Tag Archives: gardens

The Life-cycle of the Puss Moth in a Tividale garden

Do you have willow or poplar trees in your garden? If so, it’s worth searching for the fascinating caterpillars of the Puss Moth. They are frequent visitors to a local garden on the Rowley Hills where the residents have regularly studied their progress from eggs through to adult moths.

Mated pair of Puss Moths (image © Julia Morris)

Once mating has taken place the female moths deposit small batches of brownish-coloured eggs on leaves of their food plant, in this case two small willow trees in their back garden.

Puss Moth eggs on willow leaves (image © Mike Poulton)

Upon hatching the young caterpillars feed almost constantly for around four weeks and pass through several stages until fully grown.

Young caterpillar well camouflaged on willow shoot (image © Mike Poulton)

Early stage of caterpillar growth (image © Andy Purcell)

In some years predation by birds, wasps and even Harlequin Ladybirds takes a heavy toll, but generally enough of them survive to maturity, ensuring there will be moths again the following year.

Adult caterpillar in disturbed posture, with raised head and pinkish flagellae extending from the twin tails

They spend the winter in a tough cocoon attached to tree trunks or wooden posts, then the newly-emerged moths seek out the food plant, and the cycle begins again.

Vacated Puss Moth cocoon attached to the side of an old wooden table in their garden

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Look out for tigers!

At this time of year, if you’re lucky, you might encounter tigers in your garden…..no not that kind of tiger! We’re talking about Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) moths, one of our most spectacular moths. These colourful creatures are day-flying, their caterpillars feed on a range of herbaceous plants, and they are on the increase. The photo below was taken in a garden local to the Rowley Hills; the bright scarlet underwings are hidden beneath the forewings but sometimes you might find a Scarlet Tiger with its wings fully spread as shown in this photo. There is also a Scarlet Tiger Project in Stourbridge, formed by local residents who have successfully protected and enhanced habitat for Scarlet Tigers in their local area.

Do let us know if you’ve seen any Scarlet Tiger moths!

Scarlet Tiger moth (Callimorpha dominula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Scarlet Tiger moth (Callimorpha dominula) (image © Julia Morris)

Recent wildlife sightings

We’ve had some great wildlife sightings in and around the Rowley Hills recently! If you’ve spotted anything interesting, please do let us know.

At this time of year, the Hills host a continuous flow of migrating birds, which stop off briefly to rest and refuel before continuing their journey south. Recent sightings include Tree Pipit, Redstart, Linnet, Grey, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Siskin, House Martin, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Swift, Spotted Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow, Willow Warbler,  Mistle Thrush, Raven, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Many thanks to Ian Whitehouse who regularly tweets his Rowley Hills sightings and photos!

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) (image © Ian Whitehouse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local resident Andrew Cook also sent us these brilliants photos of a male Kestrel sitting on his garden fence. The Rowley Hills are a great spot for Kestrels as the grassland provides the perfect habitat for voles and mice, which are the Kestrel’s preferred prey. It looks as though this Kestrel may be resting after having recently eaten, as there is a small amount of blood on his beak and talons.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another nice local record came from Lukas Large, who recorded this video of a Humming-bird Hawk-moth feeding on nectar from Red Valerian in his garden. As the name suggests, this moth resembles a Hummingbird in flight as it hovers and darts between flowers, its wings humming; Red Valerian is one of its favourite food plants. Humming-bird Hawk-moths migrate to the UK in summer from southern Europe and north Africa.

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) (image © Doug Barber)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) (image © Doug Barber)

And finally, some more great news about the Harebells growing on the hillside above Bury Hill Park. Because Sandwell Council very kindly agreed to delay mowing the grass here in order to help conserve these wildflowers, we have been able to collect a large amount of seed from them. For most of the Harebells on that site it is probably the first time they will have produced seed in living memory as by now the whole area would normally have been cut. The seed capsules will now be left to dry out and the resulting seeds sown in suitable locations elsewhere on the Rowley Hills to help to conserve a scarce Birmingham and Black Country plant. This is great news for conservation and biodiversity in the Rowley Hills and we are very grateful to Sandwell Council for their cooperation with our request to put the mowing in this area on hold.

Weird and wonderful creatures in Rowley Hills gardens!

Do you have willows or poplars growing in your garden? If so, look out for the fascinating caterpillars of the Puss Moth which feed on the leaves. These photos were taken a couple of days ago in a garden on the edge of the Rowley Hills. Puss Moths are named for the fuzzy grey fur covering the adult moth’s body, and although the caterpillars can look rather strange they are harmless as long as they aren’t disturbed.

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

Puss Moth caterpillar (Cerura vinula) (image © Mike Poulton)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not just the wide open spaces here on the Rowley Hills that contain wildlife. There’s plenty to see in your own back garden if you take the time to look – if you’ve seen anything interesting let us know in the comments below or via our Facebook or Twitter pages!