My coffee break

A red-headed cardinal beetle

My brain is frazzled. A morning of looking at budgets and worrying about how the Data Centre can be properly funded does nothing for one’s mental state. But one of the advantages of working from home today is that instead of drinking coffee at eleven, I can bring the dogs for a stroll across the fields to clear my head.  Expectations are low for it is cloudy and cool, and my mind is elsewhere. But just outside, feasting on dandelion heads, are three delightful goldfinches that fly off, charming as they go.

Good. The cattle are in another field so I won’t be disturbed. A clump of bramble and nettles at the far side of the field is my focus of attention. A quick scan and 7-spot ladybirds are there as usual standing proud like brooches of the undergrowth.  I wonder, is it their bright red warning colour that allows them to be so audacious?

I pause to get my eye in. I spy a small yellow dot on a bramble. The geometric shaped dots reveal that it is a 14-spot ladybird. I reach down for a photograph, knock against a leaf, and it scurries off before it can be photographed for posterity. No matter, I have recorded them here before. I loiter at my bush and quickly find another, then another. I see that 14-spots are here too in good numbers, but unlike the 7-spots, they remain secluded among the leaves and the thorns.

And there, standing alert, trying to blend in with the leaves is a green shieldbug. I move to take a photograph but it too sensed movement and disappeared. I did, however, manage to get the better of another one nearby. Closer to the ground, basking on a dock leaf were two of the curiously shaped dock shieldbugs. I move in closer with my camera, but they were having none of it; darting off surprisingly quickly. Then after careful scrutiny of the brambles, I spied a different shieldbug in the depths of the bush; it was a beautiful bronze shieldbug. Seeing three species of shieldbug together wasn’t bad going, I thought to myself.

The nettle weevil

The clump of nettles a couple of metres away is full of tiny active life forms. There are masses of miniscule bugs, they may have recently hatched for they look like miniature versions of the common nettle bug that I see here each summer, but these are only a fraction of the size. Actually, other than knowing that they are tiny, I haven’t clue what they are but that doesn’t detract one bit from my enjoyment of finding them.  But what is cool are the numerous nettle weevils sitting on the leaves; oddly shaped with their long snout and antennae, and a very distinctive bluish-grey sheen to their body. The closer I look at the nettles, the more the nettle reveals tiny creature of all sorts going about the business, unseen. It truly is an ecosystem in miniature. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a stunning red-headed cardinal beetle crawling through the grass. They are beautiful creatures and it is the first one I have seen this year.

I dally for a bit longer at the bramble bush and focus my attention on the flying insects. There are hoverflies, dung flies, solitary bees and a myriad of other types of flying insect of all shapes and sizes.  The longer I watch, the greater variety I see. The weather is cool so many are perched, finding what little warmth they can get from the sky.  Briefly the sun shines and almost immediately a male orange-tip flies past. Remarkable how quickly it responds to a small increase in temperature.

As I watch, a black fly with orange at the base of its wings lands right in front of me. I know this one, for it is distinctive; it is a noon fly. Noon? Makes me check the time. Feck! It is past 12 O’Clock! I have been lost in the wonders of my nettle and bramble patch for over an hour now. I must get back to work. I am sure my boss won’t mind me spending some time like this, but I will have to log the hour as CPD.