This post is the sixth 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 August 2014 here ... so do take the chance to go on a virtual exploration of the arboreal world!
Diary Entry 1: ANTS!
15 July 2014, 14.00hrs
Weather mild and cloudy, 17 degrees centigrade
[Flying ant survey here - do add your sightings]
We had thousands of ants taking wing on Saturday afternoon, 12 July. They came out of the hole in the brickwork used by the mortar bees and out of the soil and out of the air itself. We did some gardening over the weekend in an attempt to reclaim our fence from its stranglehold of Mile-A-Minute Vine aka Silver Flea Vine (Polygonum aubertii or Fallopia baldschuanica).
There has been a sudden influx of birds to the area around the Silver Birch, perhaps due in part to the combination of our pruning efforts and the hatching out of the ants. The mowing of the lawn and the subsequent torrential rain disturbed yet more insects, thereby enticing the birds back in good numbers for the easy pickings.
I was delighted, if a little surprised, to find myself nose-to-beak with the fluffy face of a juvenile Long-tailed tit. The youngster was perching just above the coconut feeders on the Silver Birch. I had been taking a photograph of one of the ants on the bark, and was just thinking that a new coconut was needed. Before anything could be done about the limited coconut supply, a small company of about seven Long-tailed tits flitted across the garden. Three stopped to have a nibble before they moved on to the cover of a large shrub on the far side of the garden. I am really thrilled that they have reappeared as I have not seen a Long-tailed tit in my home patch since March. I just hope they will return at a time when the feeders have more on offer!
No sooner had the Long-tailed tits gone than a family of four Blue tits crowded around the feeder. They were soon displaced by a couple of Great tits, keen to re-assert their claim to the territory. The Dunnocks were flitting about but as I retreated to an upstairs window, the garden became still and lifeless once more. Suddenly the threatening silhouette of a bird of prey, a Sparrowhawk or Kestrel, flew from the tall trees that herald the start of the local nature reserve, and circled over the garden before disappearing in the direction of the stream.
|Long-tailed tit sizing up the Silver Birch|
Diary Entry 2: BLACK AND WHITE
28 July 2014, noon
Weather breezy, cloudy. 18 degrees centigrade
I looked out of the french window and saw a quick flash of black and white. I wondered if it was the Great Spotted Woodpecker making an appearance after her long absence from the feeder on the Silver Birch. When I returned to the spot with my coffee a few seconds later, the only birds in the garden were a pair of Magpies, fighting the toss over some morsel of food. I assumed the previous bird had been one of them and was just feeling a little deflated when - lo and behold - there was the black and white Woodpecker, resplendent with her crimson feathers. I feel slightly guilty writing this as all birds have their part to play in the grand scheme of things and Magpies often get a bad press, but this is the first time I have ever lived in a house with a visiting Woodpecker!
Diary Entry 3: BLACK, WHITE, RED ... AND BEDRAGGLED
6 August 2014, 11.40
Weather warm and wet. 22 degrees centigrade
Something white caught my eye as it flickered and twitched behind a post around the decking area. I waited and watched. Suddenly the bird, for bird it was, flew off its perch and descended on the coconut feeder that dangles from the Silver Birch. It was a bedraggled Great Spotted Woodpecker. It is possible that the 'drowned rat' appearance made the bird look smaller than it really was, but I am excited to think that this Woodpecker was probably from a 2014 brood. A Blue tit was hanging about in the wings and eventually plucked up courage to join the larger bird. The coconut made me realise that the Woodpecker was small, but it looked enormous beside the Blue tit!
|The Blue tit (left) hangs back|
|Each to its own|
This months sightings in, on, under, over and around the Silver Birch include ...
- TFb1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (see diary entries above)
- TFb2 Great tit (several frequently on feeder)
- TFb3 Long-tailed Tit (a family on the Silver Birch, using the coconut feeders, 15 July 2014)
- TFb4 Blackbird (one male frequently below feeder, another on the feeder - and a female)
- TFb6 Blue tit (several frequently on feeder, including young ones)
- 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) ...
- 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 on or near the Silver Birch included ...
- TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies ... quite a number, perhaps from the Local Nature Reserve nearby. First one of 2014 seen on 20 July.
- TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly
- TFi19 Comma butterfly
- TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly
- TFi21 Peacock butterfly
- TFi22 Green bottle flies, due, perhaps to the warm weather
- TFi22 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus
Here (below) is a photo of one of the many Migrant Hawkers. Most flitted between the Silver Birch at one end of the garden and the tall shrub in the photo at the other. The dragonfly in the picture was the only one that landed (on the tall shrub), and was therefore a sitting target for the camera. It may have a slightly damaged wing.
There were also plenty of moths. My moth ID skills are sadly lacking.
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]
- TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July]
- TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July]
- TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July]
- TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July]
- TFi14 Blackfly [July]
- TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July]
- TFi16 Shield bug [July]
The Silver Birch has not changed in appearance very much from last month. However, the tiny seeds seem to be everywhere. There was a sprinkling on my windowsill this morning, and one seed landed on me while I was enjoying a mug of tea in the garden. The Silver Birch produces an incredible 15-17 million seeds in a year, so it is hardly surprising that these seem to be everywhere! They look like mite-sized bats on account of the 'wings' that enable the wind to disperse them. You can find a photo here.
If you are part of the Tree Following brigade, I look forward to reading your August updates. I wonder whether you also noticed less change in the actual appearance of your tree than in previous months. I suspect the story in September will be rather different, particularly since there are already signs of an early autumn, with ripe blackberries, plenty of apples and swelling conkers.
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