Thursday, 24 December 2009

Green woodpecker

I went to the cemetry in Shoreham to place flowers on my dads grave when I saw a green woodpecker fly in to the cemetry and peck at the grass. (no pic unfortunately)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Walk in the Snow

The snow continued overnight. I measured the snow in the back garden and it was 12 cm deep.

After working thye first part of the morniong (I would have liked to have gone outstraight away) I went for a walk around the village.

The road outside our house. Portslade Old village is a beautiful place, made all the more beautiful by the blanket of snow. There were quite a few birds around, espcially blue and great tits.

Great tits

I carried on walking to Easthill Park which had also be transformed by the snow.

I watched several grey squirrels chasing each other in the snow, scampering up trees and along branches.
As they ran across branches they scattered snow.

Squirrel drey

As I came out of the park I noticed a great spotted woodpecker fly into the park from across the road. I went back in and noticed there was actuially two great spotted woodpeckers.

The woodpeckers moved up the branches, stopping occasionally to peck at the bark. After a few minutes they flew off further into the park and dissapeared into the top of an evergreen.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


A surprising heavy snowfall (for Sussex) this evening.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Winter bees and hoverflies

A nice clear (if cold) sunny day, very welcome after all the rain and gales. A red admiral flew around the garden looking for nectar. Two large bees visited the hebe which is still in flower.

One appeared to be a large buff tailed bumble bee posibly a queen) and a large red tailed bumble bee, which flew off before I could get a close look.

There were also numerous hoveflies also visting the hebe.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


I'm not really a fan of woodpigeons, mainly because they they eat all the food that I put out for other smaller birds. However, this particular woodpigeon has been doing a great job in the garden eating all the acorns from the neigbours tree (not sure what species its not a traditional oak tree).

Anyway, come spring the acorns sprout everywhere - the early leaves are a bit like holly. Really hard to get rid of. If I left them we would be living in a firest by now!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Fox V Cats

There is often concern by cat owners for the safety of their pet in regads to foxes. cats seem totally capable of holding their own, in many cases its the fox that is entering the cats territory which automatically gives it the upper hand. Ourcat thropws itself at the window if a fox passes through our garden.

Last night, we were awoken by the sound of cats outside our bedroom window, including our cat which we keep in at night (until the roost birdswoken up). It turns out she had burst her way through the locked cat flap to get out. She appears to have chased the fox down the side of the house and into the front garden.

When we looked there was our cat in the front garden, two other cats on the other side of the road and the fox cowered down in the road. I think it was just bad luck that the other two cats were there. As the cats on the otherside of the road slowly backed away, the fox got up and trotted off down the road.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Long-tailed tits and Jays

A dull showery day was brightened momentarily by a small flock of long tailed tits. I estimated about 6, but they are very quick and erratic in the way the fly around. I was alerted to their presence by their calls as they foraged in the garden. The pictures are not very good because of the dark sky and the rain on the windows.

The jays are still very noisily feeding on the acorns

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Acorn feast

The oak trees that overlooks our garden is full of fluttering at the pigeons and a couple of jays have an acorn feast. I'm not sure what type of oak tree it is (when the acorns first grow the leaves are more like a holly tree!).
Every time I walk out the back door about a dozen wood pigeons shoot off in every direction followed by the jays. I am quite happy they are making a feast of the acorns as dozen start to grow in our garden each year, on the rockery, in window boxes, the grass and almost everywhere else.
More jays appear to be moving into towns where they are doing quite well. Unfortunately, like carrion crows and magpies, jays also take birds eggs and young birds.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

October and still in flower

Still having warm sunny days and the garden still has many flowers to offer food for the visiting bees and hoverflies (and occasional butterfly). Many of the plants in he garden have flowered for much longer this year. The passion flower was flowering until a few weeks ago, much longer than previous years

Hebe, a favourite with insect pollinators.

Red Valerian growing on the flint wall

One of the tomato plants still producing tomatoes

Lavender, particularly loved by bees.

One of several petunias that have been flowering all through the summer

Rock Rose
The nasturtium plants (self seeded from last year) are still growing and running wild.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Black-tailed skimmer dragonfly

While painting the front of our house I noticed a dragonfly sunning itself on our front path. Every now and then it would lift off, do a quick circuit and then settle in almost the same place.

The dragonfly appears to be a black-tailed skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum, which is a darter. This one is either a female or an immature male. The mature male has a powdery blue coloured abdomen with a black tip.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Froggy came a visiting

Nice sunny day so we left the door open. We were quite surprised to find a frog coming in through the conservatory door and making its way across the carpet in the living room.
Having discovered a dead dried up frog behind a chair a couple of years ago, I carefully caught the frog and took it back to the pond.

Due to the hot weather some of the frogs have returned to the pond and can be heard croaking in the evening

Monday, 21 September 2009


Now that the birds have pretty much finished rearing young, I have noticed a change in the garden. The species I see in the winter are now beginning to turn up. In particular, there has been a robin calling from the tree at the end of the garden. I have also heard the warning calls, which is not that surprising with the number of cats in the neighbourhood. In the evening when the robin was "singing" it was answered by another robin a few gardens away. Robins still maintain their territory in the winter months unlike many other birds.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


I spotted the first swallow flying west to east over our garden, returning to Africa. As a child I used to watch the swallows gather on the telephone lines over several days before flying back to Africa to spend the winter. I have not seen swallows in or around town for many years now, but they do appear to nest in farm buildings on the lower slopes of the South Downs.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Comma Caterpillar

While checking the brambles up the track yesterday for blackberries I discovered a comma butterfly on a stinging nettle. Its quite striking in colour, white back and black and orange body. From the top view it is said to resemble a bird dropping.
This is the first comma butterfly caterpillar I have seen. Comma butterflies have a small semi-circular mark or "comma" on the underside of its wings.

Comma caterpillars feeding on sting nettles. The ones up the track seem to be particularly powerful stingers. This may be because they are cut down frequently. When they regrow, they have more stings which are stronger, a reaction to grazing animals. I brushed by arm against one today and had five very large welts come up. They were particularly uncomfortable and stung for the rest of the day and into the evening. Even today I still have 5 red spots where I was stung.

I also noticed that a lot of the blackberries that have not been picked have dried out.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

House martins

I already miss the swifts screaming a couple feet above our garden every day as they fly past the nest site next door. They have now left for the return flight for Africa where they will spend the winter.


I have been noticing the odd small group of house martins over the months but they appear much more frequently now.

House Martin

Not as high flying as the swift, house martins resemble swallows without the tail fork. Like swallows they make a mud nest and I think the ones we see locally nest on the farm buildings to the North of us. Swifts, house martins and swallows are quite similar, but as you can see from the drawing below there are distiguishing features.

Picture from a book I have written called Animal Neighbours: Swallows

The house martin and swallow are most alike. The main difference is the swallows forked tail. The swift is quite different with its wide sickle-shaped wings.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


It has been a good year for blackberries, my favourite fruit. We have a small bramble in our garden and bramble bushes that grow along the side of the track that passes our house and provides back entrances to houses further down the road.
Every few days I have been picking the fruit just as it becomes ripe. A few other local people also pick these blackberries, but even so their are always plenty that cannot be reached that the birds and otehr wildlife eat.

I have made several balckberry and apple crumbles so far. When there is a lot of fruit I pick a few extra and freeze them for later in the year. The blackberry season is often over very quickly and its nice to have hot blackberry and apple crumble in the winter with hot custard, yummy.
Unidentified caterpillar

I wash and freeze the blackberries indivdually on a tray (carefully removing first any invertebrates that I have missed, releasing them back onto the blackberry bushes)

This year we have had a mixture of very hot days with heavy rain in between. This appears to have kept the blackberries going much longer this year.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Wood pigeon, hummingbird hawk moth and slow worm

Have suspected for sometime that wood pigeon are nesting in the tree that overhangs our garden. The last couple of days I have heard the almost pathetic cries of two young wood pigeons being feed by an adult. I say young, they are almost as pig as the parent and slight differences in the beak and plumage distinguish them.

Common urban birds, because they are more settled in towns etc, often give us a peak at a larger part of their lives than the less common species.

A hummingbird hawk moth again visited the red valerian growing from our flint wall. It was quite windy and the moth did not stay around for long. A red admiral butterfly also passed through the garden, but did not settle.

For the last few weeks we have had a couple of bags of wood chips laying on our front lawn, waiting to be put on the garden boarders. I was concerned that they may be damaging the grass beneath so decided to move them. As I lifted up the first bag I noticed a smallish slow worm (legless lizard) curled up underneath.
I checked the second bag, but found nothing except squashed grass.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Emperor Dragonfly and egg laying speckled wood

Another hot sunny day. I noticed a large Emperor dragonfly darting to and fro in our neighbours garden, occasionally crossing into our garden. It was probably hunting for flying insects which this species catches in flight, often patrolling an area. The dragonfly was around in the same area for much of the afternoon. There are many flying insects around the large tree that overhangs our garden and the dragonflies patrol was centered around this area.

I noticed a second speckled wood butterfly laying eggs on the long grass next to our lawn. For first observation of this see 8th August 2009.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Small white butterflies egg laying

It was a hot sunny day yesterday. Several small white butterflies Pieris rapae in the garden feeding on the Buddleia bush and laying eggs on the nasturtium plants.

The butterfly is in the process of laying an egg. You can also see a few eggs that have already been laid on the leaf.