Monday, 29 June 2015

Bees and Beetles

Phew! A busy weekend at work is over and I at last have time to sit in the garden, and tap out a few notes on the laptop, to update you on the latest news from the patch. Summer is racing ahead of us; in both the garden and the countryside nature seems to be almost tripping over itself in its rush to flower, seed, grow, breed before the days shorten. The day after tomorrow the calendar will flip over to July and the weather forecasters are daring to suggest heatwaves. In the garden, rose petals are dropping like confetti to the ground from blown blooms, and the sweet peas have hit their stride, scenting those quiet moments when you need it most. 
The sparrow numbers, and their chatter, seems to have multiplied as numerous fledgelings have apparently joined the boisterous bundles in the brambles across the road from the front window. They are coming into the back garden now too, helping the finches empty the bird feeders. One of the younger fledgelings is sat on the garden fence at the moment, begging with high pitched calls in the hope its parents will save it the effort of finding its own food. There are plenty of greenfly for them on the roses. 
Above my head two pairs of house martins are dissecting the airspace, one nesting in the gable of the house at the end of the terrace, the other prospecting the same location next door. Their constant chirrups and bubbling discussions are part of the soundtrack of the summer, I don't need to see them to know they are there, but it is good to look up from the screen occasionally and catch a glimpse of triangular wings and a flicker of black with white.  

Six days ago, before my latest run of shifts at work, the weather was almost as sunny as today. Despite the columbines having gone to seed, and the foxglove spire only holding aloft a handful of pink gloves at the very tip, the garden hummed with insects. Solitary bees and bumblebees were amongst the most numerous within the borders, whilst further along the street a front garden filled with purple lavender at its peak, persuaded honeybees to join their ranks. 
I have noticed that it seems to be an excellent year for honeysuckle, at least on the Oak By The Rife Patch, which may explain an unusual sighting I had when walking into town that day last week. A patch of brambles, opposite the abandoned caravan park* always attracts plenty of bumblebees. One movement however was no bumblebee. Its notable size and rapid flight caught my eye, and its clear wings bordered with dark edges, and square ended, yellow and black furry abdomen marked it out as something different. Although it didn't rest, and the view was a little blurred by movement, I saw enough to convince me that I may have just seen my first ever Broad Bordered Bee Hawkmoth, a nationally scarce species that I had only ever seen in the books.  My brief sighting replayed over and again in my head all afternoon. The description fitted perfectly; its main food plant honeysuckle is plentiful in the area, it was flying early afternoon, and had those dark bordered wings. 
My walk home later that afternoon provided a momentary distraction when a beetle crossed my path. Or perhaps I crossed hers. Either way, we were both on the same piece of pavement at the same time, and she was heading blindly into the path of rush hour traffic. I carefully transported her to the nearby tree, which had a convenient crevice under the bark where she could hide out until evening, pausing to take a good look at her first. It's not everyday you can take a photo of a female Lesser Stag Beetle sat calmly on your finger.  


*This location is in its third chapter of life. Originally a gravel extraction pit, the excavations became a lake and the surrounding tree-lined bowl was used as a secluded site for mobile homes. Since the park closed down, planning permission for housing development has been considered but several years have passed with no activity. The local angling club have used the lake for competition fishing, and a few characters have made use of the derelict buildings as temporary squats, but for recent months the site, and its wildlife, have been deserted and left to itself. The lake has spread, as the water table has risen, and scrub has begun to reclaim the concrete. Kingfishers, foxes, badgers and tawny owls are known residents or visitors. Ivy climbs the trees and buddleia blooms. I am sure reptiles will bask on the sun bathed rubble piles, and maybe in the early afternoon, a colony of rare broad bordered bee hawkmoths throngs around the masses of honeysuckle.   

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website www.sophieco.co.uk, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Facebook.com/SophiEcoWild Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis