Sunday 28 February 2021

First Go with TrailCam and a Mixed-Bag of Garden Sightings

The top photograph shows David installing our new TrailCam in the hope that we might be able to record a few night visitors over the coming weeks. We have never used one before, but spurred on by reports from a couple of friends who have recently set up these cameras, we thought we would buy a fairly basic model and see what happened. I have a good idea of the creatures who visit our garden by day from the Homepatch Species List I have been keeping for the last few years, but little idea of what happens after dark or when we are inside. 

The second photo shows a kind of tunnel between the ivy and the fir tree. We have often seen cats in that area, but two of the regular felines have now moved elsewhere with their families, and we rarely see a cat in the garden. 

36 hours on and we uploaded the film. There are no great revelations to date (and thankfully perhaps, not even a rat), but the camera had been triggered several times, mainly in the dark, once yesterday morning in thick fog, and a few times in the daylight. 

The Blackbird below is the first identifiable creature to be caught on camera. Watch this space!

We have checked the garden for more ladybirds, and have located more 7-spot and Pine varieties. We have also seen a couple of bees . . .


. . . and a hoverfly (below), complete with shadow.

The 7-spot below is definitely keeping company with what are probably spiders, though I haven't been able to count their legs with any accuracy. I had wondered if they were Dock bug nymphs as we get a lot of Dock bugs in this part of the garden, but I don't think they are a good enough match.

We have had wasps' nests in the garden the last couple of years (well, one in the shower vent, so perhaps more in house than garden), so it was no real surprise to see this insect inspecting last year's nest site, which, thankfully was definitely in the garden and not in the house. I am fascinated by most insects, but do not get on well with ticks or the Common Wasp. I shall post this picture on to iSpot.

It has been a joy to see our Crocus, Miniatire Iris and other bulbs opening in the sunshine. We have a good show, albeit a miniature one, of Tête-à-têtes, in readiness for St David's Day (though these may technically be more Narcissus than Daffodil ... I wonder if you know).

Back to our mix of ladybirds again ...

And finally for now, a rather gruesome photo of what seems to be some kind of (perhaps beetle or weevil) larva demolishing an earthworm. A tiny corner of roofing felt came adrift from the old shed and this is what was underneath it ... I am hoping the folk on iSpot can enlighten me as to what exactly is going on.

After some fairly dormant months in our home patch, it suddenly seems as though there is a lot of activity even if I am still awaiting my first butterfly sighting!

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Largely Ladybirds

There was a faint hint of hazy sunshine this morning, and over on the border covered in ivy, we found twelve tiny Pine Ladybirds and two 7-spots. Some were moving around; others were stationary. The ladybird in the top photo seems to have a significant dent on its elytra: I hope it can still fly. According to Bug Guide, this kind of damage usually occurs in the pupal phase of metamorphosis. I think you will be able to see the rim, so characteristic of Pine Ladybirds.

I think there may be at least one spider, probably four

I hope this means our Pine Ladybird population is on the increase!

Our first miniature Daffodil opened today!

We have had few birds at our feeders the last few days. We were having a mug of coffee this morning when I saw the reason why ... yes, a Sparrowhawk, perching on our back fence. We have sporadic visits (see here, for example), but this was a first sighting for 2021. Those of you who follow this blog will know that, unlike Chris Packham, these are not my favourite birds, though I acknowledge their highly efficient biological design! But I am really waiting for my first sighting of a butterfly ...

Saturday 20 February 2021

An Early Spring Morning in the Garden


We spent an hour in the garden this morning, enjoying some early spring sunshine and birdsong. These first two photographs, which were also the first two I uploaded, were actually taken on 12 February when the Fieldfares were still in our trees. All the other pictures were taken today.

We always enjoy seeing Goldfinches. This one was in the Silver Birch, which some of you may remember from the Tree Following meme.

This 'woody' corner of the old decking seems to suit these small Cyclamen. They don't seem to spread much, but are always a joy to see. But it was the miniature Iris reticulata in bloom that particularly caught my eye this morning. 

As you may know, we have been keeping an eye on four Wasp spider egg sacs over the winter. What you see in the photo below is, we can only think, the remains of one of them. The grassy area in which all four were last seen was under about 20cm of snow for almost a week earlier this month. All our snow has melted, but the long grass is bent over in swathes. 

Back in the summer, we were visited not only by Wasp spiders, but also by a couple of Common Lizards who, to our great excitement, were sighted on our patch for the first time. These 'firsts' may be totally unrelated, but it was nevertheless intriguing to read on @Tone_Killick's Twitter page for 15 December 2020 that it is extremely rare in the UK, there being probably only one instance, to find a photograph of a spider with vertebrate prey. It just made me wonder whether the spiders on our land were after the lizards, and not the other way round, as I might have supposed.

As for the egg sacs, well, time alone will tell whether the colony of Wasp spiders increases here or whether the wind and cold weather have killed off the overwintering eggs. 

On a more cheerful note, it was good to find two different kinds of ladybird making the most of the sunshine. The 7-spot emerged from a large pile of twigs, and what seems to be (the much smaller) Pine ladybird (Exochomus qadripustulatus), with its rim around the elytra, was perching on a leaf.

There were a couple of (?Nursery web) spiders running about on the relative warmth of the old tray. 

It was a delight to find two Daisies in the grass.

Here's a close-up of our first Iris . . .

. . . and photos of our first Crocuses.

This is our new feeding pole, which although empty in this picture, has already attracted Long-tailed tits, Great tits, a Robin, a Pigeon, Blue tits and Starlings. There is plenty of food for all comers, and yet the Blue tits, in particular, insist on dive-bombing their fellow Blue tits and also the Long-tailed tits. 

We have never had an Aconite in the garden before. There is just the one, in a very scruffy old pot, so I am intrigued whether perhaps we planted a few bulbs last autumn.

And finally, do let me know your thoughts on the (pretty shy) bird above. I thought it was a Sparrow, until I took the photo below, which is certainly one. The two bills don't look the same shape to me, but I am really pleased to find a House Sparrow in our garden. There was a little colony down the road, but it dispersed last summer when one of the houses had building work which interfered with a particular hedge. 

The last House Sparrow record for our garden is June 2020. These once-common birds are now categorised as Red in terms of conservation on the RSPB site. I hope we will see more of them in the days to come.

Friday 12 February 2021

Fieldfares and Redwings

We have definitely had more snow than in our previous years in Suffolk. And, to our delight, the snow brought a huge mixed flock of Fieldfares (a garden first for us) and Redwings (just a few). All these photos were taken through the window of our home. Sadly the light quality was very poor when I photographed the Redwing, two photos below.


With a profusion of catkins behind

Seeing these wonderful birds so close at hand made me wonder whether there will be an influx, or even an irruption, of Waxwings. However, the Waxwing Twitter account, @WaxwingsUK , suggests to me that this is probably unlikely.