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  • I found a caterpillar in the bath on Monday

    Miranda Hodgson on 23 Dec 2009 at 04:16 PM

    I went into the bathroom on Monday morning and saw a pink caterpillar in the bath. It was brownish-pink, about 2.5cm long and had a few sparse hairs. It’s been so cold just recently that we haven’t had the bathroom window open as often as usual, but it must have come in that way. 

    What was it? Searching on moth and butterfly caterpillar images brought no firm results, so I asked for help on a couple of forums, but it wasn’t recognised on those either. One person suggested that it might have arrived on some imported vegetables, which made sense, but we either grow our own or try to get local stuff. Someone else thought maybe it had been dropped by a bird, but if I was a bird at this time of year and found a caterpillar, it wouldn’t have time to find its way into the bath, I’d have eaten it straight away.

    It would be useful to get some photographs, so I went to get the caterpillar out of the bath, only to find that it had disappeared; it was eventually discovered tucked against the base of the toilet. I put it into a plastic tub and gave it a selection of leaves to see what was acceptable, as some caterpillars prefer to stick to one plant for their food - a leaf from an over-wintering chilli plant, a bit of cabbage and some pak choi. The cabbage proved most popular.

    After looking at just about every wildlife gallery I could find, I posted the question on the RHS forum and was very pleased to discover that a kind person had given me the answer. My caterpillar will become an Angle Shade moth, Phlogophora meticulosa. It was a surprise to discover that these caterpillars are active during winter as well as the rest of the year. Why don’t they freeze?

    The RHS and Wikipedia information pages say that it will eat a wide range of foliage and flowers and can do a lot of damage. I have two choices: put it out for the birds or continue to feed it and encourage it to pupate. If it does pupate, then I can put the chrysalis in a place where the newly hatched moth will find non-garden plants to feed from. The second choice is my preferred one, so I shall put out extra bird food to make up for keeping the caterpillar to myself


  • What does your robin get up to?

    Miranda Hodgson on 18 Dec 2009 at 04:53 PM

    Since posting the last blog, a few people have told me robin stories, short anecdotes about the robins they see in their gardens and the local area. They nearly all concern the boldness of these small birds.

    A robin inspecting the greenhous


  • Our supervisor, the robin

    Miranda Hodgson on 13 Dec 2009 at 03:03 PM

    It never takes long for a robin to appear when you’re digging. Yesterday, as usual, the robin who holds the territory at our garden was aware of our presence as soon as we arrived and came to see what we were doing.

    When we walk through the garden gate, the robin will be right there, as if on cue, watching from a short distance – it will appear in the apple tree, the damson tree, or sitting on the edge of the compost bay and from that point, until we leave, our tiny supervisor will seldom move out of sight. I should be glad that they can’t issue orders, so closely do they watch.

    Yesterday it accompanied us the whole day, flitting down from its perch to inspect each newly dug patch of soil, picking up the worms that our spades brought to the surface. At one point, it even posed for a photograph. I like to think it had a full belly by the time dusk arrived and we put away our tools.

    I have read that at one time robins would follow wild boar about the forests of the UK, waiting for them to unearth worms and grubs. These days, it is humans that they follow, instead, so I suppose that we might consider ourselves as substitutes for wild boar. Now there's a thought.


  • Looking at the gaps in an old stone wall

    Miranda Hodgson on 11 Dec 2009 at 03:40 PM

    On the coast of Cornwall, there is a place of sea, rocks and sand called Polzeath. When the tide goes out, the rocks are revealed and if you peer into one of the crevices, you are likely to see a fish tucked away at the back in a puddle of water, waiting for the tide to come back in. It’s a strange and wonderful sight.

    Living inland, I don’t get to see that sort of thing very often, but we are lucky enough to have an old stone wall that divides us from our neighbours and it is also full of gaps, so I can peer into those instead.


  • Oh no, we've got Muntjacs in the garden!

    Miranda Hodgson on 04 Dec 2009 at 01:03 PM

    Sharing the garden with other species is generally a pleasure – birds sing, frogs jump - and sometimes make us jump when they do it - and the hedgehogs rustle through the undergrowth. Worms and beetles working alongside countless other creatures are turning the soil and mixing in the layers of material put down on the surface.