Sunday, 11 April 2021

Garden Trailcam ... and RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results

Not exactly 'wildlife', but we had fun uploading the Trailcam pictures today ... and finding these rather shifty bright eyes. We have actually seen the cat, which is grey and white, in the daylight now, but have no idea where it lives. 
It features again in the next photograph from the day before. 

This looks like one of the males, but 'Star', the female Blackbird with a white (leucistic?) mark, has also been strutting about. She seems to like the grassy path we made for my daily exercise during the first lockdown, when we stopped mowing what was then a lawn.


The photo above shows something at the tip of the arrow. I know because the next photograph, taken a couple of minutes later, shows a space here. Could it a be a rather round Blue tit? I know it's hard to tell, especially in terms of scale, though the planter is about 30cm high.

Speaking of Blue tits, the RSPB have released this year's figures for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. These are the the Top Ten 2021 species from the records that were submitted ...

Back at the start of February I recorded my survey results for our garden, which you can see here. It seems to me that the general picture (above), with the notable exception of House Sparrows, corresponds pretty closely with our own findings. We recorded the following nine species, all of which feature on the RSPB list. Birds were counted according to the maximum number of a given species seen in the garden at the same time, rather than sequentially over the hour.


1. Blue tit (2nd on national list)

2. Starling (3rd on national list)

3. Long-tailed tit (10th on national list)

4. Goldfinch (8th on national list)

5. Woodpigeon (also 5th on national list)

6. Blackbird (4th on national list)

7. Great tit (also 7th on national list)

8. Magpie (also 9th on national list)

9. Robin (6th on national list)


Happily, we are now having regular garden sightings of House Sparrows. I just hope the feline visitor gives them a chance.



Thursday, 8 April 2021

Sparrows and a Dash of Spring Colour



We are thrilled to have Sparrows in the garden this year. A hedge was disturbed by some building work a few houses away, and I am guessing that the birds have moved up to a hedge a bit nearer our home. 

Easter in our part of Suffolk was pretty chilly this year. We had bits of sunshine (followed by a snowstorm two days ago), but the weather has been cold and blustery at times. Despite the fluctuating temperatures, we have been enjoying the spring bulbs and the bee-flies. I haven't seen a butterfly for days, but we have had some welcome colour in the garden ... such as these tulips. 

I think this is a Brown carder bee on the Dandelion.

Good to see (four) more 7-spot ladybirds

I couldn't resist showing a photo of this beautiful (and delicious) Easter gift in the form of a ginger biscuit sheep!

One of several Bee-flies

I wonder how long it will be before the next butterfly appears ... The chart below shows my sightings (or lack of them) for January, February and March 2021. The Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey charts show the highest number of butterflies seen at one time, rather than how many were seen in total.


Thursday, 25 March 2021

'Today in the Garden' Photo Collage


The garden today

After the excitement of our first 2021 Brimstone two days ago, we had two Peacock butterflies in the garden today. I also saw our first Bee-fly* (third row, centre) of 2021. The weather has been dry so far, with sunny intervals between grey cloud. There has been a cool breeze at times. I wonder what insect visitors tomorrow will bring.


*I have used the spelling (with hyphen) used in the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects. The Oxford Lexico version has no hyphen. Personally, I think the hyphen offers greater clarity. I have occasionally encountered 'beefly' as one word. 


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

First Butterfly Sighting and Other Insects in the Garden


At long last, the day finally arrived! I saw my first butterfly of the year, a smart male Brimstone, gracing our garden yesterday. 

But there were other sights to catch my attention as I took a careful look around this morning. One of these was the bee you see in the photo above and in the photo below. 


I watched as the bee squeezed herself in and out of the curled leaf. I know little about bees, but I am guessing she was a queen bumblebee, and that she had passed the winter hibernating in the patch of leaf litter. I spent several minutes watching her.

Something else 'bee-like' stopped me in my tracks. It was what I think may be a Red-mason bee, though, as ever, please correct me by leaving a comment. 

As you can see in the photo above, this little bee was soon joined by a much more ferocious-looking insect (is it a wasp or a wasp-mimic?). I waited to see what would happen next, and after just a few short seconds, the bee took off.

It seems to have been a good day for bees here. Look at the golden pollen in this Honeybee's 'saddlebags'! 

I have not been able to identify the fly in the  photo above yet, but wonder if it is a Soldier Fly. Update: it's hard to see what lies under the wings, but I'm wondering if this is more likely to be Meliscaeva auricollis.

Let's have a brief 'insect interlude' to make way for the cheering sight of this blossom. I love seeing the colourful flowers once again.

But, of course, it's not just the plants that bring colour. The photos below show the distinctive reds and oranges of our 7-spot Ladybirds. The one in the next photo has an unusual mark on its elytra. There are certainly two, and probably three, 7-spots in the second picture, along with a Pine Ladybird. 

I was delighted to discover more Violets in the garden this morning. And finally, what a joy it was to see the Brimstone, even if I was unable to take its photograph. I saw the one below in 2019. 

I see I have almost completed a year of the Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey. Having failed to spot any butterflies in January and February a year ago, I began to log my sightings at end of March 2020.

Friday, 19 March 2021

The Garden Today


My fledgling list of wildflowers seen in the garden in 2021 has doubled today.

1. Daisy (20  February)

2. Violet (18 March)

3. Chickweed (19 March)

4. Dandelion (19 March)

The Chickweed was tiny and was almost hidden in between paving slabs, but the Dandelion was positively shining in the sunlight, our first decent sunlight for days.

There were quite a few 7-spot Ladybirds and even more Pine ones, including a mating pair. You can see the distinctive rim in the photo below. These ladybirds are very small.


The photo below shows the difference in size between the two varieties.


 I noticed one snail in between some old planks of decking.  

Unfortunately I could not really see the lip of its shell to see if it was brown. I gather we are likely to return to dark cloud tomorrow so I expect I will have to wait a bit longer for my first butterfly. My earliest Bee-fly sighting here in Suffolk was on 24th March, so perhaps I will see one of these this year before a Peacock, Red Admiral or Brimstone graces our garden.

Monday, 15 March 2021

More Signs of Spring in the Garden


We had a cold and blustery weekend, but I noticed these insects moving around in a sheltered corner when the sun peeped out for a brief spell. We spotted a few of these bugs last year in March. I posted photos on iSpot at the time, and the consensus ID was Rhyparochromus vulgaris, a ground bug that is a fairly new arrival to the UK.


We have enjoyed checking the card in the trailcam. The feline below is our latest 'capture'; we have no idea who s/he is or where s/he lives.

The female Blackbird with the white marking on her head has been named 'Star' since she is frequently caught on camera.

Our nettle patch was pathetic last summer so I am hoping for better growth this year. Nettles provide good habitats, and the signs so far are promising. 

Our small daffodils withstood the storm pretty well, but our crocuses became so droopy that I doubted they would pick up again. Remarkably most are now standing once more. A large Buff-tailed Bumblebee swooped down to investigate.

I was delighted to find this little Violet in the shady corner that used to be our 'wildlife patch' in the days before we turned virtually the whole garden into a home for wildlife. I don't ever recall seeing Violets here before and this discovery has made me think I will try to record species of wildflowers as they appear.  

This is my fledgling list for 2021:

1. Daisy

2. Violet

I hope it will continue to expand. 

P.S. I saw my first Grey Squirrel of 2021 this afternoon, and two Buzzards flew overhead.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Wasp Spiders and Other Garden Matters


Those who follow this blog will know that last summer we encountered Wasp Spiders in our Suffolk garden for the first time. We also noticed four of their extraordinary egg sacs. I read this morning in the latest issue of The Suffolk Argus, the magazine of our local Butterfly Conservation branch, that 'Suffolk County Council has just agreed a biodiversity plan to protect species such as the Wasp Spider'. I see this development was reported in our local paper, the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT), back on 5 December 20212. 


We took advantage of a break in the cloud and enjoyed an hour in the garden. I confess I was not the one digging, but it was good to recycle some earth from last year's tubs. We came across a few insects waiting to emerge ... and ensured that these woodlice were covered up again.

We had a second visit from the female Blackcap, but failed to take a photo this time. I hope she will reappear. We are still enjoying our bulbs, and looking forward to our first tulips ...

P.S. It seems we are in agreement over the presence of the mouse on our Trailcam photo. Thank you to those who took a careful look!