Monday 7 July 2014

Tree Following ~ Silver Birch in July

This post is the fifth in my Tree Following series, part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am following a Silver Birch in Suffolk, UK. You will find the other Tree Follower links for July 2014 here ... so do take the chance to go on a virtual exploration of the arboreal world!

Diary Entry

Technically this entry should have appeared a month ago, but I had already added my May-June contribution via Mr Linky when the sighting took place, so here it is.

Tuesday 10 June 2014, noon

I was looking out from my window ten minutes ago when a flicker of movement caught my eye from the fir tree adjacent to my Silver Birch. A young Grey Squirrel jumped to the ground and headed towards the trunk of the birch. There was a scuffle in the dense foliage of the Weigela, and a small squirrel head appeared at a height of 150 cm, very close to the coconut feeders that hang from the Silver Birch. I have a feeling the youngster may have lost its balance at that point as it emerged from the base of the shrub and scampered over to the decking. A moment later a Magpie landed just over a metre away. The Grey Squirrel looked small and vulnerable. The bird, however, only had eyes for the feeder, and the youngster hopped safely over to the far side of the garden. I often watch Grey Squirrels from my window as they chase along the tall trees that border the Local Nature Reserve, particularly when the trunks are bare, but I have not seen a Grey Squirrel on our side of the garden fence for some time. I hope this one will return and make it up the trunk of the Silver Birch to the feeders. 

Grey Squirrel (one I took earlier - no camera to hand on 10 June)

* * *

As of 7 July 2014, the squirrel has not been seen again ... yet. The only other animals to report this month are the bats that continue to flit and dive outside my window at dusk.

The Silver Birch is still a mass of green leaves, though shades of brown have crept in among them, reminding me that the longest day is now well and truly behind us. I keep reminding myself that most schools in England have yet to break up for their summer vacation!

The brown shades belong to the female catkins, which are filling out in response to wind pollination. The seeds or 'nutlets' are dispersed on the breeze. Like sycamore keys, the seeds have wings to enable them to travel. One or two have landed on us in the garden.

There are also a few yellow leaves like the one below, suggesting some kind of stress to the tree. I guessed this might be due to drought or mineral imbalance, but it seems from BBC Lancashire's Ask the Gardener programme that it may be due to waterlogged conditions around the roots. Of course, the weather conditions here in Suffolk are very different to those in the north-west, so who knows; but we did have a lot of rain in the county at times last winter.

I was particularly interested to discover that Silver Birch leaves attract aphids, which in turn attract Ladybirds. There is even a species of Silver Birch aphid (Euceraphis betulae). I have not seen any Ladybirds on the tree to date, but I noticed this striking pair on a nettle in the vicinity: 

14-spot yellow ladybirds (small, native species)

When it comes to birds, the garden has been somewhat quieter this month. The Blue tit and Starling families have fledged.

However, the following birds have deigned to put in the odd appearance on the Silver Birch itself or on the feeders that hang from its branches ...

Sightings include ...
  • TFb2  Great tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb4  Blackbird (one male frequently below feeder, another on the feeder - and a female)
  • TFb6  Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7  Robin (one or two appearances, including today)
  • TFb8  Magpie (about three frequently dive-bombing feeder)
  • TFb9  Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two frequently below feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (infrequent appearances of up to three birds) 

Previous birds not seen this month (and admittedly I was not at base all the time) ...
  • TFb1 Great Spotted Woodpecker 
  • TFb3 Long-tailed Tit
  • TFb5 Song Thrush 
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow (on fence at back of Silver Birch) - first seen on 14 May 2014
  • TFb13 Goldfinch
On the insect front, this month's sightings include ...

  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly (three, definitely the first time I have seen these in my home patch)
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly (two, definitely the first time I have seen these in my home patch)
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly (one)
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds (two)
  • TFi14 Blackfly (colony) 
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly (one) 
  • TFi16 Shield bug (still identifying exact species)
There have also been plenty of moths. Sadly my moth ID skills are sadly lacking. 

TFi5 Skipper butterfly (I'm not sure yet which variety)

TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly on flowers beneath Silver Birch

Previous sightings around the Silver Birch include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March] 
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybirds [April]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird [May]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June]   
Of course it is often hard to tell whether the flora and fauna that I spot in, on, around or under the Silver Birch - or on the feeders that hang from its branches - are there specifically on account of the tree.

Next month will be August: where is the year going? But July is always a good month for growth and wildlife, so I shall keep my eyes and ears open meanwhile, as I continue to follow the Silver Birch. Thank you for calling by ... and for those of you who have been reading my posts on Skye and Mull, there will be a few more coming soon. 



Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Caroline, I haven't read your wonderful post yet (I can see it's interesting by the pictures) but I'm dropping by quickly to say thanks for letting me know the pictures weren't showing up on Tree Watcher's post about the magnolia. I've changed it so they can now be seen.

Diana Studer said...

that marmalade hoverfly is a creature of striking beauty!

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you, Lucy ... will pop over to Tree Watcher again now.

eileeninmd said...

Lovely post on your tree following.. The birch is pretty. The squirrel is cute and I love the butterfly shot.. Have a happy week!

Hollis said...

Beautiful photos, Caroline -- you do such a good job with the insects. I find it hard to get them to pose!

Hollis said...

Beautiful photos, Caroline -- you do such a good job with the insects. I find it hard to get them to pose!

LensAndPen said...

Caroline, your Birch is lovely. It reminds me of some wonderful trips to Sweden. Your photographs of the wee creatures are amazing! Thank you for looking at my Magnolia. I am glad the pictures all show up now. Lucy is kind enough to post my reports since I do not have my own blog, but am hoping to start one. I feel overwhelmed when I read about starting one, though.
Tree Watcher in the Pacific Northwest of Washington State, USA. No shortage of moss here!

Alison Levey said...

Silver birches are one of my favourite trees. If there is not one in a garden when I move in, there is by the time I leave. Love the photos, the wildlife you have is great.

Amanda Peters said...

Great post on your tree, you have allot going on.Great photos too.
Amanda xx

Em Parkinson said...

Great haul Caroline. I especially like the Squirrel's head. Gorgeous detail.

Tim said...

A really nice post, Caroline. I particularly liked your diary entry. You must be one of the few that actually want a grey squirrel in their garden - which I think is nice.

Caroline Gill said...

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments ... and Tim, since we don't have any Red Squirrels here, I am happy to welcome Grey ones for now! Though having enjoyed their red cousins earlier in the year 'up north', I write this with a slightly heavy heart.

chloris said...

A lovely post. I love all your insects too.