Wednesday, 7 December 2016

winter butterfly

Another warm spell and noticed this tortoiseshell sunning itself on the west facing wall of our bungalow.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Acrobatic House Mouse

I watched this acrobatic house mouse outside my window feeding on the fruits of out passion flower.

It was fascinating to watch as he clambered around just outside the window and seeming unaware I was just the other side of the glass.

I have included some video footage below

Better quality footage at

House mice are often treated as vermin - but these tiny mammals are a great example of adaptability. In fact they have colonised much of the planet land mass as they have adapted to us humans.

The house mouse originally came from Asia and spread to Europe 4000 years ago. House mice took advantage of the spread of farming and hitch hiked on ships trading with other countries.

One might also blame mice (and rats) for domestic cats as they were first brought into Europe by the Romans due to the cats 'mousing' skills

Amongst the 44 plus children wildlife books I have written - high up there with the titles I enjoyed writing the most is a book about the humble house mouse.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pond Clean Discoveries

Started Autumn management of our pond this weekend preparing it for winter. Pleasantly surprised to find both damselfly and dragonfly nymphs in the pond.
Along with the larger nymphs from last year - there were also tiny damselfly nymphs which would have hatched from this years mating and egg laying.

Great surprise to find several dragonfly nymphs as well. I have not had dragonflies  lay eggs in the pond before so this was a great find. These were tiny and also would have been the result of this years mating and egg laying.
I have seen adult dragonflies in the front garden and the nearby track most years. There was a dragonfly in the front garden a lot earlier in the summer. As adult dragonflies often lay their eggs once the male and female had separated- a female must have found the pond and laid eggs.

The paired damselflies are very visible each summer in and around our pond.

Images above captured through usb microscope cam

Friday, 16 September 2016

Ivy Bees

On my way to the shops on Wednesday and I noticed hundreds of solitary bees zig zagging back and forth just above the ground in a front garden. The grass was very closely mowed.
The buzz from the bees was quite loud. I noticed that the bees were also present in three adjacent gardens with similar gardens.

I went home for my camera and took a few pics. I later identified the bees at Ivy bee (confirmed by BWARS - Bees Wasps Ants Recording Society).
These solitary bees have a single flight period, September and possibly as late as November when the weather is warm. This coincides with their preferred pollination source - Ivy.
This bee was first seen in the UK in 2001 (Dorset) and was described as new to science in 1993.

I returned to see if they were still their yesterday and they were just as active. Ivy Bees are mining bees making nest tunnels, in this case, in the soil beneath the lawn.

I checked today and even though it had been raining and quite windy, a few of the bees were still evident

Short video clip below 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Hedgehog rescue Portslade

Driving to visit my mum and we had not gone far when we saw a small hedgehog crossing the road - thankfully the car opposite had stopped to let it crossed.
We pulled over and I we went to check on the hedgehog which was on the verges side. I stood between it and the road to encourage the hedgehog to toddle off into one of the nearby gardens.

It seemed quite happy on the verge. While it was active during the day, it did seem to be healthy and behaving normally. Maybe the recent dry hot weather has made it difficult for the hog to find enough food.

It then started to make its way back towards the road and so I carefully picked it up and it rolled into a ball.

We decided it was best to find somewhere to put it safely - and after knocking on two doors and di not get an answer we got a reply. A gentleman was more than pleased for us to put the hedgehog in his back garden and told us he already had two adult hedgehogs that visited his garden in the evening.

Hopefully the hedgehog will stand a better chance there away from the busy road but still in an area that was familiar - because sadly hedgehogs are on the decline.

Pictures taken by my daughter with her mobile phone

Monday, 18 July 2016

It’s 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.  As with 2015, this year, the survey is more informal but society is keen to receive reports, find out more at
The main flying ant nuptial flight in and around my garden took place on 18th July.

The main nest on our rockery 

Smaller nest in our front garden

A small nest under the pavement just outside our garden. 

As always many were eaten by birds including gulls that catch them, on the wing and also pick them of the ground. Some become entangled in spider webs before they get far from the ground.

The nuptial flight this year is earlier than last year which took place 31st July and 2nd   August

Friday, 8 July 2016

garden wildlife update

Phew! what a busy year and apologies for the fact there have not been any posts since March. This has been due to working on a nature reserve in Lewes Sussex - a former railway yard that has now become a community environmental hub in the form of a
Local Nature Reserve served by an innovative community building.

There is a small woodland, winterbourne stream, reed bed, ditches, water meadows and two ponds. The project I have been working on, as lead field teacher and lead freshwater biologist, called Railway Land Live can be seen here and you can also ready my nature posts tab 'places to think' for the project.

Meanwhile, in my garden, the tadpoles have now turned to frogs and lots more. Bees are busy visiting the garden, red mason bees have again nested in our bee hotel. Not many birds around at the moment as they are elsewhere rearing young etc - but will return last summer to autumn.

The swifts are gain nesting in the roof space of the house next door. Hering gull chicks are beginning to wander causing commotion as their parents try to defend them against any possible perceived danger.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Bee activity

The warmer weather has seen an increase in bee activity in my garden.

In particular on the grape hyacinth which are very common in our garden. They have been visited by hoverfly and honey bees (below)

I even saw my first queen buff tailed bumble bee, also visiting the grape hyacinth and also a dandelion flower

I have also seen male and female hairy footed bees

Monday, 7 March 2016

Protecting frog spawn from the cold weather

As you will know from an earlier post, the frog spawn laid in my pond back in early February suffered from being frozen at the surface.

Since then many more frogs have returned to the pond and there is now lots of frog spawn.
In cold weather, I lay a black bag carefully over the spawn near the edge of the pond and it is enough to keep the water and spawn from freezing

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Peacock butterfly

The first peacock butterfly in my garden this year. It was actively flying around before I manage to get his photo as it rested on a bag of garden rubbish (waiting to be recycled).
Peacock butterflies hibernate in the winter. They hibernate because of a lack of food (flowering plants also become dormant) and warmth, butterflies are cold blooded.

When the butterflies are dormant, their bodies use very little energy.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Robin eating the fat balls

Its been a rather wet and windy day and so I did not put any of the mealworm on the bird feeder station as they would easily blow away.
Surprised today to see a robin (who visits for the mealworm), eating fat balls form the dispenser, balancing on a adjacent branch

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Common Frogs Return

After the pond froze yesterday I was really surprised to wake up this morning to a pond full of writhing frogs.
Too many to count at the moment as they dive at the slightest twitch of the curtain, but we often get 30 -40 frogs a year.

Many of these frogs have travelled from outside of our garden.
This one was crossing the pavement outside our house and open its way to our front gate.
Occasionally they pair up even before the reach the pond (which is in our back garden) such as this pair

Any I find on the way to the pond I give a helping hand and will be keeping an eye out over the next few days. Last year I found a couple of frogs who had not managed to reach the pond and died - so I now give them a hand

Friday, 19 February 2016

Frozen frog spawn

I looked out the window this morning and noticed that the pond had frozen over.
This could be disastrous for the frog spawn in the pond that was laid in my pond 8th February when the weather was mild as the spawn can be affected by cold weather.
The layer of ice forms covering the surface of the spawn could cause the upper layer of eggs to die. However it is a big clump of eggs and those in the middle and bottom of the spawn may survive.

Frog spawn development slows down when its cold so I will have to wait and see what occurs. In March, frogs from further afield will usually visit my pond and so there will probably be lots more spawn to look forward to.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Frog spawn

Frogs have been noticeable in our garden since Christmas - croaking has been heard on and off since Christmas day.

Today I noticed the first clump of frog spawn in our garden pond. There are also several frogs. We have had a very mild winter so far.
These early frogs are probably frogs that live in our garden all year. Later, we may have as many as 35 frogs as other visit our garden from further afield.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Railway Land Live 2016

Apologies for the low number of wildlife observations posted for 2015, which usually focus on my garden and the surrounding area.
I have been heavily involved in a fantastic project called Railway Land Live based on the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve in East Sussex.


As part of the project we installed 4 webcams in the reserve, two above water and two underwater - streaming live images. The cams captured some amazing wildlife from grass snake and newt courtship to tench, heron and we also followed a family of moorhen.
As apart of the project we worked with local schools I also write regular updates on sightings for the website.

You can still see library clips and lots of other information on the website from 2016.

The project was funded by Heritage Lottery and the project has now started its second (and final in regards to funding) year.
We only have two of the live cams (because of essential winter maintenance) working at the moment but we will soon have all four cams working.

So while there might not be as many sightings reported on this weblog - there will be lots of exciting stuff to see through the Railway Land Live website.