Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Returning swifts and mating gulls

The swifts have started to return to the nest sites, under the eaves of our next door neighbours house (Portslade Old Village). 4 swifts were flying high overhead in the laste evening yesterday. I observed one swift fly up underneath the eaves.

I look forward to their return each year and watching the coming and goings. Because our garden is higher than next door, (we are a bungalow) the swifts scream in low across our front garden close enough to touch. Many a pleasant summer evening is spent sitting in the garden just beneath their flight path or watching them from the front porch. Last year there were three nests, down one from the previous year of 4 nests.

I also saw a couple of house martin in the distance these I think nest on farm buioldings to the north of us.

The herring gulls are in full swing and seval pairs have been nest building and mating.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

speckled wood

First speckled wood observed in our garden this year

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


A small bat flew down the side of the house and down the street, possibly a pipistrelle. I have suspected that there have been bats around before but this time it was a definete sighting. The time was 8.20pm

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bees, birds, butterflies and wasps.

A welcomed sunny weekend and lots of wildlife obsevations. The bird life is now in full swing for spring. Blackbirds are beginning courtship and the blue tits also appear to be pairing up. Goldfinches are also passing through regularly.
As I entered our garden first thing this morning a kestrel swooped low over the roof and slowly spiralled up into the air.

A weekend of gardening meant lots of opportunities to keep an eye on the willdife visiting our garden.
 A great increase in bee species and hoverflies busily visiting the early flowering plants in our garden.

I have noticed a peacock butterfly for the last few days and today it spent a lot pof time sun bathing in the garden. Peacock butterflies hibernate as adults and so they are one of the earlier butterflies to see on the wing.
Peacock butterflies are easily identified by the eyespots on the wings, which resemble the markings on a peacocks tails, hence the name.

The large eyespots are thought to be a means of defense agaianst predators. To add to the affect, the peacock butterfly is able to make a hissing sound by rubbing its wings together that is audible to human ears. Sting nettles are one of the main food plants of this species.

A rather unusual looking visitor to our gartden is the bee fly - a true fly belonging to the Order Diptera. There have been several in our garden again this year. This fly has a long probosis for sipping nectar from plants and I have watched them visiting the Margeriefish plant and the grape hyacinth.

This one is resting on our lawn. The beeflies has a distinctive hovering and darting flight, whioch is accompanied by a high-pitched whine (rather than the buzzing sound of a bumble bee of which it resembles. The bee fly is also much more agile than that of a bee and has long dangling legs.

This bee fly is resting on our yellow wall, making the features much more visiible.

The common wasp is often fearered and killed unnecessarily. Most people encounter wasps, especially late summer and autumn when they are attracted to picnics or come into kitchens. The one below is almost certainly a queen whch hibernated after mating last year.

The common wasp actully lives a quite fascinating life style. They live in nests made from paper (chewed wood). The worker wasps collect invertebrates (inlcuding many insect pests) to feed to the developing larvae. The workers cannot eat this solid food (only liquids) so the larvae rewards the worker so iot will fly off and bring back more food. At the end of the year when the larvae have have become adults, they have to search for their own sources of sugary liquids such as windfall fruit and human sugary foods and drinks.

Wasps produce a special chemical if the nest is attacked which will mobolise the workers in defense and also make them more aggressive. This is why you should never swot at a wasp as it will produce this chemical message and then react to it by becoming aggressive. 

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hairy footed bees

With the increase in sunny weather  have noticed increased activity from the hairy footed bees Anthophora plumipes that visit one particular plant oin our garden near the pond - Margerie fish. I have noticed a female for a few weeks joined just recently by another female. A male bee has also strated to visit. I have only seen the two females and one male at the plant at one time, so  am assuming there is only one male at the moment.
Female showing long feeding probosis

The sexes are easy to tell apart the female is completely black and the male is mainly brown.
                                         Female on the margerie fish

Male hairy footed bee

Hairy footed bees are fast fliers and one of the eraliest solitary bees to be seen in my garden. They are also quite territorial chasing away rivals and any other bees, including quite large bumble bees, that try to visit the plant.

Male hairy footed bees also have a a white face

Hairy footed bees are facsinating to watch. The nests are built in the ground or in the mortar of old walls. Hairy footed bees are present imy garden every year, but I have never discovered their nest site. Unlike the leaf cutterbees that collect leaf materila and nest in our garden later in the year.