Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bumblebees 2013

Despite it still being rather chilly the bumblebees are out in numbers in the mid- spring sunshine this evening. I counted six buff-tailed bumblebee queens, (Bombus terrestris) on this Berberis shrub in our garden.

This buff tailed bumblebee hung onto the plant stalk while she washed her face and had a bit of a tidy up. (I believe they brush the pollen off themselves). It is so good to see them. I was getting quite concerned this year.

Guess who has learnt how to enlarge and crop a photo?
I also saw my first Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrena argiolus) of the year in my garden too.

Update: This morning I found this little fellow crawling across my desk. It is a weevil (Family Curculionidae), possibly a vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) or similar species. I bribed it with some dock (Rumex) leaves and it stayed still long enough for me to get this photo. This graceful herbivore is considered as something of a garden pest. I rather admire it. After eating a sizeable portion of vegetation it hid under the leaves and had a good long rest. A weevil after my own heart.

This is the Common Carder bee (Bombus pascuorum) viewed from above.

This is possibly the solitary Tawny Mining-bee (Andrena fulva). If so, she was picking up the pollen that had dropped from the Berberis flowers above. A bit like the small birds do after the finches have been at the bird feeder.

The violets seem to be doing very well this year. This is the Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana).
Photograph by Katie Walker

Sunday, 21 April 2013

A New Beetles Page

Female Longhorn Beetle; Photo by Dave Monk
Last year Dave Monk sent me some excellent Beetle Photos and I promised to publish them on this blog.

So today I searched the web for some accompanying text and have posted a new article on its own page as I hope to update it with more beetles in the future.

It can be found here. The Beetles Page

Stenocorus meridianus: Photo by Jim Barrett
Also an ecology article I have written here. So why Butterflies?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Spring sprung!

 An Article by Heather Martin

What a difference a week makes! On Sunday 14th April with temperatures reaching the high teens by early afternoon, Spring suddenly sprung into action.
Wood Anemone buds (Anemone nemorosa) opened their petals to face the sun and butterflies and many other insects were on the wing. Common Lizards positioned themselves to make the most of the sunshine.
After a very long, cold winter it was such a pleasure to be outdoors surrounded by flowers and insects.
A Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) nestled in a bed of Wood Anemone flowers

A Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) and Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) soaking up the sun.

A hoverfly - (Eristalis sp) visiting a Wood Anemone flower

A Common Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) basking on a log pile.

A Red-tailed Bubblebee (Bombus lapidarius) emerging from the ground.

A Bee-fly (Bombylius major) taking a quick rest.

 All pictures by Heather Martin 17/04/2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Spring 2013 Caldbec Hill

Well the cold wet weather of late has had me stir crazy. So it was something of a relief that today (Sunday 7th April) the sun has been shining though it still remains unseasonably cold.

So I headed up to Caldbec Hill to take in the view and to see if I could find any signs of spring.
View to the East
The ploughed fields still remain rather brown without the usual green tinge for this time of year. The woodland too is rather sparse with only the evergreens holding the fort for a promise of springtime.
View to the North-east
The grass sward remains short as the minimum growing temperature for grasses is about six degrees Celsius and there have not been many days so far this year when the maximum daytime temperature has exceeded six degrees.

However there are some signs of spring. The Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) {the scientific name has changed}; are flowering in little clumps in the lower field.

Lesser Celandine cluster

Lesser Celandine is a plant native to the UK but in the US and Canada it is regarded as an invasive species.

I even saw a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nectaring on a lesser celandine flower. I also saw a bumblebee though it went to ground before I had a chance to determine the species.

The tree leaves are not out yet, though the sprig of beech twigs I rescued from a wind fallen tree in Barnes Wood last autumn is now beginning to burst into life as evidenced by the little bit of cotton at the base of the bud. Yet the trees outdoors still seem quite dormant.

Honey bee on flower
Lesser Celandine flowers

Beech buds breaking out
Each time I go to Caldbec Hill or Barnes wood I usually see something unexpected. Today I was passing a large oak tree when I heard a bird calling. The sound was very distinctive, a single repetitive note, as if the bird making the call was counting out the integers, ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’, ‘four’. I thought to myself, “now if only I could see that bird and match it to its song”, then I saw it, a Nuthatch (Sitta europaea).
Oak tree
Nuthatch Info at the RSPB website

To say this shy little bird, spiralling up the larger oak limbs, made my day is no understatement.

Netherfield Hill
I always enjoy the view of Netherfield Hill. It looks like a model village from the heights and you can just about distinguish the church in the trees at the top centre of the picture. (It helps if you actually know where it is!)

I would not believe that a Dandelion (Taraxacum agg) could have a full seed head (dandelion clock) at this time of year unless I saw it with my own eyes. This surely has to be one of the fastest flower to seed plants in the South East of England.
I don’t usually feature garden plants on this blog, but I have to give credit to my neighbours who plant lovely shrubs like this one in their front gardens. Not only is it rather attractive (for a cultivated plant) but it provides a very valuable source of nectar to the insects (especially bees) at this frugal time of year.

Valuable nectar source
 Finally some more springtime plants; a speedwell possibly Green Field Speedwell  (Veronica agrestis) and Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), these were growing by the road verge, and for the first time this year I saw a foraging Ant (Lasius niger). 
Roadside wildflowers