Saturday 1 April 2023

A to Z challenge 2023 - A is for . . .

A to Z challenge 2023 – A is for . . .

My theme for this challenge is Nature in all much of her wonderful diversity. My posts will reflect the fact that I am resident in the south of England.

All photographs in this post are the property of the writer.

One of the delights of a garden pond is that it attracts wildlife. Birds come to drink and bathe and feast on insects. Some birds come to feed on the fish! Insects fly in to feed on other insects as well as to drink. Amphibians mate and lay their eggs on water plants and small mammals drink and sometimes swim. Rats are strong, fast swimmers!

                                     Female Southern hawker

Aeshna cyanea, the Southern or blue hawker is a large, beautiful dragonfly with a wingspan of about 110 millimetres, considerably more than its body length of 70 millimetres. They can be seen between May and November, often well away from water, hunting through woodland rides into the summer evening. They mate in still or slow-moving water, the female laying her eggs nearby. The most propitious time to see the Southern hawker is between July and October. They have voracious appetites and feed on insects they catch on the wing. Like all dragonflies, they cannot walk, using their six legs to perch on plants or to hold prey.

The male is dark with blue and green markings, and the female is brown with green markings.

The female lays her eggs in rotting vegetation or wood in late summer or autumn. The eggs hatch in the spring and the nymphs feed on tadpoles, small fish, insects and aquatic invertebrates. After two to three years, they emerge as adults in July or August. They live for about six weeks.

They are widely distributed across Europe and are extremely common. They are known to be curious and will approach people in their territory for closer inspection! Although it might seem alarming to have a large insect flying close, Southern hawkers are harmless, at least to large mammals like humans. They do not bite or sting and there is little likelihood of them tangling themselves in a person’s hair or clothing.

My second ‘A’ is Aleuria aurantia, commonly called orange peel fungus. It grows to about 5 centimetres, with an average cap width of 10 centimetres. It looks exactly like orange peel and is usually seen in the woods from August to November.

It is quite common in Britain and Ireland and is an edible member of the Peziza family. Fried in butter, it develops a smoky, meaty texture.  Some of the Peziza are poisonous but are brownish in colour and never the bright orange of Aleuria aurantia.

Orange peel fungus smells like mushrooms and is locally common, in that where there is one, there will be many. Frequently, it grows near paths, woodland tracks and disturbed earth, particularly if there are rotting trees nearby.

The spores are microscopic and borne on the upper surface of the cap, so are easily blown away when ripe enough to be released.

As with all fungi, if in doubt, avoid eating!

My third and final ‘A’ is Aegithalos caudatus, the long-tailed tit. This pretty little pink-tinged bird always reminds me of a shuttlecock. Long-tailed tits can be seen all across the UK except for the far reaches of Scotland. They are usually in small, busy flocks, darting into shrubs and trees to feast on the insects therein, although they do occasionally eat seeds in the colder months of the year. Their preferred foods are the eggs and larvae of moths and butterflies. At night, when it is cold, they roost together for warmth.
Long-tailed tits’ domed nests are built low down in gorse bushes or brambles, or high in the forks of tree trunks. They are intricate structures of lichen, feathers, spider egg cocoons and moss. Hundreds of pieces of lichen camouflage the exterior of the nest and the inside is lined with thousands of feathers. However, the nests are subject to a high degree of predation of around 83%. If a nest fails after the beginning of May, the breeding pair will not attempt another clutch, but will help at other, successful nests, often those of related birds.

These enchanting little birds weigh less than a £1 coin. It is always a joy to see them, with their ridiculously long tails, and to hear their high-pitched calls as they communicate with each other



  1. The hawker dragonfly not only has a wingspan broader than its body length. Also the wings have a magical appearance than no human textile maker or artist could ever achieve.

  2. I agree. How can something so apparently fragile be so beautiful and strong?

  3. Hi Janice - yours will be wonderful to follow along and see your natural world - excellent photos. Cheers Hilary

  4. Most interesting creatures, aren't they?

  5. What a fantastic and informative post! All three of your A's are favourites of mine. I love dragonflies and am always on the lookout for interesting fungi, particularly on Autumn walks. And I absolutely love long-tailed tits, who are frequent visitors to our garden. Stunning photos, by the way! xxx

  6. That's a lot of nature's work for a six week life. We don't see nearly as many dragonflies as we used to but after a wet spring last year, there were noticeably more around.

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  8. It is a short life, but packed with activity, We could learn from it.

  9. Great post and who knew that birds could be so altruistic!
    Returning a visit from

  10. It's not so uncommon as I thought!

  11. Jamie (
    Interesting facts.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  12. That orange peel fungus is so interesting to look at -- great photographs!


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