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ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

The Skipper and the Copper

ShareMondays2020 – The Skipper And The Copper

What a joyous few days spent amongst the butterflies last week! It started with a first for the camera with this stunning white admiral in the woodlands of Bookham Commons. The commons have the ideal habitat with dappled shade, bramble blossom that adults sip nectar from, and honeysuckle where they will lay their eggs.

White Admiral in woodland

The chalk slopes of the Surrey Hills AONB have the ideal grass and scrub for meadow butterflies like the small, large and Essex skippers that I saw. I stayed away from the hundreds of people heading for the top of Box Hill and took Simon over to Denbies Hillside, near Ranmore Common. Such fabulous views across to Leith Hill, down to Dorking and views up The Pilgrims Ways toward Guildford.

Essex Skipper

The marbled whites emerge, en masse, and are drawn to purple flowers to feed from. They are stunning and ethereal, the spirits, or sylphs of the hillside.

SylphMarbled WhiteMarbled White

There were only a few people out at these National Trust managed sites and I was so relieved to be able to get outside again safely! I can’t resist leading with my image of the chance meeting of the Essex Skipper and Small Copper on the grass seeds. They stopped briefly, at a safe social distance, greeted one another and then took flight again.

 

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ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

Small Skipper

ShareMondays2020 – Skipping Through The Meadows

I ventured out of the house for the first time since March 22nd last Friday! I’m still shielding, but we have been advised that we can go outside once a day, for health benefits, as long as we follow strict social distancing. It was so nerve-wracking, but the wildlife at the Heather Farm Wetlands area welcomed me back with what felt like a huge hug to the senses. The sights, sounds, scents, space and the feel of the breeze was just the therapeutic boost I needed. It’s peaceful in the wetlands, with only a few visitors, who were all keeping a good distance. I felt safe and that was really important!

Skipper and Flower Beetles

I didn’t have to go far before seeing skippers flitting about all around me among the grasses. It was magic! A mix of both small and Essex skippers were so abundant in this perfect habitat. One obliging small skipper allowed me to get close-up with the macro lens and I hope this shows you why I just adore them. So fluffy, with the most enormous eyes! They were adorning the thistles along with thick-legged flower beetles, spiders and froghoppers (the larvae produce cuckoo spit!). See if you can spot them!

Skipper on Thistle

Grasses are so important to skippers! Small skipper larvae usually feed on Yorkshire-fog grass, and Essex skipper larvae will usually be found on Cock’s-foot grass. Both species will also use Timothy, False Brome, Meadow Foxtail and Creeping Soft grass. Aren’t they just the most wonderful names? Both the Woodland Trust and Wildlife Trusts have great information about grasses and sedges!

Essex Skipper on grasses

It’s really difficult to differentiate between the small and Essex skippers! It’s actually a bit early to be seeing the Essex on the wing, they would usually appear in July. Many of our butterflies have been emerging early this year, after the hot month of May. I am pretty sure that a number of the skippers I saw were the Essex, as a head-on view showed me the black-tipped antennae. The small skipper has an orange-brown tip.

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ShareMondays2020 – Happy Birthday Bro!

Longes Family Portrait

ShareMondays2020 – Happy Birthday Bro!

Happy Birthday Robin!!! Yes, that’s my little brother on the left, with my sister-in-law, Mo, and nine month old Finley. They came over for a brief window visit this week and it really lifted my spirits. It’s been ages since we’ve seen each other in person and Finley is growing up so quickly! He’s such a character and like most little ones his age, he just wants to put everything in his mouth. It was so funny when he made a beeline for the birdbath and feeders! I had visions of a wet and confused baby until Robin just managed to get to him in time.

The birds continue to visit too! My brother isn’t the only Robin visiting the feeders! There’s a lovely pair of robins nesting in our hedgerow and the adults have been cleaning up the mess on the ground left by the starlings.

The juvenile starlings are becoming much more independent and are still very vocal. The blue and great tits don’t get much of a look-in at the feeder but it’s great when we do see them! The pigeons are also very good at clearing up whatever mess is left underneath the feeders by the starlings and tits.

For 30DaysWild I have also been watching the bees that are feasting on nectar from the hydrangea outside my window. I’ve seen three different species. Occasionally there is also a cat in the flowerbed too!

My parents continue to make random window visits too. This week they chose to visit in the rain! No need to make such a song and a dance about it though, lol 😉

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ShareMondays2020 – Squabbling Siblings

Squabbling Siblings

ShareMondays2020 – Squabbling Siblings

Watching the fledgling starlings every day is such a great way to observe their behaviour and how they mature. They’re definitely at teenager stage, so much shouting and posturing! They absolutely scream at the adults and I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for these hard working parents. There’s screaming to be fed, screaming when the adult is in the way, screaming when a sibling gets to the favourite feeder first. It’s just like any human household really! I’m just watching all the stages of adolescence at a much faster pace.

Adult Starling Plumage

Beautiful adult starling

June is the month when many of us take on the 30DaysWild challenge from The Wildlife Trusts. They have recently launched a campaign for a Wilder Future, something I have always been passionate about. Latest statistics show that 1 in 7 species in the UK is at risk of extinction now. Starlings are an at-risk species. There has been about an 80% decline in the species since the 1980’s! Much of this is down to habitat loss. This is both in relation to loss of winter roosting sites and a loss of suitable nest sites. Our starlings nest in cavities under our roof tiles. I really am truly privileged to have them here and I would hate for future generations to miss out on the pleasure of watching these garrulous characters! Please do read the statement and join the campaign if you can!

Here’s a bit of the action from the starlings and other birds at our feeder this week. Enjoy!

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ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

I Predict A Riot

ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

So much fun watching the fledglings this week! We have large numbers of juvenile starlings now and they really are riotous. Their antics at the feeder have been a source of joy and amusement, not just for me and Simon, but also for many of my neighbours. When they all flock in together, there is hardly enough room on the feeding station for the fledglings, let alone their parents!

The stare!

Staring Starling!

Fledgling Blue Tit

Fledging Blue Tit


Do a little dance!

Shake Those Tail Feathers!

Singing for supper

Singing for Supper

When the starlings aren’t monopolising the feeding station, the beautiful fledgling blue tits are now visiting. They are so dinky but very vocal! The ragged looking adults are being constantly harassed by the cute little fluffies. Actually seeing a feed is a real joy! Sometimes the blue tit adults bring food from the trees down to fledglings perched on the feeder. They’re all still going through my suet and seed at the rate of knots, but it’s wonderful to feel like we are contributing to the welfare of these new lives!

Feeding a fledgling Blue Tit

Dinner Time!

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ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

The Messy Eater

ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

As most of you will know, I can’t leave my home as I am in the shielded group. I can’t even get into the garden as we’re in flats and the gardens are a communal space! I do, however, have a window that looks onto a small area of lawn and a little flower bed with hydrangea and roses.

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

When we were initially asked to stay shielded indoors, I knew that the hardest aspect of this for me, would be not getting out to my favourite nature reserves and parks to watch wildlife. I ordered a new bird feeding station, a little flower shaped feeder and a bird bath to encourage our garden birds to come to me. The feeders and bath are all set quite high, as we have two cats so I wanted to keep the wildlife safe! My regular visitors are the starlings, great tits and blue tits. The hot weather has made the bird bath a popular new feature and several of my neighbours have followed suit and added bird baths to their little patches too!

Thirsty Work

Parenting is thirsty work!

 

The little flower feeder has been very popular with the blue and great tits who both like an open feeder and good perch. I got Simon to stick it into one of my large planters to give it a bit of extra height. The blue tits are looking quite bedraggled at the moment as they have been very busy taking food to the nest. I suspect they have started their moult as well. After a very heavy shower the other day they looked especially untidy! I think it just adds to their character and tells a story of how much parenting work they are doing!

Bedraggled Blue Tit

Bedraggled Blue Tit

After The Rain

After the rain!

I have been filling (or rather sending Simon outside to fill!) the flower feeder with suet pellets for a high energy food source. The great tits absolutely love it! They’re not nearly as bedraggled as the blue tits but I am sure they have a busy nest nearby.

Take Away Dinner

Take Away Dinner

For weeks now I could see increasing activity from the starlings and felt sure that their young must be close to fledging! I was finally rewarded with the sight of a couple of fledged starlings at the feeding station. They are wonderful to see and hear! Very noisy, demanding food from every single adult nearby. The coconut feeders with suet and seed have been great for the starling fledglings, soft and easily digestible and packed with energy! They really are rather messy eaters though. Plenty ends up being dropped on the ground but the pigeons are happy to come and hoover them up.

The Very Hungry Starling

The very hungry starling!

 

The fledglings are great to look at closely with the telephoto lens! The markings are, of course, very different and they are able to open their beaks incredibly wide due to the soft gape flanges in the corner of the beak. I also noticed that the fledglings eyes are quite blue in colour.

Fledgling Starling Detail

Juvenile starling detail

I’m looking forward to seeing blue and great tit fledglings joining the starling at the feeder soon! I had a brief glimpse of a blue tit fledgling this afternoon so watch this space for more fledgling stories.

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#ShareMondays2020 – Hurting

Hurting

#ShareMondays2020 – Hurting

My image this week was inspired by my husband’s thoughts on the layout of last Monday’s image. He said it really reminded him of an album cover by the band Tears For Fears. Perhaps you remember it? It’s called The Hurting. A true masterpiece of musical commentary on social issues. I was really struck by how relevant this album still is. Mad World could definitely be an anthem for current times.

As I did previously with song titles from the late, great David Bowie, I have taken the titles from this album and reworked them into a “new” poem. Words from the past, still powerful in the present. (original lyrics by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

Hurting

Are we broken?
The children suffer
In this
Mad world.
Change.
Memories fade
Since the
Start of the breakdown.
I am
The prisoner.
Watch me bleed
In my pale shelter.
The conflict
In my mind,
Ideas as opiates
To keep away from
The idea of opiates.
I won’t become a
Wino even though
I’m hurting.
We are
The hurting.
We are broken
But it will
Change.

The title song, The Hurting, has resonated with me for many years. It was released in 1983, not long before I became the victim of serious bullying at school. It carried on for many years and has affected me throughout my life. The mental scars are worse than the physical.

Could you understand a child
When he cries in pain?
Could you give him all he needs
Or do you feel the same?

(Verse 2: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

I was seriously ill with Crohn’s disease for a number of years before finally being diagnosed in 1995. Recurrent bouts of diarrhoea, weight loss, fatigue, onset of asthma, malnourishment and rectal bleeding. Every doctor had their own theory and most of them were really just accusations of wrongdoing on my part. Making it up to get out of school, drugs, misuse of laxatives leading to anorexia, more drug abuse accusations (you do art don’t you?), munchausen’s syndrome, hypochondria. Many of these are genuine health conditions suffered by people, they do actually need treating, but the then medical profession used these words and phrases as if this was some kind of criminal activity. Diagnosis for IBD has improved over the years, but I’m sorry to say that many young people are still being stigmatised, marginalised and misdiagnosed.

All along
You’ve been told you’re wrong
When you felt it right
And you’re left to fight
The hurting

(Pre-Chorus 2: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

And here we are now, 2020. I’ve faced many hurts in the intervening years. Some people might be forgiven for thinking that the greatest of these would have been my abdominal surgeries. Actually, the two most painful things were losing my ability to paint and being unable to have my own children. I think most of us are hurting at the moment. Whether through isolation, fear, grief, anxiety, financial instability, separation, pressure, work stress, trauma or perhaps a combination of these. Now, perhaps more than at any other time in our lives, we need to acknowledge these feelings, be kind to ourselves and seek help if we need it – Every Mind MattersSamaritansMind

Is it an horrific dream?
Am I sinking fast?
Could a person be so mean
As to laugh and laugh

On my own
Could you ease my load?
Could you see my pain?
Could you please explain
The hurting

(Verse 1: Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith)

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ShareMondays2020 – Le Chat Ã‰caille

Juno

ShareMondays2020 – Le Chat Écaille

Something a bit more simple for the weekly competitions today! Juno, posed on the windowsill, giving the classic shaping of the famous Art Nouveau poster, Le Chat Noir, by Théophile Steinlen. I can’t really share just Juno! This portrait of Luna focuses on the beautiful colouring of her eyes.

Luna

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ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

Shielded

ShareMondays2020 – The Shielded

So just who are The Shielded?

Well the media are rather misrepresenting us I think! We are the unseen 1.8million. We’re not all in care homes, aged over 70 or “people who would probably have died at some point this year”. If I hear, or read, one more report that claims that many of the Covid-19 related deaths don’t really count, because that person would have likely passed away soon anyway, I will scream! Every death is a person, an individual with loved ones. All the World War rhetoric inspired me to get hold of a vintage gas mask. DON’T wear one of these to protect yourself against Covid! It’s a representation of the suffocating mask I feel has been placed upon me. I can’t help but think of Wilfred Owen’s poem Dulce et Decorum Est! Please read it. I am stumbling and floundering.

Masked

Many people in The Shielded group are there because they have a lifelong illness that requires immunosuppression. This could be because of cancer, organ transplant or autoimmune disease. The aim of our treatment is to give us as long a life as possible! Many people in this group are young. Most people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis – are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25. I was 19yrs old. My mother was told that it was 50/50 if I would actually make it through the night. I stay shielded so that she, and the rest of my loved ones, don’t have to hear that kind of news again, because I’ve contracted coronavirus!

Shielded Warriors

While the majority of the population are now thinking about the easing of lockdown, The Shielded know that we’ve got a few more months of being shut away in our own homes, before we can even get that “one exercise outing per day”. Count your lucky stars people! We’re not superheroes, just ordinary people who would like to get on with our lives in the usual way too. Some people are waiting for operations, new therapies, hospital referrals or local treatments. Part of normal life for a lot of us. We’ve accepted that certain things have had to go on hold. You can help us get back to our normal by Staying Home, Protecting The NHS and Saving Lives. Who knows, you might even save mine!

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ShareMondays2020 – Queuing For Groceries or It’s Two Metres You Tits!

Queuing For Groceries

ShareMondays2020 – Queuing For Groceries or It’s Two Metres You Tits!

So, I might have finally lost the plot from being stuck indoors so long! But, hey, if the children in Spain can spend six weeks without being allowed out of the home at all, then so can I. Honestly, I salute them! I was hardly ever indoors as a child. My love of the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Even now, the children of Spain have only just had the lockdown relaxed as far as letting them outside for just the one hour. The majority of people here in the UK have always had that one freedom! Please be grateful for it and continue to social distance as much as you can. You are saving lives!

Meanwhile, my new bird feeder has been a big hit with the starlings and tits. They’re giving me a lot of joy and plenty of amusement too, when there’s a fracas over feeding rights. The starlings do actually form quite an orderly little queue, but they sometimes forget the queuing order and it all gets rather flappy and noisy! They’re really garrulous little characters and the range in vocalisations is incredible. I must try to get some recordings! I do love keeping the windows open and hearing a range of birdsong from outside.

It’s not just the starlings and tits! I can hear the blackbird singing away at the moment, the wren serenades us every morning and evening, goldfinches chatter as they flit through the trees, the magpies seem to be in constant disagreement with everyone, the wood pigeon coos soothingly and once or twice a day the parakeets add their voice to the general cacophony. It’s a heavenly symphony! I hope you’re all taking good care of yourselves, enjoying a few simple pleasures and staying safe.