Wednesday 31 May 2017

Ruby-tailed wasps on the wing

It is that short season once again when we have Ruby-tailed wasps in our garden. These magnificent insects take wing if disturbed but are lovely to watch on warm sunny days as they crawl around the wooden poles by the wild ?honeysuckle.

It is not the first time I have seen one on the old ladybird house in the photo above, but I do not know if they really use it or just crawl over it because it's there! They are very showy insects but their habits are not so refined for they get their food by the cleptoparalysis of potter wasps (Ancistrocerus).

We visited RSPB Minsmere the weekend before last when I took these photographs (above) in our garden. Imagine my excitement when I saw the iridescent wasp below scrabbling about in the reserve's sandy soil. This is obviously a different kind of wasp and I have yet to get an identification. 

The photo below shows the sand that has been removed very clearly.

Tuesday 30 May 2017

A Common Lizard at Dunwich

All of a sudden something moved and we noticed a small head appearing. It belonged to a Common Lizard and this was my first sighting of the season. The lizard seemed quite unperturbed by a string of Bank Holiday walkers, dogs, children and cyclists who were passing by in quick succession. Common Lizards are protected by law. These photographs were taken with a zoom lens.  

Seconds later a front leg appeared...

... and then a body.

It looked for a moment as if the lizard was about...

... to beat a retreat.

However, it decided to stay out in the sunshine, curling its head over the top of its tail

The groups of holiday-makers and day-trippers soon dispersed. The photo of Dunwich Beach below shows just how crowded empty our beautiful stretches of Suffolk shoreline can be - even at peak times. 

I have submitted this lizard sighting to the Record Pool site.

Friday 26 May 2017

Here be Dragons... and a couple of Damsels

Broad-bodied Chaser (female)

I always feel excited by the first sightings of dragonflies and damselflies. These insects are so dazzling and so colourful. They are somehow so alien, too, with their mysterious lives, delicate wings and vast eyeballs.

This Four-spotted Chaser in the photos below was seen at RSPB Minsmere last weekend...

If dragonflies can be hard to identify at times, damselflies (with a few exceptions) are often difficult to sort out with certainty, particularly since they can look so varied at different stages of their development. I am going to need some help with the one below. I shall post it on iSpot... and keep you posted, but please leave a comment if you know.

I suspect this is am ore common one. Again I will let you know when I find out.

And finally, to add a bit of fiery colour, here is a completely different insect, a Red-and-Black Froghopper. The photo was also taken last weekend at RSPB Minsmere.

Thursday 25 May 2017

My BBC Springwatch SOS Wildflower Trough (3)

You can see from the photo above, taken this afternoon, just how my wild flower seedlings have grown. There are some buds, and I am keeping a watchful eye on these as it will be good to see the first flower. The trough is my response to the BBC Springwatch S.O.S. project to try to encourage pollinators into the garden. 

The insects, it appears, are not so impatient. I always enjoy seeing Marmalade Hoverflies in the garden. This is the first one I have seen in my trough. These insects are not only good pollinators but their larvae are also useful aphid-eaters.

The photo above shows a Ladybird, unfortunately a succinea Harlequin (Harmonia axyridis), on one of the shoots that is likely to produce the first flowers. It will eat the aphids, but it is not the most welcome of guests.

As I looked around the trough, I noticed a tight ball on the nasturtiums...

... and recognised these Garden Spider spiderlings as we have had clutches of them in the garden on previous years. They are orb-weavers, and the second part of their name, 'diadematus', reflects their jewel like appearance. I hope they won't eat too many of our butterflies, but I find it hard to be so concerned about the wasps and flies that will also make up their diet as they grow.

They dispersed later in the day, making their way over the trough and out into the big wide world.

My trough at the outset prior to wildflower seed-sowing

Wednesday 24 May 2017

A Grass Snake in the Water

Grass  Snake

On what was not the most promising day in terms of the weather (and yes, we nearly got soaked), we had a remarkable time in terms of the wildlife we were able to see at Carlton Marshes, one of the larger reserves in the care of Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

There were damselflies, dragonflies (just a few), butterflies and calling cuckoos - but it was the rare Fen Raft Spider who stole the show for us, followed by the sudden and unexpected appearance of this Grass Snake. We hardly ever see these reptiles, and to cap it all, David saw a second Grass Snake at Minsmere the following day.

I have certainly never seen a snake swimming in the water before. This one carried on swimming, with its head held high before disappearing a few seconds later - and that was the last we saw of it.

I have included this photo because it shows the beautiful setting of the reserve. Plans are afoot, as I mentioned in my last post, to extend this area of Suffolk Broadland and to improve visitor facilities.

The landscape is flat, broken up with dykes, ditches and watercourses of various kinds. The Netherlands are not far away to the east (though there are roughly 120 km of sea water between the two shores).

This was the view that we saw first, and just as the Fen Raft Spider had been almost like another piece of waterlogged reed, so the Grass Snake could have been another strand of water weed or piece of twig.

Those distinctive yellow and black collar marks stood out sufficiently, however, particularly when the snake was moving on the surface, making its way down the watercourse.

The image above shows just how well camouflaged these snakes can be. As you may have realised, the quick pictures we took have been cropped and enlarged for the sake of detail.

We felt very privileged to have the unexpected chance to watch this snake for a few seconds as it carried on swimming.

Grass Snakes are protected by law under the terms of the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. They must not be killed, harmed, injured, sold or traded.

Friday 19 May 2017

Home Patch Sightings - 2017 Updated List

Redwing - first home patch sighting last January

I have been meaning to post an updated version of my home-patch sightings for some time. Some of you will know that I began this list when I was taking part in the Tree Following meme as many of the insects and birds were seen on or in the vicinity of my Silver Birch or small ornamental Cherry.

I have been taking a bit of a break from tree-following at present, having been through more than a twelve month cycle of postings. But I am very keen to keep up with my list of 'first' garden sightings here on my blog - so that I can keep a record of new arrivals like the Redwing in the photo above, who flew in for a brief spell some months ago when there were still some winter berries about.

When I began this list in 2014, I used resources like the RSPB bird identification pictures. These were very helpful, but the time came, particularly after the Garden Bioblitz, when I needed a bit more help, so signed up to iSpot and iRecord. If I see Ladybirds here I aim to log with them with the UK Ladybird Survey - but regulars readers will have 'heard' me say this many times! I would really like to brush up on my moth identification skills... and to that end I have just treated myself to a moth book.

'HP' in my list below is for 'home patch'. Dates with a green background are first sightings (when noted) in 2017.

Avian sightings - unlike the Big Garden Birdwatch, a bird seen clearly from the house or garden counts for my purposes. We have, for example, yet to see a Grey Heron landing in our home patch we have had several good sightings of these birds flying over in the direction of the local nature reserve, one road away. We have often heard the local Tawny Owl, but I am not counting 'birds heard' (but not seen) at present.

  • HPb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • HPb2   Great tit
  • HPb3   Long-tailed Tit
  • HPb4   Blackbird  
  • HPb5   Song Thrush   
  • HPb6   Blue tit 
  • HPb7   Robin
  • HPb8   Magpie 
  • HPb9   Wood Pigeon
  • HPb10 Dunnock  
  • HPb11 Starling 
  • HPb12 Carrion Crow 
  • HPb13 Goldfinch
  • HPb14 Jay 
  • HPb15 Green Woodpecker
  • HPb16 Wren 
  • HPb17 Bullfinch [[19 January 2017] 
  • HPb18 Sparrowhawk
  • HPb19 Mallard
  • HPb20 House Sparrow 
  • HPb21 Chaffinch
  • HPb22 Grey Heron 
  • HPb23 Collared Dove 
  • HPb24 Coal tit
  • HPb25 Redwing [[20 January 2017] 
  • HPb26 Kestrel  [[8 June 2017] 

Mammal sightings
  • HPm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • HPm2 Bat ... [first 2015 garden sighting 7 May 2015] [Apr/May 2015]  [[22 January 2017] 
  • HPm3 Shrew 
  • HPm4 Grey Squirrel  [Jan/Feb 2016] [Feb/Mar 2016] [Mar/Apr 2016] [Jul/Aug 2016] [2017]
  • HPm5 Stoat
  • HPm6 Hedgehog

Insect sightings
  • HPi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March 2014] [[27 February 2017] 
  • HPi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] [Jan/Feb 2016] [Mar/Apr 2016] [2017]
  • HPi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April 2014]
  • HPi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [Oct 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015] [Mar/Apr 2016]
  • HPi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • HPi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • HPi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2016]
  • HPi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • HPi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 - caterpillars]
  • HPi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • HPi11 Harlequin ladybird  [May 2014] [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • HPi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] [June/July 2016]
  • HPi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014] [May/June 2015] [May/June 2016] [[21 May 2017] 
  • HPi14 Blackfly [June 2014
  • HPi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Jul/Aug 2016]
  • HPi16 Shield bug [July 2014] [Apr/May 2015]
  • HPi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • HPi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August 2014] [[18 May 2017] 
  • HPi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014] [June/July 2016] [2017]
  • HPi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • HPi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] 
  • HPi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • HPi23 Ants [August 2014] [Apr/May 2015]  [May/June 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 ] [Jun/July 2016] [2017]
  • HPi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • HPi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • HPi26 Lacewing [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • HPi27 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • HPi28 Unidentified Moth [Nov/Dec 2014] [Feb/Mar 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015][Jan/Feb 2016] [June/July 2016] [2017]
  • HPi29 Rosemary Beetle [[Sept/Oct 2015] [May/June 2016 - four] [May 2017]
  • HPi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 
  • HPi31 Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) [Sept/Oct 2015] 
  • HPi32 Early Bumblebee [Mar/Apr 2016] 
  • HPi33 Species of Miridae [Mar/Apr 2016]  
  • HPi34 Cranefly [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi35 Crossocerus, wasps family Crabronidae [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi36 Wasp Beetle (Clytus arietis) [May/June 2016]
  • HPi37  Tree Bumblebee (Bombus (Pyrobombus) hypnorum) [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi38  Moth Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) [May/June 2016] 
  • HPi39  Gatekeeper Butterfly [Jul/Aug 2016]
  • HPi40  Holly Blue Butterfly [Jul/Aug 2016] [[26 May 2017] 
  • HPi41  Painted Lady [2016]
  • HPi42 Dark Bush Cricket (nymph) [[18 May 2017]  
  • HPi43 Common Cockchafer  [[18 May 2017]  
  • HPi44 Scorpion Fly [May2017] [[23 May 2017]  
  • HPi45 Soldier Beetle (Cantharis rustica [2017] [[23 May 2017]  
  • HPi46  Cabbage Bug (Eurydema (Eurydema) oleracea)  [2017]  [[9 June 2017]  
  • HPi47 Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) [2017] [[23 May 2017]