Friday, 23 May 2008

Blue tit Foxgloves and Bumble Bee

I saw for the first time a blue tit on the bird feeder at the end of my garden. Its a narrow garden that runs parallel with our bungalow and because its on a corner and steeped back, the bird flight paths take them behind our garden and they rarely visit (other than the big tree that hangs over from a garden behind). This was an experiment to encourage then from their flight path to detour into our garden. While the food has gone down and I have assumed some birds were eating it, this was the first proof it had worked.

My pride and joy in the garden at the moment are two foxgloves I grew from seed two years ago. I managed to keep two of the four going through last year (they don't flower the first year) and they are now looking quite stunning. I noticed a bee visiting this evening (so the flowers won't be around for long). My nan always had foxgloves in her garden when I was young and they were my favourite then.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Damselflies and goldfinch

Yesterday's observations. I managed to chase two damselflies (clasped together) out of the conservatory. If not they end up dead behind the curtain. They flew off across the garden and formed the heartshape courtship position.
About 10 minutes later they flew off, still clasped together to the pond. There were three pairs laying eggs in the pond and several single damselflies.
In the evening, while I was watering he garden, I noticed a goldfinch singing from TV ariel across the road. It would fly off to the tree behind our house and back again. There was a quick squabbling with another goldfinch.

This morning the goldfinch was singing from the same tv ariel. As I walked our daughter to school I noticed both great tits and at least one coal tit in the trees outside the local school. As we reached Easthill we saw a thrush with nestingmaterials in its beak fly over the wall and into the walled garden. I had a look on the way back. I did not see the thrush but there was a beautiful robin singing. A warbler of some kind was singing from a high branch but I could not tell what speies because of the angle.

Back home and the goldfinch was singing from another tv ariel alternating with tree top end of garden. I went up stairs and got a clear view from the loft window. (The goldfinch was not visible from the ground).

This evening I noticed a baby grasshopper on the lawn out the back

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Blue damselfly

The first blue damselfly has emerged from its larvae on the pond plants today.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Slowworm, damselflies, crow

A hot sunny day so I st up my laptop on the garden table to work. I noticed our cat hunting on the steps near the rockery. I assumed she was hunting a spider or some insect. After a while she came doen the steps with what I thought was a big earthworm in her mouth. It took a few seconds to realise that she had caught a slowworm. She dropped it at the bottom of the steps and I quickly grabbed the slowworm up to get it away from her. Our cat (Hera) frantically looked for the slowworm not realsing I had it. When she eventually lost interest I released the slowworm on the rockery.

It was a day of rescuing as I had to rescue two separate damselflies from our conservatory. Once hey enetered itsreally hardto get them out again. With these two I resorted to carefully catching them in my hands and releasing them outside.

For the second day in a row, a carrion crow brought dried bread and put it in the bird bath and then flew away. About 5 minutes later the crow would eturn to feed on the bread which was now very soft. The crow appears to be nesting about 2 hundred memtres away in trees on the other side of the valled road.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

speckled wood and damselflies

There was a speckled wood butterfly in the garden yesterday and another this morning. Only resting occasionally in the sun. Did not see it visiti8ng any flowers to feed. It is said that this species feeds on the honey dew secreted by aphids for much of the year.

Damselflies continue to emerge from larvae. Three pairs seen laying eggs. While gardening I noticed a clump of newly hatched spiderlings. White on hatching they soon take on a rather atttracting golden colour. I took a rest on the doorstep and a male sparrow came to the bird bath to drink, a few feet from where I was sitting.

Still numerous bees around the gardens and holly blue butterflies visible for much of the day. Still numerous goldfinch coming and going via the large tree that overhangs our back garden.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Speckled wood, goldfinch and mating damselflies

Another hot day so I decided to take my work to do in Easthill Park. Quite apt as I am working on schools urban wildlife stuff at the moment. In the south west corner, on the edge of the wooded area, is a picnic table that is in the shade during the morning. I had about 2 hours, the battery time for my laptop. There were many butterflies in the woodland area behind me and I could not resist a quick look. They were speckled wood as I had suspected. The butterfly below has damaged hind wings

I noticed a couple of male speckled wood butterflies patrolling and defending separate areas where sunlight broke through the trees. They are on the look out for females to mate with but if they encounter a male instead, they clash and I saw them spiral up into the tree tops on a few occations. Apparently the butterfly that originally claimed the territory usually wins. The adults feed on the sugary substance known as honey dew which is secreted by aphids as they feed on plant juices. When the battery finally gave up, I spent a bit of time checking out the wooded area. I counted at least 8 speckled wood butterflies at one time. I saw at least one female.

I also saw two bee flies, flicking their eggs (pic bee fly resting below) and a small wasp but it did not stay still enough to be identified.
There was a male blackbird, that appeared to be collecting food for young. Many blue and great tits. There also seems to be a pair of long tailed tits in the park, I have seen thme on a few occasions now. Also the usual starling, pigeons, magpie. I was pleased to see that the blue tits still seem to be using the nest box.

Back home, it was cooler in afternoon. Worked on the table in garden underneath the awning. A goldfinch perched on a branch behind me calling to another goldfinch not far away.
Late afternoon I noticed two 2 damselflies, locked together. The male clasps the female behind the head with his tail. After courship, they fly around together, the female dipping her abdomen in the water to lay her eggs on aquatic plants.
Just after sunset a small bumble bee visited all the flowers on my raspberry bushes - very kind of her as I am looking forward to raspberries later in the year.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Cat that eats flies, spiders.

We have a cat that loves to eat flies and spiders, which would probably please most people but I am happy with my invert garden visitors. This interest in hunting flies etc is partly due to the fact that her previous owners kept her in a flat and she only ever went outside on the balcony. For personal reasons the owner had to give Hera up and over a period of time we got her used to going outside. I noticed recently that she walks right past the solitary bees I have been watching (much to my relief). Today a bumblebee came into the conservatory and buzzed round and round Hears head. I was about to jump in a separate them, but Hera did not try to eat it. When we first let her outside, she was always trying to eat bees and wasps. I think she must have be stung and has now learnt to avoid them.

On the way down the road to the shops I noticed a dead peacock butterfly on pavement

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

damselflies, hovering sparrows, moth and bees.

I opened the curtains on the conservatory this morning to see another damselfly half way through emerging.
The damselfly continued to emerge slowly, pulling itself out onto the grass. The damselfly was pale and it lay in the sunlight while it slowly gained its adult colours. This is also a large red damselfly. After a couple of hours the damselfly flew up onto the gutter and hung for a while before flitting up over the roof.

A small flock of chattering female sparrows foraged on the roof. One of them hovered momentarily and it checked along the edge of he roof looking for insects.
I have often seen them performing a similar behaviour to check for insects underneath the over hang of the garden wall. Several small moths flying in the front garden. I managed to get a close look at one which I think is Pyrausta purpuralis. This species flies both during the day and at night, and is distributed throughout much of Britain. It prefers dry grassland and chalky downland habitats. We live only a few minutes from the edge of the South Downs.

In this hot weather the coservatory door is almost constantly open. Unfortunately all manner on flying insects, in particlular bees, bumblebee and wasp. The solitary and honey bees seem to have the most problem finding their way out again so I now have ajam jar by the door to catch them and let them go outside. If not they tend to hide byehind the curtan unoticed and die.

Monday, 5 May 2008

damselflies and black ants

A pleasant morning to I decided to have my morning coffee in the garden and read a few pages. As I got up to go inside I noticed the sloughed remains of a damselfly larvae. When I took a closer look I noticed that the newly hatched adult was hanging onto the foliage lower down.

The adult damselfly was still quite pale, creamy looking, following hatching. The damselflyhad very good eyesight, and reacted to my presence by hiding behind the leaf, even though I was several feet away. I accidentaly disturbed another damselfly, which promptly flew upinto the air. The remains of its larval form was also visible on a nearby plant. I kept an eye on the damselfly during the morning. Throughout the morning it slowly became more colourful. I eventually identified it as a Large Red damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula. It eventually flew off into the garden at 12.15pm.

I did some more gardening, maninly clearing away ready for planting. Too many inverts to mention all. In particular; centipedes, spiders, small black beetle (too quick) a butterfly that also shot through to quick to identify. There appear to be several holly blue butterflies around. There have been at least a pair and a single flying around the tree at the end of our back neighbours garden. It is the only type of blue butterfly in the UK that may be observed in trees.

I did accidentally disturb an black ants nest on the rockery. One of the nursery chambers was beneath a rock I moved. Black ants often have nrsery chambers in such places as the rock warms up as it absorbs the heat of the sun. The larvae and cocoons are moved around the nest to keep them at the right temperature.

As I lifted the rock, ants poured out ready to meet the attacker (me). Another group of worker ants rushed to the larvae and proceded to carry them off underground. Ants have a warning chemical (as do wasps) that galvenises each other into action and makes them aggressive.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Holly blue Butterfly

A holly blue butterfly flew into the garden and surrounding gardens. It took a while for it to settle and to get close enough to confirm identification.

While gardening I disturbed a little frog on the rockery, probably one of last years tadpoles. Two beeflies were buzzing around the rockery performing a strange behaviour. As they hovered around the rockery thye performed a quick flick of the abdomen. This is a behaviour performed by the female as they flick their eggs on to the ground. The larvae are parasites in mining bee nests. Although the fixed probosis alarms some people, as it resembles a long hypodermic needle, the fly is harmless.

Bees, flies, wasp and swift.

Friday 2nd
There is still a lot of bee activity around the margeryfish plant close to the pond. This is just outside the conservatory window and easy to keep an eye on. The small black bee is still visiting. I think it might be a female hairy footed bee Anthophora plumipes. One reason for thinking this is that at least two male hairy footed bee visit this plant, although usually one only there at a time. The male hairy foot bees appear to be quite territorial chasing off any other bees visiting the flowers.

It particularly targetted the buff tailed bumble bee that also visit. Sometimes literaly rambing into the bee knocking it off the flower. Hairy foot bees are solitary bees.

The rather unusual looking hoverfly Rhingia campestris also visits the margiery Fish. It has a prominent snout and orange abdomen. The larvae live in animal dung, usualy cow pats.

In the early evening I saw the first swift. A small group of swifts usually nest nder the eaves in our next door neighbours house.

Saturday 3rd May
Blue tits are foraging in the apple tree in the garden behind ours, which is now in full blossom. A wasp flew into the conservatory and could not find its way out again. Iused a glass to trap the wasp an release it outside. I do not yet have a speies ID for this wasp. I will ad a caption if I manage to discover the species.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Blue tits continued

Today I had to walk our daughter to school, so I could not resist a quick stop at the nest box. I was pleased to see that both blue tits were flying too and from the nest box. Although only one bird was in he box at one time, they were close together when both were outside. This included foraging and chasing off other blue tits that came too close. Just before I left the park I had an observation that confirmed that they were nesting. One of the blue tits was one the nest box calling. The second blue tit flew to the box with nesting materials in its beak.