Monday, 8 February 2016

Tree Following - January and early February 2016


 Welcome to my Tree Following post for January and early February 2016. 


These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket. May I express my thanks to you both.

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I have been keeping an eye on an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to watch my Silver birch, B. pendula. Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that I love following the Silver Birch; but, for some slightly indefinable reason, I have not found the Acer negundo a very rewarding tree to follow. I may exchange it for a small flowering cherry sapling that we were given four years ago. I will let you know my thoughts on the matter in a month's time! 

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link here ... so do take the chance to have a look at these new posts!

Once again, the main activity this last month concerns the birds who live around my home patch. Many of them showed up on cue - in, on, around or under the Silver Birch - during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. You will find my report here.

Since my last TF post, I have noted the following ...

  • The feisty Robin (and another Robin)
  • Blue tits, a large cluster
  • Great tits, again a good number of these
  • Long-tailed tits, always in a small group
  • Starlings, every so often
  • Blackbird, around the tree, rather than on it
  • Magpies
  • Wood pigeons, the usual suspects 
  • Carrion Crows, three noisy ones!
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker - a male and a female
  • Bullfinch, male - seen once during its brief spell in our patch
  • Grey Heron, seen overhead twice, going in opposite directions
  • Sparrowhawk, which flew past the Silver Birch and on over the fence
  • Goldfinches, a large charm
  • Collared Doves, a pair 
  • Jay, a few days before the Birdwatch.

There has also been a Grey Squirrel, who is perching precariously at the top of the Silver Birch as I type. A large black and white cat has visited the base of the Silver Birch on occasions, leaping up at a Magpie who was hovering by the coconut feeders.

On the insect front, I have one early moth to report, but it flew off before I was able to identify it or take its photograph. I also watched a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee fly past the Silver Birch, and I gather from friends on Facebook that there have been other sightings of these bees during the past month.

And now for a few photos for this month ...

Silver Birch - this morning

Slow signs of spring (Silver Birch)


Acer negundo, looking pretty wintry still

Great spotted Woodpecker, male

You can see his back-of-the-nape red band very clearly
The Grey Squirrel managed to knock the lump of fat (with berries) to the ground ...

... ate as much as it could, and managed with some difficulty to carry the remains over the fence.




One of the Dunnocks at the foot of the Silver Birch

Blue tits feeding in peace

One of the Starlings
Above and below: Magpie (before the cat leaped up)

 

I mentioned in January that I would post my full TF species list once again this month. I shall probably continue to do this every other month or at intervals as it is becoming rather long! Here it is:

(Largely) Silver Birch Sighting Update
The few Acer negundo entries have been marked as such.    

Avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch, seen at any time since I began the Tree Following project over a year ago) are shown in pink.

I have marked the 'wild things' seen during this last month in yellow.

To date, the only birds seen on the Acer negundo are TFb13 Goldfinch and  TFb19  Chaffinch

  • TFb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker (a male and female)
  • TFb2   Great tit (several, often on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit (large family, including juveniles)
  • TFb4   Blackbird
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (the feisty Robin has put in frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two occasionally below the feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (one or two)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow 
  • TFb13 Goldfinch 
  • TFb14 Jay
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren 
  • TFb17  Bullfinch (a single visit from a male)
  • TFb18  Sparrowhawk
  • TFb19  Mallard
  • TFb20  House Sparrow
  • TFb21  Chaffinch
New bird species this month ...

  • TFb22 Grey Heron (I have seen these in our home patch before, but apparently not since the start of my Tree Following observations. There is a stream in the local nature reserve at the back of our garden, so we see these birds occasionally). 
  • TFb23 Collared Dove (a pair)

Mammal sightings include ...


  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bat ... first 2015 garden sighting 7 May 2015 [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel (high up on the Silver Birch) [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFm5 Stoat
  • TFm6 Hedgehog, a single sighting 
 No new mammals this month.


Insect sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March 2014]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April 2014]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [October 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 - caterpillars]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird  [May 2014] [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015 - on three on Acer negundo!]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June 2014
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July 2014] [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August 2014]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] - flew past window
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi23 Ants [August 2014] [Apr/May 2015]  [May/June 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 Acer negundo]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi27 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi28 Unidentified Moth [Nov/Dec 2014] [Feb/Mar 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
    [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFi29 Rosemary Beetle [[Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 
  • TFi31 Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) [Sept/Oct 2015] 
 No new insects this month.  


Arachnids

 No new insects this month. 


And finally ...

MY PREVIOUS TREE FOLLOWING POSTS


Monday, 1 February 2016

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 - Results

My count, 2016

The four Long-tailed tits

Great Spotted Woodpecker (female, no red on nape of neck)
Up and away ...

We were thrilled to have both the male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers during the hour.

The usual suspects who failed to show up were ...
  • the Wren
  • the Starlings
  • the Goldfinches

Still on the subject of birds, it is worth noting that a couple of days in advance of the survey we had a Sparrowhawk. A Grey Heron flew over on Sunday, but would not have been counted as it did not touch down. The Chaffinch (just one) showed up minutes after the hour was up ... and a magnificent male Bullfinch was noted this afternoon.

I also logged the Grey Squirrel as a regular visitor on my count in the 'other wildlife/mammals' section - and the Stoat and Hedgehog as rare garden sightings.

The current statistics on the RSPB site are as follows:

Surveys submitted: 150295
People who have taken part: 231756
Birds spotted: 4696305

It will be fascinating to see the final numbers and the trends that develop. You can see my 2015 count here


Friday, 29 January 2016

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

Long-tailed tit

I have rather neglected my blogs recently in favour of other activities and demands, but it is time to get back in the saddle and prepare for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

I am guessing that Blue tits followed by Long-tailed tits will take the leader board in my neck of the woods. But we shall see. I am pretty sure that a fine Sparrowhawk swooped over the fence yesterday, so there may be other surprises in store. The Jay was here last week, seeing to its autumn cache, and the Greater Spotted Woodpecker (female) has been around intermittently. The Dunnocks are back and the Wren has been very active. There are two feisty Robins at present and a pair of Blackbirds. The local charm of Goldfinches puts in an occasional appearance, and Wood Pigeon numbers are on the rise. There are also the other usual suspects - Magpies, Carrion Crows and Starlings. 

The Grey Squirrel has been a little tinker, stealing the fat balls as fast as we hang them on the Silver Birch. There has also been a large black and white cat to add to the excitement ...

Do see if you can take part in the count this weekend. Chris Packham reminded us last night on BBC Winterwatch just how valuable the amassed data can be. Juliet, aka Crafty Green Poet, has written an excellent post here with the Birdwatch details. Happy watching! 

P.S. You may find it interesting to watch and see not only the species that come, but also how they are behaving. When we lived in South Wales, the Long-tailed tits seemed very shy around humans, preferring perches at the top of very tall trees (Poplars, I seem to remember). Here in Suffolk, our Long-tails are much more relaxed. They chitter away in small flocks in front of our window and show little fear when I am at relatively close range, regardless of whether the sliding door is open or closed. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Tree Following 2016: December and early January




 Happy New Year!
 Welcome to my Tree Following post for December and early January. 


These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket. May I express my thanks to you both.

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I am following an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to keep an eye on my Silver birch, B. pendula.

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link here ... so do take the chance to have a look at the new posts!

Here is my latest photo of the Acer negundo, looking very bare and wintry ...


 

The following three photos of the Silver Birch were taken this morning. You can see the profusion of catkins. 







The main activity this last month concerns the birds who live around my home patch. I have yet to see a bird perch on the Acer negundo (no surprises here, but *why* is this tree so unattractive to so many species, I continue to wonder?).

The Silver Birch has had a constant stream of visitors in the last month, although there have been no new 'firsts' to report. I have noted the following ...
  • The faithful feisty Robin (and another Robin)
  • Blue tits, a cluster
  • Great tits, again a few of these
  • Long-tailed tits, always in a small group
  • Starlings, every so often
  • Blackbird, around the tree, rather than on it
  • Magpies
  • Wood pigeons, the usual suspects 
  • Carrion Crows, three noisy ones!
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker - one visit noted to date in 2016



 On the mammal front, there have been many visits from the
  • Grey Squirrel (possibly just one squirrel, but a very hungry one at that!). S/he has been a regular visitor, perhaps due to the mild weather, and has broken a branch off the Silver Birch in a lively attempt to reach the coconut and fat feeders. These have constantly ended up on the grass as a result. The Blue tits seem to have enjoyed gathering round on the grass for a change, but most of the other birds have been wary of feeding at ground level in this exposed way.  
Cute little vandal!

Blue tit with broken Silver Birch branch and coconut feeders that dropped to the ground

I have not seen any other creatures this month, but - like many of us - I have been busy with festivities and other activities.

I love the Silver Birch, but am still tempted to 'ditch' the Acer negundo: it has been a dull tree to watch. However, when I was last thinking along these lines, a host of Ladybirds arrived (and those who follow this blog will know how interested I am in these creatures); so perhaps I should hold out for the moment and try looking a bit harder!

I will add my complete list of sightings next month. Meanwhile, happy watching!


And finally ...

MY PREVIOUS TREE FOLLOWING POSTS


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Beech Branch Mystery at NT Ickworth

Pheasant at NT Ickworth, Suffolk, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year! 


We were wandering through the delightful grounds at NT Ickworth, looking for early signs of spring, when our eyes alighted on this strange object on a beech twig. You can see the beech buds at the end of the branches, but what is the strange white bundle?

While I am intrigued by a mystery, I am also curious enough to enjoy the satisfaction of finding the answer, often with a little help from my friends! So please drop a line in the comments or on my @coastcard twitter account if you can help.

It may be just a decaying leaf, but we suspect it may be an overwintering pupa or cocoon of some sort.

I note incidentally that there are lepidoptera like the barred Hook-tip moth (Watsonalla contraria) which sandwich their pupa between two beech leaves.  

NT Ickworth
I am reminded that the term marcescence refers to leaves (like many beech leaves) that dry up but do not fall off in the autumn. 

May 2016 bring many more wildlife mysteries and wonders to our attention!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Greetings 2015



Happy Christmas! 

This time last year I posted a photo of the NT Sutton Hoo Shepherd's Hut.

I have seen a couple more of these mobile shelters this year,
and thought I might share them with you.

David Morris has written a delightful book on the subject
entitled Shepherds' Huts and Living Vans.

I hope I may encounter some more in 2016! 

Shepherd's hut at the Museum of East Anglian Life, Suffolk
Shepherd's hut at NT Sutton Hoo (complete with stove and chimney)
David in the hut at Sutton Hoo: trying it out for size, Dec. 2015

Shepherd's Hut at Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, Essex


'While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around ...
'


Words: Nahum Tate

*
 'And there were in the same country 
shepherds abiding in the field, 
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, 
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: 
and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, 
'Fear not: for, behold, 
I bring you good tidings of great joy, 
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day
 in the city of David 
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.'

From Luke's Gospel, chapter 2. 

*

Monday, 21 December 2015

Today's Hungry Visitor

'We won't go until we've got some ...'

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Of Swallows and Saharan Dust ... (in December?)

A Case of Seasonal Wires Crossed?
Swallow

I read a warning this morning about potentially toxic dust from the Sahara that may cross our paths tomorrow here in parts of the UK. A number of newspapers were running the story, but we failed to find any mention of the anticipated scenario on the weather forecast.

I was just beginning to think that I must have got the wrong end of the stick when I finally tracked down (a version of) the report on the Met Office News Blog here.

It seems that, desert dust apart, we are in for some unusually mild weather for the time of year in the next few days. And to add to my seasonal confusion, guess who turned up at RSPB Minsmere today ... a Swallow!

I remain unsure about the weather for tomorrow (Thursday 17 December) in the UK; but just to be on the safe side, you might care to take a look at the following, particularly if you have a health condition that could be affected by unusual dust ...

Friday, 11 December 2015

Tree Following November to December 2015




Welcome to my Tree Following post for November and early December. 


The feisty Robin on my feeder

These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket. May I express my thanks to you both.

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I am following an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to keep an eye on my Silver birch, B. pendula.

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link here ... so do take the chance to have a look!

First snow of winter ...

What a change there has been in the weather since my last post. The evenings have drawn in and the mornings are dark as well. Here in these eastern extremities we have had our first hint of snow. Others in the north-west of the UK have had devastating floods, and my heart goes out to them. 

It seems important to round up my Tree Following year, so this post will largely consist of a list (no surprises here!). I have particularly enjoyed using my trees as the focus for the ecosystems in my garden. It is not possible, of course, to link all sightings directly to the trees, but many other living things have definitely been living their lives around my arboreal neighbours in some way or another, often on account of sap, shade, root systems, seeds, leaves and perches.

The most active creature on the Silver Birch this morning is the Grey Squirrel, who is stocking up on berry-impregnated bird food. 




Acer negundo, December 2015
Both the Acer negundo and the Silver Birch are devoid of leaves as you can see. The Silver Birch is full of tight catkins, a reminder that we will soon be past the shortest day here in the UK.

Silver Birch, December 2015

The feisty Robin sings on in the Silver Birch, December 2015


(Largely) Silver Birch Sighting Update
The few Acer negundo entries have been marked as such.    

Avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch, seen at any time since I began the Tree Following project over a year ago) are shown in pink.

I have marked the 'wild things' seen during this last month in yellow.

To date, the only birds seen on the Acer negundo are TFb13 Goldfinch and  TFb19  Chaffinch


  • TFb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker (highlight of the last month: a male and female together)
  • TFb2   Great tit (several, often on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit (large family, including juveniles)
  • TFb4   Blackbird
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (the feisty Robin has put in frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two occasionally below the feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (one or two)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow 
  • TFb13 Goldfinch 
  • TFb14 Jay
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren 
  • TFb17  Bullfinch
  • TFb18  Sparrowhawk
  • TFb19  Mallard
  • TFb20  House Sparrow
  • TFb21  Chaffinch
No new bird species this month.

Mammal sightings include ...

  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bat ... first 2015 garden sighting 7 May 2015 [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel (this morning, enjoying the fat-and-berry food on the Silver Birch)
  • TFm5 Stoat
 No new mammals this month.


Insect sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March 2014]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] 
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April 2014]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [October 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 - caterpillars]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird  [May 2014] [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015 - on three on Acer negundo!]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June 2014
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July 2014] [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August 2014]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] - flew past window
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi23 Ants [August 2014] [Apr/May 2015]  [May/June 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 Acer negundo]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi27 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi28 Moths [Nov/Dec 2014] [Feb/Mar 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi29 Rosemary Beetle [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 
  • TFi31 Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) [Sept/Oct 2015] 

Arachnids


Great Spotted Woodpecker


And finally ...

MY PREVIOUS TREE FOLLOWING POSTS