Welcome to autumn- the 1st of September marks the “official” start of autumn. And you’d think the weather knew it too, with a shift to rain and cool northerly winds. This week is the first I’ve needed a jacket for warmth, not just rain, and the wooly hat has been dug out of the rucksack. But last weekend was lovely and warm, and we saw more butterflies then than we’ve seen most of the summer.
The Scotch arguses are starting to look a little worn. Compare this picture with how they looked when they were freshly emerged.
The red admirals look quite different on the top and on the underwing.
Speaking of how different things look, we found some dragonfly exuvia this week. These are the “shells” of the dragonfly larvae, from which the adult emerge. They’re pretty big- about as long as my thumb- but you’d still never think that this dragonfly could come from this ugly-looking skin.
The reptiles haven’t been much in evidence this week. They were out over the warmer weekend but even then were being a bit shy.
We’ve also found a couple of caterpillars this week. These will be getting close to the time when they hibernate over winter in soil or dead vegetation. The oddest-looking of these is the elephant hawkmoth caterpillar. It has two false “eyes” on its head end and is pretending to be something nasty like a snake. If you disturb them, they lash their head from side to side in a fairly disconcerting manner, pretending they’re about to bite!
They’d better stay away from this insect. Ichneumon wasps have one of the most interestingly horrible ways of feeding their young. Ever seen the film “Alien”? Well, if you have, you’re getting the idea. They paralyse caterpillars and lay their eggs in them. The wasp larvae then eat the still-living caterpillar from the inside out. Feel free to say “eeeugh” at this point- most people do (unless it’s small boys who think it’s cool).
The grebe babies are almost adult sized now, but still have stripy faces.
But, apart from the weekend, it’s been fairly damp and cool. There are still a few wildflowers about but these are getting scarcer by the week.
The dead rabbit bonanza continues. No kites this week but there have been plenty of carrion crows living up to their name.
We’ve been pulling Himalayan balsam from the banks of the Logie Burn this week. It’s an attractive plant with pink flowers, but, as the name suggests, doesn’t belong here. It can outcompete and smother native plants, so it has to go. Not the most pleasant of jobs- you don’t need expensive plastic surgery to get that “trout lips” look, just pull up 2 foot tall balsam in among 3 foot tall nettles, and you’ll soon acquire that puffed-up look! Nettle stings are never nice, but in the face…owwww.
At least it didn’t rain on us while we were balsam pulling, it’s done that most other days. It’s been a bit dull for nice views, but beauty can be found in miniature all over the reserve. Here are some of Paul’s close-ups.
The rowan berries continue to ripen and, this week, for the first time, they seem to be ripe enough to interest the thrushes. The blackbirds have been tucking and, in another month, they could be joined by fieldfares and redwings. Autumn is definitely upon us now!