I went out to snip a sprig of rosemary for use in my dinner, when I was distracted by four small but beautiful beetles on the plant. Each one was probably only 7mm long, quite rotund and shiny green with oily bronze stripes and lines of indentations. I hadn't seen anything quite like them before so had to look them up. It turns out they are literally Rosemary beetles, and as the RHS will tell you (via that link) they are an invasive pest that has been sweeping the country over the last few years, working their way out from the South East mainly.

Actually, when I found them they were engaging in spring-time activities as per the photo below.


I've seen many different butterflies in the last few days – notably Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood and Brimstone. But this critter hanging upside down in my porch overnight confuses me. I've inverted the photo for more natural viewing.

Obviously I only have the underside of the wing to go on, but I figure it should be on my favourite butterfly reference pages at However I just can't quite find a match for the markings and wing shape.

I'm assuming it's not a moth because it's resting with its wings up, however I also notice this beastie has no knobs on the end of its antennae, which would classically indicate that it is a moth. The body looks a bit mothy to me as well.

If it is a butterfly the closest match I can see is perhaps a Small tortoiseshell. I'm not at all convinced but I don't know what degree of variation there is amongst them. I'm strongly suspecting that it's a moth out to fool me. Do you know what it is? Please leave a comment or email me with your thoughts.

Update: @Max_Wildlife responded very quickly on Twitter to suggest that it is an Early thorn (a moth). I think he's right. Presumably a female because it lacks the fuzzy antennae.

Spring is very much in the air. In fact summer is making a strong bid to knock spring off its perch already! Spring means animals getting more than a little randy, and this pair of Common toads are doing what comes naturally. Actually they're not in the act itself, but are engaging in a special hold where the male hitches a ride on the female for a few days, known as 'amplexus'.

These particular toads were seen in CenterParcs, Sherwood forest (more from there over the following days) where they were frankly abundant, with plenty of their fellow toads to be seen squashed on the road. The perfect page on toads, where I learnt about amplexus and many more interesting things is to be found at

And for my parting shot, is this "doing it froggy style"?

As you may have heard, recently Jupiter has been passing by Venus in the night sky. Venus is generally quite easy to spot – it's by far the brightest thing in the night sky (apart from the moon, naturally) and Jupiter was working its way past it on the left, heading downwards day by day.

After my recent attempts to photograph the moon I got cocky and thought I'd give Venus a go. You can see the thrilling results above. Somehow I don't think Brian Cox will be beating a path to my door. Jupiter is out of shot to the left. If I'd tried to get that into the frame you wouldn't have been able to see anything!



As seen on a grey day by the river in Wheathamstead, Hertfordshire. A little bit of subtle exoticism to lift the heart. Here's a much better look at a Little Egret from a previous post of mine.

I brought inside a few twigs pruned from a willow in the garden and put them in water. Within a couple of days they had burst forth, covered in pollen. What a spring-timey thing!

The photography merits a brief note. This picture is taken indoors with a compact camera up close in macro mode. But importantly it's using flash and this has resulted in my intended effect of losing the background to blackness – even though my beige, flowery (but tastefully so) curtains are a couple of metres behind. Compared to the extremely brighly lit catkins the camera sees the curtains as near enough black and I get this wonderfully stark study.

The BBC has it all covered, including what's happening right now and where.


Spring is doing its best to spring and the evidence is all around us. Here's what I've noticed recently.

  • Plenty of trees are covered in pale pink blossom, though I'm not sure what type they are. They don't look like cherry blossom to me, nor hawthorn.
  • Gardens are springing back to life quite rapidly.
  • I've seen an awful lot of ladybirds, wherever I've been in the country but strangely they've all been Seven spot. Whither the dreaded Harlequin?
  • The drought here in the South East is making itself felt. Lots of evergreens in my garden are turning brown and I fear it's going to be a very tough year for gardeners.
  • Bumblebees are everywhere all of a sudden, with the great weather over the last few days.

The Guardian reports on the ridiculously expensive (and arguably ridiculous) cull of Ruddy ducks in Britain. These ducks, an introduced American species are accused of interbreeding with Spanish ducks and hence threatening their racial purity. So the British ducks must apparently be hunted to extinction at a cost of £5m so far.

Personally I find these attempts to halt nature in its tracks to be bizarre. Sometimes species colonise new areas and wipe others out (or interbreed creating new ones) – fact of life. Are we just undoing the original mistake of introducing the alien species, or was that introduction just part of nature too? After all we humans are just another species having our own particular impact on the world. I'd better stop before it all gets too meta.

I looked up at the brilliant full moon tonight and it reminded me of a Frank Zappa lyric from Be in my Video. As I occasionally do, I thought I'd frustrate myself by trying to take a picture of that moon. Tripod, Nikon D300, Nikon 400mm lens and this is the best I can do (with a little boost to contrast in post-processing). It looks OK in low-res here, but the lack of sharpness really bugs me. However it seems to be very difficult to do any better, presumably because there's too much turbulent, dusty atmosphere between me and it.

It's worth pointing out that the best result (above) was actually obtained by abandoning full manual, mirror-up, delayed exposure on tripod, in favour of automatic everything handheld braced against the window-frame!