Sunday, 31 May 2009

baby blue tits and demoise damselfly

My wife called me this morning to say the blue tit fledgelings were in the front garden. Some were on the roof of our bungalow, the others in a bush in a garden across the track. One of the adult blue tits had found the remains of a fat ball hanging on the corner of the house. The position for the fat ball was chosen because the little alley way along the side of the house was a flight path for small birds.

The adult blue tit flew onto the fat ball and was feeding. It also appeared to be calling to the chicks to encourage them to come over and feed. None of them did, which was just as well as this is not really appropriate food for these young birds. (Long periods of hot weather can turn the fat rancid, which is pone reason why they are not usually provided for birds in the summer). This one is on the north side of the house and in shade for most of the day, and seemed okay when I took a closer look.

After a while the blue tit family moved on, but they could still be heard nearby. The blue tits appear to have roosted in the tree at the back during the night, the adults were still collecting food at 8.00pm last night.

Afterbthe blue tits had moved on I sat on the porch and was treated to a spectacular air display by the swifts that nest in the house next door.

Because our garden is higher than next door, they scream in low across our front garden close enough to reach if I stood up.

While gardening in the afternoon I saw a beautiful male demoise damselfly flutter across the garden. While not rare, its not common to see on in an urban garden and a first for my garden. It passed through to quickly for me to grab my camera.

The garden is still alive with bees and many other interesting invertebrates, too numerous to record them all. I did see several iridescent green beetles Oedemera nobilis which visit flowers to feed on the pollen.

This is a male, distinguishable by its swollen hind legs.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Herring gull chick, blue tit fledgelings, egg laying damselflies and leaf cutter bees

As a follow on to my blog entry 25th April, the seagull up on the roof top behind our house now has 2 chicks. They are grey with darker spots. This will become the mottled brown plumage as they loose theri downy feathers.

As I mentioned previously they seem a lot more chilled out than the other herring gulls nesting on houses in our road.

In the early afternoon, while doing some gardening I heard the demanding calls of baby birds coming from the tree that overhangs our back garden. Two adult blue tits could be seen collecting insects on the outside branches and then disappearing into the tree.

I looked up through the branches of the tree and after a while I noticed fluttering movements of a baby blue tit.
The chicks demanding calls attracted one of the adults who fed it and then flew away in search of more food.

They were very difficult to photograph as they kept moving around and the many branches made it difficult to focus. I went back to the tree every now and then to check on the family. One chick flew out of the tree, looped round to the side and disappeared within the canopy.

While I was looking up from beneath the tree, a chick flew down through the branches and across the greenhouse below almost flying into me before looping back up onto a low branch.

It watched me for a while and then edged its way back up the branch and fluttered its wings and called for more food. Whilst the blue tits had not hatched from a nest in the tree, I did notice a large fledged blackbird chick from the nest in this tree.

It was only distinguishable by its beak which still had the traces of its chick gape.

In between watching the blue tits I noticed that the damselflies had started to lay eggs on the pond weed.

There were three pairs locked together as the female deposited her eggs.

Also today, the leaf cutter bees had started to visit the bush at the back of the pond. Unlike honey and bumble bees, leaf cutter bees are solitary bees. They dig a tunnel in the ground and make the egg cell chambers by cutting circular pieces from leaves.

Only certain leaves are used. The bee roles the piece of leaf as it is cut so it can be carried beneath its body. Followers of this blog will remember that I found an old leaf cutter been nest in one of the window boxes I cleaned out earlier this month. These bees were flying over our roof and disappeared.

Friday, 29 May 2009

cat hunting butterflies

The painted lady butterflies are still in the garden. Hera our cat has taken to stalking them, but they are much too quick.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Painted ladies and rescued damselfly

5 painted lady butterflies were seen in the back garden. I walked down the side of the house and looked up the track and into the front garden and estimated 14 painted ladies in total.
The most I have ever seen in such as small area at one time. It was very windy and the butterflies were being blown about a bit.
Many moved to the back garden feeding on the red Valerian which was relatively sheltered by the flint wall. I counted 10 on the valarian at one time.

I noticed a damselfly larvae climbing up the pond grass. It had climbed about 2 feet up the plant, previous damselflies only climb just above the water level before slipping out of the larvae.
I watched for a while, waiting for the adult to emerge - it was windy and a bit drizzly. Suddenly the sun came out and by the time I got to look at the pond the adult had already started to emerge.
However, because of the wind all did not go to plan as the next sequence of pictures demonstrate. (All photographs taken through the glass of conservatory window so some are poor quality) I carefully encouraged the adult to cling onto a piece of grass and I carried it inside and put it on my desk, supported in a glass. It as far to windy to do anything out side.
The next sequence of pictures show the adult damselfly slowly drying out and changing from pale cream to its adult red markings.

About 2 hours after rescuing the damselfly, the adult had flown from the desk onto the door.

I carefully encouraged the damselfly onto my hand and took it out to the pond and encouraged it onto the plants along with the other adults that had emerged recently.

Monday, 25 May 2009

painted lady, silver y wing and juvenile spiders

I counted three Painted lady butterflies in the garden today.

You can see the proboscis of this one as it feeds. The butterflies were first seen in the front garden on the dog rose and then moved to the back garden feeding on the red Valerian and a white Hebe.
This one has piece missing from its wing.

Another spider ball, probably garden spiders, this time on the hydrangea

The wolf spider doesn't leave the survival of its brood to chance, the female carries the egg sac underneath her abdomen.

A perfectly camouflaged silver y wing moth.

This moth is another migrant from Europe although some may overwinter. This butterfly is very active at dusk and may be seen flying during the day.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Painted lady and mystery bird

The damselfly are emerging from the pond every day now. They climb up the stems of pond plant and then split out of their larval skin and climb up the stem to dry out before they are able to fly.
A painted lady butterfly visited the garden today.

When the wings are closed the painted ladies colouration was a perfect match of camouflage against stone slabs.

I looked into the distance and saw a sea gull mobbing another bird. This a behaviour that I observe from time to time when they dive bomb the sparrowhawks.

However, when I enlarged the picture I was unsure of the bird in question. It appears to be a bird of prey, any ideas? It looks a little bit like a red kite because of tail shape, redy/brown body and white underwing markings, but I may well be mistaken

Saturday, 23 May 2009

swifts, house martin

The swifts are a delight to watch. They are nesting again under the eaves of our neighbours house. There appear to be 6 swifts visiting our neighbours house (there were three nests last year).
The swift is a superb flier and it even sleeps on the wing, high up in the sky! It is sooty brown colour, but in flight it appears black. The last couple of days they have been joined by a few house martins in the late evening. Swifts can be identified by their long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail.
Swifts are a summer visitor to the UK where it breeds It is most numerously in the south and east of the UK. Like the swallow and house martin, swifts spend the winter in Africa.
Early in the morning and towards dusk, the swifts scream low over our garden as they fly past our neighbours house. These screaming parties of swift career madly at high speed around rooftops and houses and streets. Our garden is higher than our neighbors and so they are very low when they fly across our garden. Their aerobatic skills are certainly a match for the red arrows!
Every now and then a swift will break away from the group and drop down, without making a sound and flying low it approaches our neighbours house and then flies up into the eaves.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Magpie eating a slowworm

I was attracted to movement on the roof of our neighbours garage. I was a magpie, soon joined by a second. It turned out that the magpie was eating a slowworm. I don't know if it was dead when the magpie found it or if it caught it alive.
The magpies do forage in the back alley, where I suspect the slowworm the cats catch also come from. Has anyone heard of magpie eating live slowworms. Magpies are of course part scavenger, but they are also opportunists.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Busy bees and baby spiders

With all the worry about declining bees I was pleased to see so much bee activity in my garden. Decline of bees is a real concern, particularly because of the important role as insect pollinators of both flowers and commercial crops.

Honey bee

Buff-tailed bumble bee, with visible pollen baskets on its legs

Red tailed bumble bee (these flowers seem to be most popular at the moment. Its interesting to see how the bee activity and species changes as different flowers come into season).

Buff-tailed bumble bee in the yellow flags on the edge of the pond. The anthers are in the top flap of the flower which rubs along the bees back as it enters the flower.

This is the first time I have noticed so many bees visit the yellow flags, hopefully not a sign that there are fewer flowers to visit locally. This picture gives the impression that the bees were so busy they were queuing up for the flowers (of course this was not really the case).
A large colony of tiny spiders on our front gate, that had recently hatched nearby. It these first few days, when disturbed they form a tight ball. They are probably juvenile garden spiders.