This is what a silver birch looks like after it's been struck by lightning. The top half is lying on the ground to the left, leaving a shattered 'stump' behind (the top of which is just out of shot). A lot of the bark has been blown off as the sap boiled explosively when the massive current passed through it.

This handsome beast is a Sexton beetle. Also known as a "burying beetle" it senses a corpse (e.g. of a small rodent or bird) from a mile or more away with those combs on the end of the antennae, then digs beneath that corpse to bury it. Usually as part of a pair of beetles, it then tenderly raises its young using the corpse as a food source.

You can just see a small round, brown mite on this beetle's right eye, though it's a bit blurry. These are quite common and are thought not to parasitise the beetle directly, but to simply use it as transport between corpses. They may have a symbiotic relationship with the beetle, aiding in the management of the corpse by proving anti-fungicidal chemicals, but my brief research has thrown up a couple of slightly conflicting accounts.

The title says it all. I sat outdoors eating a delicious scone observing a large dragonfly buzzing about overhead. It got remarkably close and I was just saying to my wife how you don't usually get to see them like that when it decided not to halt its approach and landed on my right cheek, just below my eye. I didn't entirely maintain my cool, having very much not expected that to happen. Sorry – no pictures, the wife just wasn't fast enough.

Here's a few things I've noticed recently, now we've ticked over into July.

  • Many a mushroom is growing in my lawn, big and small. I put this down to the recent heavy rainfall, but I'm only guessing. I'm sure they wouldn't normally be there at this time of year.
  • The sheer variety of bees and wasps I'm seeing in my garden is staggering. Are they on the up or am I just noticing them more?
  • Actually if you dig into the soil it's amazing to find that all the rainstorms haven't actually wet it more than a few inches down.
  • When you've taught your daughter that birds go "tweet" it's gratifying to have a Chaffinch do exactly that in front of her – issuing a series of plaintive tweets and nothing more complicated.
  • There just don't seem to be that many butterflies around so far this year.