particularly well, I'll call it a "Squab" anyway.

I would have said with some certainty that it is a young Woodpigeon (not old enough for its white collar yet), but for the fact I saw 2 adult Stock Doves in exactly the same place (the first I'd ever positively identified) here.

I have no idea what it is doing on the ground either. It looks in good shape. Its wings do not appear to be damaged. Its a mystery.

I hope to check on it again, sometime this morning....
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** In my experience, if one is walking though woodland, and hears a rustle in some leaves nearby, 90% of the time (in this part of the world anyway), its a Blackbird or a Grey Squirrel. 10% of the time it's something else, and as for the other 12% - it's a very lost, confused statistician...

NB. (A little later). Pretty convinced this is a young Woodpigeon after seeing it in the daylight. In some distress I think, although I still know not why - it still looks in reasonable health to me...

Maybe a fox or rat will get it tonight...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

VINE WEEVIL

On 22nd May this year, just as the weather had turned into a soggy mess (for the next 3 months, but we didn't know that at the time), I found and photographed a Weevil that I never really managed to identify to species level. That post can be found here.

This morning I've found another, on the same wall (the exterior kitchen wall), although Anna and I did see it in the gloom last night also.




This is most definitely a Vine Weevil. I still think there are key anatomical differences between today's Weevil and the one I found in May. Today's Vine Weevil is a large species that is a real pest to gardeners nationwide. The adults (like this one) eats shoots and leaves (no panda jokes here please) but it is the larvae that cause the most damage by destroying roots of garden plants and vegetables.

There are MANY different species -just " Vine Weevil" will suffice here I think, and you can be sure that I removed it from the wall and flung it over the back fence. It'll be back, I'm sure!


HARLEQUIN LADYBIRD LARVA(E) 2

This recent warm weather seems to have brought out a few Harlequin Ladybird larvae. I found one crawling on my arm yesterday in t' garden, and found two (more?) this morning.

I have photographed these two, as they are quite large individuals and give a good idea of what to look for when identifying this evil little insect larva.

My original post (July 3rd 2007) on the Harlequin Ladybird larva can be found by clicking THIS.

THE LOWER PADDOCK

Our Cross (or Garden or Diadem) Spider has taken to sitting on a leaf, out of her beautiful orb web, in wait for an aphid or midge to become entrapped therein. So I thought I'd take one last shot of her, showing her beautiful cross, markings and spined legs so well.



This is relatively unusual for a Cross Spider. They are normally found sitting right in the middle of their orb webs. Our spider is behaving more like a Walnut Spider in a way. Hiding and ambushing its prey once it feels the vibrations on its silk of the struggling insect...


The insect larvae (moth caterpillars? sawfly larvae? - I still don't know) have all taken up residence on the underside of the Red Clover leaf, (on which they were born), to shelter from the warm sun. I hope they don't move much further, so I can watch them grow bigger and positively identify them.

We've also noted that now, there are two NEW Maris Piper potato plants growing in amongst the other wild plants in the Paddock.
I let the main potato plants flower and seed before I dug 'em up, but I thought I'd got rid of all the seed pods. Not so, obviously.
The strange thing about our "Paddock Maris Piper plants" is that they are both exhibiting completely yellow flowers (usually the case for these vegetables). Our original plants however, all had purple and yellow flowers?!
Must be something to do with genetics I guess.
Pity Mendel isn't still around, or I'd give him a bell and ask him what the hell is going on...













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NB. 17/09/07. After the blustery winds of yesterday (sunday), our Diadem spider in the paddock spent last night rebuilding her very damaged web.

This morning I've seen she's been rewarded with a fantastic breakfast of Daddy-Long-Legs. Good work!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HAVE THEY ALL GONE?

Well now. My wonderful Swifts left middle England when I was in Greece, but we've had House Martins and Swallows until recently.
Maybe not now though.
I don't think I've seen them for a day or two, but as I have a (rare) day orf today, I'd like to wander down to the river, in this great weather, to see if any are about.

Four years ago (if I remember correctly) when I was baking for a living (there was a role to fill, and I did knead the dough.... (sorry)), I took the very last week in September as holiday and packed my rucksack and a tent and took the "Tarka-Line" to north Devon, for a bit of "me time" by the sea.
All the Swallows, Martins and Swifts had left south Buckinghamshire (where I was living at the time) by then, but I clearly remember dreaming about them, the night before I set off to Devon.
Of course, as soon as I got to a campsite on the north Devon coast, I was overjoyed to see many Swallows and Martins STILL in the UK, in the southwest. My dream had come true!
The weather was incredible that week - 28/82 all week, and I don't think I saw a single cloud.
I did see some wonderful things during my sojourn at Woolacombe, four years ago (although I have been many times) - Grey Seals, Gannets, Ravens and a few Peregrines, but I most enjoyed seeing the late Swallows that time at least, fattening up furiously, before their long voyage to Africa.

I'm sure the Swallows and Martins will be in Devon now (and other counties in the south of the UK), but I think they've left me here!
I'll let you know of course, if I see any on my meanderings around the river today...
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Right you are.
Just got back (after a couple of hours).
I saw one House Martin. So they ARE still around.
There may have been more I suppose, but I'm cooking tea tonight, so I spent a lot of the time on my walk, wandering down the aisles in a supermarket, "umming and arring".
Not many House Martins in there....

EGGS BECOME LARVAE...

6 days ago I let readers of "Blue-Grey" know that I'd discovered a group of hundreds of (as then and STILL now) unidentified insect eggs on a Red Clover Leaf in the 6'square "Lower Paddock".
Breaking (quite literally) news can be found by clicking HERE...



Also, I've uploaded another photo of an even smaller Dock Leaf Bug nymph, which can be found on the original post, HERE...


Monday, September 10, 2007

MACKEREL SKY

Taken this morning, from t' garden.

As weather lore would have it -

"Mackerel sky, mackerel sky, never long wet, never long dry".

I won't bore you with the exact meteorological details, save to say Mackerel sky is, in fact, an unstable "Altocumulus" layer of cloud.
I happen to think the Mackerel is one of the most beautiful fish in the sea - to look at obviously, and then to eat!

After a good few days (a week or more now?) of fine, warm, dry weather, is it possible the weather is on the turn? Will we get a drop of rain in the next few days? NO! Not if the BBC weather forecast I've just watched is accurate! It should remain dry here for most of this week, if not all!
The Cloud formation here this morning, is the remnants of the cloud that produced much rain in Scotland yetsterday and has simply moved south overnight.

Well, its an interesting sky to look at, anyway...


NB. If you are viewing "Blue-Grey" on a LAPTOP (rather than a PC), I suggest you lean your screen back a few degrees (to maybe as much as 140 degrees!) whilst looking at the photo above - it should help you appreciate the contrasts in the sky this morning.
If you are viewing on a PC, get down on the floor (or something) and look again at the photo. That should er... ahem... help.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

THE DESERTED SEED FEEDER

On Monday August 20th, I was pleased to announce that a pair of Goldfinches had returned to their feeder at the bottom of the garden - I hadn't seen them for 3 weeks before that (although, to be fair, we had been in Kephalonia for two of those weeks, watching the Goldfinches out there).
Well, they did return, and I think I've seen them (only) once since, but not for two weeks or so now.
This, as the fat, permed, googly-eyed Tom Jones might say, is not unusual.
In common with many feeders and bird tables nationwide (and menioned on the WAB site recently, again), our feeder has temporarily been left by the finches, as the autumn brings them a veritable bounty of naturally occurring, wild seeds and fruits.
Why have farmed salmon when one can have wild?
They'll be back.
In numbers I expect, as their wild food sources are depleted...
Watch this space.


NB. 9/9/07: (8am). There is evidence of a lot of feeding activity at the feeder this morning. The level of seeds has decreased by an inch or so. I think the Goldfinches returned - whilst I was watching the Rugby World Cup, sorry, taking phone calls, at work, yesterday afternoon.

NB. 24/9/07. Still no activity at the feeder. The "evidence" above (on the 9th September) was merely Anna upturning the feeder, trying to mix the NIger seeds and the Sunflower Hearts to give the absent finches more choice.
I'm not convinced they've been back more than once since we went to Kephalonia, and that was 6 or 7 weeks ago....
Come on my beauties!
Come back!

Friday, September 07, 2007

THE HOUSE SPIDER

Apologies already (to my sisters) for posting about spiders AGAIN. Especially this one - Tegenaria domestica- The House spider. (NB. I originally thought this was T.gigantea/duellica (the GIANT House Spider). Now (9/9/07) I think not. Our spider is T.domestica for sure...)


Whilst posting on Cross or Garden (or Diadem for that matter) Spiders in the last post, I thought about writing a few words on House Spiders, because its EXACTLY this time of year that you can expect to come across a few, racing across the sitting room floor, or trapped in the bath.

No need to predict them though - this fat boy turned up on our kitchen wall tonight!


I apologise for the poor quality of photos - the camera phone doesn't like white walls and close up of dark objects on them at night. I do hope you can see the spider's two main eyes caught in the flash in the third photo!





This, as is usually the case, is the MALE House Spider. One can tell by looking at his larger palps than the female. The palps are the 'boxing gloves' at the front of the spider - look at the second photo again.

Male spiders wave their larger palps (boxing gloves) at the larger (body size) female in a bid to woo her. If he didn't arse about, waving these palps, she'd probably mistake him for prey, and eat him before he got a chance to mate. Not good eh? She WILL eat him anyway, after he has done the job, and died naturally.
There are some spiders species as I'm sure you know, in which the female eats the male alive, immediately proceeding sex. At least the males die happy though!

When wooed, the male passes (pulls really, using silk strands) sperm into the bulb of his palps which is then, ahem, presented to the female.
How's that for kinky copulation?!

Around this time of year, male Tegenaria individuals are on the hunt for a mate, be they domestica or duellica species. Contrary to popular? myths, they do NOT climb up into the bath from the plug-hole, but invariably crawl into the house via an open window (look at your exterior walls on a late summer evening - they'll be there waiting for you to open a window!!!) and fall into the tub.

I'm not keen on overly large House Spiders. But I do find them fascinating. They are so bloody alien!

---They have eight eyes. (or most do anyway).

---They have eight HYRAULICALLY POWERED legs.
Anything more "tv sci-fi" alien than that?!

---The hydraulic fluid which powers their legs is blood, but not any old blood....

BLUE / GREEN BLOOD! (cyanoglobin not haemoglobin).

---Not to mention their strange mating procedures!





A bit of trivia for you regarding the Giant House Spider.

Tegenaria duellica (formerly T.gigantea), the Giant House Spider (a very close relation - I thought ours was one until today, 9/9/07) is nearly confined to extreme NW Europe - pretty well France and the UK really, although someone went and introduced it to Vancouver and parts of N.America also - where it does seem to be doing ok.

It did hold the record for being the FASTEST SPIDER IN THE WORLD (1.17mph!) until 1987. (It actually featured in the Guinness Book of Records). Since then, that title has been given to some "African Sun Spiders" (bleeding Johnny Foreigners etc... etc...), but as, strictly speaking these spiders aren't actually spiders at all, (like scorpions they are a different type of arachnids), you can STILL, quite correctly, call this spider (look at it closely though - or you may mistake it like me) racing along your skirting board right now, the fastest in the world.
You can run, but you can't hide....



NB. 8/9/07

This spider doesn't seem to be in a hurry to leave. So I took some MORE photos of him! Apologies for the slightly blurred photographs again. The REALLY close up photograph of our spider's face was taken with the camera phone literally 1" away from the little bugger. You can make out a good few of its eight eyes in that shot...


Sleep well. Mwah ah ah ah aaaaah....!

CROSS SPIDER




The spiderlings that I posted about HERE, (on April 25th 2007), have now all grown up and making good orb webs themselves.


This one has been catching flies over the Lower Paddock for two days or so now.


You can see why these beautiful Garden or Cross Spiders are so named by looking at the second photo. A white cross can relatively clearly be seen on the spider's back.


Beautiful, stripey spiders these,which make the most intricate orb webs in a matter of minutes - watch one if you can - its fascinating - they are mathematical geniuses! BY FAR the most encountered spider by people in their gardens in the UK also.
NB. 10/9/07 Another photo, taken of the same spider, which shows the cross on its back a little better I think.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

FOREST BUG Vs SPIDERS

Its obviously a 'bug time of year'.

A large Bug of some description caught my attention 20' away whilst I was on the phone to someone at the office a few minutes ago.

After the phonecall ended, I turned up the volume of the tv again to get the full majesty of Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma at Central Park (the BBC are doing a tribute programme tonight, as the big boy died today); I walked to the window (5th floor) and saw that a nice, large, adult Forest Bug was caught in a spiders web on the outside of the office window.

You'll have to take my word for it regarding how I know it was a Forest Bug - oh go on... , if you see a large Bug (shield bug shape), coloured bottle green, with very pronounced stripes (yellow and bottle green) on the anterior margins of its shield, an overhanging wing point (ie not covered by the shell, and the bug looks like it is carrying an old yoke, then you are looking at a Forest Bug. (My favourite bug of all, I think).

Click HERE to return to my original post on a Forest Bug (nymph) to see what I mean about the coloured stripes at the margins of the Forest Bug's shield... (made on May 29th 2007)

The Forest Bug struggled a little, which drew the attention of a small Bridge Spider. This raced down a strand of silk and raced back up again! The prey was bigger than it AND effectively covered in armour plating AND would taste foul!



All this movement drew the attention of a much larger Bridge Spider, which at least tried to have a go at the Bug. It didn't last long though, the large spider soon gave up and retreated to its hidey hole, whereas the Forest Bug, well that, after a little more frantic struggling, dropped away from the web, and probably flew well, well away...!



(Not much going on phone-wise tonight, you'll correctly assume...!)

Apologies for the poor quality photos - taken from inside (t'other side of thick, smoked glass from the Bug), at dusk!