The recent warm spell plus a little bit of the promised thundery downpours seems to have brought on a good number of flowers. Common Spotted and Bee Orchids are now showing but we have to wait a little longer for the Pyramidal orchids and Helleborines
Common Spotted Orchid
Common Spotted or Early Purple Orchid
Goats Beard is a lovely plant, not only is its flower attractive with its yellow petals with the black lines but the bud is unusual and the seed head is like dandelion only much better.
Goats Beard Flower
Goats Beard Bud
Goats Beard seed head
Salsify is closely related to Goats Beard Flower, the main difference is its a bit taller and a different colour. Its root can be eaten and it doers have herbal qualities
Sallsify Flower and Bud
Whilst common there’s only a few Wild Mignonette at Wimpole
Some plants are totally parasitic or partially parasitic and currently there are three in flower on Wimpole Estate. Broomrape is totally parasitic, it doesn’t have any chlorophyl hence its brownish colour. It feeds oin the roots of other plants particularly clover. Yellow rattle is parasitic on grass roots and depresses their growth – good for other wild flowers
One rareish plant, now spreading quite well at Wimpole is Crested Cow Wheat, again a semi parasitic plant related to broomrape. There has been a disastrous decline in Cow Wheat in recent years brought about by modern farming methods and mowing roadside verges. Thank goodness for Wimpoles’ organic farming, all we need now is everyone to stop cutting roadside verges. Not only would this help wild flowers but the insects and the the birds that feed on them.
Crested Cow Wheat
Crested Cow Whea
The warm weather has brought out the flowers and the flowers have brought out more insects, butterflies, beetles , flies and a variety of bumble bees abound. The best surprise of the week was an influx of Painted Lady butterflies, I saw my first ones on Friday 5th June at 7pm. Not the best time to take photos of Butterflies but I managed a few shots.
The butterflies kept landing but instantly folding their wings. Saturday was warm so out I went to get some open wing shots. Its probable that the butterfly migrated up from North Africa on the Southerly winds we recently experienced. I also saw a Humming Bird Hawkmoth but didn’t manage a picture, these again are usually migratory.
Other butterflies have begun to appear, the Common Blue, Small Heath, Large Skipper
Not to be left out, moths like to appear as well; walking down to the Bason in the South Avenue I spotted a quite large moth resting on a thistle, and what a handsome creature it is, an Angle shades Moth, 50mm across the wing span when opened
Angle Shades Moth
One of the very attractive hover flies appeared today – Vollucella Bombylans. There are two types, one with a white end and the other with a red end, both are imitating respectively the white tailed and red tailed bumble bee. Here is the Red Tailed one with alongside a photo of the Red Tailed Bumble Bee
Red Tailed Bumble Bee
Another very attractive Hover Fly is Helophilus sp. There are several of these and the differences rely on leg colour or a black line on the face. I’m not an expert on hover fly identification but I think the names are all correct
Whilst taking the photograph of the Painted Lady butterfly it was very pleasing to see huge numbers Honey Bees in the clover.
Not a lot of dragon flies around at the moment but Damsel Flies are starting to appear
Banded Damsel Fly
Large Red Damsel Fly
Variable Damsel Fly
BARN OWLS 5TH JUNE I had the pleasure last Friday 5th June, of going around Wimple Estate with Colin Shawyer, (licensed Barn Owl handler, researcher and author), to visit the three known Barn Owl nesting sites and an additional suspected nest. We started off with the Barn Owl box in an Ash Tree near Sharps Plantation. The first thing you have to do is to block off the Hole in the nest box, then climb a ladder and with great care open a small door in the base of the box, put your hand in the box and remove one of the owls without getting caught by their talons. There were two owls present but no eggs and no young, one bird was removed brought down the ladder in a bag, examined, ringed and weighed, the first bird was a female and weighed 330 gms.
Showing Wing Colours
If you look carefully there are black spots under the wing, only females have these black spots. On the wing photo you can tell the age up to 4years old by the colours of the spots The female was left in the bag and the remaining bird removed into another bag, this was a male already ringed bird and weighed 380 gms.
Male . No spots
Weighing the birds is important as the females weight dictates whether or not she lays eggs and can rear her young. The minimum weight for egg laying is 365 gms, but the weight really needs to be in the 450 gm region. This extra weight is made up primarily of water probably needed to make the eggs. We then went to the newly suspected nest site and I’m pleased to say there were three eggs so a few more to complete the clutch. It won’t be until mid August to know if this new nest site has been successful. I located this site by recalling that three years ago I saw four or five Barn Owls fly out of the tree, I thought nothing of it at the time but added two and two together this year when I spotted Barn Owls in Holes in the tree !
New Nest Site
We then went to the other nest box at Valley Farm, no owls were present but there were fresh “pellets” from last night feeding, however no eggs and no young. Lastly we called in on the old Oak Tree at Cambridge Road Farm, Colin went up the ladder and out shot one bird nearly sending him off the ladder.
On its way
He couldn’t see another bird or see any eggs or young as the tree Hole is huge and has hidden corners, have to keep a regular watch on this one. This year is apparently a very poor year for field voles, the owls main diet, vole populations fluctuate on a regular basis high to low numbers every 3 or 4 years. Very little food, therefore no fluid intake from the prey which leads to low weight in the female owl and thus no eggs or successful young. This is apparently the general pattern everywhere this year including another local piece of farmland just south of Cambridge. On an encouraging note last year was a ‘bumper’ year for voles and hence a ‘bumper’ year for Barn Owls
Its that time of year again when insects appear in the undergrowth and on the flowers. some amazing shapes sizes and colours. The moths below are all day time Flying moths – hence you can take photos of them in the daytime !!!!!
Mother Shipton Moth
Green Carpet Moth
The Mother Shipton moth is named after an ugly witch, you can work out the nose and chin on the wings
Micro Moth Nettle Tap
Four of the above are Micro Moths, Nemophora has incredibly long antennae in the photo they extend to the edge of the photo. Its flight looks quite difficult trying to manoeuvre with its long ‘whiskers’