Thursday, 30 March 2017

A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh-ho says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no,
With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh-ho says Anthony Rowley.

The frog in the nursery rhyme wanted to marry a mouse, escaped death from a cat and kittens but was swallowed by a duck.  Fortunately these frogs only have eyes for other frogs.

I don't get frogs in my pond, possibly because it has to be netted in winter to keep out the leaves and because it is in a walled garden.  I do see frogs in other parts of the garden.  Maybe I should kidnap a few and move them near to the pond.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Badger bridge

I have had a few blank nights with the trail camera recently so this more than made up for them.  The badgers were on a fallen tree trunk which they use as a bridge across a stream.  The camera recorded 12 photos in one night.  Eight were good and worth seeing so here are the rest of them.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Bird of the week - Snow bunting

This has been our third winter in a row without snow.  Snow buntings have also been hard to come by in recent years so I was very pleased to see one (and it was only one) at Druridge Bay this week.  I think this bird is a winter male.

The last decent view I had of a snow bunting was this female three years ago, at the same place.

This BTO BirdTrack graph shows that snow bunting numbers have been low this winter.

Snow buntings are winter visitors found on north-east coasts or on high ground, mainly in Scotland.  There is a tiny breeding population in the Scottish Highlands.

This is where they breed in Europe.

Snow buntings have circumpolar distribution and are common in North America, breeding in the Arctic and wintering either side of the US-Canadian border.

Thomas Bewick made this engraving for A History of British Birds (1797).

Snow buntings were obviously much more common in Bewick's time (as was snow).
 As usual, he commented on their culinary attributes.

Archibald Thorburn painted a male snow bunting with a reed bunting, both in breeding plumage.

He also painted one in winter colours (L) with a twite (R).

John James Audubon painted this plate for Birds of America.

You can listen to Sir David Attenborough's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day here.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

First mining bee

Yesterday was my first trip of the year to the Spetchells, a WW2 chalk waste dump on the bank of the River Tyne at Prudhoe in Northumberland.  This was earlier than I have been in previous years and when I arrived there were no bees to be seen.  However, as soon as it warmed up a few were out flying in the sunshine.  Almost all were buffish mining bees (Andrena nigroaenea), which is the commonest species there.  First I found a few males, mostly on patrol looking for females but occasionally stopping for a rest (and a photo).

This guy was being watched closely by a spider but didn't get caught.

I saw two mating pairs and managed a brief shot of one of them.

Then I found this female.  I think she was freshly emerged and she moved slowly around the gorse flowers, allowing me plenty of photos.

I saw one other male bee, darker, greyer and much smaller.  I guess it is another Andrena but I don't know which one.

I'll be back there soon as more and more bees will emerge in coming days.