Monday, 25 July 2011

Ant mating flight

Another ant mating flight, not quite as spectacular as the previous one. The ants on the rockery undertook their second mating flight first at 2.20pm

At about 6.30pm the main nest in the front garden had their second mating flight (and the ants just outside the gate).

But of course many of them do not survive the mating flight as they face predators in the air...
and on the ground.
Some become trapped in spider webs...
...or meet their end in other ways, this one drowned in the bird bath.

At 7.15pm I noticed that the yellow field ants that live underneath the bird bath also started their (first) mating flight.

This is the first time I have seen the yellow ant mating flight.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Butterflies on a sunny day.

A sunny day and a good good day for butterflies, These included marbled white butterflies.

Red admiral butterflies

At the back of the garden a tortoiseshell visited the red valerian

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Wasp eating carrion

Last night a fox caught and eat a juvenile herring gull and we found the wings on the back lawn.
It was probably killed down the track where there were gull feathers and maybe brought to our garden as it was more secluded.
Possibly a juvenile that attempted its first flight and ended up on the ground. I checked the two nests I have been watching and the juvenile was not from either nest. 

The black ants had already moved in. The wings were laying underside up and I turned them over to check they were from a juvenile.
A minute later a wasp appeared and landed on the wing it then made its way to the base of the wings where some flesh was attached.  

The wasp proceeded to chew away at it before flying off - I guess to feed wasp larvae.

While this was the first time I had witnessed this apparently it is not uncommon for social wasps to visit carrion in this way.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Overzealous clearing of the track adjacent to our house

Its happened again, a group from community services have returned and started 'clearing!' the track. Last year they came and cleared it on 20th June cutting down bramble in full flower - covered in bees, butterflies etc, wild flowers such as mallow and sting less nettle  and any overhanging branches. When I mentioned the wildlife in the track they said they had checked for wildlife before they started!!!

This time they were directed to our house by the neighbourhood watch contact for the road, after we moaned last year about the problem - but then we had been out all day and it was all done before we got home. They wanted to speak to me and ask what they shouldn't touch down our end of the track - but I was away running a wildlife course in Shoreham. I spoke to my wife at lunch time by telephone and she passed on my message.

While we were able to protect the bramble and wild flowers at our  end of the track ...

...they seem to have decimated whole areas with no apparent plan.

This tree has been cut down and the foliage on the bank has also been removed - a favourite hunting area for the foxes and also used by blackbirds and sparrows.

As with last year the track is full of wildlife, bees, butterflies, hoverflies ladybirds, beetles, crickets, lacewings etc as well as birds, the foxes of course and also pipistrelle bats that use the track as part of their foraging route.

At least we have been able to reduce the 'damage' done this year although this was also due just as much to the rain - hopefully they won't be back this year.

When challenged last year they said they were doing a good service for the community - but they don't seem to have checked beforehand. Also, as they chopped down the foliage, empty bottles, cans and other litter were revealed. These were not removed last year or this year, so I am not sure which part of clearing the track for the benefit of the residents that comes under!

Towns and villages provide a patchwork of habitats for wildlife inlcuding parks and our gardens and tracks like this one are surely vital parts of this patch work and should be managed more sensitively.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

More fox and an unusual wasp

10.30am this morning I noticed one of the adult foxes trotting down the track keeping close to the side for cover. This is the first time I have seen one of the foxes during the day.

I also noticed this unusual wasp on the hydrangea bush.

The fox cub appeared again just after 8.00pm. It trotted up the track on its own, then turned and looked down the track towards me.
It was then joined by both adults. One adult trotted of leaving what I think is the vixen with the cub. It looked like the cub might have been suckling.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Life down our lane.

I am now certain that the weaker herring gull chick from the nest site, seen from the front of our house, has died. The remains are still on the roof.

The bramble patch in the track opposite our house is alive with bees.

I spotted a small solitary I had not recorded previously It is probably Andrena Bicolor, visiting the mallow flowers

Just after 8.00pm I noticed the fox coming down the track. It spotted me and sat doen and we watched each other for a while before the fox slowly trotted off into one of the gardens.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Black ant mating flight

A hot sunny day ideal for black ant mating flight. These first two pictures are from a nest on the rockery in our back garden. This was  just about 1.00pm

I think this has been one of the most spectacular years for a long time. Generally the queens in our garden come of the nest and run along the ground and up the nearest wall or similar where the hesitate for ages before they fly off.

This year they poured forth straight onto the wing from two of the nests and was quite spectacular. These two pictures are from a nest underneath a toad ornament.

You can see the larger winged queens, smaller winged males and worker ants.
Interestingly this did not attract much attention from the many swifts and gulls we have nearby. Just this lone gull eating ants in the road.

As I watched I noticed this solitary bee coming out of a hole in the lawn, possible a nest hole.

Early evening I thought it would be safe now to move the toad ornament and mow the lawn. I have been avoiding moving it for some weeks.

However I noticed that the nest was full of cocoons and also some more winged queens. I put the ornament on loosely while the workers ushered the queens underground and carried off the cocoons.

I took a look later and you could see all the tunnels remaining

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The green, green house

Things have been going very well in the green house.
Some dahlias for the window boxes and some gem lettuce - safe from the slugs and snails. As I don't use any pesticides in the garden, these lettuce would not last long at all. 

Strawberries ands raspberries are now all finished - a bumper crop this years thanks largely to the early bumblebee Bombus pratorum.

The blue berries are now ready to eat. The tomato plants are full of flower and a few tomatoes have started to develop.
And you can even recycle/reuse old dessert containers, as the make perfect starter pots and the plastic food containers and old washing up bowl are replace the pot saucers when watering.

Friday, 8 July 2011

First flight

After much flapping and holding its wings out in the wind, the herring gull chick took its first flight today.

Rather ungainly and unstable, each short flight lasting about 20 seconds and travelling a distance of a few feet.
The chick seemed to be experimenting with its wings and soon started to get a hang of the fine adjustments needed to fly.