Late July in the park

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Up in the pine trees, the hectic sawing of the cicadas almost drowns out the parakeets. The sprinklers are on in force, hissing curtains of recycled rain water. When puddles form on the paths, magpies and parakeets waddle over to bathe.  A Tree rat emerges from the undergrowth, spruce and bright-eyed, and wants to join in, but is driven off by a magpie.  Tail-pecking is a tried and trusted technique, often used on cats.

I get to see my first ever cicada.  It seems ludicrous that I’d never seen one before. Fixed quite low on the tree, its body vibrates without pause, long wings curved like sycamore seeds.

cicada-tibicen-plebejus

Over in the pond, an inevitable Red-eared slider swims ponderously past.    Someone’s also introduced shoals of small gold fish – several days hunting for any kingfisher passing by next autumn.  Dragonflies sunbathe on the stone slabs round the edge and I try to sneak up for a closer look.

broad-scarlet-dragonfly-crocothemis-erythraea

The Broad Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea) is almost transluscent under the hot sun.  It’s saturated with colour, which spills over to the wings, where the veins near the body are like red netting.  The amber pterostygma at the tips are like small stained glass windows.

There’s another basking dragonfly – the Blacktailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum) – stocky and powder blue.

black-tailed-skimmer-orthetrum-cancellatum

So many male dragonflies – where are the females? I spot two Scarlet Darters coupled up in the wheel position.  Once released, the beige-coloured female oviposits pogoing across the water, dangerously oblivious to the group of young mallards.  One lunges at her, but she’s away.

Evening butterflies

Written by Lucy Brzoska

Swatting off scarlet and black mylabris beetles, I walked down to the horse paddocks.  Summer’s hit us like a sledgehammer, and mornings have been too hot to go out and look for butterflies (or anything).   In the mellow evening sun, among olive and carob trees, I looked around to see what was about.  Behind me, horses snorted and a Golden Oriole was calling.

Most of the scabious has gone to seed already, and the only flowers were thistles and stonecrop.  A Common Blue perched on a dried flower head, slowly turning in a semi-circle, as if to make sure all sections of the audience got a full view of its violet shimmer.

common-blue-polyommatus-icarus

No sooner had the Common Blue flown, its place was immediately taken by a Long-tailed Blue.  It shifted its wings, but kept them closed, a beige slip of a butterfly.  In no hurry to move, it let me get close and see the “face” in the corner – the imitation antenna and eye spots.

longtailed-blue-lampides-boeticus

When I got too close for comfort and the Long-tailed Blue moved on, I noticed something magnificent further up the slope, motionless on a wild carrot flower.  I approached carefully, commando-style.  After staring so long at the diminutive Longtailed Blue, the sheer size of the Swallowtail, boldly outlined in black, was impressive.  Its abdomen hung down like a paper lantern.

swallowtail-papilio-machaon

One of the benefits of hunkering down quietly in the grass for ages is that you pass unnoticed.  Over in the horse paddock, I watched a rabbit stop to scratch its back.  It lost patience and rolled over to rub the elusive spot, legs in the air.  All around sparrows were taking dust baths.  The rabbit suddenly detected my presence and froze, white tum stretched out, before bounding off into the trees.