Although it is tempting to slide off to the beach when it is hot and sunny, it is also tempting to go for a walk beside the little canal. The little canal runs parallel to the Seudre which is at the bottom of our garden. Although both are dry just now after the dry winter and spring, the banks are rich with flowers and grasses that tempt all manner of wildlife.
I had just taken the first steps on the road outside the house when I met a caterpillar (Peacock butterfly, Inachis io, I think). I helped it to the other side as I like Peacocks, they are very friendly and photogenic and this year they seem to be everywhere.
The next caterpillar I met made me laugh. I cannot identify it, although I would guess at some sort of Fritillary, but I would certainly call it a Highland Cow caterpillar, the same sort of red hairy look. Maybe I’m just getting homesick.
The banks of the little canal are well-endowed with Hemp-agrimony ( Eupatorium-cannabinum), the usual form is on the left but I have noticed an odd dark-leaved form here and there. As frequently occurs with common names, it is a bit misleading as it is neither hemp nor cannabis, but what makes it very special is that it is very popular with butterflies. Before I hear from anyone in the States, it is not Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium Purpureum) but it is a native european relative with the same quality of attracting butterflies with its nectar
…and also day-flying moths.
His orange underside looks like a silken cloak but I felt this bright colouration , although a treat to watch for humans, was surely lacking in discretion from a creature liable to end up as a tasty morsel for a predator.
But that was before I saw how well camouflaged he was resting in the shade on the trunk of a tree.
The other plant growing abundantly is Penny Royal (Mentha-pulegium) which seems equally as attractive to butterflies and nectar-feeding insects. I did not recognise it as a mint at first glance as the flower has two or sometimes three spikes of lilac flowerlets sitting the one above the other. The leaves are the give away and definitely mint leaves. The flavour is extremely good. It has a much superior flavour to the wild creeping mint that grows through the grass at home. However, the benefit of that mint is that when you walk on the grass in the garden you crush the mint and you walk in a mist of mint perfume.
The butterflies are territorial and I knew exactly where I will see the Provençal Short-tailed Blue, Everes alcetas, they seem to like to keep together and fly around together like scattered blue sequins. O.K. so they are one of my favourites, but look at their cute little tails!
It’s hard to have favourites as the Speckled Wood butterfly is omnipresent and he has to have a vote for being friendly.
The Gatekeeper gets my vote for being confusing as he is very like the Meadow Brown but has two white on his fore wing eye spots whereas the Meadow Brown has one. Not easy to notice at a distance.
Neither are the googly eyes of this Burnet Companion moth, ( I mean easy to spot from a distance!)
This is a serious photograph of the Burnet Companion moth. They are supposedly found in the company of the Burnet moth and although I have seen the caterpillars on the Ragwort I’ve seen no Burnet moths, yet.
The other plant that is growing abundantly is nettles and at this point being devoured voraciously by more Peacock butterfly caterpillars. Nettles are a favourite food of several different kinds of caterpillars which again accounts for the number of butterflies that can be seen nearby.
The warm sun has brought out a dragonfly that I think is the male common darter. I go looking for dragonflies at the pond which seems an eminently sensible place to look for them and they turn up beside woods near a “has been” water source. At least they had the decency to pause near the path so I could get a photograph of them.
This dragonfly was also flying around and looks like the Common Darter female, which seems logical.
The Wild Teasel, Dipsacus fullonum, has just started to flower. The lavender coloured flowers start to open in the middle of the flower head and then fill out on either side. I’m glad to see the teasel as the seeds are loved by Goldfinches and although I have seen a few, they are not numerous around here so its good to find a natural food source available for them in the area.
Even in the heat of the summer the countryside marks the changing seasons giving glimpses of the autumn to come as the sloes, Prunus spinosa, ripen in the sunshine.
The acorns are swelling high in the trees.
The mistletoe hanging in the Ash tree looks incongruous in the August heat but its berries still need some time to swell and ripen. The flowers and the fruit in the woods follow their seasonal changes and provide an ever changing background for our walks.
I could not miss an opportunity for a bumble bee picture. Bindweed is not something I would welcome amongst the flowers in my garden but looks beautiful rambling through the mass of green plants growing alongside the canal, and now I have discovered that it provides nectar for the bumble bees. This Carder bumble bee methodically visited each bloom on this clump of bindweed as I watched to check if it would miss one. It didn’t.