Thursday 25 March 2021

'Today in the Garden' Photo Collage


The garden today

After the excitement of our first 2021 Brimstone two days ago, we had two Peacock butterflies in the garden today. I also saw our first Bee-fly* (third row, centre) of 2021. The weather has been dry so far, with sunny intervals between grey cloud. There has been a cool breeze at times. I wonder what insect visitors tomorrow will bring.


*I have used the spelling (with hyphen) used in the Collins Complete Guide to British Insects. The Oxford Lexico version has no hyphen. Personally, I think the hyphen offers greater clarity. I have occasionally encountered 'beefly' as one word. 


Wednesday 24 March 2021

First Butterfly Sighting and Other Insects in the Garden


At long last, the day finally arrived! I saw my first butterfly of the year, a smart male Brimstone, gracing our garden yesterday. 

But there were other sights to catch my attention as I took a careful look around this morning. One of these was the bee you see in the photo above and in the photo below. 


I watched as the bee squeezed herself in and out of the curled leaf. I know little about bees, but I am guessing she was a queen bumblebee, and that she had passed the winter hibernating in the patch of leaf litter. I spent several minutes watching her.

Something else 'bee-like' stopped me in my tracks. It was what I think may be a Red-mason bee, though, as ever, please correct me by leaving a comment. 

As you can see in the photo above, this little bee was soon joined by a much more ferocious-looking insect (is it a wasp or a wasp-mimic?). I waited to see what would happen next, and after just a few short seconds, the bee took off.

It seems to have been a good day for bees here. Look at the golden pollen in this Honeybee's 'saddlebags'! 

I have not been able to identify the fly in the  photo above yet, but wonder if it is a Soldier Fly. Update: it's hard to see what lies under the wings, but I'm wondering if this is more likely to be Meliscaeva auricollis.

Let's have a brief 'insect interlude' to make way for the cheering sight of this blossom. I love seeing the colourful flowers once again.

But, of course, it's not just the plants that bring colour. The photos below show the distinctive reds and oranges of our 7-spot Ladybirds. The one in the next photo has an unusual mark on its elytra. There are certainly two, and probably three, 7-spots in the second picture, along with a Pine Ladybird. 

I was delighted to discover more Violets in the garden this morning. And finally, what a joy it was to see the Brimstone, even if I was unable to take its photograph. I saw the one below in 2019. 

I see I have almost completed a year of the Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey. Having failed to spot any butterflies in January and February a year ago, I began to log my sightings at end of March 2020.

Friday 19 March 2021

The Garden Today


My fledgling list of wildflowers seen in the garden in 2021 has doubled today.

1. Daisy (20  February)

2. Violet (18 March)

3. Chickweed (19 March)

4. Dandelion (19 March)

The Chickweed was tiny and was almost hidden in between paving slabs, but the Dandelion was positively shining in the sunlight, our first decent sunlight for days.

There were quite a few 7-spot Ladybirds and even more Pine ones, including a mating pair. You can see the distinctive rim in the photo below. These ladybirds are very small.


The photo below shows the difference in size between the two varieties.


 I noticed one snail in between some old planks of decking.  

Unfortunately I could not really see the lip of its shell to see if it was brown. I gather we are likely to return to dark cloud tomorrow so I expect I will have to wait a bit longer for my first butterfly. My earliest Bee-fly sighting here in Suffolk was on 24th March, so perhaps I will see one of these this year before a Peacock, Red Admiral or Brimstone graces our garden.

Monday 15 March 2021

More Signs of Spring in the Garden


We had a cold and blustery weekend, but I noticed these insects moving around in a sheltered corner when the sun peeped out for a brief spell. We spotted a few of these bugs last year in March. I posted photos on iSpot at the time, and the consensus ID was Rhyparochromus vulgaris, a ground bug that is a fairly new arrival to the UK.


We have enjoyed checking the card in the trailcam. The feline below is our latest 'capture'; we have no idea who s/he is or where s/he lives.

The female Blackbird with the white marking on her head has been named 'Star' since she is frequently caught on camera.

Our nettle patch was pathetic last summer so I am hoping for better growth this year. Nettles provide good habitats, and the signs so far are promising. 

Our small daffodils withstood the storm pretty well, but our crocuses became so droopy that I doubted they would pick up again. Remarkably most are now standing once more. A large Buff-tailed Bumblebee swooped down to investigate.

I was delighted to find this little Violet in the shady corner that used to be our 'wildlife patch' in the days before we turned virtually the whole garden into a home for wildlife. I don't ever recall seeing Violets here before and this discovery has made me think I will try to record species of wildflowers as they appear.  

This is my fledgling list for 2021:

1. Daisy

2. Violet

I hope it will continue to expand. 

P.S. I saw my first Grey Squirrel of 2021 this afternoon, and two Buzzards flew overhead.

Monday 8 March 2021

Wasp Spiders and Other Garden Matters


Those who follow this blog will know that last summer we encountered Wasp Spiders in our Suffolk garden for the first time. We also noticed four of their extraordinary egg sacs. I read this morning in the latest issue of The Suffolk Argus, the magazine of our local Butterfly Conservation branch, that 'Suffolk County Council has just agreed a biodiversity plan to protect species such as the Wasp Spider'. I see this development was reported in our local paper, the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT), back on 5 December 20212. 


We took advantage of a break in the cloud and enjoyed an hour in the garden. I confess I was not the one digging, but it was good to recycle some earth from last year's tubs. We came across a few insects waiting to emerge ... and ensured that these woodlice were covered up again.

We had a second visit from the female Blackcap, but failed to take a photo this time. I hope she will reappear. We are still enjoying our bulbs, and looking forward to our first tulips ...

P.S. It seems we are in agreement over the presence of the mouse on our Trailcam photo. Thank you to those who took a careful look!

Saturday 6 March 2021

Fun with the Trailcam


The Blackbirds seem to be the stars of our Trailcam show so far, at least during daylight hours. However, we think we may have caught a mouse on camera. I will post the photos below and you can decide for yourselves. The pictures are not very clear, I must admit, and it is quite possible that we have exercised rather too much imagination! 

Since the mouse is, or would be, so tiny and possibly fairly hard to spot at the best of times, I have done a little cropping on Photoshop and have also indicated not only the (query) position of the mouse, but also the (side and frontal) view of it that we think we may see. 

The camera shows that it was just below freezing when the camera clicked twice at 3.51 early this morning. It also definitely shows spots, which may or may not be eyes; and, of course, something must have triggered the camera in the first place while we were definitely indoors. It will be interesting to hear your views if you care to leave a comment! Alternatively you can cast a vote on my Twitter poll over the next 24 hours.


Wednesday 3 March 2021

Great Spotted Woodpecker (and Chaffinch)

We were drinking mugs of coffee this morning when this magnificent Great Spotted Woodpecker alighted on one of our coconut feeders. We see these birds occasionally, but usually through binoculars when they are high up in one of the trees on the edge of the local nature reserve. My thanks to David, who grabbed a camera and took the first four photographs.

The photo below shows the red nape of the male Woodpecker's neck, and the last photo is a record shot of our first 2021 Chaffinch, a species we seldom see in the garden.


I haven't checked my visitor stats for a long time, so thought I would post up the current chart. It's interesting how visitors from the UK and visitors from the US are pretty evenly matched. Thank you all for visiting my virtual corner of Suffolk, UK!

Monday 1 March 2021

Female Blackcap, Latest Species at the New Feeder

David's photo

David's photo

David's photo

I have been keeping a close eye on our new upright feeder to see which species are making the most of the food (fatballs and seeds) we are offering. We were thrilled today to find a female Blackcap. We both had our cameras at the ready, and took the photos you see behind our double-glazing. I see from my record that we had a Blackcap sighting in the garden in February 2020, so perhaps a pattern is beginning to form. 

The list so far looks like this:

  1. Long-tailed tit
  2. Blue tit
  3. Robin
  4. Great tit
  5. Blackbird
  6. Wood pigeon
  7. Starling
  8. Blackcap 
  9. Jay (seen and added 21 March 2021)

Happy St David's Day!