Monday 8 June 2015

Tree Following - May to June

Welcome to my Tree Following post for May and early June. Even more transformations have taken place this month.

These tree posts form part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am following a Silver Birch, B. pendula, in Suffolk, UK, and what has up to now remained something of a mystery tree. You will find the other Tree Follower links on the Loose and Leafy blog ... so do take the chance to catch up with happenings in the arboreal world!

Having had a tree surgeon in the garden this month to deal with a couple of dead trees, I can now reveal that my mystery tree is indeed a Box Elder, or a Box-leaf Maple (Acer negundo), as we tend to call these trees in the UK. I feel pleased that I got there in the end - before the intervention of the expert!

Both the Silver Birch and the Acer negundo have continued to respond to the stimulus that is spring, and, of course, this month sees us marking the longest day. Can it be June already?

An abundance of catkins on the Silver Birch

Silver Birch

Acer negundo

The chief excitement in a strange kind of way has been the arrival of two ... House Sparrows!

What a strange sentence to write when through my childhood these small LBJs were, as the song says, 'two a penny'. But the UK Sparrow population declined rapidly, falling by 60%, according to the RSPB, between 1994 and 2004. The reason in urban environments seems to be linked to a lack of suitable invertebrates during the birds' breeding season. The Sparrows have flitted between the two trees, showing a distinct preference for the Silver Birch. Is the Acer less popular with wildlife because it is not a native species, I wonder? Or have I failed to look hard enough for signs of life and biodiversity?

It has been exciting to watch a family of young Starlings feeding from the coconut that dangles from the Silver Birch. The mother was very helpful at times, and at others she seemed to hang back to encourage her brood to gain a little independence and nourishment of their own.


Feeding time again!

Base of Silver Birch on right

On the insect front, there have been few butterflies. However there have been three partially red insects, all in the area around the Silver Birch. You can read about them here. I am fascinated by the Ruby-tailed Wasp, which is really a 'cuckoo' species of Solitary Bee. It may look stunning, but it lays its eggs in nests that were made by another insect, and then when the larvae hatch out, they feed on the larvae of the host insect.

The native Kidney-spot Ladybird below was found on the same garden post as the Ruby-tailed Wasp above, pretty close to both Silver Birch and Acer negundo. Its identification has been verified by the UK Ladybird Survey, and its photo has been posted on my iRecord pages.

You can read about the Fire bug below in a previous post here. The pansy is close to the Silver Birch, but, of course, I cannot claim with any certainty that there is a tree-insect link! 

I have mentioned from time to time that there is also a similar but slightly different Birch tree, a Downy Birch in the vicinity. Individuals in the cluster of Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) spiderlings below were beginning to emerge from their creche by this tree. My understanding is that they begin to disperse if they are disturbed, then quickly move back to the safety of the crèche.

The Acer negundo finally had some bird and insect life about it. A charm of Goldfinches arrived, and there seemed to be birds trying to pair up prior to breeding. One of the Goldfinches seemed to have a taste for some tiny Forget-me-not type flowers in the grass.

I saw a cloud of flies and then this rather secretive insect, which is proving hard to identify on account of the poor quality of my two record shots below! It may be a Hawthorn Shieldbug, which is not always found on Hawthorn. And, incidentally, there is a very attractive deep pink and white blossomed hawthorn nearby. 

Had the Shieldbug hopped across to the Acer from this Hawthorn 'Crimson Cloud'?

Silver Birch Sighting Update

Avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch, seen at any time since I began Lucy's 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 
  • TFb2   Great tit (several, often on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit
  • TFb4   Blackbird
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie (about three frequently around below the feeder)
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two frequently below feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (several on feeder, noisy - and with young!)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow (one every so often, once with nesting material in bill)  
  • TFb13 Goldfinch (a small charm, and a particularly active pair)
  • TFb14 Jay - seen after a long absence on 10 June (it may not be the same bird!)
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren 
  • TFb17  Bullfinch (a pair)
  • TFb18  Sparrowhawk
  • TFb19  Mallard (three overhead) 
  • TFb18  House Sparrow (about four sightings. We think there are two birds.)
  • TFb19  Chaffinch

Mammal sightings include ...

  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bat ... first 2015 garden sighting 7 May 2015 [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel

On the insect front, 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]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird [May 2014]
  • 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]
  • 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]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi23 Ants [August 2014] [Apr/May 2015]  [May/June 2015]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October 2014] (about fifteen) 
  • TFi27 Harlequin Ladybird [October 2014] 
  • TFi28 Moths (though not so many in December) [Nov/Dec 2014] [Feb/Mar 2015]
  • TFi29 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 



Wednesday 3 June 2015

Ladybird Instars in Ipswich

David saw these Ladybird instars today in Ipswich. We have logged them with the UK Ladybird Survey, and are awaiting confirmation of our identification efforts. 

I have only just noticed the small Ladybird lower right.

Ah, an actual Ladybird in among the instars!