The Last Hurrah

The last big hurrah of the summer has now begun as the ivy comes into flower. As all the other flowering plants in the meadows start to die back, the ivy becomes a really important source of nectar and pollen for those invertebrates still on the wing. The cliff-line hedgerow is heavily laden with it and is consequently now heaving with life. It’s completely mesmerising to stand and watch, although I definitely go cross-eyed before too long.

A big bank of flowering ivy

The opening of the ivy flowers has coincided with a big influx of red admirals across from continental Europe. Having scarcely seen one this year, dozens of these large butterflies now glide majestically along the ivy-filled hedgerows to feast on the nectar.

I am always surprised to see those azure blue patches at the back of these butterflies

Small coppers also really like ivy:

Holly blue butterflies are very interesting – the spring brood females lay their eggs on holly but these second brood, late-summer ones lay their eggs on ivy.

Holly blue female on the ivy

Ivy bees only arrived in Britain in 2001 but they are here in the meadows in their thousands at this time of year. They are ivy specialists, perfectly choreographing their emergence as adults with the ivy flowering.

A variety of bumblebees are also to be seen working the hedgerow:

Other regulars at the ivy are honey bees, common wasps and drone flies. Although it is lovely to see these old favourites, and in such encouraging numbers as well, what keeps me standing there is the possibility of species I have never seen before. We got tantalising glimpses of a strange red fly but it was always so frustratingly fast – I never really saw it properly, let alone achieved a photo.

I did, however, get a photo of this bristly fly with a yellow face and this is new to the meadow invertebrate list:

Panzeria anthophila. This is a parasitoid fly, laying its eggs on or near moth caterpillars

Like the red admirals, this large and attractive black-and-white hoverfly, the pied hoverfly (Scaeva pyrasti), is a migrant from Europe, arriving in Britain each year in variable numbers:

Box bug

Elsewhere in the meadows, in the depths of the night, a small rodent triggered the camera that is trained on the wasp nest in the chalky bank. I was interested to see that a few of the wasps were clearly out of the nest during the night:

The very next night we went up there with our torches just before bed and, sure enough, there were wasps crawling around in the front of the nest in the dark:

Common wasps out of the nest at night

A badger has been frequently visiting again this week. I had supposed it was assessing the nest for its readiness to rob, but perhaps it is simply eating these crawling wasps:

On the way up to the wasp nest, we passed the little owl box where honey bees have taken up residence this year. What was going on there at night was also interesting.

It was a warmish but not hot night and there was a fresh north-easterly blowing and so I don’t think that the nest would have been either too hot or too cold. The most likely explanation for the bees to be out of the box is that, once all the foragers return to the nest at the end of the day, the box gets rather full of bees and so some stay outside.

However, I saw that the bees were also there the next day. Perhaps the box is now very full even when the foragers are out working by day:

A foraging bee returns with yellow pollen sacs and disappears deep within the nest

Other photos from the meadows this week:

Woohoo, a weasel on the gate – what a strange and amazing animal, and what a good photo the trail camera has managed
A characterful photo of the One-Eyed Vixen
And another almost science fiction-ish one of her
A kestrel takes a bath…
….and then takes off with a messy assortment of wet feathers. I also notice that she is ringed
A smart male redstart on the front lawn
Other than the ivy, there is very little else flowering in the meadows after months of drought. This migrant clouded yellow butterfly, however, has managed to find something that takes its fancy
We continue to run emergency watering missions to wilting trees in need

Over in the wood, we have had this year’s first sighting of a deer:

We believe this to be a red deer although they shouldn’t by rights be in this part of the country

Before we bought the wood, there was a big annual shoot there. This has left us with the legacy of a population of pheasants that hadn’t been shot by the time the wood changed hands. A total of 47 million pheasants and 10 million red-legged partridge are released into the British countryside every year, purely to be shot for pleasure, and it is difficult to get your head around this immense number. I know that supplementary food is put down in some cases, but these released birds are also eating our wildlife as this next photo shows:

Pheasant with shrew prey

A photo of a happier shrew having a drink:

A buzzard spent half an hour standing around in this small pond:

It ended up looking like this:

And then flew up to the branch near the owl box. It’s such a massive bird:

The Bird Ringer was extremely pleased to see this bird in his nets at Sandwich Bay, a few miles up the coast from the meadows. Apparently it is a juvenile common rosefinch:

There is an isolated colony of these birds breeding just across the Channel around Calais. This bird is most probably from that colony and has just set off in the wrong direction on its migration – it should have been going south to India.

The Bird Ringer was in Armenia earlier this year and took these photos of common rosefinch there, although the race in Armenia is slightly more colourful than the more normal European race:

Should a bird turn up in the meadows looking like this, then I would have a chance of identifying it. If, however, it looked like the one that was in the nets at Sandwich Bay, then I simply wouldn’t have had a clue.

2 thoughts on “The Last Hurrah

  1. Oooh , nice to see a weasel on your trail camera. They are so quick, I only ever see them briefly, disappearing into a hedge for example. I noticed ivy flowers out today , I didn’t realise that Holly Blues like ivy flowers.

    1. Weasels turn up on the cameras only very occasionally – but I’ve never got such a good image as this one, that’s for sure. Aren’t they amazing things?!

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