Archive for the 'Gardens' 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.



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.


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.

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.


Read the rest of this entry »

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

31st May 2010, Monday

Merodon equestris

These hoverflies are bumblebee mimics and come in many colour variations, over the past week I have found them at several locations around the reserve. The red or white tailed forms appear to be the most common in my garden at the moment. The larva of these hoverflies live in the bulbs of daffodils, bluebells and other plants and can cause serious damage, english names for this hoverfly include Narcissus-fly and Greater Bulb-fly

30th May 2010, Sunday

Bumblebee monitoring May 2010

The lawn in my front garden is covered in red clover, but there are surprisingly few bees on it.  This seems to be a general trend across our RX area.

The impact of the cold winter and late spring can be seen in the meadows on Dungeness at the moment.  Delayed growth of vegetation means that flowers have been slow to open, and there are even fewer bumblebees than at Northiam to feed on them.  Over the past week Read the rest of this entry »

30th May 2010, Sunday

Latest from the nest box, 30 May

Two weeks ago I marked 4 worker red-tailed bumblebees using a bird nest-box in our Northiam garden so that I could recognise individuals and try to see how hard they were having to work to gather food.  A plastic tube, rudely placed over the entrance hole forces the bees to halt allowing the colour, and number of the disc to be recorded on the way in and out of the nest.

For the past two weeks two bees have been observed regularly leaving the nest box, with a third making an occasional trip.  The fourth has not been seen, either the disk has fallen off, it is staying in the box, or it has died.  It may yet put in an appearance.

This morning saw Read the rest of this entry »

14th May 2010, Friday

Warmth again

With the change in wind direction it was good to get out in the back garden to see what was buzzing around the flowering bushes and shrubs. A good selection of insects were found, bumblebee workers of four species were present in good numbers and the rather bristly Tachina fera is hard to miss. Seven species of hoverfly were found the highlight being the superb Neoscia podagrica, this little fellow is easily overlooked as it flies low down in the dappled sunlight amongst the long grasses and pot plants. Easier hoverflies to pick out included Epistrohe eligans, Myathropa florea and Meliscaeva auricollis.

Bombus terrestris/lucorum worker with polllen load Read the rest of this entry »