The Garden Diary

June (First half) - 2001

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2 June - There has been an absence of ladybirds in the garden so far this year. Yesterday I saw this lone Two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata). There are plenty of aphids on the stinging nettles, so there is food for the ladybirds here.




I have been having another look at the mosquitoes (Culiseta annulata) that are such a pain in the garden.


These first two images of the female show clearly the long proboscis that she uses to suck blood. Her antennae are slender with some hairs. The short structures around the base of the proboscis are called palps.




The male on the other hand has a very elaborate arrangement at the front of the head.


This close-up image shows the male's almost feather-like antennae and the long hairy palps either side if his proboscis. The male does not suck blood, fortunately



On the plant front, the Wood Avens (Geum urbanum) started flowering today. These are small flowers, about 15mm across.




3 June - An insect that looks like the mosquito but is not one.

Found this morning, this is (I think) a member of the Chironomidae family, the non-biting midges. There are about 400 different species of these in the UK. Its body was about 10mm long and those antennae are extremely feathery.

Back in April I identified another insect as being a member of the same family. I am not so sure about that one now.



4 June - I was not sure whether to put this fungus in this or the pond diary. It is growing among the moss on a rock at the side of the pond. The tops of the fruiting bodies measure 8mm maximum.

A look through my Penguin guide to Gill-fungi suggests that it is similar to the Umbrella Navel Cap (Omphalina ericetorum), although that has a cap size of 1-2cm.




Another flower made an appearance today, the White Clover (Trifolium pratense).

On the bird front, there was a first for the garden today when I spotted a Jay in the hawthorn, much to the disgust of the blackbirds.

This morning we had a gang of four Magpies here. Their presence caused general panic amongst the other birds. The collared doves seemed to be the bravest and chased a couple of them all the way to the trees of the Brickfields Park. I walked down the garden when they left and saw some small downy feathers drifting down in the breeze. I wonder whether they had caught something during their visit.

5 June - A couple of bee images today. This bumble bee worker (Bombus hortorum - I think) is busy collecting from a group of Geranium flowers at the base of the Birch tree. Notice the pollen basket on its hind leg.




This second bee is much smaller. Its pollen basket is a very different colour to the first one, mirroring their different food flowers. I think this one is a solitary bee, although I cannot identify it. As it fed another, similar bee frequently flew to it and landed on it momentarily. Was this agression or mating?


While photographing the bumble bee I noticed this burrow hidden below the Geraniums, along with several others.

It has been constructed by a ground-nesting bee. They appear in this part of the garden each year. the opening is about 6mm across. The amount of soil spread around it suggests that a fair bit of burrowing has been done. I shall have to stake out the entrance to get an image of the occupant.

The Jay visited up again today. Unfortunately it perches on the far side of the hawthorn so I cannot get a good look at it. Only one magpie appeared today, and that stayed up on the chimney top.

The blackbirds' territorial battle seems to have been renewed now that 'our' female has her nest in another garden. While she still comes to our garden to feed, the 'other' female was seen hunting here several times today. There are frequent encounters between the males.

The robins are taking food up to their nest and my kitchen scales were used for the first time for ages. A blue tit weighed in at 9-10g when it came for mealworms this afternoon. No picture of it - I had to hide behind the shed door and look through the gap by the hinges! A sparrow(?) also took some mealworms away and weighed in at 25g as it did so.

In the meantime, the blue tit feeder is as busy as ever, probably in use by both 'our' family and the neighbours.. I heard the calls of at least one fledgling during the day.

6 June - A follow-up to yesterday's report. This morning I found that the blue tit was happy to come to the feeding station with me in full view. So it was a case of grab the camera and wait for the right moment. The bold eye stripe suggests that this is a male.

The 'shutter' delay on my digital camera is very short. nevertheless, most of the time it is not quick enough to cope with the speed at which the blue tit moves, even when it is not in a hurry. The big advantage, of course is that you can see straight away whether a shot has worked - and there is no wasted film when it doesn't.


7 June - A very mixed up situation with the blackbirds at the moment. 'Our' female continues to come to the garden to feed, as I think, does the male. However, the intruder pair are a lot more evident now, with the female even coming to the robin feeding station while I was there. Her partner is rather more descrete and keeps his distance. He appears to have a few white flecks among his back feathers.

To complicate matters we have had two blackbird fledglings (right) feeding during a prolonged stay this morning. An adult male seemed to be trying, half-heartedly to feed one of them. Perhaps this is a third family? Another(?) female has been nest building today, somewhere down the road, and is using moss from the pond bank.

The robin pair is bonding again with the male collecting 2-3 mealworms at a time to feed her in response to her wing flapping and calling. She does not come to the feeder. While I was watching this going on an adult blue tit started coming to the feeder to collect a mealworm for the youngster that I could hear but not see. When it arrived at the dish the robin would beat a hasty retreat.

Also, a dunnock has started coming into the garden to feed again after an absence of several months. A pair of chaffinches, especially the female are spending increasing lengths of time feeding here.

This mushroom has popped up on the far side of the big pond. The cap measures about 2.5cm across. I have not identified it.

Early this evening I had a look at some Dead Nettles that seemed to have had a couple of leaves eaten away to a sleleton. To my surprise I found ten young bush crickets (see entry for 25 May) on the plants. I have not seen them in these numbers before.




8 June - A little bit of sunshine this morning welcomed the opening of the first flowers on the Jacobs Ladder plants (Polemonium caerulium). They are perched on stalks that standing some 50cm about rosettes of small, fernlike leaves.

We have several large bamboo plants in the garden. They are favoured by at least one type of aphid that result in the leaves having sticky deposits all over them. These in turn attract a variety of flies and wasps, including this one. The inset shows the head with the fly's proboscis extended as it feeds.

The two versions of Collins insects guides again cause me some confusion over identification.

The older book has an illustration that matches closely and suggests that it is Lucilia caesar, the Greenbottle. However, picture of this in the newer book shows an insect with eyes much closer together.

This afternoon I spent some time watching the blue tits feeding their young. There were at least four juveniles in the trees at the bottom of the garden. As I watched a movement low down caught my eye - a mouse.




9 June - My computer is next to the patio window looking out into the garden and just outside the window there is a chair. Sometimes as I sit here during the day I am watched closely by my friendly male robin, hoping for a mealworm or two. This image was grabbed without leaving my seat (excuse the dirty window)!

A new twist in the backbird saga today when 'our' female started to build another nest in our burberris bush. In the meantime the male had a tough day today with most of his time taken up with battling with the intruder male - there were literally feathers flying as I watched. Our male seemed to be taunting the other one, although the intruder seems reluctant to spend much time away from the bike shed corner of the garden.

The jay was here again today - a good view of it this tme. It was last seen being chased away by the pair of collared doves. When it perched at the top of the leylandii it spent some time cleaning its beak and we think we saw some downy feathers being wiped off - perhaps it had already eaten.


10 June - Find of the day today is this little fly, found on a Geranium leaf as I checked on the crickets (could only see seven of them today). The body of the fly is about 5mm long, although if you include the folded wings it measures 8mm. Its bright coloured body and red eyes made it stand out clearly against the green leaf. My Collins guides struggle with this one. I suspect that it may belong toone of two families -the Dryomyzidae or Sciomyzidae(?).


Also on the insect trail, I spotted this line of eggs laid on a blade of grass by the pond. Each one is about 1mm long.

No change in the blackbird saga today, with the female continuing to work on her nest while the males battle for territory.

Each day I hear the sound of young blue tits calling for food but as usual I did not see any today. I saw the dunnock down under the hawthorn several times this afternoon.

11 June - Today there was a marked change in the blackbird story - the rival male was not seen at all and I only caught a couple of glimpses of the female this morning. Our blackbird pair were together every time I saw them, although the male remained very wary.

In the morning sunshine this flower (left) at the bottom of the garden opened. By just after lunchtime, when the plant was in the shade the flower closed. This is the third flower to open on the plant in three days, each one lasting only for a morning. The plant is, I think, a Hawk's-beard, although I am not sure which one.

12 June - Today there was quite a lot of feeding of offspring going on around the Hawthorn and feeders. This included greenfinches (seen for the first time), House sparrows, Starlings and the Blue tits. I saw at least four juvenile BT's close to the house. This blurry picture was one I snatched of a youngster waiting for parent to bring a mealworm from the feeder, which has been very busy today.

The Jay spent a couple of minutes in the Hawthorn earlier this morning.


13 June - A belated entry for yesterday marks a sad loss for the garden. First thing in the morning I found the body of our female robin next to the pond. She showed no sign of being attacked and I must conclude that she died of natural causes(?). Through the day the male was far less active in his seeking, and pestering for food. She is now buried under the Berberris bush, where the female blackbird now spends time sitting in her nest. It has not been possible to see how many eggs there may be in there.

In the morning the Jay paid a visit, staying in the Hawthorn for a couple of minutes. In the afternoon it seemed as though the whole blue tit family came to feed. We had five youngsters in the open, as near as they could be to the feeder, and at least two hidden (heard their calls) in the Hawthorn.

For much of the day I had a scaffolding tower assembled next to the Hawthorn so that I could deal with the spurt of upward growth that it has experienced this spring. Perhaps it was insects disturbed by me, or just an interest in a neighbour's roof/wall but I found myself in the flightpath of a pair of swifts doing aerobatics in close formation. Several times they passed between me and the house so that I could look down on them! They just missed me twice and one managed to hit the long wire shortwave radio antenna that extends from our chimney to the bottom of the garden. Fortunately the swift did not seem to suffer any damage (nor did the wire).

15 June - Over the last two days I have not been able to pay a great deal of attention to the garden but a couple of things are worthy of mention. Yesterday The Jay came to the garden at least twice. It comes to the Hawthorn each time. There is a great deal of activity in and around the tree so perhaps it is hoping to pick up a young bird.

The blue tit family continue to visit - I wonder how much longer the feeding will go on for.

Last night when I went out to lock up my shed I was greeted by the grunting sounds of hedgehogs, for the first time this year. There were two adults foraging around under the Hawthorn. I shall listen for them again tonight.

The female blackbird spends a great deal of the day sitting on her nest. The male has been quite quiet although there have been a couple of territorial encounters. During one there were three adult males involved on our roof.

Yesterday I watched the robin a couple of times as it fed on mealworms. It would eat a few and then pick one up and fly up into the branches where he had often fed his partner. He would perch for a few moments looking before eating the mealworm. It was as though he was still expecting his partner to be there.

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