Monday, 30 June 2014


The small skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and the large skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus) are two small orange butterflies which, despite their names, are more or less the same size.  Their underwings are held flat and their upperwings folded up as if they are made by origami.  We are at the northern limit of both their ranges.  Both are on the wing now.

The small skipper has plain orange wings as shown below.  The males of both species have a line of pheromone-releasing scales on the upperwing.

The large skipper is distinguished by the pale mottling on the under and upper surfaces of its wings.  This photo also shows the very long tongue.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Large Red Damselfly

This was the first damselfly I saw this year and is one of the most common.  They were still around yesterday morning but are now outnumbered by blue and emerald damselflies (of which more later) and by blue-tailed damselflies.  As one might expect from the name, there is also a small red damselfly which my guidebook tells me is rare and is confined to Southern England and West Wales.

The male large red damselfly has beautiful colouring.

The female comes in three colour forms.  This is fulvipes.

This is a male in tandem with the typica form.  There is also a dark form melatonum which I have not seen.

This pair are in tandem while the female is ovipositing.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Bank Vole, Wood Mouse and Common Shrew

I have been experimenting with the Bushnell trailcam over the past few nights, trying to get the focus and field of view adjusted.

Here are a few early results.  It is interesting to know that these animals are out and about in the garden all the time but hardly ever seen.  This is a bank vole (Myodes glareolus) which has has small ears and eyes and is happy to come out and feed in daylight.


This is the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) with larger ears, larger eyes and a longer tail, adapted to a nocturnal existence.

This was less expected but is a treat to capture in daylight, a common shrew (Sorex araneus).  I haven't yet worked out how to trim the video but I'm working on it.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Tree sparrows

The BTO Garden BirdWatch data show me that the tree sparrows arrived in the garden in Spring 2012, having been very rare visitors before that.  They have been here ever since and may have spread from the large colony based at Big Waters which is only about 2 miles away as the sparrow flies.

During last winter there were a dozen or so based in the garden so there is now a fair-sized local colony.  They have occupied at least four nest boxes in the garden and in three they are presently feeding chicks.  The feeding seems a lot less frenetic than it was with the blue tits, possibly because there are fewer chicks in the nest.  The food seems to be insects of various sorts although the adults are very keen on mixed seed.

I think the three boxes with chicks at present are probably first broods, but there have been chicks around in the garden for the past two or three weeks.

Tree sparrows are very attractive and cheerful birds to have around so I hope they will stay long term.  The plentiful supply of nest boxes and food in the feeders probably helps.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bees on astrantia

Although there are four hives and lots of flowers in the garden the honey bees often seem to prefer to go elsewhere to forage.  However, they are very keen on the astrantia as these photos show.  They seem to prefer the red flowers to the pink or the white, perhaps because there are many more red flowers in a smaller space so foraging is more efficient.  I have perhaps about 10 square metres in flower and there were dozens of bees working the flowers.

This shows the variation in colour of my honey bees, reflecting their mongrel inheritance.

The honey bees (Apis mellifera mellifera) were accompanied by other bees, this being the leaf-cutter Megachile centuncularis featured in yesterday's blog, perhaps in better light here than yesterday.

Also on the astrantia this afternoon were buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum).  The worker of the latter is surprisingly small, being only about the size of the honey bee (last photo).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Leaf-cutter Bee

A leaf-cutter bee, Megachile centuncularis, seen at Chipchase Nursery today. It is about the same size as a worker honey bee but is hairier. It is a solitary bee so the female forages for pollen and nectar and builds the nest and lays the eggs. She has pollen baskets on the side of her abdomen, whereas they are on the hind legs of the honey bee. The larvae pupate in the autumn and hibernate over winter before emerging in the spring.

The photo below shows what I think is a male Megachile willughbiella, another leaf-cutter, seen in my garden last summer.  It has amazing white tufts on its front legs.  Like male bumblebees, male leaf-cutters have to forage for themselves (male honey bees are fed by the workers in the hive).

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

More woodpeckers

Some of the older chicks are able to get on the feeder but the adults are still feeding younger chicks today.  The chick with a beak full of peanuts looks like Plug - the tallest of the Bash Street Kids in the Beano.


This handsome chap has been a regular in the garden for the past couple of years.  His mate hasn't been seen here for several weeks - I suspect she has been busy with eggs and chicks.  She has always been very shy but he first approached me for food about a year ago.  Originally he was very wary but he fed from my hand first last Autumn and is now very confident.  If he sees me through the window he runs to the front door.  If I don't respond quickly enough he stands in the porch and crows to attract my attention.  He disappeared for the whole of July last year, presumably while flightless through moulting, but reappeared in August.  I guess he may do the same this year.

The video was taken this morning.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Four-spotted chasers

The only dragonflies I have seen at the pond so far this year are Four-spotted Chasers (Libellula quadrimaculata) but there have been lots of them.  They spend most of their time flying at high speed with the males fighting and defending territories.  In flight they are difficult to photograph but these are a couple of my best efforts.

They do rest occasionally and are then easier to photograph.  The male and female look very similar.

Mating takes place in flight at high speed and is very brief and extremely difficult to photograph.  This is my best effort.

Immediately after mating the female flies down to the water to lay her eggs, defended above by her mate providing what the RAF would call close air support to fight off other males.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Blue-tailed Damselfly

The blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans) is one of the commonest species.  This is the male with two-toned diamond-shaped spots on his wings and a blue tail.

The female comes in five colour forms.  This is the immature violacea.

She matures to either the male-type colouration (typica)

or an olive green / brown (infuscans).

The other immature female form is rufescens

which matures to the rufescens-obseleta form.

Most of the damselflies I saw today were females, which was good news for the males.  This is a male in tandem with a typica female.

This male is in a wheel with a rufescens-obseleta female

and this one with an infuscans female.

All these photographs were taken within an hour in a 20m stretch of one bank of one small pond.  Amazing.