Friday, 7 June 2013

Red mason bees

One of my favourite solitary bees, red mason bee Osmia rufa are nesting in our garden. Last year I received a bee hotel for my Birthday at the end of May and placed it out in June. It was not successful that year, but I did have a few red mason bees visit my home made bee hotel in the front garden.

I noticed the red mason bees mating (again) on the wall at the front of our house earlier in the year. This is a link to the red mason bees mating last year
I first noticed red mason bees visiting the bee hotel on 26th May this year. The flight period for this small bee is late March to early June. It may be a bit later this year due to the poor weather earlier in the year.
Since then I have enjoyed the coming and going of several bees who have used the bee hotel to nest.

Normally, mason bees will nest up high in small gaps and holes in bricks and buildings, which is where the 'mason' in their name comes from.

The female makes a series of cells with soft soil and packs each cell with a paste made of pollen and nectar, which will feed and nourish the single larvae in each cell. The female does not have pollen baskets, but carries it on the underside of her body.
When completed, the female blocks off the entrance with a soil plug

These are fascinating bees to watch and I would definately recommend anyone to have a go. At the same time you will also be helping bees. Red mason bees are particularly useful in that they pollinate fruit trees such as apple.

One day I watched two bees that behaved quite oddly. It was almost if they had forgotten which hole they were nesting in.
One bee wouild lay in wait and chase of this other bee as it landed. There are cuckoo bee species that lay their eggs in other bees nests, but these both looked to be red mason bees.

To date, nine of the nesting tubes have been used and pluged with mud. Two others still have bee vistors

My home made bee home around the front of the house is also being used by red mason bees.

There are many other species of solitary bee that visit our garden, so hopefully the bee hotel will attact other bees.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Red tailed bumble bee nest

As well as the fascinating solitary bees, we also have a red tailed bumble bee nest in our garden. They are nesting in a hole in the side of the workshop, which I guess goes into the cavity between the walls which is filled with insulation.
Red tailed bumble bees are also very important pollinator species, including soft fruit. They are a common visitor to our garden, but it is the first time I have noticed them nesting.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Large Red Damselfly

Over the last few weeks the Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula have been emerging from the pond in our garden.
They are now beginning to pair up and lay their eggs on the pond vegetation (many blogs over the last few years). These two are resting on a garden plant.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Crow eating slowworm

A carrion crow has been visiting our bird bath in thr front garen, to drink and to soften food such as bread. they appear to be nesting in tall trees inagarden about 100 meters away.

Today I found the remains of a slowworm in the bird bath, mainly head and skin, which was probably the same crows.
Back in 2009 I made a blog entry about magpies eating slowworms, link below.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

hairy footed bee

This is a old (and worn out) male hairy footed  bee visiting the comfrey in the twitten by my house.

You can see a comparison in the blog entry 19th April

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Solitary bee and others

A small solitary bee resting on the thornless blackberry in our garden.
I was unsure of the identity of this bee so I posted it on the BWARS form (Bees, Wasps, Ants Recording Society) and reeived confirmation that it wasa female Andrena haemorrhoa - one of the most widespread  of all the Andrenas.
The bee had colleted pollen so this makes it a female

A very attractive little bee.

It was a nice sunny day with lots of bee activity. I saw my first nomada (parasitic bee) but did not have my camera for an ID. Red mason bees and the usual brown carder bees, hairy footed bees (male and female) honey bees and buff-tailed queens.

Thursday, 25 April 2013


A robin has been colleting food for its young from our garden for about a couple of weeks.
It forages for food in the soil beneath the lavender bush and other shrubs. As it leaves the garedn to fly up teh twitten, it often flies up onto the bird feeder first. I snapped this shot through the window - no food visible in the beak this time.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Brown Carder Bees and Hairy Footed Flower Bees

There seems to be an increase in the number of brown carder bees this year. There have been many sightings in the twitten near our house.

Brown carder bees are also regular visitors to our garden, in particular visiting the pulmonaria and the flowering currant.

Once much more wide spread but this species is still relatively common in the south of England.

The main threat to this species is thought to be the loss of the flower-rich grassland and the intensity of modern farming methods.

The hairy footed bees (Anthophora plumipes), a solitary bee species, are still visiting the garden.
The female is black and has been most numerous the last few weeks

However, there now appear to be an equal number of males which are distinctively different being a ginger/brown colour. In our garden, this species is also vising the pulmonaria and the flowering currant - flowers that require a long tongue to reach.

This species nests in old walls or similar habitats and occasionally underground.
Both male and female hairy footed bees are also visiting the comfrey in the twitten.

Also in the twitten, I observed a comma butterfly feeding from a dandelion

This species can be identified by the ragged edges to the wings and the tiny white comma mark on the underwing.

Despite the pond being frozen many times and coveerd in snow twice, the tadpoles seem to have coped quite well.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Black redstart and great tit

The black redstart is still visiting the garden.

Many birds are starting to nest and set up territories. Great tit call is very dominant at the moment. This one was calling in the cherry tree that over hangs the twitten.
It has a distinctive "see-saw see saw" call

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

nesting gulls and crows

Herring gulls that are nesting nearby are collecting nesting materials from the track that runs past our house. 
There are at least two, possibly three different gulls that fly off in different directions with their nesting materials.

Some collect the twigs and similar debris, while one in particular has been actually pulling up grass and moss. The key seems to be to collect as much as they can.

There is the inevitable squabble with a pair of crows who are also collecting nesting materials.
However, unlike the herring gulls, they seem to be a lot more choosy with the materials they gather. possibly because a crows nest is a more substantial affair - the seagulls is just a pile of debris to cushion the eggs and stop them rolling away.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Black Redstart

While I was working at the computer I noticed a bird out the window. It was on the gate post. I snapped a picture.
Then I returned back to the computer.

I noticed a bird at the feeder, which turned out to be a gold finch

Later in the day, while in  the garden I saw the original bird again. First it was doing a lot of head bobbing on the wall and then flew down into the road where I got a better look at it.
I think it is a female black redstart, (rather than a redstart) the first I had seen in Portslade and the first in the Twitten and our garden. I did not get clear views of the entire bird and the pictures also show the same kind of profile.
It is an attractive bird about the size of a robin.

I saw the blackredstart again a bit later in our neighbours tree.
I will keep an eye out to see if it stays around.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Honey bees, Fox and Goldfinch

I was out doing some gardening and noticed this honey bee visiting the dandelions. I try to dissuade dandelions but once the are there and flowering.

I wait until the flower turns to seed and remove it. After it has flowered completely I dig it up. Dandelions can be a very useful nectar source in spring (and often see goldfinches feeding on the seeds in autumn).

Infact I attracted by the calling of a goldfinch on a tree across the garden in the twitten. Portslade seems to be quite a good place for goldfinches and are seen most days.

As I looked up the twitten a fox suddenly appeared from a garden on the left and trotted up the twitten.

It heard me (probably my camera) and stopped and turned around

Then a dog appeared from a near garden on the left. The fox noticed the dog and froze. The dog did not notice the fox, it seemed more interested in what I was doing.

Then the fox carried on up the track and disappeared into a garden to the right.
The fox was a beauty

Monday, 11 March 2013

More snow

Another heavy bout of snow.

Somewhere under here is the pond. I did manage to cover the spawn up with a sheet and protect it against the worst - particularly the pond freezing

Friday, 8 March 2013

Frogs return

A rainy morning and we awoke to find that the frogs had returned to our garden pond and had started to spawn. A solitary frog had  been seen in the pond a few days ago - maybe one that had hibernated in thebottom of the pond.