Nature Notes Nature Notes 2009

September 2009

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness seems to have come upon us very early this year. Last month I was dodging deer in the rain coming home late at night, this month it has been badgers and hedgehogs out on the roads in thick mist – yet again with no lights!

We have seen a few phasmids around St Just in Roseland since we came down but this month a rather splendid example spent a few days sunning itself on the side of our house. It only disappeared into the undergrowth when the sun went in. Phasmid?? Ok, it’s a stick insect! It was about 7 inches (175 mm) long and remarkably well developed in its ability to hide in brambles, which is one of its principal food plants. If you see a phasmid there is a UK survey that would like to hear from you on line. Go to UK Phasmids and log your sightings.

Many would say that these slowly stalking magisterial beasties are very primitive, they have been around unchanged for millions of years, but then others (can I smell bra’s burning?) would point out how advanced they are. Stick insects can reproduce parthogenically – very advanced if you’re a women’s libber because this means that they have done away with the male!

They only live for a few weeks in their mature form and spend their lives chomping though leaves and travelling from plant to plant. As they go they release eggs that drop to the ground and later hatch as the weather warms up next spring. (sometimes earlier). But these eggs are in effect already fertilized. As I understand it, no one has found any male phasmids in the UK yet they have been here for over a century! Guys, maybe our days are similarly numbered!

We have just taken up cloud collecting. Here you can see a lovely example of fair weather cumulus over Falmouth. It is only when they start to tower upwards in rising thermals that they start to threaten recirculating airways that generate condensation and rain. These innocuous clouds are associated with fair weather, but they can sometimes be transformed into the anvil shaped cumulus nimbus storm clouds

Have you been bothered by hawks this year? There are lots of buzzards and kestrels about but the other day nine hawks were repeatedly seen over the Roseland. These high-speed flyers appear to prefer company as they stayed in a variety of formations over the Carrick Roads but they appear to have moved on. A few days later they were seen over Fowey and Dawlish so maybe we shan’t see them again this year.

We have seen lots of different butterflies, field browns, blues, many hundreds of painted ladies and lots of red admirals.

This red admiral was getting a bit long in the tooth – its colors are muted and lots of the iridescent scales that give butterflies their brilliance are missing.

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