Tales of the unexpected

The spark of inspiration for this blog happened when both of us saw a red, bushy tail. Dad turned to me and started to add to the story, the title was decided on by both of us and the story brings together our week in which we didn't hold much hope of spotting anything we could photograph or some thing we had never seen before. The weather was the first hurdle, lack of sunshine and heat, a reminder to me of the challenge I will face as the days get even colder as I suffer so much in the cold. We have been going out at some stage of the day, investigating cocoons, suspected nests and trying to find more caterpillars. This has proved to be fascinating although we have yet to find a resource where we can accurately identify some of the cocoon type samples we have found. I am still adding sightings to CEDaR's data base, some of which haven't been recognised in the area we found them, most notably the dragonfly who landed on dad and rested for a while on his face. The auto data cleaner on the site highlighted this sighting as it was in area without a pond or river although it isn't incorrect  it puzzled us too but we know for sure he was there on the vending we found the Speckled Wood butterflies basking in the vending sun, yes there was sun one evening! As I type this I realise I can add the dragonfly to our 'Tales of the unexpected' 

Elephant Hawk moth caterpillar

The following evening we ventured out again, just to take a break out of the house before the nights get too dark. We didn't expect to find anything as I had my Barbour jacket on with a fleece lining and I had the hood up! I have named the Elephant moth caterpillars 'Ellies' with a few videos uploaded about Finding Ellies......most of the chubby ones have passed into the next phase, out of sight as pupa waiting to emerge in the spring. I didn't realise how cute they were a I was quite sad to go and check the foliage I knew they were on only to find they had gone. Dad was the leader of the search and passed by the unexpected little Ellie who I found looking up at me, well let's pretend those are his eyes just looking up to say 'hello' we went on to find a few more, all tiny at the moment although they will be eating what is left of the foliage before they disappear. I cover all of them up so they aren't obvious to predators and will have cover and food as there is very little left. We were both happy and don't mind if this was all we saw that evening as we knew the fact they were young we had discovered more in the same patch. 

We wandered along, I shivered but didn't say just in case another surprise may lie along the path before we turned to go back home. Both of us know our eyes have started to play tricks as a leaf falls or something moves and we think.....butterfly, just our longing knowing they aren't going to be around for much longer. I glanced to the side in the fading light, looked twice, three times, give dad the nod and this was another unexpected find a tiny Common Blue butterfly loved for the night on a stalk of grass. He was asleep and didn't even realise we were both clicking, bumping up the ISO as the light was so poor. How could this fragile life stay on this grass all night when I knew I was going back home and to hide under my duvet with a hot water bottle. We were going home very happy but at this stage we didn't realise we had another unexpected find just along the river on our way back to the car. It was dad's eyes this time that found a Green-veined White butterfly asleep on a leaf. The White butterflies have become our tormentors as they flit and flutter around us without landing for too long but this one was asleep and once again we clicked although on both occasions we were very careful we didn't disturb these sleeping beauties. We were only out for a short time yet we came home full of enthusiasm for the wonders of nature along the river in the evening on a cool night. I defrosted when I got home!

Inkcap mushroom

I had a gift to post on Wendesday and walked to the post office, didn't see anything on the way there but when I came back and was sauntering up the grassy slope opposite our bungalow I spied a tall thing in the grass. I went closer and discovered a mushroom that I had never seen before, an Inkcap and there was no doubt how it got its name. Armed with my iPhone I snapped a few photos adding to our unexpected tales. With a little research online I found out some facts about the mushroom, although I wouldn't venture to cook it without correct identification and how clean it would be! The actual mushroom could be eaten and enjoyed (well if you like mushrooms and were prepared to risk a wild one) Everyone knows mushrooms can be poisonous but this particular one is only poisonous if consumed with alcohol. Dad wouldn't be at risk although I wouldn't touch the mushroom just in case but we found the facts very interesting. I will be checking across the road again to see what may be literally on our doorstep. 

After missing the afternoon of sunshine the day before dad decided we should visit Mount Stewart on Wednesday afternoon. The day before I had a gift to buy, I don't like shopping but it was a necessity on Tuesday therefore I was a bit glum thinking there was no point going today. On Tuesday we visited short  Rough Island after shopping with the wind blowing us around and three white butterflies fluttered in the blue sky far above us. There was a Small Tortoiseshell feeding on a bramble flower growing on the windswept island. We witnessed over 100 geese taking off, the sight and sound was amazing.

Back to our afternoon at Mount Stewart the inspiration for this post. We were driving in behind a car when out of the trees scurried a red squirrel, ever so red and the first one I believe either of us has ever seen in the wild. Stunning sight, even though we didn't get any photos the memory is vivid in our minds. We walked back to see if we could find him and will be looking the next time we visit as thankfully there are red squirrels enjoying life at Mount Stewart. The greys have taken over other forests so this was a precious experience and totally unexpected. There was no hint of sun, cloud all around. I noted all the vegetation the damselflies had enjoyed was dead, I visited each section we found the damselflies and the butterflies with my heart in my boots. Dad stopped to view the waterfowl but knew where to find me. Up in the wild flower meadow wandering and hoping. There was colour up there as hydrangea was still blooming and one white buddleia bush still had blooms. A moth type 'thing' whizzed about but his wings were going so fast we couldn't even attempt to identify. He moved on but the next thing I heard was dad calling me. He had spotted dark wings, it was a Red Admiral butterfly. I have become quite adept at identifying the wings, the shape, colours even the underwings after our short season searching for them. It was fun as dad stayed at the tall shrub as he had the zoom lens on his camera. I went around the lower flowers and suddenly the bright wings caught my eye. Our Red Admiral was treating us with open wings to an acceptable amount of clicks and then he closed his wings, staying on the petals to let us get closer, to see his face and the intricate details of his underwings, a beauty.

Our Creator through nature has added a chapter to our blog, we didn't think we would have much to repot this week but now we know the subjects of our 'Tales of the unexpected'

Looking at the length of this post it should be a book! Yesterday we went to Murlough nature reserve and our tale will continue with new tails added, pony and bunny tails! Perhaps a topic for another day.