I decided to complete my RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
first thing on Saturday morning as the weather wasn’t looking good for
today at all. I got up early and started my watch at 8am (yes I was one of the
people bird watching from the kitchen window in my PJ’s!).
I was pleased to see two more species than last
year, but numbers do seem to be down from three years ago. I am assuming it is
the mild weather which is keeping them away?
There had been woodpigeons and the occasional
long-tailed tits showing; but not yesterday! It seems to be the theme that a
lot of people have been finding; the birds know it is Birdwatch weekend
and have gone into hiding! There has been a sparrow hawk in the garden in
recent days which could also be a contributing factor as to why there are fewer
I didn’t take any photos of the birds this year as it was just too dark and gloomy 🙁
I was sat at work working my way through the ever expanding to do list when one of my office mates came up to me ‘you like birds, there are some swallows nesting above a door way. Thought you might like to know’. So of course I headed out to have a look. I was quite surprised to find them nesting above an active door; their nest was above a light and below a concrete porch so it was very well protected. If my colleague hadn’t seen one of the parents flying into the nest we would never had known it was there. They have obviously found it to be a very good nest as there are five young not far from fledging.
I was very cautious about taking a photo. At work the longest lens I have is 200mm! I waited for both of the parents to be well away from the nest before getting a little closer, grabbing a very quick photo, before fleeing back to the cover of a nearby tree before the parents returned. I stood and watched them feeding for a minute or two before heading back to my desk.
Nb. This photo is heavily cropped as I didn’t want to get too close and disturb them.
Last year there were lots of common nettles (urtica dioica) in the field just next to the fence for the house. I didn’t really pay that much attention to them but as my interest in botany and entomology has developed due partly to last years’ 30 Days Wild I have been paying a lot more attention.
Common nettle, also known as stinging nettle is the one which we all would have met at some point in our lives, the one we all learnt from a young age; the one that hurts! This year I have encouraged the nettles to grow by insuring the area they occupied last year has been left undisturbed. They grow from seed from the previous years’ distribution but also over winter as rhizomes of the previous years’ plants. As a food plant for the caterpillars of the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies I thought it was important to have a patch growing in the field which I can monitor. Although common nettles are widespread many people remove them from their gardens as they are seen as a weed and of no purpose – I hope as more information about plants and planting for wildlife become better known, people will embrace the common nettle.
This evening I spent some time in the field investigating the nettles to see if I could find any of the 40+ kinds of insect that it supports. In total I found 11 insects and suspect there were a lot more hiding deeper in the nettle patch.
The great spotted woodpeckers are regular visitors to the garden; they can be spotted on the nut feeders or within the branches of the willow tree. They can generally be heard before they are seen! I knew there was a pair that visited the garden and in recent days thought there might also be young by the calls coming from the tree. Today I finally saw them; one of the young landed on the fence and the parent landed to feed them. The nuts are always topped up at the feeders so hopefully I will see them feeding again.
For my birthday last weekend I was gifted a masonbees.co.uk Guardian Scheme for red mason bees. My gift consisted of a bee lodge, nesting tubes and a release box for use next spring. Although it may be the end of the red mason bees nesting season; today I put up the bee lodge ready for any other solitary bees who might like to nest over the coming months.
With the guardian scheme, next spring I will be receive some red mason bee cocoons. All I need to do is put up the release box, add the cocoons and monitor them to see when they hatch and fly away. The males will hatch about a week before the females but it could all take about a month depending on the weather of course! The bee lodge is to be located near the release box so they have somewhere to nest.
All I have to do now is insure I have plenty of flowers in bloom for when they emerge 🙂 If anyone has any suggestions of flowers that are heavy with pollen I’d love to know (I don’t have space for fruit trees but I will be able to supply them with dandelions and buttercups).
Hopefully next summer I will have a garden full of red mason bees and lots of capped tubes!
I like that I will be able to care for and release some of our endangered solitary bees, it is also a responsibility but I think it is one that we should all try and do if we have the resources to do so. They need all the bee-friendly gardens they can find 🙂
There has been a collection of pigeons and doves visiting the garden for some time. They used to sit on the neighbours roof and wait for the ground feeders to be filled late afternoon before coming to feed. The neighbours took objection to them and would make noise to scare them off. They have since decided that because the food is in our garden it is acceptable to sit on our roof instead. They are quite friendly now and will sit on the roof or washing line as we walk by. They still don’t like the neighbours when they are making noise!
Once they have had their fill of food it is a sign for the woodpigeons to come over and finish off any scraps.
On June 18th I put three eggs in the garden to see if the fox was still about. I placed them near the entrance / exit route I think they use and put the trailcam out to see what happened.
I was expecting the young fox from the other day but a different fox turned up first and took the eggs!
To me this looks like an older fox and maybe even a family member of the young fox. She took them all in a 8 minute window.
As you can see the last segment of the video shows a younger fox, though I can’t be 100% certain if it’s the same one who was eating the bird food earlier in the week. I need to gain more footage to work out who is who, but it is exciting to know there is more than fox using the garden 🙂
This afternoon I spotted this Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) on the garden path.
My first thought was ‘he needs sugar water!’ Then I realised all I needed to do was pick him up and put him with the others that were buzzing around a plant that hangs over the garden fence from next door.
I picked up a feather, one of the doves had left on the lawn and gently got him to crawl onto it.
He happily transitioned to the flowers and fed with the other bees.
I saw on Twitter that volunteers are needed to spot insect ‘spittle’; my initial thought was ‘there is loads in the garden, I can do that’. Last year on June 1st I wrote about cuckoo spit and froghoppers; so carrying on from last year’s blog, today I went out into the garden to take part in the survey.
The reason for the survey taking place is the UK is on high alert for the Xylella fastidiosa disease which has been found in several locations in the EU. The disease is moved from plant to plant by plant-sucking insects such as froghoppers. By people submitting data of where they have seen either cuckoo spit or froghoppers themselves a distribution map of the potential path of the disease can be made. I think it is important to be clear that the disease isn’t in the UK and the map created from the data will be used to make an action plan if it does ever arrive here. Please don’t remove any of the cuckoo spit you might find as the nymph growing inside is doing no harm, it will grow into a very cute little bug 🙂
To complete the survey all you need to do is..
Log the amount of time you spend looking for spittle/spittle bugs, take note of how many spittle only / spittle with insect / adult you find on what type of plant and how many square metres you have searched. It is also important to take a photo of the nymph if you can to submit with your data.
To be able to see if there is an insect in the spittle you need to tease them out. I used a bit of grass to slowly move through the spittle; the nymph leaves the spittle enough to be able to have a look at it. Some would run off down the steam and others would move a little and freeze.
When you enter the data online, each plant species is a separate data entry so make sure you have your data separated out for each plant species. In total I found..
Spittle with insect
All of the nymphs found were Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius), you can use the ID sheet provided online to help with your identifications.
I got home late this evening so didn’t get into the garden until the light was starting to fade. I wasn’t sure what I would find, after a little searching I found what I think is a garden spider (Araneus diadematus), it was in the lavender where it had built its web. It is tiny; only a little bigger than the aphid it was eating.
Garden spiders are seen between June and November.