Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dirt track disaster

You may remeber my blog entries concerning the dirt track that runs past our house (for back entrances to houses that back onto it), Portslade Old Village

It's always full of bird activity, from sparrows and starlings to goldfinch, robin and more. A large bramble patch is alive with the buzzing of several bee species, hoverflies and also visited by butterflies. In fact last year I found a few painted lady butterflies there. The track also has visits from the occasional hedgehog and slowworms also can be seen from time to time in hot weather.

At night I have been watching bats, which spend about 20 minutes flying up and down and across the track before moving onto another feeding site. A handsome fox also uses the track to its shadowy shape can be seen exploring one bank then another patch of vegetation before eventually reaching our garden.

You can imagine my horror when I returned yesterday, after being out all day, to find the vegetation on all sides of the tracks had been decimated.
The bramble, full with more flowers than it has been for many years, almost ready to start to fruit has gone too. Several people in the neighbourhood would get our supply of blackberries here, people walking their dog as they went past would eat the odd blackberry and there would still be some left for the wildlife.

We managed to catch the people involved as they were leaving. It was a group of youths on community service, with a group leader. The leader said they had been instructed by the council to do this and when I queried it he said it had been done FOR the local residents. I don't seem to remember being asked or receiving notification that it was going to happen. The team was even provided porti loos

When I queried this they said that the track had been checked for wildlife and nesting birds - I can't imagine how they missed it all!

The track is much quieter now (only the occasional birds and no bees). I had previously done a survey for Brighton and Hove's Big Nature - Bee Aware.

This is what I recorded in just a 2 minute survey on the bramble opposite our house.

9 white tailed bumble bees, 7 honey bees and 1 brown carder bee

The bats I have only seen twice since, flying straight overhead, no foraging in the track and the fox looks very confused too. I have seen only a couple of Honey Bees in my garden since the bramble has been removed.

My concern is not just for my lost little haven but for other similar green tracks that may suffer the same fate.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Dirt track insect and bee survey

The dirt track is full of insect pollinators, bees, hoverflies and butterflies.

Two species of butterfly,the tortoiseshell...

...and the red admiral.
The bramble patch opposite our house was alive with bees.
This included the two banded white tailed bumble bee

Honey bees
There were also several species of hoverfly

I have been taking part in a bee survey this year Bee Aware, promoted by Brighton and Hove's Big Nature.
Without bees, we would have very few of the crops we rely on commercially as well as the beautiful flowers that surround us. They have been doing a great job in our garden with out fruit bushes, we already have strawberries and the raspberries and blue berries will be ready soon.

Bees are considered keystone species, important species that hold key roles in the ecosystem, which could break down if we loose them.

On the bramble bush I recorded 7 honey bees, 9 of the white tailed bees and one brown carder bee.

To take part in this important survey, follow the link below.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Yesterday evening I sat on the doorstep reading a book, enjoying the last of the days sun. Suddenly two goldfinches landed on the bird bath, about 2 metres away, took a quick drink and flew away.

Today, I noticed this happen three times this morning. Too quick for me to grab my camera unfortunately.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Emerging damselflies, fledgling great tits

I have noticed the odd red damselfly in our garden over the last few weeks. This morning I noticed several in the process of emerging from their larval form. The larvae live in the depth of the pond for 2 or 3 years and then climb up the stems of vegetation until they are a short way above the surface of the water. After a while the skin spits and the adult emerges.
They are colourless to start with but after a few hours they have their adult colouration.

Later in the day I saw the first Admiral in the garden on the side of our shed. This species migrates from Europe.
During the winter the adults die, but in recent years, because of very early sightings, it is believed that a small population do over winter. 

In  the afternoon, a family of sparrows visited the garden searching for insects on the lawn and border.
The male sparrow visited the bird bath for a drink.

Late afternoon I heard the familiar sound of begging birds. Across the track a family of great tits were feeding, the adults busy collecting food for their young.
One flew across to ten tree in  our back garden and an adult followed calling and collecting food. After a while they returned to their family.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Blue tit family

While I was working at the computer I was disturbed by a commotion out in the back garden. The distinctive sound of baby birds begging. I rushed out into the back garden, the noise appeared to be coming from the tree at the end of the garden. I looked up into the tree, but the birds were in the outer branches and not visible. Suddenly they flew from the tree and settled in a tree two gardens down the road.
The young birds were in the tree on the right. A parent bird, possibly two, flew from this tree to another tree (left) further down the road to collect food before returning to the tree where the fledglings were waiting in the branches. Althought the parents collected food high up in the second tree, when returning they swopped down low and entered the tree from the lower branches and made their way up the tree to the chicks.

This was presumably to make sure they did not attract attention to the young birds. The parents left from the lower branches to fly back to the feeding tree. I manged to take some pics, the sequence is shown below. They have been heavily cropped because of the distance they were taken.
After about 5 minutes, one and then another flegeling followed an adult beck to the feeding tree. Another two seemed to follow - but their may have been more. 

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The swifts air display

It is great to see the swifts and they are in full acrobatic mode now.
As mentioned in a previous blog entry, the swifts that nest ion the house nest door scream low over our front garden because our garden is much higher and we live in a bungalow
High above the swifts catch insects on the wing, then after a while two or three break away from the rest and make low level passes across our garden.
If I sit at te font of our garden, half obscured by the bushes, the swifts continue their low level flying right overhead. If I stood up I could touch them (theoretically) as they scream past.
Every now and then  one would break away from the rest and fly low and silent and then quickly zip up under the eaves to its nest.
Hopefully a few more sunny months to enjoy them before they make their return jpourney back to Africa for the winter.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

More bats and fox

I went out to check on the bats and keep an eye out for the fox. The bat did its usual route, flying low over me as before. This time I only saw the bat a couple of times.

I noticed the fox down the alley, criss-crossing from one garden to another. However a chap walked up the track from my end and the fox disappeared. I watched for about 10 minutes and no sign of the fox. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the fox slinking past up the far side of the track. It must have been disturbed by the chap walking up the track and the fox must have crossed through a garden to the road and was now doing a reverse walk up the track from my end