Monday, 30 November 2015

Hungry hunter

A juvenile sparrowhawk waiting by the bird feeder in the kitchen garden.  Photos taken through the window.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Late autumn sunshine

This is the only oak in the garden that still has green leaves.  It is just outside the window and is usually full of birds. They have been looking at their finest in the sunshine this week.

This young wood pigeon wanted to get in on the act but was so close I couldn't fit it in the frame.

Like owls and kingfishers, the bullfinch is one bird you can never get enough pictures of so here are a few more.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Red mason bee report

It is perhaps a strange time of year to be writing about red mason bees but I have been investigating the results of the bees' nest-building in my bee house this past summer - of the many holes available three were used.  I wrote before about the fact that several cells had been parasitised.  I have now taken the bee house down to be stored in the shed over the winter so I had a look to see what has been happening before putting it away.

The bee in the observation wing completed eight cells.  It turns out that only three contain bee cocoons and the others all contain one or two dozen maggots, presumably of the parasitic fly, Cacoxenus indagator.

In order to give the bees an advantage next year I discarded the maggots but left the bee cocoons in place, ready to emerge in May.  The female bee lays all the daughter eggs first, so at the back of the hole, and the males at the front.  I suspect all three here are female.

Two other holes were used.  This one in a bamboo cane contained only fly larvae, with no bees at all.

This one in a raspberry cane had mainly fly larvae but a dark-coloured pupa in the front cell (top left in the picture).  I doubt that it's a bee but it could perhaps be a parasitic wasp.  I have kept it to see what it turns out to be but I have also discarded all the fly larvae.  The cell walls in this nest are much paler so this bee presumably used a different source of mud.

So overall three female red mason bees built 21 cells of which only three (14%) contain bee cocoons for next year. Sadly two of the bees laboured in vain as all their cells were parasitised.  I'm not sure if this is bad luck or if this is about the general success rate - it seems low to me.  Maybe by getting rid of the fly larvae there will be more bees and fewer flies next year.  Let's hope so.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Strawberry blonde

Blondes have more fun, or so they say.  This one was having a great time at Wallington at the weekend.  Its colour was markedly different from the dark, almost purple, red squirrel I saw earlier in the week.  This squirrel was dashing about for over an hour, burying nuts all over the place and getting a muddy nose and paws for its trouble.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Jays at Wallington Hall.  They sneak in to pinch the peanuts when they think no-one is looking but are more comfortable with my presence than the jays in my garden.

I put the first of the photos above on my Flickr page on Tuesday and it received an astonishing (to me) nearly 5000 views in four days.  That is more than 20 times more than any of my other pictures and more than all the others put together.  I'm not sure why but a lot of people seem to like it.  The pictures below were taken this morning.

At one stage two jays were fighting for possession of the peanuts but they were too quick for the shutter speed in low light.

Friday, 20 November 2015

First siskin

Today there was a male siskin on the feeders, the first of this season.  Last winter I saw none in the garden - the sitka spruce seed crop was so good that the siskins didn't need to forage farther afield.  I usually see them in the garden only towards the end of the winter so seeing one this early is a good sign.  Sorry it's on a feeder but if it returns I'll try to get a better picture.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Come on you reds

Red was the colour to be seen in at Wallington.  Good to see that the squirrels seem to be doing well after recent setbacks.