Monday 28 March 2016


Red-tailed Bumblebee

I saw two beautiful bees before Easter. The one above was on our patio slabs, and I feared it might have fallen from the roof or gutter. However, I put down a little water, sweetened with sugar, which it moved towards. When I looked next, the bee had vanished. I hope all was well and that it had flown off.

I'm guessing this was a rather small Buff-tailed Bumblebee

This second bee was quite small, and found moving around on Dunwich Heath near the row of coastguard cottages. There have been other bees, too, including a whirl of dark bees on the masonry walls of Hedingham Castle in Essex, about which I will write more in due course. It is lovely to find insects out and about again, but I have still to spot my first 2016 butterfly.

Friday 25 March 2016

Minotaur Beetle on NT Dunwich Heath

This seems to be a female Minotaur Beetle; and if you are wondering about the name, well, the male of the species provides the answer with its 'Minotaur horns' protruding from its pronotum. Over-wintering takes place in burrows, with a pair of insects per burrow. This beetle was strolling along the sandy path you see to the right of the photo below.

Dunwich Heath is a wonderful sandy, heathland habitat. We often see unusual insects, not forgetting other wildlife such as Dartford Warblers and Red Deer. Glow worms have also been seen, but I have yet to have this particular pleasure!

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Seals in Suffolk

I spent a book token on Blake Morrison's recent poetry collection, Shingle Street, and decided it was time to pay another visit to this windswept stretch of Suffolk coast by the mouth of the River Ore. It is highly regarded for its biodiversity.

As you can see, it is a place where the tide comes in and out in strange ways around the shingle.

There are plenty of unusual saltmarsh plants, many of them just beginning to re-grow after the winter.

I believe this is Biting Stonecrop, Sedum acre.

The seals, however, were the show-stealers as they rested on the shingle ridges ...

... or swam along the shore.

The gull seemed to be keeping an eye on this Common Seal.

There were stunning birds to watch, like this Redshank ...

... and the sound of birdsong from the air made us realise that spring has truly arrived. The vernal equinox has come and gone and clocks in the UK move forward this coming Saturday night, which is also Easter Eve.

We have enjoyed seeing the Meadow Pipits here before. Wonderful camouflage (above)!

There were a couple of Little Egrets, though I had to extend my zoom to get these record shots.

Look how 'fluffed up' this bird seems to be!

We wondered whether the tide would force the seal off its ridge. 

Through the strange and ever-changing light, we could make out the poignant shape of the Orfordness Lighthouse. The last keepers left in 1965, some five years after electrification. I remember its decommissioning back in 2013: it seemed a sad day. The structure we see dates from 1792, but who knows how much longer its stately tower will grace our shoreline.

Orford Ness in the background

Saturday 19 March 2016

Photo Collages - your thoughts?

Lizard Mosaic

I know there are very few lizards about in the UK at present (though I did read of some on Facebook some days ago), but I thought I would have a play around with my photo programmes, following advice from a Mac forum, to see what I could learn to do.

I don't think I have found the right solution yet, so would be interested to know what mosaic or collage programmes you favour. Options based around Picasa seem popular.

Five of the creatures in my collage are Common Lizards, photographed in the UK with a zoom lens. The remaining three, including the one at the bottom on the right, were seen in the Peloponnese five years ago, and I have not identified them. They may be Peloponnese wall lizards.

Lizards are a protected species here in Britain, along with other reptiles. They are included in the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.

Friday 18 March 2016

A Blackbird and her bill

At this rate we are unlikely to have any 2016 summer bedding plants looking like this ...

Mrs Blackbird is taking a break from our coconut feeders and was spotted outside on the patio with a bill stuffed to the brim with the mossy liner from our upright planter.

Who can blame her - spring is in the air despite the chilly temperatures. 

Thursday 17 March 2016

Not quite Zebedee, but a Zebra Jumping Spider

I found myself having to look pretty hard to find something new in the garden today. It was bright and sunny but cool. I headed for the sheltered nooks and crannies, and it was not long before I detected the brisk movement of what I take to be a Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus).

We have noticed these small striped jumping spiders in the garden before, usually in April or May, but this is a first for 2016. These spiders do not make webs because they jump on their prey, holding it down with strong jaws.  

Wednesday 16 March 2016

NT Ickworth - lambs and moss

It was a delight to see the new lambs at NT Ickworth last weekend. 
They may not be 'wild' but they are certainly 'wonderful'!

The light may have been hazy,
but the bare branches of the tree
and the fresh green grass
are typical, if contradictory, indicators
of spring!

I was particularly struck
by this moss that lined the churchyard wall
in the Ickworth estate. 
I have included this close-up to show the fiery colours.  
I believe it is Wall Screw-Moss aka Tortula muralis.  
There is more about it here

I was intrigued by the thin strands of web in the photo above.
On my screen they show up much better if you click on the photo to enlarge.

And finally, do click the link here 
to take a look at Crafty Green Poet's photo
 of dew-drenched Capillary Thread Moss. 

Goldfinch Surprise

This was the scene outside our window this morning when a pair of Goldfinches came to peck the lavender. I am so glad that we had not cut off the dead seedheads! 

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Double-decker Ladybirds

Double-decker quarters

We counted sixteen 7-spot ladybirds in our locality on Sunday. I shall be recording them on iRecord for the UK Ladybird Survey. 

Single berth!

Spring is in the air ...

Monday 14 March 2016

More Frogspawn at Felixstowe

We went looking for spawn at Felixstowe over the weekend, and as you can see, it was still there. I am wondering what the difference is between the two clumps in the picture above. Please leave a comment if you can enlighten me. Is it just a matter of age? Incidentally, I have just joined iSpot so thank you to those who suggested that I might like to do this. It is taking me a little while to find my way around.

The photo below suggests to me that it will not be too long before we are past the spawning stage ...

Saturday 12 March 2016

My First Shieldbug of 2016 - perhaps

This is one of the first bugs I have seen in my garden this year. It was less than a centimetre long. The triangular marking makes me think it is something like a shieldbug or a stinkbug. It was small and narrow. I see that nymphs (in various instars) can often be more rounded in shape than adults. The size, however, might suggest a young insect, so I am rather confused. Do let me know if you can identify it.

On the 2016 insect front, we had a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee quite a few weeks ago. Since then there have been one or two Ladybirds (no Harlequins here yet) and a couple of Bluebottle-type flies.

I am still waiting to see my first butterfly.


Update: 21 March 2016
Thanks to the kind people on iSpot, it seems this is not a Shield Bug but a Mirid, possibly European Tarnished Plant Bug (Lygus rugulipennis).

Thursday 10 March 2016

Scavenger Hunt Photos

I so enjoyed the Scavenger Hunt entry on Amanda's blog that I thought I would have a go.

If you click this link to Greenthumb (Suzzie) you will find a list of words.

The idea is to match each one with one of your photos

taken during the month in question. 

I have had to use old photos 

this time.




I have a feeling the Ladybird has found a Woodlouse hole! Taken at NT Sutton Hoo.


It takes two to Tango! You can read about Gorillas here.

We failed to see penguins, but we loved the Hebridean island of Gigha and its sign!

Somewhere you went

... Looking for dinosaurs on the island of Skye. New finds here.


We took the cable car up to the Heights of Abraham, where we found these frogs.


View from the Hide, Gialova near Homer's 'sandy Pylos', Greece.

From a low angle

The mysterious Dozmary Pool in Cornwall, linked to Excalibur.

On the shelf

... to represent the Gondwanaland Shelf! Signpost in Marks Hall Arboretum, Essex.


Burns Cottage: perhaps not quite the red, red rose the poet had in mind!


Both are outside in the open air, of course; but which is on the inside of the fence?

St Andrews seafront: a variation on 'three French hens'?


Somewhat skewed Teasel because I had to include the Ladybird!

I have undertaken this exercise as an experiment, using old photos. 
I hope to do it 'properly' next time, though whether I will find angles
 on all the March words I am not so sure!