Late Summer Nectar Source.

Silloueete Fly Towards the end of summer insects may be finding it hard to find a source of nectar but at the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve there is a late flowering plant that will provide a good source of nectar,  Broad-leaved Ragwort.

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Broad-leaved Ragwort

The bright yellow flowers of the Broad-leaved Ragwort plant attract insects and butterflies particulary Hoverflies.

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A Hoverfly

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A Hoverfly living up to it’s name

The Broad-leaved Ragwort isn’t as prolific as Common Ragwort. Although there is a good showing of this plant it doesn’t spread uncontrollable.

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A good showing of Ragwort in front of Rothchilds bungalow

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Streaks Ahead.

Butterfly silhoueete There are a group of butterflies in the UK called Hairstreaks. Here in Cambridgeshire  I’m lucky enough to live within a few miles of four Hairstreak species; Black-letter Hairstreak, Purple Hairstreak, White-letter Hairstreak and Green Hairstreak.

Four Hairstreaks
Black-letter, Purple, White-letter and Green Hairstreaks

As you can see from the above photograph the Black-letter, Purple and White-letter hairstreaks all  have similar markings.

Butterfly side silhoueete Black-letter Hairstreak
Wing Span: 37mm.
Caterpillar: Mid April to Mid May.
Chrysalis: Middle two weeks of June.
Adult: Third week in June to third week in July.
One of the most elusive butterflies in the UK, it’s only found in thickets of Blackthorn between Oxford and Peterborough. There has been a steady decline in the number of these butterflies and as such the conservation priority is now classed as high.

Butterfly side silhoueete Purple Hairstreak
Wing Span: 37 – 39mm.
Caterpillar: Mid March to end of May.
Chrysalis: June to mid July.
Adult: July and August.
Widely distrubuted throughout southern England wherever there are Oak trees. It mainly stays in the upper parts of trees where it feeds on honeydew.

Butterfly side silhoueete Green Hairstreak
Wing Span: 33mm.
Caterpillar: Mid  May to mid June.
Chrysalis: August to April.
Adult: Mid April to mid July.
A widespread species found in small colonies. It’s the only true green butterfly found in the UK.

Butterfly side silhoueeteWhite-letter Hairstreak
Wing Span: 36mm.
Caterpillar: April and May.
Chrysalis: June to mid July.
Adult: Mid April to mid July.
Flies around the tops of trees, particulary Elm trees, it occasionally comes down to ground level to feed on the nectar of plants. Numbers declined in the 1970’s due to Dutch Elm desease but it is recovering well in some areas.

I have found a healthy population of White-letter hairstreaks in local Woodland, this gave me loads of photo opportunites for a couple of weeks this summer. Hopefully I’ll get the same opportunity next summer.


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Close up of a White-letter hairstreak


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White-letter hairstreak and Cardinal beetle
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A pair of White-letter hairstreaks

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A Staggering Find.

Beetle Silhouette On a recent late afternoon walk around the Woodwalton Fen nature reserve I noticed a huge black beetle on the top of a fence post. It was at the right height to get some photos of this impressive beetle.

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A huge black beetle

I’d never seen this type of beetle before but a quick search on Google revealed this was a  Lesser Stag Beetle – a smaller cousin of the larger Stag Beetle.

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An impressive  Lesser Stag Beetle

They can often be seeing flying around on warm evenings from May to October.

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Resting On A Fence post

Lesser Stag beetles are nocturnal, and are attracted to lights at night. In the daytime they can be found sheltering amongst rotten wood and leaf litter.
Unlike Stag Beetles which only live  a few weeks, Lesser Stag Beetles live for at least a year. They spend the winter under bark, or deep inside rotting wood.

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Annual Orchid Hunt.

Orchid SillouetteIt’s the time of year when I  visit local nature reserves on the hunt for orhids. It ‘s been another good year for orchids particularly at Woodwalton Marsh.

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Pyramidal Orchid

I found the usual Pyramid and Common Spotted orchids

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Common Spotted Orchid

But there were also four or five of my favourite wild flower – the Bee orchid.
I try not to advertise too much where I find Bee orchid’s to protect the flowers from being picked.

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Bee Orchid

In the case of the bee orchid the single flower is the culmination of up to 8 years growth and, if picked, the plant is unlikely to flower again and has lost its only chance of producing seeds.

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Hairier The Better.

Caterpillar Silhouette It’s that time of year when butterflies and moths take to the air with their colourful  aerial displays. But don’t forget they were once caterpillars – and some of these can be just as colourful in their own right.

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Caterpillar – Six Spotted Burnet moth

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Caterpillar – Lackey moth

Caterpillars make a great snack for some birds and beetles so they tend to hide away in the undergrowth. If you take the time searching you will find some of these colourful creatures.

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Caterpillar – Yellow Tail moth

You’ve probably noticed that all the above caterpillars are very hairy, but why is this? Recent research has concluded this is a defense mechanism to protect the caterpillar from beetles that prey on caterpillars. The longer the hairs the harder it is for the beetle to catch and eat a caterpillar. The Garden Tiger moth has taken hairy defence to the next level! See photo below.

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Amazing hair on this Garden Tiger moth caterpillar

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Spring Butterflies.

Butterfly silhoueete It’s May, and spring is well under way and with it butterflies start taking to the air. There are a couple of nature reserves within a few miles of where I live that are good butterfly habitats. Below are butterflies I’ve seen recently on these reserves, starting with the Grizzled Skipper butterfly which is one of the first small butterflies to emerge each year.

It’s a very small butterfly , with an average forewing diameter of 12 millimeters, and closely resembles moths in appearance. Males and females can be differentiated by the shape of their wings: males have slightly more angular wings, while females have a more rounded wing shape.

The Grizzled Skipper has shown a worrying decline in numbers over the past few decades. In Cambridgeshire were only 5 surviving colonies known about in 2003, I’m lucky enough to live a couple of miles away from one of these colonies.

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The Grizzled Skipper is becoming rarer in the UK

Another tiny butterfly I’ve seen recently is the Green Hairstreak. This butterfly is widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but is not a garden visitor and due to it’s size it’s hard to spot. I found the butterfly below clinging to Cowslip flowers – probably taking shelter on a cool spring day.

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Green Hairstreak, the only truly green butterfly in the UK.

The common Orange Tip butterfly can be seen this time of year. The male has the orange tip while the female is just black and white in colour.

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The orange tip can be seen on the wings, indicating that this is a male butterfly

Another common butterfly and one of the most colourful is the Peacock.

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The colourful Peacock butterfly

Two more early butterflies – the Tortoiseshell and Brimstone.

Butterfly duo
Tortoiseshell and Brimstome

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Lady’s In Bloom.

Bluebell SilhouetteIt’s Bluebell season!

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Bluebells in full bloom

There are three small woodlands near where I live that are great for Bluebells in the spring. All three are maintained by the local Wildlife Trust. The best known locally, and the most popular for visitors, is Lady’s Wood near the village of Upwood.

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Lady’s Wood

People travel from miles around to see the Bluebells at Lady’s wood. This can cause a problem to local farmers if the car park is full and people park their cars on a farm track outside the official car park.

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The local wildlife trust encourage people to park in the local village rather than block local tracks used by farmers.

Even though I visit the local woods to see the Bluebells every year I still find it an amazing sight to see a carpet of blue.

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A carpet of blue

This year there had been a lot of rain which made the paths very muddy. But the rain droplets make great subjects for photography.

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A raindrop on a Bluebell

If you look carefully you can always see the rarer white Bluebell at Lady’s’ Wood.

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The rarer white Bluebells

About one in 10,000 Bluebells are white.

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A closeup of a white Bluebell

If you need some refreshment after looking at the Bluebells there is a pub in Upwood.

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The Cross Keys pub In Upwood

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