Wednesday, 30 April 2008

More blue tit news

I thought it was time I went back and checked on the blue tits in the Easthill Park. I was pleased to see that there was a large amount of activity going on around the nest box. I positioned myself beneath a nearby tree so I could watch without disturbing them. There seemed to be attempted courtship, but the branches were moving a lot in the wind. One of the birds kept flying to the nest box, calling to the second blue tit. After a while they both flew up into the highgreen canopy of a earby tree and they disappeared.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Blue tits and nest box

As our daughter has been off school on her Spring holidays I have not been back to Easthill Park since the snow. As it was a sunny day I thought I would go and see if there was anything interesting about. There were the usual birds around, both visible or noticeable by their calls. The checked out the bird box near the entrance to the park but did not notice any activity.

However, a pair of blue tits have taken up residence in another box. It took a while to be sure that they were activily using the box, rather than just checking it out.

A blue tit returning to the nest box would take a very round about way of getting to the box (not wanting to give away the location of its nest site to possible predators). At the last moment it would dart in through the hole. When leaving the box the blue tits left quickly, again not wanting to attract attention. Apart from one time during the 30 minutes I watched them, only one bird was in the box at a time. The blue tit outside the box also chased off any other blue tits that came too close.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Common Wasps

While sitting watching the television, quite late last night, I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a movement on my arm. There had bee a huge house spider patrolling arouh dthe previous evening and so thinking it to be a spider, I flicked my arm as a reflex.

I was quite surprised to see the movement had been a rather sluggish queen wasp. The wasp landed on the arm of the chair and proceded to climb my coffee cup. The cup probably smelt quite sweet and the wasp climbed up the side and into the cup. I carefully carried the cup and left it in the garden. This morning the wasp was on the wall warming itself up in the sunlight.

Like the starling, wasps also get bad press. Most people are unaware that the wasp spend a lot of time feeding its young on invertebrates including many that we consider to be garden pests. The worker wasps are rewarded with a sugary liquid and an incentive to bring more food (the adults cannot eat this food). Its only in the Autumn when there are no larvae left to feed that the wasps turn up in our kitchens, baker shops etc. The workers can of course feed on nectar and also windfall fruit in the Autumn.

Friday, 11 April 2008


Two starlings appeared on our front lawn this morning. They were busily probing the lawn with their long pointed beaks, perfect for reaching food beneath the soil.

Starlings tend to get a bit of bad press, often described as noisy bullies. How in true fickle human nature, many people marvel at the flocks as they swirl almost magically around the Brighton piers as they come into roost. Its hard to believe that until about the mid 1800's starlings were rare in the UK and Europe. Now they are on the decline along with that other familiar garden bird the house sparrow.

Look at a starling up close and you may be surprised by its colourful irridecent feathers. People should be happy when starlings visit their lawns as they feed on various larvae (especially the leather jacket, larvae of the cranefly) that feed on the roots of the grass. As I watched the starlings on the lawn, I noticed them catching and eating invertebates.

They looked too small to be earthworms, so hopefully they were feeding on insect larvae.

Thursday, 10 April 2008


Yet another sunny day. The as yet unidetified bee (or bee-fly) is still visiting the marguriefish plant by the pond. However today I have seen the brown coloured bee fly Bombylius major which I have seen in the past (pictures below). Both were visiting the same plant and I could compare them more easily. I am now convinced that the black insect I have been watching is either a bee or a bee mimic. Still trying to track down a definite identification.
Like the bee, the bee-fly has a long probosis and feeds on the nectar in a similar way as the unidentified bee. Both of these insects are able to reach the nectar with their probosis. Most of the time they do not enter the flower so pollination does not take place in this case. A second bee-fly was sunbathing on the rockery.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Hoverflies and Red tailed bumble bee

Another sunny day. The bee fly thing, which i think now might be a type of bee, is still visiting the magurie fish. A queen red tailed bumble bee visited the blue berry.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Sunny Day

Today was much brighter, although still a little cold. By afternoon the sun had warmed the garden and the bee fly was back, as were the buff tailed bumble bees. Several hoverflies flitted about and I noticed ants farming the aphids on the valarian. Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids. Maybe the adult was looking for a food supply to lay its eggs next to?

During the snowy weather the tadpoles appeared to migrate down to the bottom of the pond. Now, a large swarm of tapoles have come back to the surface and were wriggling about on the surface of the weed. Unfortuantely this is a mass of blanket weed. I managed to remove some a few days ago but its difficult as it is attached to the oxygenating plant. I have also started to add some Aquaplankton - a pond product left behind by the original owners of our bungalow. It is a natural product, slow working because it re-establishes the natural balance that caused the blanket weed to occur. It corrects the over nutrification and staves the blanket weed of nutrients. I have used it for a couple of years since we moved in and it seems to work well.

A small group of goldfinch were also flying and foraging in the large tree that overhangs our back garden.

Is it really only two days ago that the garden was complete covered in snow?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

What a difference a day makes

Saturday was a similar day to Friday and bees and hoverflies were buzzing around the garden. This time two of the black bee-like insect were visiting the flowers of the Margurie Fish plant.

But today, as the song goes, what a difference a day makes! It started with a bit of drizzly rain and later turned to snow which started to settle on the decking, shed roof etc but not properly on the wet ground. However, after about half an hour the snow began to settle on the ground too and the snow continued for several hours. More snow down here, realtively near the coast, than I had seen for many years. Usually a fine dusting on the ground and thats it. Our daughter, as you can imagine along with all the other children, were very excited. I did my best to cover up the raspberry plants that were in full leaf and a few other plants that might be damaged by the snow fall and strong wind. The area around the pond and aquatic plants soon became covered in snow.

There is something about snow that brings out the inner child and it wasn't long before we were having a snowball fight with our neighbours. Then we all built the first substantial snowman for many a year. This is the most snow our daughter has everseen (she is now twelve). After another snowball fight our daughter went out with a friend (enjoying the snow while it lasts). I went for a walk to Easthill Park to see what was going on.
Most opf the grass was covered in snow but there were patches of green beneath some of the large thick evergreeen trees. Here blackbirds and other small birds such as dunnock and sparrow foraged for food. The blackbirds seemed to be doing quite well. (Blackbird below eating earthworm).
The main field was full of children, snow balling, making snowmen and generally having a great time. I walked to the North of the park and walked along the tree path walk at the top to see what birds were around.
The most numerous seemed to be the tits, both blue and great tit (latter below). They made their way through the branches in small feeding groups.
There was also a small flock of long-tailed tit, often hanging upside down trying to avoid the tops of the branches that were covered in thick snow.

By mid afternoon the snow was already beginning to melt and was almost completly gone the next morning.

Friday, 4 April 2008

beeflies and peacock butterfly

Not a lot to report recently, partly due to the bad weather and also that I have not been walking my daughter to school so often the last couple of weeks. The tadploes have continued to develop. Apart from the tadpoles in the pond, I have removed a few to the water butt and a few to my workshop. I usually try to raise a few outside of the pond and then return thme when they each froglet stage to make sure at least a few make it to frog.

Yesterday I saw the great spotted woodpecker for the first time in a while. It was at the top of a high tree in Easthill Park (portslade). There was also a fair amount of bird song, notably blackbird, great tit and hedge sparrow at present.
Today it was still quite mild and I decided to take my laptop and work outside. I moved the garden chair (leaning aaginst the wall) so I could set the table up and noticed a bee fly in a spiders web. The picture below shows the bee fly in the web, upside down. the long probosis is visible in the flies shadow.
Bee flies are usually around in the spring. The female scatters her eggs with a flicking motion, I observed this last year on our rockery. The larvae hatch and go insearch of miner bee nests.
There was also a insect, resembling the brown coloured (golden) bee fly visiting the flowers by the pond. I think it might be a bee of some sort.

The first peackock butterfly in our garden. Peackock butterflies hibernate as adults during the winter and awake in the spring.