Birds, flowers, rain and insects today …

This has, so far, been an amazingly wet summer with downpours almost every day for some time now though it has stayed warm and, unlike Europe, the rain that falls is not cold rain.  Excellent for the garden of course … but first of all, what is a typical July rainy day like you might wonder?  Try these two short videos (they open in new browser windows so you won’t get lost – and do turn on the sound for the full effect):



One thing the rain has done is to ensure the flowers and the fruit have been good … j’s collection of Lilies are doing wonderfuly well at the moment, especially this beautiful newcomer:

There are pots of lilies everywhere at the moment:

We are beginning to consider starting a garden insect list to go with the bird list.  Spotted on an Acidanthera leaf this afternoon (in the rain of course) was this giant fellow.  He’s about and inch and half long and totally battle-armoured. We got him down to being a Grapevine Beetle (Pelidnota punctata) – there is plenty of dead wood around here and the larvae feed on that in the soil and then emerge in their full splendour to hunt down wild and cultivated grapes. When flying (quote) they fly very rapidly and “in curves”.  They are also known as Spotted June Beetle or the Spotted Pelidnota, and are a member of the subfamily Rutelinae of the Scarab beetle family.  Handsome fellows whatever they are, well worth the damage their larvae do to the lawn (see after the photograph):

This is interesting as we, like many people in the region, have brown and balding patches in the lawn which attract skunks and racoons who dig in them for big, fat white grubs.  There are many species of insect larvae that cause this damage but now we know what at least one of them becomes. The following is a quote:  They reach 40-45 mm long when full grown, live in the soil and feed on plant roots, especially those of grasses and cereals, and are occasional pests in pastures, nurseries, gardens, and in grassy amenity areas like golf-courses. The injury to grassland and lawns results in poorly growing patches that quickly turn brown in dry weather; the grubs can be found immediately below the surface, usually lying in a characteristic comma-like position. The grubs sometimes attack vegetables and other garden plants, e.g. lettuce, rasberry, strawberry and young ornamental trees. Injury to the roots and rootstock causes small saplings and tender tap-rooted plants like lettuce, to wilt suddenly or to show stunted growth and a tendancy to shed leaves prematurely. Plants growing in rows are usually attacked in succession as the grubs move along from one plant to the next. Chafer grubs feed below ground for 3-4 years before changing into adult beetles.

And now a couple of garden birds.  First a juvenile Northern Flicker waiting for Dad to come back:

Lastly, another Northern Cardinal … a common enough bird, but worth posting I thought as this picture, taken at dusk last night, really shows the details of its plumage.