Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Bush cricket, Tettidoniidae

This is the Great green bush cricket, Tettigonia viridissima.  When we were in the Dordogne last month the grass was full of crickets, and this was the easiest one to catch.  They tended not to fly away, just to walk all over you and jump in short hops.  I could quite understand people making pets of them.  The smaller crickets were another matter; they were hard to catch, and did try to escape as soon as you opened your hands.

Back in Scotland we are having a dreadful summer, thank goodness we have had the Jubilee and the Olympics to cheer us up.  And didn't the olympics go well?  I think we all expected it to be a disaster, as we always do.  So it was wonderful that it was such a success, not just in wining so much, but more as the whole event itself.  I think we are all still a little bemused by it all, and wondering where we went right.  If only we could do other things just as well. Perhaps the Queen to take to parachuting a bit more often.  She's up here now, so she missed the closing ceremony.  It is a comforting feeling to know we have a queen who would rather be out in the rain and mud of the moors with her dogs than down in the lights and glory of London with the posh folk. 

Anyway no strawberry jam this year as the strawberries are either not ripening or going to a mouldy mush.  The potatoes so far have been good, and the lettuces too, but everything else has been a disaster.  In the Middle Ages we would be facing a famine.  

On a brighter note we will definitely not be cold this winter.  The old man who used to deliver our logs has retired, so we ordered some from another source.  Now the unit in which logs are delivered is a "load".  So we ordered 4 loads, as we still had a lot left over from last year.  We were a little surprised at the price of a "load", but had been warned by our old supplier that we might have to pay more.  So anyway the first load turned up and it was twice the size of the "load" of the previous supplier.  Consequently we have filled all our log storage and have some under tarpaulins.  What's the betting we are in for another mild winter?   

Well my dog is telling me in no uncertain terms that it is time to go out into the mist and wander round the muddy woods. This morning when we got to the top of the hill the mist was all around and it felt like we were on an island with vague shapes of land in the distance - a bit like a Chinese painting.  Mist feels lovely on the skin, but makes a right mess of your hair, and it turns my black dog into silver till she shakes it off.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Male scorpion fly

This is a male scorpion fly.  Apart from the genital capsule at the rear end (which gives it the common name of scorpion fly) it looks pretty much like the female scorpion fly.
This is a close up of the genital capsule.
Males are much more difficult to find than females.  I'm not sure why this is.  It could be that there are just fewer, or perhaps they are more wary, or maybe they do not live long after mating.  They are also more difficult to catch.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Octolasium cyaneum - an earthworm

This is Octolasium cyaneum, an earthworm that prefers wetter conditions.  Previously I had hardly ever seen this worm, but this summer I see loads of them on the road trying to find higher ground as they've been flooded out from the lower side of the road.  We have had more, and more constant rain than I can remember.  The worm normally lives on the side of the road that has a ditch running down it, but although the ditch has overflowed in some parts for a just few hours, it is just too wet for too long in other parts for this worm.  So it crosses the road to reach the higher, south facing bank.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Well it is summer, though you wouldn't know it by the temperature.  The birch leaves have stiffened up and are now a dark leathery green.  The bracken is knee high, and is trying to take over every edge it can making some paths impassable until the winter.  I step on the fronds that come up on the paths, but this is not nearly enough to keep them open.

Today I saw two male scorpion flies, but I didn't have my camera or a net, so all I could do was look at them.  I must make an effort to catch one and take a photograph for the web site.

Bombus pascuorum workers were busy in the field and woodland edge, but I haven't seen many in the garden, although all the other common bumblebees are out in force.  I am so glad to have a lot of Bombus hortorum on my viper's bugloss.  it is such a wonderful plant for them, and the flowers go on and on.  They will last at least until the lavender is in bloom, so hortorum will have plenty of nectar from my garden all through summer and until it gets colder.

Oh, my timer is pinging at me, that means by bread must be ready, so I'm off.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Pheasant nest

This is a photograph I took this morning of a pheasant's nest.  My dog found it about a week ago.  It is right next to the road behind a tussock of grass.  At first my dog wouldn't move from the spot, so I went to see what she'd found.  I couldn't see anything, so tried to drag her away, but she wouldn't budge, so I returned.  When I put my head over the tussock - it's on a bank about shoulder high - I got the fright of my life.  The pheasant gave out a screech and flew off into my face.  I saw some eggs, and knew what my dog was so interested in.

Anyway, for the next 3 days we walked past the nest.  My dog stops to have a sniff, but can't reach the nest, well she could, but doesn't.  She's very good at things like this.  Now that I know where it is I could just make out the tail of the pheasant, so we'd walk on.  However yesterday she wasn't on the nest.  I didn't think anything of it at the time, after all she has to feed herself.  But this morning she wasn't there again, so I decided to have a look.  It was full of eggs, but they were cold as I touched the top one.  So I imagine she has been killed.  The road is not busy, but it is just a few yards from a fairly busy road where drivers regularly drive at 60 mph, so no pheasant would stand a chance.  Pity about the eggs, but I don't know anything about pheasants.

I've been feeding a robin in the wood.  Again my dog found her nest on the ground - I was amazed where she's nested, but so far no-one else has found the nest.  We had about 10 days of solid rain and cold weather, so every day I'd drop off 6 mealworms for her.  Now we are back to having nice weather, and there are plenty of insects around, so she probably doesn't need my mealworms, but I'll carry on.  I usually get mealworms at this time of year for the insectivorous birds as we always have a bad patch of weather, and this just helps out a bit.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Direction of coiling (torsion) in snails

Just recently I've been getting a load of emails from students in the US using my snail page, I'm sure there are loads better pages around, so I don't know why they like mine. Perhaps it's the mating pics. Anyway I decided to clear something up, and that is how to tell the difference between dextral and sinistral coiling.  So I drew a diagram showing the difference as my written explanation wasn't very good.  And here it is.
I don't like the word sinistral as it comes from the same old word as sinister, and has negative meanings.  But is used for left-handed people, of which I am one.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Long absence

Sorry to anyone who has been following the drivel I write here.  I've just been so busy since Christmas that I haven't written anything here, but lots has been happening.
Santa brought me an iPad - lovely.

I discovered just why everyone is raving about Steig Larson's - don't know about the spelling there - Millenium Trilogy, and I've read the lot and seen one film.  They are definitely not the kind of books I normally read, but I found them riveting, and read them one after another.  They are so good that I imagine I will read them again sometime.

I also found out that it is poss. to download books from the local library on to the ipad - got the Millenium Trilogy that way.  Here in the UK they do not let you do this on to the Kindle, which is a shame as the Kindle is lighter and easier on the eye than a backlit screen.  Also the great boon of the Kindle is the battery life - the ipad cannot come anywhere near to competing with this.

However the ipad has apps galore.  I downloaded a really useful one recently called Slideshark.  It is great for giving talks when you need to show slides or short videos.  You can use it with Powerpoint presentations too.  So I didn't need to lug the vintage laptop along when I did a talk recently.

The bumblebees around here have been having a hard time with the weather.  We had an amazingly warm March, with temperatures over 20, then a foot of snow overnight and below zero.  So one afternoon it was over 20 and that very night we had a blizzard and woke up to frozen ponds and dead tomatoes in the greenhouse.  Luckily for the bumblebee queens that have survived - and there are many - the good weather made the fruit trees bloom early, so there is a lot of nectar and pollen around.

Also read a hilarious book by Dawn French called A Little bit Marvellous.  It is a very light book, and can be read in one sitting, but it is a really great way to pass what would otherwise be a few dull hours.  There are 2 very different teenagers in the book, and she has got them down to a T.  I am so glad I don't have to go through those agonies again.  When I look back on those years I was so influenced by fashion and fads, and what my peers thought of me.  I did and wore things that I really didn't like, but just went along with the herd.  I wish I'd had the strength of character to stick to what I liked.  Oh well, I suppose this is one of the few benefits of growing old.