Author Archives: Natural Ramblings

About Natural Ramblings

My wildlife and photographic journal This is my blog about anything wildlifey. I’m in the UK and Im a naturalist, ornithologist and biologist and I want to bring you a journal of my photography and information about the lives of our wildlife as I see it. With a love of the macro world you will also find my love for bees, dragonflies and butterflies and other insects too.

Swallow Dance

I bet you thought I was going to talk Butterflies, so Im I thought Id give you all a break…just for a little bit.

Every year we have the pleasure of watching the Swallows prepare for their long migration on our electric lines running right through our garden. But three weeks ago for the first time they arrived earlier spoiling us by bringing 2 families of chicks and feeding them on the wire and in the air.  We counted over 14 fledglings and it was an absolute pleasure to watch these being fed for about 8 days.

The parents were working their socks off feeding such a mountain of feathered fluffballs. It was clearly two families with 4 adults swooping in and out regularly most the day. Its incredible to watch such small birds work so hard, these little chicks kept all 4 parents on the go for hours on end.

But it felt quite an honour to be part of watching these beautiful chicks grow, feed and get stronger and better fliers. The noise above us was wonderful as the chicks started to get quite noisy. After several days though we did start to witness the parents knocking some chicks completely off the wires…poor things 😉 but we know it was to teach them to feed in the air despite how harsh it looks.

After about 6 days most chicks were feeding in the air and quite proficient fliers and within 10 days they were all gone again. Im hoping they come back to prepare for their migration in a few months time.

It was a really special to be a part of their lives just for that short space of time and cant wait for next year.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings Butterflies inflight, darters, moths and horseflies.

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My Mothberry?

mothberry6

I haven’t had a great year for strawberries this year, to be honest I hadnt tended to them as well as I did last year, so its probably my fault we havent had ANY yet…..!!!

I went over to check them this afternoon to find a large moth sucking happily away on the biggest strawberry I have…it was fine yesterday and I was planning to whip it off as a secret nibble, so that justice to me….lol 😉

But I couldnt help but grab a few shots with my little Panasonic Lumix TZ30. My Canon gear was all packed in bag and I didnt know how long he would stay for. But I neednt have worried as this little guy was absolutely oblivious to me shuffling next to it trying to get the the best position.

mothberry4

It was tough to get any shots as it was right in amongst the leaves and I couldnt get any piks of what he looked like on top….or…er…behind him…as…his hanging underneath; so Ive no idea what species he is. I will get back to you on his ID tomorrow.

I feel he maybe one of the Thorn family, a common rustic or an old lady, but Id gladly accpet some ID ideas if anyone knows what he is?

I am always amazed by this little camera on macro mode, the detail is gorgeous.

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I love his beautiful orange antennae you can see on the left in this image.

You could actually see his body gently swinging as he was sucking away at the juice, in a way quite comical to watch, I could have been one of the Wrens who are nesting right above him or one of 2 sets of Blue tit parents collecting food continually through the day.

But oh..no…he had to have his strawberry juice….sheeesh…great last meal though…what a way to go!!

mothberry3

I tried this shot without flash and its come out more natural, but has less detail, see what you prefer, I thought Id add it to show you.

I had to laugh as I went back tonight after dark to see if he was still there and gently lifted the lweaves to see, only to jump as 2 black legs waved at me. A harvest spider was sitting directly ontop and I just hadnt seen it…jeeze what is it with strawberries today!

So Im guessing Im not going to get this strawberry this year!! But how could I begrudge such a tasty looking morsel to my beloved wildlife.

I will get back to you on the ID when I can, but if any of you know what he is by his underneath colouration or that gorgeous bright orange antennae, please let me know.

Coming soon on Natural Ramblings NEW Natural History Book reviews

Thanks for coming by

XxX

Handsome Stranger – White Pheasant

Handsome Boy!

Handsome Boy!

I had to share with you one of the most handsome strangers Ive ever had in our garden.

Weve had the pleasure of pheasants in our garden for over 2 years now and Ive got to know them all individually each with their own little behavior traits.

So you can see my surprise and pleasure when we found this handsome fella wandering round the garden. He strutted with such confidence when he had arrived with the new “turkey boys” ; the scruffy new jeuveniles we get every year, not in full plumage, no tails and a little bit cocky but then running off at the slightest movement, squawking for their friends.

I absolutely love having the turkey boys every year they are so comical and adorable at the same time. With them this year came this handsome devil, quite a rare white male pheasant, but his not albino as he has some black flecks across his chest and his eyes are brown not red. I say rare but last year we did have a pair of white pheasants in the garden but only ever saw them for 1 day; so Im over the moon to see this little guy appear.

He stayed behind after his young turkeyboy friends had scarpered when they saw me, he watched our usual flock carefully at the sidelines near the hedge…incase he needed a quick getaway lol! After only a few minutes he showed absolutely no fear and mirrored my regular birds happily feeding at my feet.

Although he was slightly nervous and showed respect to my regular male by keeping his distance at the beginning.

Males2

As he got closer he tried to feed right next to him and got pecked as a warning to put him in his place, but then was allowed to eat nearby after about 20 minutes with no attack.

Males

What was lovely to watch was this little guy shadowed our male; maybe like a father figure as he kept watching him closely, learning and almost mimiking his behavior, down to the way he walked, he stretched every time our male did, he followed him for nearly 2 hours around the garden, intermingling with the girls. The females however just blanked him, they didnt attack nor were they interested.

For me I was just blown away to have him so close and I will be doing a full post on him soon as it was a really special moment to share with these guys both emotionally and photographically.

Sadly after 3 hours he realised his own flock had left without him and became quite distressed calling for them; luckily several came to our gate where…. they called him and he was able to rejoin them.

A wonderful ending to the day and I hope to see again in the future.

Coming soon

More on this handsome white beauty.

Friendly Bugs Live Wallpaper

I have been looking for an unusual live wallpaper for sometime, something thats natural and then I found this butterfly live wallpaper and was blown away with its beauty;  its one of the best ones Ive ever seen; I absolutely love this Friendly bugs app.

Bet your surprised I chose this one eh… 😉

I’m not really obsessed with butterflies honest, but this is really beautiful and oh so life-like! I know those of you that own a mobile or tablet or PC but also love butterflies like I do, will really enjoy this live wallpaper.

You dont need to be techie to enjoy this wallpaper, most of us have mobiles and tablets nowadays and it doesn’t have to be days-off and holidays to enjoy the natural world; take it with you wherever you go.

The makers Kittehface Software have made a fab job of animating these gorgeous butterflies that look so true to life.

Every image on this page is a screen shot taken on my Nexus 10 with its dazzling 2560 x1600 (300 ppi) display which makes this app even more stunning. The 4 million pixel screen makes the colours vivid and bright and the butterflies and ladybirds are sharp and just pop out from the screen.

The only way to show you how beautiful and realistic this app is, is for you to take a peek at my video below.

You really NEED to see this, its gorgeous!

Video on the Friendly Bugs Live Wallpaper. (2.50 mins)

The butterflies are actual species I’ve seen Swallowtail’s, Monarch’s, Peacock’s and many more. As well as Butterflies you have ladybirds too. Choose from having a few butterflies on your chosen background or choose “Invasion” mode where they fill the screen.

Settings 

As usual with the latest Live wallpapers around at this time there are alot of settings to play with to make it yours.

Backgrounds

This app allows you to change its background from the beautiful green of this sunlit leaf (above) which is my favourite; to some of the ones shown below.

 Driftwood.

 Patio Stone.

 Red Leaf.

 Dark Wood.

Others available are stone lichen and frosted glass these are the duller, darker ones, I prefer the ones above the best.

You also have the choice to add shadows which are overhead ferns seen here over these ladybirds, it makes it slightly darker but more natural.

I prefer the shadows off, so my leaf is a brighter green and you get the butterflies in full vivid colours like they would be in the sun.

Add your own Image background

An added bonus is the option to add your own image as the background, the butterflies will land on that instead, a neat idea! I used a photo of my dog and let them land on him…really novel.

Daydream Mode

It also works beautifully in the new  “Daydream Mode” on 4.2 devices which allows me to set this Live wallpaper while its charging, or in its dock, till its tapped then it resorts back to main screen.

Ladybirds

Another of the worlds cutest insects are the ladybirds alongside your Butterflies, who have their own settings where you can choose their colourations from natural, mixed or just red. The mixed colours is a nice touch where you will see purple, green and blue ladybirds, but being a nature lover I prefer true to life colours. You can then choose how many you have on the screen at one time, I prefer to have them all.

These little Ladybirds will also do the jitterbug if you tap the screen, they will shake their booty and jiggle in unison, its really cute; you can see this on my video.  

The butterflies however will be scared off but only for a few seconds!

Portrait Mode

Here are some screen shots in portrait mode too for those that want to see what it looks like for phones and those that prefer using your device in portrait mode!

My only niggle is that the butterflies don’t stay long enough on the screen for me to enjoy them enough. I wish there were just a few butterflies which stayed on the screen for at least a few minutes, whereas they simply land for several seconds and their off again.

 So can you tell I love this live wallpaper its fun and affordable to bring nature indoors, its de-stressing after a hard day and its so relaxing.

Opinion

I feel they gave this app the wrong name as its a stunning app and it should have been called something like Butterfly Bonanza or Butterfly Summer as Friendly bugs could be a complete turnoff for those that dont like insects! I know for a fact more people would buy this app if they knew it was just butterflies and ladybirds; not beetles, spiders or other crawlies!

It whisks me back to long hot summer days, the feel of the gentle breeze and the sun on your face with soft bird song in the background and the rustle of trees! Are you feeling it yet….? 

I adore this app, if you have a larger 8-10 inch screen tablet this is where this App really comes into its own but its still beautiful enough to get similar effect on your phone.  Even though I feel its aimed at the ladies, its a stunning app for any keen Lapidopterist (Butterfly enthusiast) as the butterflies are actual species.

If you’ve had a stressful day, turn it on and sit back with a coffee and let them flutter across your screen, for fun tap the screen and watch the ladybirds jiggle in unison. Its a beautifully relaxing affordable app at only 69p its worth every penny!

Summary

Updated – February 20th 2013,

Current Version is 2.15,

Requires android 2.1 and up,

Size 4.1MB,

Pro’s

Natural,

Believable,

Colourful,

Vivid colours,

Updated regularly,

Con’s

I would like to see a few butterflies sit still just for a minute or two, to really see how gorgeous they look.

So if you love watching butterflies head over to Google Play and grab your App for only

69p

You can also try the Lite version too for free to see how you like it, you cant go wrong; give it a go let me know what you think and thanks for popping by.

My Pigeon Post

 

 

 

First stick

Do you think this is too small then?

 

I thought you may want to see something different than butterflies; although Ive still loads to show you of those; but for now I had to show you these piks I took today of my favorite female wood pigeon.

Earlier last month she had one chick, which sadly got attacked by my hoodlums of my local magpie family. We disturbed 2 adult magpies about to feast on approx 23 day old squab. I took the poor thing in, cleaned up the blood but we sadly lost her the next day.

So in a way it was nice to see Mum searching for sticks to either build or repair their nest, we have an electrical pole bringing us…er…electric…as we live in middle of nowhere so its always been the focus of attention of the birds…makes a great giant perch. Especially now the swallows have finished with it, they are giving the others a chance.

pigeon-stick2

I loved the confused look on her face as she tried to move this stick around ontop of the electric pylon. I really hope shes not planning to nest up there; especially with the storms predicted for this week.

Dropped-my-stick

Now look what you made me do!

I had to laugh as this was the glare I got after she dropped her stick…yes of course it was my fault…eeep……if looks could kill.

But you will see from the images below Im a very long way from her…gulp…shes not a happy bunny is she?

Dropped-my-stick2

This image is taken at the Lumix’s shortest 24mm, if you look closely you can just see the pigeon right in the middle at the top inbetween the wires.

 On another note I was pleasantly surprised at all these shots as I didnt have my trusty Canon  40D with my beloved 100-400mm lens, I just had my handy Panasonic Lumix TZ30.

These 2 images (one above, one below) were taken around 5.30am…yes I did say 5.30am…I had to say that again so I could believe it.

I couldnt sleep so I grabbed my camera and went for a wildlife mooch. You never know what you may find so early and it always feels so special that time of the morning. The wonderful fresh dewey smell of the trees and grasses. The dawn chorus was in full song and it was just beautiful, its not often I feel good enough that time to just up and go. I need to do more morning mooches.

pigeon-pylon

This shot was taken at the same time but at the full 480mm, ok its not a masterpiece as as the sun wasnt quite up and it was still dark. But I was amazed to get such clarity at full extent in low light…well done Panasonic.

So fingers crossed she doesnt decide to build all the way up there; but of she does we will try to keep an eye on the family.

I look forward to some more interesting morning findings…yawn…..soo…sleepy….!

 

Coming soon for Natural Ramblings

Species spotlights on

The Peacock Butterfly,

Painted Lady,

Comma and the Small copper Butterflies.

For those scared of spiders…nice fluffy kittens…ok..maybe..not quite…

Species spotlight on the daddy longlegs spider with some fascinating behavioral video footage.

Thanks for stopping by

XxX

 

A tale of Thyme, ant and the sheep = The Large Blue Butterfly!

The Large Maculinea arion

Natural Ramblings isnt all about my photography, Its also about fascinating facts about wildlife, I never want to bore you with constant scientiific facts, you will just switch off. But what I would love to do is is renew your enthisiasm in our wildlife and show you some clever things they do to just survive in the world today.

Recently all Ive been rambling about is butterflies so on that note I had to share with you this amazing tale of Thyme, ant and the sheep.

Its a cuckoo in the nest of a cuckoo nest!

You’ll understand when youve read thos post, I hope 🙂

There have been many stories of different species co-existing togther just to survive, but nothing so astonishing as the story of the Large Blue Butterfly almost extinct thanks to the eighteenth century Victorian passion of collecting butterflies which nearly drove them nearly into extinction.  Conservationists tried to protect them by fencing areas of heathland and preventing the grazing of sheep, but still numbers declined and by 1979 they had almost disappeared from Britain.

The stunning Large Blue is the largest and rarest of our blue butterflies; but also one of the cleverest and Im excited to share with you all just HOW CLEVER!!!

These stunning butterflies start life as an egg being laid on Wild Thyme, where the adult also feeds on. When the egg hatches the tiny caterpillars eat the buds and the developing seeds. At this point the largest or fattest and strongest caterpillar may eat the other caterpillars too.

The last caterpillar left then falls to the ground where its then mimics the scent of the red ant lavae in the form of a pheromone. The red ant comes along where the sweet sickly scent drives the ant wild, making it lick and clambering all over it sipping the secretions from the caterpillars glands at the end of its body. The caterpillar takes this behavior for several hours until it finally curves its body into the rigid shape of an ant larvae.

Large Blue caterpillar tended by frenzied ants

The ant thinking its now one of its own larvae drags it back to the ant nest and lays it with the other larvae deep within the nest. The hungry beastie then continues to feed on the other ant larvae. The ants will attack any invaders but this clever caterpillar keeps producing this pheromone that is similar to the ants and remains undetected.

During this time its skin becomes tough and cannot be attacked and the greedy caterpillar continues muching on the ant larvae for nearly a year. This amazing story doesnt stop here, the caterpillar even emits a sound like the queen ant, making the other worker ants fussing frenzidly round it licking and tending to it like royalty where after it has grown to almost 100 times its original size it turns into a chrysalis. (For those interested see this fascinating post about the sounds emitted from The cente of ecology and hydrology)

Then in late Spring it emerges and literally flies the nest.

The theory to the near extinction of this stunning but genius butterly is that there were many factors involved in this near extinction, the fact is its seems to be just one species of ant that the caterpillar can mimic the Red Ant Mermica sabuleti, its not every species of ant. Thes particular red ant are so sensitive to temperature and humidity and can ONLY survive themselves when the grass has been cut short by sheep or rabbits and then exposed to hot sun. So back in Victorian times the conservatioists were trying to help by fencing the sheep in stopping them naturally grazing on the grass; BUT they had actually prevented this vital link in the Large Blue’s life cycle.

Ichneumon Wasp Family

image from Insectoidinfo

BUT as they say in the movies…thats not all…there is yet another bad guy….dada…the Ichneumon wasp family.

This is a parasitic wasp not like our common yellow stripy ones we see regulalry, these guys seem to know which ants nest contain the caterpillar…maybe by the pheromone or the unual feenzied activity of the ants themselves, but they then go into the ants nest searching for the caterpillar. The ants attack the wasp but it sprays them with another pheromone which makes them turn on each other, so while all hell breaks lose, the wasp continues to look for the caterpillar.

When it finds its prize the female wasp injects it with her ovipositor laying her own egg. The unfortunate caterpillar continues to grow and turn into a chrysalis but when the pupa splits its NOT the stunning Large blue but a large black Ichneumon Wasp.

These stories really blow me away about how nature fights to survive and co-exist with each other, but sadly one species will gradually be unable to fend for itself and gradually start to die off.

Luckily several conservation societies are fighting to maintain the Large Blue’s environement and we are very slowly and gradually seeing a return in these amazing butterflies in the south western England, it makes me wonder what they will do next to survive!

 

Links and sites with more info on these beautiful butterlfies.

The National Trust have their own blog which is following the Large Blue conservation project in Collard Hill in Somerset called…yes…you guessed it…what else would you call it… The Large Blue Blog

Sadly Large Blue butterfly season has offically been declared over in Collard Hill so dont go rushing over there today.

 

For those of you that want to know more take a look at the Butterfly Conservation society here

Conservation status

  • Listed as a Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England
  • UK BAP: Priority Species
  • Butterfly Conservation priority: High
  • European status: Endangered
  • Fully protected In Great Britain

The BIG Butterfly Count 2013

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

You can do your bit to help with conservation over the weekend.

There are around 60 species of butterfly and 2,500 species of moths in the UK, with more establishing every decade following migration from continental Europe. They are found from the shoreline to mountain top, and occur in a wide variety of habitats. Their caterpillars feed mainly on plants, but some moth species feed on roots, lichens and algae as well as other substances such wood and fur. Many species depend on a narrow range of plants or food types for their survival.

Butterflies and moths are one of the most threatened groups of wildlife. In the last 100 years, nearly 70 species have become extinct (4 butterflies and 65 moths). Our recording programmes show that around two-thirds of species are declining and over 170 species are threatened and listed as Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Save our butterflies, moths and the environment by just taking 10-15 minutes of your time, enjoy the sunshine, get the kids involved to see how many butterflies and moths you can find in your garden or surrounding area or parklands.

Jot down your findings and nip to

Butterfly Conservation website.

 
Joanna Lumley
Take Part

Big Butterfly Count 2013

The Big Butterfly Count will be absolutely fabulous this year with the help of Joanna Lumley. The ‘Ab Fab’ actress, a Marks & Spencer Sustainability Champion, is urging everyone who loves nature to spare 15 minutes to take part in the Count.

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Download The App

New this year is a free smartphone app for Big Butterfly Count. Now you can carry out and submit your Count all in one go while out and about watching butterflies. Now available for iOS and coming soon for Android.

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David Atten

Read The Blog

Attenborough – “Get Out For The Count”

Butterfly Conservation President Sir David Attenborough is urging all wildlife lovers to help take the pulse of UK nature by taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer.

Painted

Enter Your Photos

Make Your Camera Count

Take a camera on your Count and you could win the first ever Big Butterfly Count photo competition. They are looking for great butterfly images taken on a camera or mobile phone. You can enter as many times as you like but photos must be of Count species.

ID Butterfly A-Z

Need some help with Identification

Small skipper

Small skipper

Check out this page with clear colourful images

Quick drop down colour charts to help you quickly identify your beautiful finds.

Do you want to make a permanent difference then take advantage of half price membership celebrating the first Butterfly Count!

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Please join today, using the promotion code BBC50 to benefit from the half price offer.