Friday, 22 January 2021

My First Snowdrop of the Year and Other Garden Observations

 

We had beautiful blue skies here in our part of Suffolk this morning, and it was a joy to watch the Long-tailed tits feeding from the fatballs. I love the way the top one clings on, projecting its bill forward. These birds are so acrobatic!


A number of folk have been posting about Snowdrops. I looked in the garden a few days ago and failed to see any signs, but today I came across two Snowdrops in flower, virtually hidden in a tangle of undergrowth. They brought a smile to my face!


David and I were out looking for the over-wintering Wasp-spider egg-sacs. We only managed to see one of the four that were in our mini-meadow (aka unmown lawn) last autumn. I hope the others have survived the frost. I wonder if you saw the Wasp-spider photograph on BBC Springwatch yesterday? 

We nearly missed this patch of Cyclamen in a shady corner... I wonder what we will find next.


And meanwhile, here is the Wasp-spider eggsac...



And just in case you have yet to see this striped spider, here is a link to one I saw last year...

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Snow . . .

We finally had more than a five-minute flurry of snow today. It looked beautiful for a while, but began to melt fairly swiftly. There is still some slush on the pavements, which will doubtless turn to ice if the temperatures freeze again, but most of the snow has vanished. The Blue tits, Long-tailed tits, Great tits, Robin and Blackbird have been very active around the coconut feeder. We also had a couple of gulls and Magpies battling it out for a tasty morsel.


I checked yesterday and at least one of the four Wasp spider eggsacs is still intact, though much of the long grass is now bent over. I couldn't see any signs of a Snowdrop, but I guess it's early yet. At least some of the bulbs have started to shoot. Will there be daffodils in flower for 1st March, I wonder?



 

Monday, 30 November 2020

Garden Butterfly Survey - November 2020

 

Those following this blog will know that I have been taking part in the Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey this year. There is one month to go and I am not really expecting to see any butterflies in it, but who knows what December may bring.

As you can see, the only butterfly I noted in November was a Peacock. Like the Holly Blue, the Large White and the Small White, this species showed up here in a total of six different months. For this survey, the number you record refers to the total number seen at a time, rather than the total number per se.
 


UPDATE, 16 January 2021

Not surprisingly, there were no butterfly sightings to report for December 2020.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Shades of Autumn

These silver birch leaves make me think of Klimt and his beech trees.

As you can see, we have been out in our locality, breathing fresh autumn air.

 

Sunset, and home beckons. Yet over the fence the world, as so often, looks more enticing! 

The oak leaves in the photo below were almost too high for my camera, but look at the skeletal patterns, left presumably by leaf miners.

I'm not really an autumn person, but the colours and the play of light and shade are hard to resist.
Once again I apologise for the rather erratic layout: the new Blogger really is continue to fox me at times!

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Garden Butterfly Survey results for October 2020

 


This is the first year I have taken part in the Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey. I have the rest of November and December still to go, but am not expecting to see (m)any more of these wonderful insects before next spring. Looking at the chart above, I wouldn't be surprised if the year here didn't end for me in the way it began; but, who knows, I might yet be caught off guard and delighted by the flutter of small wings. 

David, meanwhile, has been recording butterflies seen on his (near) daily walks in our locality. A brief report of his first-part-of-the-year findings has just been published in The Suffolk Argus, the magazine of our local Butterfly Conservation branch. The figures prove to us just how many butterflies, and how many species, are inhabiting our suburban environment here in Suffolk. Butterfly numbers may be in a worrying decline, but we have certainly been finding that a closer inspection pays dividends when it comes to honing our observation skills.

 




Saturday, 31 October 2020

Sparrowhawk

 

I think the Sparrowhawk is probably a bit like a certain savoury spread in the sense that it is either a bird you like to have around or one whose presence makes you shudder. I certainly veer towards the latter camp, while realising that all birds need to feed if they are to survive and reproduce. 

We have Sparrowhawks in the garden from time to time, and this majestic creature appeared a week ago. My photo (through double-glazing) leaves a lot to be desired, but that piercing yellow eye seems to say it all. There are, of course, no vulnerable fledglings out and about at present; but a Sparrowhawk has to feed all year round, and I shudder for the small birds who visit our coconuts. 


Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Common Crossbill on an Autumn Afternoon

We were not far from the car when a birder hailed us, telling us to look up as there was a small flock of Crossbills in a tall pine tree. The Common Crossbill is a bird I have long wanted to see so I cricked my neck and waited for a flicker of movement in the high branches.

It was not long before I spotted a male...  

 

 ...with his burnt-orange feathers.


I particularly wanted to capture the distinctive cross-over bill on my photo, and despite the distance and poor light, you can just about make it out in the photo above. 

The kind birder mentioned that there had been a flock, and while we only saw three in total ourselves, it was not long before I noticed the female with her green plumage. You can see her at the end of the lower arrow in the photo above. I always enjoy seeing a new species, and keep hoping the day will come when I happen to be in the same place as a Hoopoe, but a surprise encounter, like this one with the Crossbills, is always a particular joy. Our friend told us there were also Redpolls about but we failed to see them.

The area in question has mixed swathes of woodland, and in the deciduous areas, there were plenty of chestnuts on the ground ...

... and a good selection of fungi.

Most fronds of bracken have taken on that beautiful bronze hue of autumn.

We noticed one small moth larva on the sandy soil. Autumn is not my favourite season, but I do particularly like the display of red (see below), yellow, brown and orange.


P.S. Apologies if the spacing looks odd on your screen. Since Blogger updated its platform, I have found it hard to use the html option and hard to position pictures evenly within text.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Garden Butterfly Survey results for September 2020

 

20 September 2020, Peacock butterfly in our Suffolk garden

 

 
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have been taking part in the Garden Butterfly Survey this year, organised by Butterfly Conservation. Each month I post my sightings. For the purposes of this survey, these represent the highest number of a particular species seen at a time, rather than the total count of that species. 
 
Eight different species were seen, including the Brown Argus, a new butterfly species for the garden this year. Sadly though I failed to see a Small Tortoiseshell here all summer, and I read on the results of the Butterfly Conservation Big Butterfly Count 2020 that records for this beautiful species were down generally by a massive 41%. The weather is currently much cooler, and I wonder how many more 2020 garden sightings I will have...

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Landguard: Blue Butterflies on a Blustery Afternoon

I see we are fast moving towards the autumn equinox, and perhaps this had something to do with the force of the waves on Saturday afternoon. I know other places have experienced dreadful storms and floods. The beach at Landguard shelves steeply as you may be able to tell from the photo.


 

As ever, I enjoyed seeing what was on the sand around my feet. I need to get my pebble book out and gen up on my stones. I spent my teenage years in East Anglia and used to know my carnelian from my quartz!


 

As you can see, this far end of the beach was once again pretty unpopulated. There were three windsurfers quite a way out, braving the breakers.


 

We spotted a bird on the groyne, this time clearly a Turnstone.


 

You can see the wing markings in the photo below. I nearly missed its take-off!


 

Up on the reserve we managed to find several Common Blue butterflies in the sheltered spots. 


 

Most had hunkered down to avoid the wind.


There were also a couple of tiny Brown Argus.


 

I think this butterfly had seen better days. 


Another Common Blue...


 

... and another, this time on the Tamarisk.


I wonder how many more we will see this season. For any who may not know it, here's a link to Robert Frost's beautiful 'Blue-Butterfly Day' poem, though as you will see, it doesn't exactly fit with our UK season right now!



 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Wasp Spider with Egg Sac

It was exciting to find two Wasp spider egg sacs in the garden this afternoon. We have been watching three of these arachnids for days, but were not expecting this surprise. What a magnificent sac!


The second sac (above) was less conspicuous, and definitely more of a challenge for the camera.

I have learned a new word, stabilimentum, for the zigzag web you see in the photo below.

I noticed a tiny spherical object, which without magnification or glasses, looked like a seed head. However, I increased the size of the photo, and as you can see below it is a tiny spider. I wondered if could be the male Wasp spider, but since the female often eats her mate after mating, it may not be!

You can see the tiny spider a bit more easily in the next photo...


Wasp spiders are fascinating. The Argiope in their name, Argiope bruennichi, means 'silver-faced'; but I think their common name is a more obvious nomenclature!