Sunday, 22 July 2018

Micro Worlds. The Hidden Kingdoms All Around Us.

 When you are a child you notice certain things far more than as an adult. New wonders exist all around you... everyday. Things adults often take for granted or simply ignore. Because you are small- the world around you is also small. You notice the small things therefore....tiny details....and if you are outdoors you often find the 'hidden kingdoms.' Most adults do not see them anymore. Most adults do not believe in 'fairies.' I do. I always have.  They are visible but so tiny as to be irrelevant to modern life. Children can see them, or used to before smart phones and ipods came along, but then they grow up and they completely forget the tiny wonders all around them.
The British landscape is a vibrant, teeming jungle filled with strange exotic life- a Serengeti of the just have to look for it. That magical thrill just observing a humble caterpillar moving across the ground or a ladybird landing nearby like a rescue helicopter to eat troublesome aphids spreading rapidly on flowers has not faded completely within me.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Fairy life is everywhere in the summer months. You just have to see it. Damsels dancing along the canal, most folk not even aware of their existence. For those that do know they take some tracking down. Twenty minutes to get this single photo but fairies 'are so worth it.' Origin from 'damoisele' meaning a young lady (of noble birth) = so...fairy princess in my book. Keep your unicorns- this will do me.

Dragonflies are far easier to see in any landscape. They are larger and skim along at adult eye level so grown ups notice them more.
Same with butterflies. Highly visible. Very apparent when they are around. Painted Lady Butterfly. It's other name, Vanessa Cardui, sounds like a female character from Dynasty. A rival for Joan Collins to fight with perhaps. Cynthia family, appropriately.
Young Green Hawker Dragonfly at rest.

Fairies fly mostly at knee height however... slim, fast, and largely unnoticed by the majority of passers-by- but crucially just at young child eye level- in the water reeds, over ponds, or out in the grasslands. In the summer months many hundreds can fly about in one single field alone yet only a tiny percentage of adults will ever know they are there.. or care. Instead they send Valentine Cards to each other with human heart shapes on them- except the human heart looks nothing like that in reality. The human heart exposed is an ugly mess.
So I wonder where humans got the heart shape idea from in the first place... signifying love, companionship and togetherness. Couldn't be from fairies could it....  as they do not exist. If they did exist - let's just say for argument, these little creatures are sometimes found dangling from reeds or stems upside down, not like here standing upright together, thus forming a perfect, more open, heart symbol, dangling off a plant. A light bulb moment I've seen myself many times outdoors along the canal when you really look at things in detail, in static admiration. Just a thought. Nature has provided so much inspiration we just take for granted- as our own ideas.
Romance is everywhere in the hidden kingdoms of the waist high summer jungle. Solider beetles here I think.
Warrior class. An armoured ground beetle.
Common Lizard. A real life dragon in this mini world.
An Adder. As large as they get. Not dangerous unless you sit on one by accident. Snakes and lizards may do well during this heat wave... other species less so.
A young stoat guarding its den, probably fur lined with rabbit pelts and other soft discarded animal parts for a bed. Cosy inside.
A baby newt- smaller than a two pence coin. As very little rain has fallen over the UK since early May amphibians could be hit hard. Puddles, mountain streams and ponds have disappeared over large parts of the country so not easy to find life giving water when you are finger sized.
Newts may suffer long lasting damage this year as they are already scarce.
Frogs too without the normal ponds or wet hollows to soak in. Pitfalls also exist in the shape of large open cracks where the ground has split open in the heat to trap the unwary. At this time of year thousands of tiny newly formed frogs, the size of a pinkie nail, are setting out to explore the land for the first time. Many will die down cracks or just roasted crispy in this unusual prolonged heat wave. One of the warmest spring/summers on record over large areas of the planet, not just the UK.
Flies meanwhile are doing very well with reports of vast quantities of bloodsucking Scottish midges, ticks, and clegs flourishing on the mountains and in the glens.
So it's not all bad news :o) Dung flies on a turd here. Mating, fighting and guarding going on, in little protective hidden kingdoms everywhere.
Micro Worlds. Jungle life all around us. Battles, sex, fights to the death- fairy realms. You just have to see them on a different level. Close up, dung flies are almost cute- like furry tiny monkeys or cuddly teddy bears. I did say... almost. They are also brave, guarding the spoils against all comers, even skyscraper sized human monsters approaching their treasure.
It took a while for them to settle back on the dung but eventually they did. I lay still beside them. Patient. Waiting.
" Hey. That guy's photographing a shit! " A fellow path walker observed to his very attractive wife. ( I notice these details. I observe these things, even at a casual glance. Trained eyes :o )
As I was lying down I was at a distinct disadvantage compared to these vertical unwanted interlopers but I was very focused now and in the zone- well, I had to be... in case I was accused of being an upskirter pervert. Heaven forbid. I kept my camera carefully positioned on the turd.
" Are you collecting animal droppings?" His wife asked, vaguely interested. ( she'd probably watched Chris Packham on TV munching animal pellets or some such, the thinking women's nature prog crumpet. A green, smart, tech savvy, Chippendale, albeit with Asperger's and quite happy living alone.
" Photographing dung flies." says I , keeping the camera steady on the turd action and pointed nowhere near her exquisitely matched summer attire, reflecting ruefully this was maybe one reason I didn't have an attractive wife... or even an ugly one. My mind always focused on the wrong priorities in life.
" They look far better close up. Surprisingly clean wee beasties considering." I offered as a partial explanation.
" I'll take your word for that."
They passed by overhead, like alien spaceships. A different universe away from mine.

Six spotted Burnet moth. A dazzling little flier- with iridescent glamour as bright as any flashing kingfisher. They flash as well... dancing past- in a blur of vivid scarlet.
Drinker moth caterpillar. A cow for the mini grasslands.
Emperor moth caterpillar. A tasty snack for someone.
Safety in numbers here.
Fox moth caterpillar.
Wood boring Long horn Beetle.
Red Eared Terrapin. As summers get warmer we may find other species, more suited to heat, adapting to our new climate. Some good- some bad. This one was spotted in a local park pond in Glasgow's west end. In London they are already breeding in numbers, wiping out local wildlife. The heatwave may aid them more.
Mating flies. This weather suits them.
Peacock butterfly.
Red Admiral Butterfly.
Rudder Darter maybe? A Four Spotted Chaser?
Meadow brown Butterfly.
Sexton Beetle on the prowl. A rare sight this one as it homes in on small dead animals, injects them with anti-decaying fluid then buries its young with the corpse, also hidden underground. It looks like its own young being carried or parasites on its head here. Badgers, burying beetles, moles, anything that moves soil will be finding it very tough right now I would imagine with the ground like concrete and any worms left alive deep down so spare a thought for them. Micro Worlds. A tribute....      And pray for some much needed rain.



Kay G. said...

"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Just saw this quote on Instagram today and then, I see this post!

Rosemary said...

Love your great selection showing the micro hidden world around us.
Your Peacock butterfly image reminds me that I usually have lots of them in the garden but have hardly seen any this year.
One of the most wondrous 'fairy' sights that I have ever seen was at the old pack horse bridge over the River Dulnain in the Highlands. As the evening sun was sinking fast we were party to the dying, dancing, moments of hundreds of female Mayflies above our heads. They were judging where would be the perfect spot in the river to lay their eggs before plunging themselves down into the flowing waters to deposit their precious cargo and die.

Anabel Marsh said...

Close up of a turd probably not the best sight over Sunday breakfast, but I’ll forgive you because everything else is beautiful!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
Very true. I seem to recall Sir A.C.D had a more unhappy experience with his fairies though. Sad for him as a sense of wonder and mystery keeps you feeling alive inside.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Rosemary,
Not sure how butterflies are coping this year. Flowers and plants still look ok but moisture and pollen/nectar levels may be down. Recent wild fires certainly don't help I'd imagine.
Yes, you always remember sights like that for decades afterwards.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
it was a very impressive example of its kind though. A substantial triple decker long lasting Monadnock in the landscape. The Ben Nevis of turds.

Carol said...

You got some great close-ups there! I love adders but hardly ever see any nowadays. Apparently our moor (where I lived) was stuffed with them but no-one ever saw any. I used to worry a bit tromping through long bracken in shorts and sandals though...

There was a pond on our local common (where I live now) which had great dragon flies on it (and nasty leeches in it) - should imagine it's dried up this year though. I'm worried about all the frogs and so on. My friend has to keep topping up her pond this summer as she has frogs and froglets.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Carol,
The most adders I've ever seen at one time, around ten large ones sunning themselves on the path in, was a trip to Northumbria in England to go climbing. It certainly 'added' a new dimension to the rock climbing routes there to imagine poisonous snakes on the ledges just where your hand would be placed first without seeing what was above you.
Yeah, a lot of animals must be getting hit really hard. Grass eaters, water lovers, soil diggers... and no real change predicted for England well into August.
Of course,it goes without saying, I blame Brexit :o)

Mark said...

Brilliant collection of photos - the best fun to be had walking in the uk is watching out for wildlife on a micro-level. Very jealous of your adder! I have the advantage of (not so) small (anymore) children to take with me sometimes and one of them (the middle one) has very, very sharp eyes and spots no end of things which I would miss. The Sexton beetles passengers aren't parasites exactly - they are passengers - they travel with the beetle to feed on the carrion it buries - the relationship is mutually beneficial in ways I can't remember _ I read up on it and wrote about it in a post a while back - I shall have a look for said post and get back to you.

Mark said...

Right - found it. The mites on the Sexton Beetle feed on mould which would otherwise spoil the carrion - hence the mutually beneficial relationship.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Mark,
Never would have imagined that symbiotic relationship with the Sexton beetle. The whole 'is it beautiful or ugly' (to humans) aspect is also interesting. I'm OK with most insects but three hidden things that did seriously creep me out came in the form of the large white grubs that live inside cowpats;.... Ragwort grubs( feedings inside the plants)... and Ragworms? the ones living in wet beach sand. The last two an adult uncle placed in my hands as an unexpected treat when I asked what he was fishing with as a child and I've rarely felt such instant revulsion touching them. Same with maggots on a corpse so it must be a natural inbuilt reaction to avoid death- like blue food or green meat which is not a natural colour for freshness.
Most folk like ladybirds and butterflies (labelled beautiful) but if you take the colours away both would then be classed as (ugly) insects.

Andy said...

Stunning images and great commentary. Sadly my eyes ate rarely trained keen enough to spot these micro wonders. Probably as I tend to wander in a world of my own when out walking. I depend on blogs like yours and Marks to keep me up to speed!