At Home with the Peacocks

The over wintering Peacock butterfly laid its eggs on the upper leaves of the stinging nettles at 50˚47’10.29″ N  x  1˚24’26.60″ W and they are all now hatching. The caterpillars eat on the leaves through five stages of growth, moulting their skins with each ‘instar’ and protecting themselves from predators by weaving communal silk tents. Soon they will pupate and I shall be on the lookout for the chrysalis.

Communal silk tent of the Peacock caterpillar

Communal silk tent of the Peacock caterpillar

Moulted skins from the Peacock caterpillar and the remains of a communal tent

Moulted skins from the Peacock caterpillar and the remains of a communal tent

 

 

 

Motif for Life

IMG_4372

In marking a mooring post with the motif of the Egg, I hope to make new homes for solitary wasps and other singular creatures in need of a secure place to abide, long after the Egg has moved on.

Eye

IMG_3142

I made an eye in the bow of the Egg by drilling a three inch hole through the sandwich of red cedar and epoxy forming its shell, providing the potential for discreet observation.

Early yesterday morning five black headed gulls picked their way across the mud, with a shell duck and redshank also in attendance. Two crows prodded purslane matted with algae on the riverbank, trying for a breakfast of their own.

IMG_3062

IMG_3065

Tit’s Nest

 

IMG_4048

The great tits I filmed so intensively feeding their young inside a hollow concrete brick in the ruined Bofors Gun Pit, have now flown; the hatchings fledged and the nest abandoned until next year. I decided to take a look and found that the bedding of the nest was some five inches deep and seemingly built up over a number of years by subsequent generations of the bird. It is a soft warm carpet of mosses, feathers and tiny dried leaf fragments – as well as the skeletal remains of at least one tiny bird that did not make it. I carefully replaced the nest materials inside the concrete block and restored the small entrance to this tiny home.

IMG_4074

 

 

Nest Egg?

This afternoon I hung the window shade for the first time this year to keep out the sun’s heat and two swallows flew into the newly darkened interior. They sat on a shelf under the window for a few moments and then calmly and expertly flew out of the door (with none of the panic and clattering about of a starling or a pigeon for example).

According to the RSPB website, swallows prefer outbuildings which provide dark nooks and crannies for nesting, as these are cosy in cold weather and cool when it is hot and they must have sensed the Egg was worth a quick reconnaissance. As they can enter a building through a very small hole, my open hatch was not going to provide any difficulty.
Earlier in the week two deer approached the Egg door only for me to startle them and drive them away. I think the deer will show up on my time lapse cameras, but the swallows were too swift (and I was to mesmerised) to give any time to pick up a camera.

Great Tits

A pair of great tits nested in the cracked and broken concrete of the derelict bofors gun emplacement. They spent many hours, in an unending hunt for caterpillars, hover flies and other bugs to feed their clutch of eight demanding young. The gun emplacement built to protect against an airborne enemy in 1944,  now provides refuge for airborne friends.