Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Saturday, 25 July 2009
The adults can frequently be heard calling to the chicks and occasionally flying through the central branches with caterpillar in its mouth calling to the fledglings.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
The blackbird was sitting in the shade of the buddleia bush, in an exposed position. I have witnessed this behaviour on quite a few occasions, once even in the shade of trees in the middle of a park.
The beak was open wide and it appeared to be panting, both designed to reduce the birds internal body temperature.
I was a bit concerned because there are several cats who pass through our garden as well as our own. However, after a while a passer by, walking noisily along the path the other side of the buddleia disturbed the blackbird and it flew off.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
Infact, I first discovered it in our conservatory and encouraged the butterfly to climb onto my hand. I then carefully took it outside to the garden and encouraged it onto a plant.
A warm humid evening and exactly the conditions the ants were waiting for. The large winged queens poured from the various ants nest around our garden. Climbing up walls and plants until they reach the highest point and then wings out stretched launched into the air.
(Three queen ants on the watering can)
By this time the small winged males follow. This is the ant mating flight. The queens head up into the sky and the males follow. In theory it is the strongest (healthiest) males that catch the queens and mate. However last year I photographed a male and female mating on the wall of our bungalow. Once mated a new queen will be fertile for the rest of her life. She returns to the ground and bites of her wings as she will no longer need them.However many don't get to mate. On the ground they are picked off by sparrows and starlings. Some end up in the webs of orb spiders.
Those that get off the ground may be eaten by a variety of birds including sea gulls.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Similar, but smaller, gate keeper
Comma, looking a bit worst for wear.
Monday, 13 July 2009
Ants are social insects and one of their most fascinating attributes, and possibly the secret of their success, is scent. When you see those little black highways of ants crossing the path, they are following scent trails left by other black ants. The scent trails allow them to forage for the equivalent of miles (for their size) and find their way back to the colony. When a particularly large food source is found a special scent message asking for help is left at the junction with the main trail. So if that solitary ant wandering around your kitchen comes across a food spillage, the chances are it will leave a scent marker to call up re-enforcements.
Ants are also farmers, not cattle but aphids. Black ants will even move aphids closer together to make it easier to defend them against invertebrate predators who like to eat aphids. I came across this particularly large congregation on the evening primrose in our front garden.
Black ants are also known to bring aphids into their nest in the winter placing them on the roots of plants and taking them, back outside in the spring. The reason ants like aphids so much is the that aphids feed on the sap of plants. The ants literally milk the aphids for the sugary honey dew they produce by stroking the aphids abdomen with their antennae.
Black ants make their nest underground, a series of chambers and tunnels.
I accidentally uncovered this chamber in the ant nest while gardening.
Inside where a large number of winged queens and winged males alongside the smaller wingless worker ants which are sterile females. The winged queens and males will take part in a mating flight, but not today, its too windy. They will wait for the right conditions when the air is warm, still and humid.
While a large number of the worker ants rushed about ready to repel any potential attack, the others quickly ushered the queens and males down the tunnels to safety.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
Every time the wind picked up one of the chicks became very active bouncing up and down with wings open.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Sunday, 5 July 2009
We were told we had just missed the mother Roe deer and juvenile. A couple of minutes later the female deer returned with youngster in tow.
They followed the edge of the wood, the mother seemed to be wary of the fox which after a short while got up and trotted back into the woods.
After a while the female trotted back the way they had originally come and the fawn burst out of the tress and ran off after her.
The fox has a den just on the edge of the larger oak trees.
The course started with a perception quiz. The children had to decide if they thought each of the 14 invertebrates were good for gardens, bad for gardens or dangerous to us based on a picture of each.
The aim is to show that we often treat invertebrates by how they appear to us and that invertebrates that people often think are bad or dangerous actually do a lot of good.
We looked at classification and discussed the important role of insects in flower pollination.
I brought along some dead specimens of bees, wasps and other invertebrates (collected from my garden and window sills) . Afterwards we divided into two groups. One group surveyed the grounds the second group collected searched for a small invertebrate in the grounds and carefully collected it for further examination. Later in the day, the two groups swapped over.
Surveying the grounds and recording invertebratesExploring the leaf litter
A shield bug laying eggs
Examining the collected invertebrates using the digital microscope
(Shield bug larvae)
The children further investigated their invertebrate using the pictures. The invertebrates were returned safely to the grounds to emphasise their importance. The children also recorded information about where the invertebrate was found, how it moved etc.
At the end of the session the whole group looked at all the invertebrates that had been collected earlier. A few examples are shown below.
At the end of the session we discussed all the things we had learned. The children were encouraged to carry on studying invertebrates in their garden or school grounds and to keep a nature journal or weblog to record their investigations.