Saturday, 26 May 2018

Caterpillar Diaries (Part 2)

Much hairier 2nd skin (with the old skin on the left)
A day on and I believe that the majority of my caterpillars have shed their skin. I'm still a bit confused on which has shed and which haven't, but there's no question that there's an obvious size difference and that they are much hairier than before. They also look a much blacker than the old skins now, so I am completely certain that the skin shed was successful. I was surprised that they turned out to remain black and not a shade close to green yet, though.

Not sure if this group has all shed yet, so I shall leave the cleaning out an extra day

Friday, 25 May 2018

Caterpillar Diaries (Part 1)

One of my Emperor Moth caterpillars
After 5-6 days busily eating, my emperor moth caterpillars are now at a stage where everything has temporarily come to a stand still. They've been extremely active and were happily eating away at the bramble leaves I've been given them, producing a lot of tiny poo (called frass) in return. But now, they have huddled together on the kitchen towel appearing as if they are dead. However, they are not dead (at least I hope not). What they are doing is shedding their skins for the first time.

Clustering together for their first skin change
A caterpillar will do this 4-5 or more times in their development. They are stuck tight to the surface they are on, using a bit of silk around their hind legs and just like removing a pair of trousers using only your feet, they will wiggle out of their baby skin and continue what they have left off. This process may take two days and I cannot interfere until the skin shedding is done. All I can do is wait. In the mean time, I can watch the change happening as they are not only getting bigger, but also starting to change colour from black to brown.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

May 23rd Strumpshaw Fen

The Meadow Trail
It was chilly start at Strumpshaw this morning, not the best conditions for those seeking swallowtails. However, it did brighten up as the morning went on. That didn't mean much to me though, as I was unlucky this time round. Oh well! Maybe next week. At least the Norfolk hawkers didn't let me down. I saw one of these patrolling the sand cliff area instead of the ditches of the Meadow Trail. Speaking of which, the Meadow Trail is now open and while it is still pretty early for the displays of orchids, I did see a handful out in bloom as well as bog bean, marsh valerian and other wildflowers emerging through the vast blades of grass. The ditches took until the warmth of the afternoon to really get going in dragonfly life with four-spot chasers and hairy dragonflies claiming their territories along these narrow stretches of water.
Norfolk Hawker
Four-spot Chaser
Azure Damselfly
Bog Bean

Southern Marsh x Early Marsh Orchid hybrid?

Yellow Flag Iris
Ragged Robin
Marsh Valerian

Cotton Grass
Common Twayblade

Common Wasp
Hoverfly Myathropa florea?
As I mentioned, it was pretty chilly as I arrived this morning due to an overcast sky and a cold wind blowing. I endured it for at least an hour inside the Fen Hide before heading back to start my shift at 9:30am. A male cuckoo was showing nicely (though slightly distant for my camera) atop of some short bushes from the right side of the hide. He called out his famous moniker loud and proud for any nearby females or rival males who could hear him. I have yet to photograph a female cuckoo. Unfortunately, he moved on before any potential mate to show up.
Chinese Water Deer
Also today; I saw a Chinese water deer appear from the edge of the reed beds in front of Fen Hide, I had a couple of hobby sightings, a kingfisher hover around the broad by Reception Hide for a bit and there many swifts, house martins and swallows on the wing. I was a bit disappointed not to see a swallowtail today, but as there were peacocks, orange-tips and brimstones emerging as the day warmed, I bet that one showed up this afternoon as I was heading for home.

Grey Heron
Common Tern

Monday, 21 May 2018

May 21st Cley

Avocet with chicks
A short visit to Cley this morning. Avocet chicks were dotted across the islands of the main pools with their parents chasing off every other bird away. The avocets were just too overprotective and dominated the centre of the pools, pushing the other species to the pool's edges. Only the brave and the bold would remain close enough to these black and white iconic waders. There were a couple of  greenshanks around, but they were the most bullied bird here and were continuously harassed by the avocets. I felt sorry for those greenshanks, they did nothing wrong and were no threat to the avocet's tiny bundles of fluff.
Avocet Chicks
Black-tailed Godwits
Tufted Duck
House Sparrow
Elsewhere, reed and sedge warblers were giving us the run around as they sang from various perches obstructed by surrounding dense vegetation. Meanwhile, we also watched swallows and house martins coming down to a puddle to gather mud to build their nests with.
Reed Warbler
House Martin