Thursday, 17 August 2017

Hedgehog visitor

I once saw hedgehogs quite frequently in and around my garden but I have not seen one for many year (just the occasional road casualty).

So I was really pleased to see this hedgehog on our front garden last night. It was sitting in the lawn looking towards the house.
My wife took out some cat food and the hedgehog came over a eat some of the cat food before heading off into the over-gown flower border in search of some tasty invertebrates.

Hedgehogs have declined drastically and while the exact reason is unknown intensification of agriculture, roads, pesticides and tidy gardens may all play a part. As with many species declines its often a mixture causes.

Connectivity of habitats is also important, even more so for hedgehogs as they may roam 1-2 km in a single night. Our neighbours have had a hedgehog family in their garden for a while. After 8 weeks the young are left to fend for themselves and this is likely to be one of the young hogs.

If you put food out, hedgehogs tend to visit for a top up and still feed on the natural food - so its not a problem. Avoid fish based catfoods as it can give hedgehogs diarrhoea. You can also add meal worm and other tasty treats as hedgehogs are omnivores. You can also provide a bowl of water as drinking water is often hard to find.

While hedgehogs can swim well, if they fall in a swimming pool or raised pond with no area to climb out, a hedgehog will eventually become exhausted and drown. An untidy overgrown area is also perfect for a hedgehog to visit on its travels.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Brickfield Nature Reserve bug hunt

Helped out again at the Friends of Brickfield Nature Reserve fun day event in conjunction with the Lewes Ranger Thyone.

Sadly extreme windy weather meant we had to abandon putting up the marquee which meant we were unable to use the usb cams to project collected invertebrates onto a tv screen.

Even with the poor weather lots of people turned up for the event.
We also collected some creatures from the onsite pond which included mayfly nymph, damselfly nymph, water boatman, juvenile newts etc.

We shared lots of interesting facts about the animals, such as how water boatman have an air bubble for breathing underwater and that they can fly to another pond.

The newt tadpoles were popular and we discussed their gills, how they develop front legs first, that they hunt small prey items such as daphnia and how adult news lay eggs singularly under leaves of pond vegetation.

The main part of the event was the bug hunt. We handed out pots and containers for people to collect creatures and bring them back to be identified and learn something about the animal they had found.
These included bumble bees, woodlouse, 24 and 7 spot ladybird, speckled wood butterflies, spiders, ground beetle, frog hopper, garden snail and much more.

We also found Kentish snails, a black snail beetle, a digger wasp, a nursery web spider, common blue butterflies, cone head grasshopper, red soldier beetle, thick knee flower beetle, common carder bees and yellow field ants.

Despite the weather the day was a great success.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Dragonflies emerging from our garden pond

A busy day and grabbed a coffee to chill our by our garden pond for a while - just in time to see 3 dragonflies Sympetrum striolatum emerge.
Large red damselflies always emerge from our pond each year and after discovering dragonfly nymphs in the pond for the first time last year - pleased to see adults emerge.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Emerging dragonflies

Dragonflies have started to emerge from our garden pond. There are a lot of dragonfly nymphs this year of varying sizes, some very small and will probably emerge next year.
They climb out of the water, up the marginal vegetation. The skin splits and they emerge as a winged adult, leaving behing the nymph skin (called the exuvia).

The damselflies emerged in a similar way earlier in the year.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Ringlet butterfly and other garden visitors

The sunny weather has been ideal for butterfly watching and as usual we have had several species visit our garden this year.
The most recent was a comma butterfly last Saturday.

One of the most recent and uncommon visitor to our garden is the ringlet butterfly.
This one is feeding on the blackberry flowers next to our pond.

The most common visitor is the speckled wood and then red admiral and then gatekeeper. A few small tortoiseshell and this year only a few painted lady so far (back in May) but maybe more to come from the second generation.

Small white butterflies are also fairly common visitors. Out of the blue butterflies (that settle) the holly blue is most common in our garden.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Second Flying Ant Day

Following a flying ant day on 7th July, mainly the nest on our rockery, we have just had another flying ant day this evening. This is the nuptial flight, the larger queens leave the best pursued soon after by the smaller males - survival of the fittest.
This time the main focus was nest sites in our front garden and under the paving slabs of the path outside our house. The above, mainly smaller males, on our front path.
Not a surprise as the last 4 years I have been taking part in the Flying Ant Day survey the 'Royal Society of Biologists' - plotting flying ant days across the country.
A couple of queen ants.

As part of the public involvement they encouraged unusual pictures and managed a close up of a queen sighting on the end of my finger and I try to  better it each year.
Sadly not so good this year. However it does help trying to photograph a queen in flight.

The field ants nest appears to have moved from our garden this year as they came up out of the pavement outside our house.
Please to see they have not gone far.

As always, many of the ants don't make it very far and those that do run the gauntlet of the gulls, swifts and other birds.

Frog in our living room

Got up this morning to find this common frog in our living room.
We have been leaving the conservatory doors open until quite late so it must have hopped in when no one was looking.

Not sure why it was attracted to the bag - maybe it thought that the colours where flowers and would be a good place to hide.
I carefully picked up the frog (with damp hands) and placed it back in the pond area.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Herring gull mobbing buzzard

The herring gull chicks have taken to wandering around on the roof tops and some have even taken to the air. The adults are much less tolerant of potential intruders including the occasional buzzard that glides over our garden.

Several gulls wheel around with raucous cries while one herring gull repeatedly mobs the buzzard until it has been chased out of range.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Goldfinches take a bath

A noise family of stunning goldfinches visited our bird bath for a drink and a good splash on a sunny and hot afternoon.

 The goldfinches took it in turns to bathe
I saw at least 3 juveniles (bird to the right above) but it was difficult to count the entire family as they flew in and out of the buddleia bush.

Afterwards the goldfinches retired to the branches for a preen

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Herring gull chicks test flight

All around my home there is the sound of demanding herring gull chicks as their are several nests nearby. I also keep a close on the nest, on the roof tops behind our bungalow, between the stacks of the chimney.
They have reared three chicks, perfectly camouflaged on the roof tops.
Today they have started to practice flight in earnest, leaping from the ridge of the roof and landing further down the tiles, before marching back up to the top and having another go.

As soon as one of the chicks start to exercise its wings, the parents go into defence mode, shouting at anyone or anything that come close.
Or dives on any potential intruder

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Herring gulls nesting update

Herring gulls chicks are now on the move. There are several nests on the roof tops along our road and the chicks are beginning to wander along the roof tops which cause the adults to be very protective.

This one decided to dive bomb me - excreting in my direction but missed by a long distance.
The herring gull chicks have perfect camouflage for rook tops.
They are either sleeping, demanding food from their parents, or exploring pecking at things that might be food.
There is also a nest on the chimney of a house behind ours, which I watch every year. One of the chicks is already trying out its wings in preparation pre-flights.

Herring gulls are fascinating to watch, getting a glimpse at courtship nest building, territorial behaviours, postures and calls.

You might be forgiven to think we are over run with herring gulls, but they are not doing so well in their natural environment earning them Red Status for conservation.

While I occasionally find my self being dived on by herring gulls, I am a great fan

Friday, 2 June 2017

Slow-worms enjoying the sun

The slow-worms in my garden have been enjoying the recent spell of hot weather. These beautiful legless lizards are delightful and of course completely harmless. They do in fact help the garden as they will eat small slugs and other garden pests.
They have been basking in different locations in our garden and I think there are at least 5 individuals as they differ in size, colour and whether their tail is still intact.

I rescued this little chap (or chap-ess) as it was about to slither into a bag of garden green waste while I was gardening destined for the green bin.
(I always tie them once I have finished to prevent frogs or other animals climbing inside)

This poor slow-worm was next to our green house on a very rainy day.
I thought it was dead at first, but it was alive but very cold. I brought it inside and warmed it with my hands.
Once it recovered I released it back in the garden in a safe dry spot.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Painted ladies

The first Painted Lady Butterflies turned up in my garden today, feeding on the Hebe and Red Valerian.

This amazing butterfly flies across the channel from the continent to the UK, some travel from as far as North Africa. They lay eggs and produce a second generation.
However recent scientific research and tagging has revealed that the second generation of Painted Ladies don't die during the winter as was once thought, but actually make the return journey. This migration is considered to be as spectacular as the famous Monarch butterfly in the USA. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Returning swifts

For me, summer begins when the swifts return to nest under the eaves of our neighbours house. Unfortunately we live in a bungalow and it too low to attract swifts.

The swifts spend the winter south of the Savannah in Africa. The return to the UK last week in April or early May. In previous years I have usually seen the first arrivals by 4th May but this year they were a little late.

Swifts traditionally nested in rocky crags, sea-cliffs, caves, hollow trees and even nest holes made by other birds. Now most swifts nest in buildings, which has allowed them to colonise many new areas.

We usually have three pair nest in our neighbours property. Once the chicks have hatched the adults collect large amounts of insect food in the air, preferably at heights over 50 m, collected in a special food pouch.

Their ariel acrobatics area joy to watch and they often sweep low over our garden - low enough to touch (but of course I don't) 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Mason bees and Moorhen chicks

I spotted these mason bees collecting wet mud from the bank of a stream on the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve. Red mason bees make their nest in natural holes, or in man-made tubes such as a bee hotel. Within the tube the bees make cells from the mud, depositing an egg and pollen/nectar. This will be next years generation.
Click this link to see my other blog entries on red mason bees feeding and nesting in my garden
On the same day I also observed a moorhen family on the Leighside Pond (woodland pond) at the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve. The average size number of chicks seen at the reserve is four, but this family only had two chicks.

The tiny chicks fluffy chicks are quite independent, often swimming off on their own. The parents are busy collecting food and feeding the chicks which call to the parents when they want to be fed. This is different to ducks where the female leads the chicks to food which they then feed themselves.
Moorhens often have two broods each year and sometimes the grown up chicks from the first brood actually help look after the second brood, which is very unusual for a bird.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Urban herring gulls nesting

I have been watching again with great interest, they really are fascinating birds and a great opportunity to witness bird behaviour.
While they can cause a nuisance - it is human activity that the gulls have adapted to. Firstly UK herring gulls numbers have decreased in the wild due to human activity and providing (even if unintentionally) our waste and uneaten food for gulls to scavenge on. In the marine environment the gulls part scavenging nature is an important role.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Robin and Long tailed Tit

On a recent visit to Woods mill, Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, I witnessed this unusual behaviour from a long- tailed tit.

At first I thought it was reacting to its reflection but continued observation suggested it might have been catching tiny flying insects. Just before the long-tailed tit flew down to the windows, it had been foraging in a near by tree.

Further on around the reserve I encountered this pair of robin. The male robin was collecting food items to feed his mate - known as courtship feeding. The robin showed great interest in my lunch and so I offered some bread crumbs on my hand.

The robin became braver after several visits to my hands and on occasions stayed for a few seconds before flying off. Bread not the best food for birds but the few crumbs won't have been a problem.

Tricky filming and feeding the robin but pleased with the results.

While it is easy to think that this robin is being very friendly - this probably involves a behaviour that goes back to when they were true woodland birds. Robins once foraged around wild boar that unearthed tasty worms and invertebrates while they rooted around for food. In a similar way, some robins have become used to humans a being non dangerous and a source of food.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sparrow nesting

During the winter month the house sparrows have been regular visitors to me bird feeder. The last few days this has changed and the sparrows have now shifted into courtship mode.

While the occasional sparrow still pays a visit to the bird feeder, most of their attention has switched to collecting nesting materials. Instead of the front garden where the feeder is situated the sparrows now make more visits to the back garden.

Visits from both males and females, often as a pair. Materials collected mainly appear to be plant material and one female sparrow found a feather.

If you live in or near Brighton you might be interested in the Brighton and Hove's House Sparrows Project 

Once a very common sight in our towns and cities, the number of house sparrows has declined by 75% over the last 25 years. The project aims to ensure a sustainable population of house sparrows across Brighton Hove and raising awareness about their needs in order for them to thrive.

Visit the website to find out more about sparrows in Brighton and Hove, help with a survey, take part in a photographic competition or more