….And overtaken by Summer

How have I managed to have written nothing for so long? Loads of garden stuff to mention, but it’s really the butterflies that are the stars of the moment.

A Marbled White. As always I’m pretty happy when these start appearing – they signify early summer for me. June flying and abundant this year in the meadows nearby.

A perching Comma. So called for the little white ‘comma’ on its wing. This one obligingly posed for me. There are lots more, but this year the absolute highlight, so far….has been my encounters with His Imperial Majesty : the Purple Emperor.

Last year was my first serious attempt to spot them. I was convinced that they should be here. There’s everything they want and need: oak trees aplenty – they live up in the canopy of the tree, feeding on honeydew and oak sap. And for egg-laying the females/caterpillars need sallow close by. The meadow and ‘prairie’ alternate oak, sallow, oak….

The problem is that they stay mostly up in the tree-tops. They don’t really need to come down to the ground at all. But the males will be tempted by the mineral salts they can take from a muddy puddle, or from less pleasant things like fresh fox poo, or apparently rancid fish paste. When the weather is so hot and dry muddy puddles are in short supply, but poo is available(!)

Having drawn a blank last year I wasn’t actually looking, but Fate was smiling on me…

And just when my cup runneth over, something made me look twice at this ‘small’ Tortoiseshell and take a quick photo. It’s actually a Large Tortoiseshell – extinct now in the UK other than as captive-bred and released, or a rare migrant. It’s not uncommon in the rest of Europe, but another first for me.

And I’ve not just been looking at butterflies. I nearly trod on this little chap – a bit early to be out of its nest perhaps. No tail feathers yet.

And finally my new friend. I’ve never come across such a fearless blackbird. One of this year’s nestlings. It’s spending increasing amounts of time sitting next to me under the parasol. Hissy doesn’t seem to care (yet.)

Catching up with Spring – but look at the date!

It’s been a fairly difficult Spring so far…Too many stops and starts in the weather. Too many cold days which meant the soil seemed to be taking ages to warm up. Now, even though it’s warm ‘enough’ theoretically, and things germinated well in the burst of extreme heat in early April. Since then they’ve just sat in the cold and shivered. A bit like me. But now it’s warming up! And we are rushing into Spring so fast that I can’t keep up with it. So here are some pictures of Spring before it all goes bonkers and out of control, and is in fact, Summer!

I found this little guy nestling in a tray of seedling Acers in the basement – just about warmer there than outside…

This was the first, proper asparagus harvest of this year. It was tasty. There have been several more since then.
I’m always impressed by Rhododendrons, but never really sure if I actually like them. This one, contrasted against the lime green Viburnum leaf is certainly zingy!

Blossom on ‘Reine de reinettes’

Freshly opening Chive flowers.