Archive for the 'Other Sites' Category

30th June 2011, Thursday

Feeding goldfinches

One of the great success stories of modern wildlife gardening has been the increase in the numbers of goldfinch attracted to bird feeders to feast on nyger seed and de-husked sunflower fragments.  In 1995 the BTO Garden Birdwatch Scheme revealed these birds occuring in around 25% of participating gardens.  This year this figure has increased to around 70%, a great success.  Furthermore other species like siskin and redpoll also benefit from these feeders.

Goldfinch family on knapweed

However, whilst I enjoy seeing them I don’t think the Read the rest of this entry »

31st May 2011, Tuesday

Ovipositing Chrysotoxum

This Chrysotoxum female was ovipositing on the leaves of a Montbretia plant in my garden this afternoon. The eggs ( or egg packages ) were left in groups of two or three spaced out along a number of leaves. This species could be C. cautum or C. veralli………..are the thoracic dorsum hairs ”long & dense”  ( C. cautum ) or ” shorter” ( C. verralli) ?. Ball & Morris say the larva of C. cautum are unknown, but thought to be associated with ants. Pupae of C. verralli have been found under a stone, and females seen ovipositing close to ant nests. There is an ants nest four to five feet away from the plant in the picture. Colin Boyd by email.

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31st May 2011, Tuesday

Hunting Grass Snake?

I visit the pond in Red Barn Field Sedlescombe most days. Today this Grass Snake was seen swimming in circles at the surface. It then dived vertically & using its tail as a counter balance at the surface, moved its head back & forth over the pond floor. It then came to the surface near some water crowfoot , and stayed with it’s head out of the water. An approaching palmate newt below the surface caused it to move its head in the direction of the newt. It didn’t attack the newt though, and very soon sped off across the pond-perhaps it sensed my presence. Colin Boyd by email

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Taking a breather after the dive

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30th March 2011, Wednesday

Around Winchelsea

We found 17 nests of Grey Heron along the cliff this morning, more than twice the previous population. I wonder what the numbers are like at the main local heronry, at Leasam? 33 other species were seen or heard along that section of canal, including Cetti’s Warbler.
In the Brede Valley W of the town, we saw 1 Corn Bunting, 8 Skylarks, a m Marsh Harrier and, unexpectedly, a Black Swan with the Mutes W of Winchelsea Station.
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8th February 2011, Tuesday

Red mason bee nest maintenance

I have a couple of red mason bee nest tubes in my garden and they have been very successful in attracting these insects, but unfortunately the cardboard tubes need replacing every year or two.  This winter I have improvised and used stems from a Himalayan honeysuckle.  This invasive non-native species which colonised our garden from a neighbours is attractive to bumblebees (for pollen) and birds (which eat the fruit) and so has been left to grow.  The stems however were coppiced this winter, and were found to be hollow with partitions at each node.  I have cut them into sections with a node at one end, and used them to replace the worn out cardboard tubes.  The result is a mixture of different sized cavities, which should attract a wider range of bee species.

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29th December 2010, Wednesday

Yet More Sparrows

About 6 weeks ago (16th Nov) I did a TTV in TQ72G (Robertsbridge). I parked in the layby on the A21 just S of the bypass, walked down into the village via George Hill, then walked Station Rd, Brightling Rd, Bishop’s La before heading towards Glottenham. Most of the first hour and a bit were therefore in the “built up” part of Robertsbridge. My total House Sparrow count for the TTV was 71 (thus getting a red card when inputting the TTV!) – 61 in the first hour, 10 in the second. And I guess this was, if anything, an undercount. They were mostly in relatively small groups and, as always, hard to count accurately.

Before setting out on the TTV I’d suspected I might find several House Sparrows because I had noticed quite often, over the years, what seemed to be a roost forming in the Ivy climbing the walls of the butcher’s shop at the junction of Station Rd and High St. But I was surprised, when I tallied up at the end of my walk, to find so many.

Here in Hoath Hill (Mountfield), which stretches for maybe 400 yards, there seem to be at least three discrete gangs perhaps supporting the view that this species doesn’t venture far, at least in the daytime.

Robin Harris

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27th December 2010, Monday

More on House Sparrows

Of all my tetrads covered for the Bird Atlas, the most sparrow-rich has been TQ81Q at Fairlight Cove, which resembles Pat’s area at Camber in that it is a seaside bungalow development though on a cliff-top rather than sand. The gardens there are pretty manicured but many householders put out feeders and there is access to rough grass on the cliff-edge. On my early winter visit I found 76 birds, which had the website sending a flashing red warning that the count was unusually high.

Another good flock is to be found around the entrance to Toot Rock, Pett Level where they exploit a chicken run and up to 60 birds are present in late summer. Around our house at Chick Hill I see breeding adults foraging, as Brian notes, for insects in pasture well-manured by cattle. I share his views on their conservatism in visiting new feeding sites even at a very short distance from an existing one.

House Sparrows are not that easy to count; not only do they squabble inside dense shrubs as Pat notes, but also chirrup invisibly from eaves and gutters. Around Alexandra Park, Hastings, you can hear them calling from nearby streets but they don’t seem to cross to the park itself. In the Weald they are often either absent from human habitation or hanging on in isolated pairs and seem most to favour untidy farms with livestock. In N Spain, though, I’ve noticed they occupy any building, even vacant second homes way out in the woods, with not a chicken in sight.

30th August 2010, Monday

Bixley Wood

A peacefull and enjoyable visit to Bixley Wood yesterday provided a great selection of hoverflies, I found 24 species along the pathways and woodland clearings, several were new to me but one that stood out was Eriozona syrphoides. Information available on this large bumblebee mimic is several years old and a rather tedious trawl through the web found nothing new. It was first reported from Snowdonia in 1968 and recent records are spread acrosss northern and western Britain, I can’t find any reference to records in East Sussex? I can’t believe that such a big and distinctive hoverfly has gone unnoticed. Anyway, additional highlights were provided by Sericomyia silentis, Ferdinandea cuprea and Baccha elongata. Sadly it was a bad day for taking pictures, the best of the bunch are below.

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Large bumblebee mimic Eriozona syrphoides

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16th July 2010, Friday

New arrivals

Over the past few days a Humming-bird Hawk-moth has been visiting one of our flowering shrubs (I have no idea what its called), these moths are migrants and arrive in varying numbers each summer. Other migrant visitors have included the mighty Volucella zonaria this hoverfly is a hornet mimic and can look a bit scary but they are completely harmless, and another hoverfly Scaeva pyrastri.

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7th June 2010, Monday

Bombus hypnorum

Bumblebee numbers seem to be building up quickly at the moment.  Today in our Northiam garden we had this Bombus hypnorum worker busily visiting the raspberry flowers.

This is only the second time I have seen this species in our garden.  It only colonised the UK in 2001 and is spreading rapidly.

For the most up-to-date distribution map of this species, plus news of it’s arrival in Iceland click here