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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Probably my last buggy post of the year

These pictures were all taken in early November, when I noticed that my 'Ivy tree' out the front of the house was absolutely buzzing with insects when the sun was shining. I didn't manage to capture any butterflies on it but I could see out of the window that some were flying either towards or away from it, so I had to take my camera out for a bit of a look see. Ivy only flowers when it's in a sunny situation so whilst I've got tons of it growing in the woodland, it isn't of much use to the pollinating insects as it rarely flowers in that situation. But because it flowers so late in the year it is an important food source for late flying bees, butterflies, hoverflies, wasps, flies, well basically anything that will eat pollen and nectar. And the critters who will eat those insects..... mwahahahaha!

An Eristalis sp. hoverfly - there were loads of these about.

Clockwise from top left: Honey bee, an extremely tiny unknown hoverfly,
an unknown solitary bee and an Eristalis hoverfly.

Ivy flowers.

Dock Bugs (Coreus marginatus) are still around, although I'm a bit unsure as to where it's
hiding its head as its antennae appear to be coming from under the seed head!

Droplet hanging off one of the flowers turned seed head.

As usual, where there are flying insects there are spiders.......

Suitor no. 1 in the middle didn't get lucky - he's a bit stuck in the web. This doesn't seem to
be putting off suitor no. 2 on the left. I think these are Metellina segmenta and as you can see,
the female is quite different from the males. 

'Ivy Tree' growing over an old tree stump which we cut off about 5 foot high.

It was just as well I hadn't totted up my 2014 garden butterfly count as on 30th October I finally saw a Small Copper butterfly, but just like the dragonfly photo here, as I was creeping closer and closer trying to get better close up photos, both insects flew off - due to cats suddenly appearing and wandering past them! Aaarrggh!

I've still seen some butterflies this month but only on the sunny days, including a Clouded Yellow in the middle of the month, and another Western Willow Spreadwing (a damselfly) on the 11th November, which is quite amazing.

Very end of October - a Speckled Wood on the left, a Ruddy Darter (I think)
top right and a Small Copper bottom right.

The pond level kept getting higher and higher and finally submerged
the wildflowers that grew in the pond bed during the summer months.

"We want to go in the veg patch!"

Or maybe not - they suddenly realised Bertie was in there
creeping up on them on the other side of the fence!

A few starlings zoomed in on - so many of them around right now.
I hadn't noticed the one bottom left so I didn't chop him off on purpose!

Harry sunning himself in what at that time remained of the pond bed. (It's full again now)

Of late I've been busy going to the hospital five days a week - but at least I'm getting out and about because the countryside is looking glorious. Mid November seems to be the optimum time for great autumn colour and this year seems particularly magnificent. I think that with the rain coming just in time after the dry September and then mild weather with only one frost and no other cold nights since then has helped. I can't get photos as we are driving along main roads so it's impossible to stop (not that I have a camera with me or really the inclination or time to take photos), but it makes what could be a monotonous journey rather enjoyable. I've had to content myself with taking photos at home, and did get a bunch more photos a few days ago. There are still quite a few flowers left and the occasional bees and hoverflies making the most of them, and fungi springing up all over the lawn. There's always something interesting when you stop to take a little time to look. And I'm making sure I get fresh air and a good walk around every day no matter how grotty I'm feeling!

Friday, 7 November 2014

More autumn colour

Here are some photos I've taken over the last couple of weeks of the continuing colour in the garden. We had our first frost yesterday and a low of 1.1C (brrrr!) so the dahlias are blackened, but the nasturtiums and other not frost hardy plants have survived - for the moment - although I don't see any more frost forecast for the next week, just lots more rain. So at least I can look out of the window at some of the remaining flowers! 

This was on 25th October when my Forest Pansy still had lots of
leaves on it - now there are only about a dozen left.

A lone Coneflower opens amongst a mass of dead stalks and seedheads!
What a brave little flower.

I think I like this time of year for the Hydranges best - they still have
that great fading colour with the first hints of skeletonised petals.

Lacecap Hydrangea with the Mophead in the background.

Liquidambar with a crane fly.

The veg patch is a weedy mess even though I did manage a bit of hoeing - but if I get the
angle right you can't see too many of them and the kale looks great with dew on it.

It's also a great macro subject but I didn't have anything dry to kneel on
so couldn't get too close to those droplets this time. :-)

Some trees which don't have particularly pretty colours can still look great
when the sun is shining on them - this is my purple leafed sycamore.

Of the fruit trees, this peach, and also the cherries can look quite colourful.

The best of course are the non-natives like my Liquidambar.
If you look full screen you can see a sunbathing fly and a hoverfly.
This isn't a bug post, but they are often there....

What a difference between its dropped leaf and the boring brown ones!

The top of the Liquidambar is much redder than the rest of the tree, and blow me down, I had no
idea there was a damselfly in this shot (bottom left) until I zoomed in on my monitor -
4th November and it's a Western Willow Spreadwing. Not bad!

I do have some critters to share as there are still a few insects around. Hopefully I'll get my act together to post them soon, as from Wednesday, my treatment starts. I am facing 5 weeks and 3 days of radiotherapy 5 days a week! On those days I take chemo pills; thankfully these are taken at home so there's no hanging around having it via drip at the hospital. Having to go there so often is going to be pretty tiring and time consuming, never mind the potential side effects from the treatment. I'll keep you posted even if I don't have much in the way of photos to share. I suppose one good thing is that this particular chemo drug is not one that makes you lose your hair....although it might thin. Well, we'll see. I had quite fancied a wig..... :-)

Hope you are all well and again I'll try now to catch up with your blogs and see what you have been up to! :-) xx

Sunday, 26 October 2014

October photo extravaganza

Okaaaaay here are some photos taken during the first half of October. I have a bit of catching up to do! Last weekend was fabulous and really warm, a true bit of Indian Summer and back in T-shirts again. All in all despite showers, which I am happy about as we have sown grass seed over the rest of the septic tank works and have had no need to water anymore, it's been probably the mildest October I can remember. No sign of any frost which is quite unbelievable, and at the moment the forecast is showing an optimistic 21C (70F) for Halloween! In fact our dinners have still been very summery and Mediterranean - ratatouille, moussaka, courgette fritters.... thankfully though the courgette plants have both died off now - huge sighs of relief all round although the aubergines are unbelievably still producing fruit and so are a few remaining cherry tomatoes, and we only bought our first commercially grown cucumber about 10 days ago.

My Forest Pansy tree has had the best colour ever this year. The leaves have stayed on for much longer than the previous couple of years since I planted it, and they've been a much needed blast of autumn colour in a garden which is largely full of natives which don't change to any spectacular colour - and other shrubs which do have nice colour have barely changed yet. So I have taken loads of photos of it and here are a few.... I have even more photos as it gradually turns caramel but they are still on the camera and await my next post.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' at the beginning of October.

The yellow perennial was looking good too -
it has daisy like flowers but I don't know what it is.

Mid October and the Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame')
in the background was (and still is) looking a nice yellow colour.

When the sun shines through it from the other side it is just amazing!

In the veg patch I was amazed at how the ash wood chippings laid down on the paths last autumn suddenly erupted in 'shrooms!

First these ones popped up....

...which I'm pretty sure matured into these ones.

And then great swathes of these suddenly appeared!

I had to watch my step!

Unfortunately I have no idea what either of these species are
as fungi ID is beyond me.

My OH spotted this huge hairy caterpillar, 3 inches long! marching across the
gravel path and then over the grass. This is the best photo I could get as
it was travelling at speed - maybe off to pupate somewhere?
I think it is the larva of a Fox Moth (Macrothylacia rubi).

Borage in the morning dew.

And again in the early evening light.

Zephirine Drouhin the rose produced a few late fresh leaves and flowers.
I spot a tiny spider here too. :-)

Still no way to close the gate to the veg patch!

By the way there's an easy way to ID Ichneumon wasps, if you can get a clear photo of the wings that is. I was taught this a couple of years ago and it's been invaluable info. All wasps have a clear 'horse's head' shape in the wing vein pattern (known as wing venation) as can been seen here on this photo in this link.

An Ichneumon Wasp on my Dogwood - nice matching colours.
I have never seen one like this before but I don't have the time to try to ID it right now.

One day as I was pottering about the garden, there was a bit of excitement when something largish rushed past me followed by two cats. I had my Canon dslr and macro lens hanging around my neck at the time which I soon found was not ideal when I realised that what I had for a moment thought might have been a moorhen, was actually a Red Legged Partridge and I needed to save it from the cats! (That sounds like I wasn't going to bother saving a's just my badly constructed sentence!) Anyhow there I was yelling at the cats and trying to kick (nicely not hard) them out of the way whilst trying to also hold this heavy pendulous thing swinging around my neck but needing free hands.... luckily I managed to grab the bird but then I needed help. 

So there I was wandering around the house with all this by now irritating camera gear around my neck and a thankfully docile partridge in my hands yelling at all the windows for my OH. Finally found him in the living room and he came out of the French windows saying "Why are you walking around with a partridge in your hands?" to which my reply was something like oh for god's sake get this ruddy camera off from around my neck then take the bird so we can go and release it outside the property safe from the cats.... but I had to then grab my other bridge camera because of course I wanted photos. This is only the second time I've seen one since moving to Brittany 10 years ago; the first time was in the cow field on the other side of my veg patch, and as I know from seeing them in the past that they are reluctant fliers, how it had ended up in my fenced in garden I have no idea! We released it in the orchard which wasn't ideal as it ended up in the long vegetation on the banks of the stream, but I didn't want to scare it for longer by walking all the way up the road to an open field. And I did want to get a few photos as this was a rarity for us!

Red Legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) being held by my OH.

Once released it rushed into the long vegetation.....

....where it spent some time looking around then we were kind and left it be!

Another new bug spotted by my OH was this guy, or gal. I was really lucky because I belong to a facebook insect group and it just so happened that someone had posted a photo of one that day, so that saved me possibly hours of IDing! It is actually a North American species that has only in fairly recent years been found in Europe and is spreading and is considered an invasive species. More about it on Wikipedia here.

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) on my garden table.
I love those hind legs!

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) on my wrist.

I was amazed last weekend to see more dragonflies and damselflies out mating - seems late in the year. I will never win any awards for my in-flight photos but I still like to try taking them and these are the best of the bunch! I can only get better and it's still good for my records.

On the left which was taken late September is a male Southern Hawker and the other two are
possibly Ruddy Darters - there were two pairs flying around like this with the female ovipositing
(laying eggs) in the shallower edges of the pond, whilst the male was still attached to it. It's my
first sighting of dragonflies mating and reproducing in my pond which I was really pleased about.

These two are the Western Willow Spreadwing (Lestes (or Chalcolestes) viridis)
which I'm still seeing around my pond even now.

And to finish up a few cat piccies. I keep meaning to take more photos of them but outside they rarely stand still, or come towards me as soon as they notice a camera pointing at them; the rest of the time they tend to be racing around like loonies or climbing trees.

Harry looking grumpy.

Hallie looking pensive (the bench to the right had fallen over due to wind).

And the usual evening let's take over the sofa and Mummy's blankie -
this time by Bertie and Hallie.

I didn't really want to mix talking about my health with a nice blog post back to the things I love best, but as who knows I may not blog again for a fortnight, I'll add little updates when I have some news. My surgeon finally was in touch last week after days of frustration and worry waiting, and he'd set up a few new appointments for me - finally things moving at last! So Friday I had an echographie (ultrasound) but an up the bum one (lovely jubbly!!) which incidentally was done by the Gastroenterologist who I'd first seen back in July when I was having gut problems..... anyhow we are cautiously optimistic because he said it looked from what he could see that my cancer is at Stage 2 but has not spread to my lymph nodes, and is a bit higher up from the anal sphincter muscle than they had originally thought which is great news. Before getting too excited though I'll wait for the proper results of that, my PETscan from the week before last and the MRI scan which I'm having done tomorrow. Then Tuesday I am seeing an oncologist or radiologist (or are they the same thing)... I am not sure but I'm feeling a lot happier just because things are happening. Waiting around is the worst thing! I will of course keep you posted.

And now I shall be checking out all your blogs and catching up!