Clewers Lane Nature diary


JULY 2013.

A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.

Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe

Over the past month, the summer growth in the trees and hedgerow has meant that the adult birds are well hidden and difficult to spot. As compensation for the observer, many fledglings have emerged on the lookout for new, easy sources of food, and with less fear than their parents. Some fledglings have plumage which is more or less identical to their parent’s plumage; however, some youngsters are different. This young robin has not yet acquired its fully-red breast, and when it does, it can expect to be confronted by the resident local adults:


YOUNG ROBIN, CLEWERS LANE

The dull grey plumage of this young starling is quite different from that of its parents, who have a metallic sheen of green black and purple to their feathers. Nevertheless, it is quite recognisable as a starling:


YOUNG STARLING, CLEWERS LANE

This young nuthatch which came to the feeder is more or less the same colour as an adult, but perhaps a little scruffier and with not such a sharp point to its beak:


YOUNG NUTHATCH, CLEWERS LANE

Here is a young house sparrow being fed by its mother, which it resembles quite closely:


ADULT FEMALE HOUSE SPARROW WITH YOUNG, CLEWERS LANE

It is reassuring to see both starlings and house sparrows successfully breeding as both species are now classified as threatened. Many bird species feed on insects, and the warm sunshine has been a boon for the insect world which, in turn, benefits the birds. The house sparrows are particularly good at removing greenfly from my roses. Here is an insect which they didn’t remove. It is called a black and red froghopper and is about a centimetre long. It is a close relative of the little green froghopper insect which lives inside a blob of ‘spit’ on the stems of plants. I assume that the colouring of the insect deters the birds:


RED AND BLACK FROGHOPPER, CLEWERS LANE

Here is another insect which the birds ignore, the five spot burnet moth. It flies by day and is just under two centimetres from tip to toe. Its colouring proclaims ‘danger’ and indeed it is dangerous: it is packed with cyanide –


FIVE SPOT BURNET MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

This is the tiny caterpillar of the vapourer moth, a small brightly coloured, daytime-flying moth. The caterpillar is a centimetre or so in length and is brightly coloured with red and yellow spots. It is also covered with hairs which will cause irritation to the skin if disturbed or broken off:

VAPOURER MOTH CATERPILLAR, CLEWERS LANE

The small tortoiseshell butterflies and the meadow browns are flying along the lane in large numbers. The meadow browns feed on the bramble blossom which is just beginning to open and their caterpillars feed on grass. The meadow browns normally rest with their wings folded up which displays their camouflaging ‘eye’ on the underwing, to confuse potential predators. Unusually for a butterfly, the female is more brightly coloured than the male – slightly more orange.

FEMALE MEADOW BROWN BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE

Along the hedgerow the Elder is in flower, providing a source of nectar for many insects. In the late summer, its black berries provide food for the thrushes and other small birds.



ELDER, CLEWERS LANE

The dog roses are also at their best right now and their hips will provide winter food for visitors such as waxwings and redwings in January/February. Some of the rose plants are quite old and have climbed way up into the trees, some thirty feet or more:


DOG ROSES, CLEWERS LANE

One or two white and yellow marguerites are also in flower now with their large, daisy – like flowers:



MARGUERITES, CLEWERS LANE

The grasses on the Jhansi Hay Meadow have flowered and are beginning to ripen. This will attract small mammals and birds that feed on the seeds. Presumably the ‘local’ buzzard knows this too as it has started to put in regular appearances over the field.

As the days grow longer, so the appearance of the local bats is delayed. It is now nearly ten pm before they suddenly appear and start to feast on the various winged insects still active.

And finally, it may be worth noting that it’s not only humans who enjoy the sun. This male blackbird is indulging in a bit of sunbathing by squatting on the ground, splaying out his feathers and opening his beak wide – some say they do it to rid themselves of mites, etc., but I think he’s just topping up his tan!


‘SUNBATHING’ BLACKBIRD, CLEWERS LANE

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5 Responses to Clewers Lane Nature diary

  1. Gary Akehurst says:

    A little gem of information and a beacon of hope in a troubled world

  2. martin1786 says:

    Hi Gordon, had a dragonfly in the garden today: http://flic.kr/p/f8N19U I don’t know what type it is.

  3. martin1786 says:

    Great post as always! Thanks Gordon. I had a honeybee swarm in my garden a few days ago, I took a video and some of it is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2cWS2uPu5w&feature=share&list=UUA8O0KdHxYkRWr-b3ID9hnA

    • Gordon Larcombe says:

      Hello Martin – I don’t use a flash player but I can see from the stills that it’s quite something ! Given that the experts reckon that honeybees are having a bad year, it looks like you have a collector’s item !

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