Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The birds and the bees (and the butterflies)

I've got the week off work so I've been able to spend more time out on the marshes after spending the weekend at Birdfair.
Birdfair was excellent; an almost non-stop meeting of friends old and new including being introduced to someone with whom it turned out I'd shared the same minibus trip to see a Ross's Gull in Thurso in 1984.
Back home the number of butterflies has been remarkable. The fleabane on one of our meadows, in a flower-rich area we keep the livestock out of until about now, has put on an impressive display this year and has attracted seemingly hundreds of butterflies.

The majority are Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells but the highlight was at least 2 Clouded Yellows:

I also saw 2 more of these usually scarce butterflies on thistles on a neighbouring marsh and yet another flew through  the garden yesterday afternoon. With numerous other reports along the coast there seems to have been a major arrival of them. Encouragingly the first Common Blues of the year were also out on the fleabane having been worryingly absent up to now.

And there were also a few Small Coppers and Painted Ladies:

There has been a trickle of birds moving through. A sub-singing Willow Warbler was the first since the spring and a juvenile Cuckoo flew across the garden pursued by an agitated Jackdaw. Whitethroats and Blackcaps have joined the Blackbirds in the bird-cherries. This morning a small kettle of raptors, 2 Marsh Harriers and 3 Buzzards, took advantage of a rising thermal to soar high in to the sky and were briefly joined by a Hobby. The Yellow Wagtail, that last week was in the unusual habitat of the patio, today chose to sit on top of our Holly tree.
Yesterday we finally managed to get our wool to the haulier for onward delivery to the British Wool Board depot atStamford. The sheep were sheared in June but a small group were sheared in February and a queen White-tailed Bumblebee decided in the early spring that the bag I had placed their wool in was the ideal site for a nest. With wool now attracting a better price (80p/kg, so still not brilliant) I didn't want to leave behind the 30kg or so of wool this bag contained so all the wool had to wait. The nest was finally abandoned last week so the nest could be investigated and the wool could at last be sorted and packed and sewed into an official wool sheet.

The nest is just above the bottom handle. This is it close up:

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