Friday, 25 December 2015

Christmas Frogs

The sound of  a couple of croaking frogs in my garden, probably underneath the decking, near our pond.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Comma butterfly sunbathing

A very warm Sunday afternoon and I spotted this comma butterfly sunning itself on our flint wall.
The reason its called a comma is the small white comma shaped mark on the underside of its wings, but it looks a bit like a tatty battered tortoiseshell.

This butterfly overwinters as an adult and must build up their fat reserves to survive the winter. Idea site includes underneath the bark or a tree truck, log pile or maybe a garden shed.
tree trunk, log piles.

Friday, 18 September 2015


Large numbers of swallows and a few house martins flying low and fast over our garden. They came through in twos and threes.

This continued for about 10 minutes and then it poured with rain, so the swallows must have been racing ahead of the storm.

I often see house martins and swifts locally but swallows no longer appear to nest locally but I often see them on their return migration.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Juvenile slow worm

The pavement outside out garden had become quite overgrown with grass and other vegetation. 
I decided to clear the pavement and to my surprise found a very small slow worm curled up in one of the small clumps of grass I pulled up.

I carefully placed the clump of grass plus slow worm into a overgrown corner of the garden. My wife found a juvenile slow worm in the garden a few days ago and adult slow worms turn up every now and again.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Yellow field ant nuptial flight

Yellow field ant nuptial flight started at just after 6.00pm. I had noticed over the last couple of weeks that there were two very small soil piles made by any in the front garden and two on the grass verge outside of the garden.
I knew we had a small yellow field ant colony in our front garden, but far out numbered by the black ants. I first noticed the nuptial flight when a flying ant landed on the book I was reading.

I looked up and noticed a few more ants in the air.

The yellow ant flight was much smaller than the black ant nuptial flights reported earlier.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Fox and Pipistelle Bat

Just before 9.00am I noticed a fox hunting in the track. It traveled nose to the ground crossing the track and looking in the vegetation, slowly making its way towards our house. I quickly went inside to get my camera.
I knew the flash would probably cause the fox to head back up teh track so I waited until it was near enough to take a photo. 
The flash caused the fox to freeze and it looked in my direction, but not sure if it could see me as I kept myself in front of our brick wall. It turned slowly and trotted back up the track.

Foxes were quite common around our way and in previous years I have watched a couple of foxes on their nightly rounds, but I have not seen them for a couple of years, so great to see this fox.

Just after the fox had gone, I noticed the pipistrelle bats were also now on the wing. Again, I have been watching these bats hunting along the track for the last few years. There are lots of insects in the track and the bats may hunt for a 20 minutes or more before moving on. I watched them for a while then went inside.  

A short while later I went back out to check and as I suspected, the fox was back hunting again. I knew that my presence would only cause it to go away temporarily

Monday, 3 August 2015

Bush Cricket

Due to the warm weather we often leave te conservatory oor open and today I found two bush crickets on the ceiling. Crickets feed on vegetation which our conservatory was very lacking of - so not sure what attracted them into our house.

I carefully examined one using my USB cam. I placed the cricket on some vegetation and after a while it started to move around. It moved in that same jerky swaying movement you might expect from a stick insect or praying mantis. It also carefully chose where it would place its legs as it climbed (pic through USB cam below).
The next morning there was a bush cricket on the outside of the window.
 I had previous;y seen bush crickets near our pond, on the bramble leaves.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

More on flying ants nuptial flight

Following the black ant nuptial flight on 31st July, we had a major flying ant event today starting at 5.15pm. This time the large ant nest in the back garden had a major nuptial flight, queens and males pouring out of the nest and launching into the air.
Some of the flying ants were caught in a spider web just above the nest, see top right of picture above.
There was also a major nuptial flight from the nest in our front garden, swarming up te fence post before fling from this elevated position.

 This seemed to be the main ant day for my neighbourhood as their were many other ants on the wing and later in the evening we drove down to the beach and encountered many flying ants on the way.
Records were again sent to the survey by the Royal Society of Biology see more at see more at get-involved/biologyweek/flying-ant-survey  and also my blog entry below 31st and 30th July.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Black ant nuptial flight

Its that time of year when the flying ants take to the sky, new queens and males on their nuptial flight.  

The Royal Society of Biology (formerly the Society of Biology) have been running a flying ant survey in collaboration with the University of  Gloucestershire between 2012 and 2014 and I have provided my records for this survey.  This year, the survey is more informal but society is keen to receive reports, find out more at  get-involved/biologyweek/flying-ant-survey

Ants had been gathering around the entrance holes of the ant nest outside the garden under the pavement at least an hour before the nuptial flight. At 7.40pm, ants started to pour out of the ground near our front door, streaming up the wall and also the flower pot by the door. 

They took flight when they had gained enough height although some launched from the ground.

The yellow field ant’s nuptial flight, from a small nest in the front garden, also took place at the same time. 
The black ant’s nuptial flight from the nest outside our garden occurred not long after.  I set up the USB microscope to have a closer look. 

As the queens were leaving the nest several worker ants were positioned around the hole with their jaws open wide.
 As usual, the nuptial flight attracted herring gulls and smaller birds such as sparrow and starlings. Some of the flying ants were taken on the wing while others were picked up off the ground.

The largest black ant nest, which is in the back garden did not have a nuptial flight, although by this time of the day the back of the garden was in shade and the air was quite cool. Not only was the air warm, the ground had absorbed the heat from the sun all afternoon.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Black ants preparing for nuptial flight

The black ants are getting busy in our garden preparing for their nuptial flight. In the back garden on the rockery they have been building a huge mound of soil - an amazing feat of earth moving for their size.

From past experience I have found the nursery chambers are beneath the rocks that absorb and retain the suns heat. The ants are now building soil chimneys up the side of one of the rocks.

Back on 23rd July, a aborted nuptial flight took place at 5.50pm from the nest outside of our garden beneath the pavement.  
A few of the queens left the nest and some were eaten by sparrows that found them on the ground. But they seemed to change their mind (wrong environmental conditions!) and went back inside.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Wildlife sightings round up

Apologies for lack of posts over the last few months. I have been working on a Heritage Lottery Funded wetland project in Lewes which has taken up much of my time.

Lots of interesting wildlife recorded in and around my garden and here are a few highlights from the last few months.

Hundreds of tiny froglets successfully emerged from the pond

The Red Mason Bees continued to nest in the bee hotels and were also joined more recently by leaf cutter bees.

The small red damselflies have emerged from the pond. 

I rescued one emerging damselfly that fell from the pond plant it had emerged from. It was still pale and needed to dry out.

I found it a safe perch in the garden sheltered from the wind.

The swifts have returned and have been nesting as usual in the eaves of our neighbour’s house. 

I have been watching several herring gull nests close to our house. They are at different stages, all have chicks, and some are learning to fly.

Lots of interesting invertebrates such as this cockchafer also known as May bugs. 

They are considered a pest as the larvae eat plant roots and can be a big problem to root vegetables.

I have continued to plant and grow stuff in the garden, as this is my chill out time. Lots of plants in the window boxes, tomatoes, green beans,strawberries and sunflowers to name a few. 

The bees have been busy pollinating the soft fruits such as raspberries and blue berries.

 I have eaten all the raspberries and some of the blue berries. So much more tasty than shop bought.

In the sunny evenings I have been enjoying sitting in the garden and reading and watching the spectacular sky as the sun sets.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Red mason bees

The red mason bees are nesting in the 'bee hotel' in our back garden for the forth year running.

These tiny little solitary bees will make mud cells and deposit an egg with food for next year. See below a link for one of last years posts.

I received another bee hotel last year as a present but it was not used by any bees. So this year I have used my bee mapping process (that I usually work with schools) to chose the best location for the bee hotel based on the bees requirements and connectivity with bee activity in and outside of our garden.

To place it in the chosen location I had to put the box on a post.
That was about a month ago and this year mason bees have started to visit - in fact one tube has been filled with mud cells and already been capped off. 
So I have been really pleased, first to have another active bee hotel and secondly because the mapping process (that I encourage schools to use) indicated a good site.

Sunday, 12 April 2015


The whitethroat is a medium sized warbler about the size of a great tit. The whitethroat arrives in the UK from Africa about mid-April and returns in October.
 This is the first time I have seen a whitethroat in my garden. I was doing some gardening when I was attached by the movement in one of the bushes.
I think its a male as it does appear to have a tinge of grey but it could be a female.
The whitethroat actively searched for insects flicking and darting in usual warbler movements and even dropping from one branch onto a lower one.
At one point the warbler dropped to the ground and searched in the undergrowth beneath the bushes.

Lovely looking bird.

The whitethroat population crashed by about 70% between the 1968 and 1969 breeding season due to drought in the whitethroat's wintering grounds in Western Sahel (an area of Savannah south of the Sahara).

Since then their numbers have slowly been recovering, but this is worrying when you consider the changes in global climate. Species that migrate to the UK may be affected but climate changes while in their wintering grounds impacting on the number of birds that migrate to the UK to breed.

And of course they may also be affected by changes in climate and weather while they are in the UK.

Friday, 10 April 2015


The tadpoles have continued to develop and are bigger and more active. Hairy footed bees (both male and female) are visiting the pulmonaria plants and the flowering currant.

There are several buff tailed queen bumble bees visiting the garden, especially the flowering currant.

There are also numerous honey bees especially on the flowering herbs.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

More frogs and nuptial pad

Over 25 frogs in the pond today, possibly more beneath the surface.
I intercepted this frog on the way to the pond and placed it in a container for a few minutes to have a closer look

This is a male. You can see the nuptial pads on the toe of the front leg. The frog uses these pads to help grip the female while mating.