Saturday, 23 June 2018

June 22nd Mousehold Heath

A chilly moth night at Mousehold Heath
Last night was yet another moth evening at Mousehold Heath. Despite the event starting at 10pm, there was a reasonably good turn up for it. And though it was pretty chilly as the night went on, we still manage to catch a few moths in the trap, not as many as we hoped for, but nonetheless enough to show the family that had turned up for this late night trapping session. A handful of these moths were apparently new to the site, too, which made waiting around outside in the cold instead of being in bed well worth it. Here's what we caught...

Purple Clay
Willow Beauty

Heart and Dart
Single-dotted Wave
Buff Ermine
Marbled Brown

Friday, 22 June 2018

Caterpillar Diaries (Part 10)

One of my caterpillars beginning to pupate!
While I've been away in London, I gave my caterpillars to my friend, David to look after. When I gave them to him on Saturday, after showing him the ropes, they were still quite lively. However, as soon as I left them round his, apparently they started acting 'odd'. I told him that they were going through a 5th skin shed. It never happened though, as David reported that he never found any old shrivelled up skin anywhere as the days past by. They weren't eating much and were a lot less active than before. But then he woke up on Tuesday morning to find a brown 'slug' at the bottom of the box. This was a cocoon. My caterpillars are beginning to pupate!

A completed cocoon!
Like a parent missing out on a child's first steps, I felt disappointed to have missed this landmark occasion in my caterpillars lives and guilty to have left them with David at this delicate stage, as if throwing him off the deep end in the world of caterpillar care. I had to instruct him on the phone of what to do, but he seemed to have done a good job when I picked them up when I returned home last night. The pot and the bramble branches are now replaced with egg cartons for them to pupate in with some leaves placed at the top for those still fattening up in preparation. Sadly, one has died for reasons unknown, but there are still plenty that have yet to pupate. A few of them has found themselves a crevice in the cartons to weave a brown sheet of silk over themselves. It seems to take them several hours to complete building the cocoon to the point where you cannot see them inside. Now all I can do is wait and let them metamorphose into adult moths.

My London Adventure (Part 3)

Fallow Deer at Richmond Park
My final day in London was meant to be a day of visiting the Natural History Museum and other attractions based in central London. However, Mum's leg was playing up and she was finding it difficult to walk even to the nearest underground station. So, we ended up driving around Richmond Park instead. It proved to be a great substitute location. This national nature reserve seemed like the wildest place in the capital with its many acres of grassland and ancient woodland. It felt like a country park than a place that's part of this very busy city. It is also a place famous for it's herds of fallow and red deer that are extremely use to people. At times it was like a safari park as the deer grazed by the roadside. While we were here, I also went in search for stag beetles that supposedly inhabit the many fallen dead wood that the staff here leave to rot to encourage the beetles thrive, but I had no such luck. I think it was because it is now pretty late in the year for them. My stag beetle hunt goes on for another year, I guess.
Red Deer
Grassland and ancient woodland
London's cityscape
Grey Squirrel
Bumblebee and Foxglove

Large Skipper
No Stag Beetles, but I did find this interesting bee on the dead wood
Peregrine that I found on a TV aerial atop of neighbouring tower block to our hotel

My London Adventure (Part 2)

The Palm House at Kew Gardens
Day 2 in London saw us visiting Kew Gardens. This is my first visit to this, the largest and most diverse botanical collections in the world, which boasts of having over 30,000 of the world's plants. My dad, who as a gardener, has more interest in plants than I do. But whilst he is into plants for the aesthetic beauty, I'm more interested of coming here for the science. I'm no botanist or have a great knowledge of plant life, but I do find certain species or groups rather fascinating. And Kew has everything to please both those interested in plant beauty and science and has done so since Victorian times. So we are both in the right place.

 [I apologise for not naming all the plants shown here, as I don't really remember them.]

The Great Broad Walk Borders
The Hive
Feral Pigeon sunbathing

Treetop Walkway

Sweet Chestnuts
The Temperate House
There was a lot of walking involved as we made our way from one giant greenhouse to another. Each one showcased some wonderful exotic plants. After 5 years of renovation, the Temperate House was now open to the public. It is without the biggest greenhouse in the world. The iconic Palm House, on the other hand, had more plants in it. It just seemed to be crammed with palms from around the world and you felt as if you were in the tropics with a sweltering heat greeting you, though the heat was more unbearable as you climbed the stairs to the platform above all these palms as your body suddenly drenches you in a bucket load of sweat.

Inside the Temperate House

Inside the Palm House

The Waterlily House
The Rose Garden
The Princess of Wales Conservatory
However, the best of the collection in my opinion was inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory. A spectacular display of cacti ranging in various shapes and sizes greets you as you enter the entrance. Some of which only flower at night, where in the wild they would be pollinated by bats. Open through to the next room and a rainforest appears before you, complete with a tropical heat. Here, you can find the world's largest and smallest waterlilies floating right next to each other. There was a great collection of tropical orchids and air plants (plants that grow on the branches of rainforest trees) among many other stunning tropical plants. One of the most extraordinary in the collection was the titan arum, the world's largest flower (over 3m or 10ft), which blooms at night once every 2-10 years, producing a foul smell of rotting flesh to attract flies.
The Cacti display inside
This particular species of cactus flowers at night 
Bee-wolf (which seemed to like soil the cacti were in to build it's nest)
Me with the world's largest waterlily (Victoria amazonica)
The world's smallest waterlily (Nymphaca thermarum)
Titan Arum (the largest flower in the world)

A display of air plants
One of the many orchids on display
Not sure
Green Iguana
Venus Flytrap
If there's one group of plants that fascinate me more than any other, then it has to be the carnivorous plants. These sort of plants grow in poor nutrient soil, such as bogs. They have to find their vital nutrients elsewhere, from living things! To catch their prey, these plants have evolved a variety of different ways to trap them. Sundews have sticky leaves to snare insects, while Venus flytraps have their iconic beartrap-like leaves that snaps shut whenever a fly knocks into special hairs that act like trigger mechanisms. Out of all the carnivorous species, none are as diverse and as complex in design than the pitcher plants. They are basically a modified leaf that forms a funnel with a 'lid' that attracts prey with sweet nectar. This lure then leads the plant's victims to their deaths as they slip down into the funnel to a liquid at the bottom where they drown. The largest pitcher is the Nyphenthes rajah, which is big enough to trap small mammals. Who said plants were boring?

Some of the many Pitcher Plant species on display