The Garden Diary

May (part 1) - 2002

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1 May - In addition to its intended guests, the bee hotel also has intruders in the form of small, red eyed flies which appear to be parasitic on the eggs or larvae of the bees. Last year I first recorded them on 11 May. They have just started to make an appearance this morning.

They, in turn seem to be worth the effort for ants like this one, climbing about 5ft up a post to catch them. The fly in this picture is still very much alive but held firmly in the jaws of the ant as it is dragged back down to the ground below.

Click on the image to see a larger version

I have seen this behaviour of the ants happening in the past, but this was the first time I have managed to capture a couple of 'in focus' images as the ant moved quickly down the post.

The flies seem reluctant to fly. staying motionless for long periods near the holes used by the bees ot hidden in gaps in the woodwork. If disturbed they usually seen to just let go and fall to the ground - an interesting means of escape I assume!

I first noticed (and photographed for my diary) this fungus on 4 June last year, although it was more developed at that time. This one was first spotted yesterday.

The ones pictured here have caps measuring about 7mm across. they are growing in the same place as last year, amongst moss on top of a stone at the side of the pond. Last year, I identified them as (similar to) Umbrella Navel Cap (Omphalina ericetorum), although they appear to be a bit too small for that species.


2 May - Having planted some Lily-of-the-Valley plants a couple of weeks ago I've just remembered that they needed to be recorded in the diary. Hopefully the eleven plants will spread in the next couple of years to give a good display.






Another small visitor at the bee hotel this morning. It is (I believe) a Spider Beetle (family Ptinidae). Measuring just over 3mm in length, this one seems to be a male (the females have rounded bodies - giving them their name). They are scavenging insects, often found in the nests of birds and other animals.

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3 May - A solitary bee looks out, possibly for the first time. The camera's flash has produced a touch of the familiar 'red eye' in the bee's trio of simple eyes. Called ocelli, this triangle of eyes at the front of the head is shared by many insects and is thought to be used just to detect variations in light intensity.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Hopefully I will soon have more info about those little flies with the red eyes that I keep finding at the bee hotel.



At lunchtime I spotted this bird high in the trees behind our garden. I think it may be Song Thrush fledgling. It is too light to be the offspring of the Blackbirds.





This evening brought the gathering clouds of thunderstorms. This picture showed the view to the WNW as the sun dropped to the horizon and lit up the underside of one such cloud with a stormy pink colouring.

While it cast the conifers into virtual silhouette, there was still enough light from clear skies to the East to light up our side of the trees.


4 May - The Blackbirds are bringing their offspring out into the open for the first time. Here, one of two juveniles calls for food as dad looks for something suitable. I had just missed a good photo-opportunity when they were both on the decking outside the window with dad feeding the youngster.



The Robins and the Starlings are still frantically gathering food to take back to their nests. This Starling entertained Sheila and me for several minutes as it tried desperately to cram more and more mealworms into its beak.

The last mealworm would inevitably fall out and it would not give up until it recovered it.


While the Starlings sometimes appear in groups of 5-6, the male Robin almost always collects the mealworms alone, even his partner is nearby. She must find her food supplies elsewhere as I hardly see her at the moment.

Click on either image to see a larger version



5 May - A Sunny but chilly start to the day (10C at 10.50am), with a cold Northerly wind.

Last night at about 11pm I was just setting the videos (to record the BT box this morning) when I glanced out to find myself face to face with the youngest fox cub I have ever seen in the garden. The camera was out of reach so there is no picture!

There was no sign of an adult so I set up a camera/video to record the next four hours - it saw nothing -no foxes, no hedgehogs, not even a mouse! Last night was the first one for a while when I have not seen a hedgehog.

This morning has seen business a usual among our nesting birds. The male Robin takes away mealworms by the beakful (chicks still in the nest), as do the Starlings. The male Blackbird is still followed by its offspring. It ignores the mealworms and prefers to give the youngster the oats. In the meantime the female is busy feeding. Could she be getting ready for a second nesting?


The female Chaffinch has become surprisingly tame now, coming to eat sunflower kernels from a feeder outside our back door while I am standing just an arm's length from her.


6 May - I didn't mention in yesterday's diary the appearance of a hedgehog outside my front door, spotted in the afternoon. It was half hidden by a plant and curled up. It may have vomited at some time. I put it into a shallow carboard box and covered it over, hoping that it would become active in the night. This morning it was still there. It was still breathing normally, no more vomiting and it was excreting normally.

It hasn't been interested in drinking anything during the day, but has moved about in the box a little bit, and it opened its eyes this afternoon. I shall try it with water and some cat food as it starts to get dark outside. If there is no change in it by the morning I shall take it down to my local vet for advice.

A bit of late news. The hedgehog accepted water I gave it on a small spoon and then drank from a dish. It is very weak and is still not interested in food so I will not let it go.

Having walked about a bit, if rather unsteadily it is half curled up in the box again now.



Just before midnight, another hedgehog visited the deck and, just after it left the patient suddenly perked up, and climbed out of the box. It stopped to have a long drink, and was last seen heading off into the undergrowth. Hopefully it has recovered from whatever upset it, and I decided not to stop it leaving.


7 May - Although they still follow their father, the young Blackbirds are starting to hunt food for themselves. I watched this one digging in the borders. When it found a worm it didn't seem to know what to do next, so left it. Then it came onto the decking and took a mealworm which it did eat. The mess on the floor was left by the Starlings who have the unusual approach to searching for their food - sticking their closed beaks into the soil (or oats in this case) and then flicking the beak open. Bits fly everywhere.

Click on the image to see a larger version


On the weekend I noticed this pair of collared Doves spending a lot of time in the branches of the Hawthorn. I thought it was just courtship.



This afternoon I discovered that they have started nest building in there. The picture shows the female sitting on a skeletal nest. She was calling quietly as her partner brought twigs to her.

After a while he headed for the chimney tops to call loudly in answer to the calls of several other Doves up and down the row of houses.


8 May - On a dull but dry morning the Collared Doves continue work on their nest, The female quietly cooing and building while her partner brings in the twigs. As I waited for a chance to get a photograph like this one he walked right past me as he searched for suitable bits. He seems to like the pliable twigs that have fallen from my neighbour's birch tree.

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They did not continue the building task in the afternoon.


The male Robin is still as busy as ever taking food back to his nest, his partner remaining secretive. The young Blackbirds were seen less today and only once did I see dad feed one. The female came to feed under the Hawthorn a couple of times but she was very wary.

In addition to several Large and Small Whites an Orange Tip Butterfly passed through the garden today.


9 May - A dull morning has been brightened by a surprise visitor that bumped into the window beside me.

The Chaffinch pair that frequents my garden and that have been busy taking food away to their nest have brought one of their offspring to visit.

This fledgling seems to have been scared by a trio of starlings squabbling over mealworms to take away for their young. It bumped into the window and then hid behind a pastic box for a couple of minutes before heading into the Hawthorn.

Click on the image to see a larger version


Click here to see an alternative picture (This time not taken through double glazing) of the fledgling after it had recovered its composure and was waiting for mum. A few minutes later, when my camera was back inside it was fed by mum as I knelt just a yard or so away.

The Male Blackbird continues to provide the occasional feed for its offspring but they seem to be much more independent now. The female Collared Dove has spent some time on her nest this morning But I haven't noticed any more building going on there.

The Robins' offspring have flown the nest. Dad is still very busy taking away mealworms, but now he is flying up into the Leylandii. I can hear the calls of the fledglings But I haven't yet caught sight of any.

I forgot to mention yesterday how the Song Thrush came from its usual singing spot in the Brickfield Country Park to sing from the tallest tree of the conifer line behind our garden - loud!

Tonight at 8.30pm, as it is getting dark outside, the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes in the neighbourhood are singing loudly, the Collared Dove is sitting on her nest in the Hawthorn, and the Female Chaffinch is still taking food for her youngsters.



I don't think I have mentioned it in the diary so far, but I have a small Goat Willow growing in a pot which is buried in the ground at the end of the small path between the two ponds. At the beginning of April I took some photographs of the flower heads on it (top left of picture). Today these are covered with fluff as the seeds approach their ripening.





10 May - I have been up and down the garden a lot today as I tried to sort out various problems with the bird box camera set-up. I paid little attention to it until I spotted the first of the Ragged Robin plants along the pond bank to come into flower. This one is just 4 days earlier than the first to appear last year.





Tucked under an unfurling leaf of the Elder was this ladybird. Just like one I saw last July, I think it may be a Calvia 14-guttata.



I must go back through the pictures on this page and add the dates that are missing.


13 May - Over the last few days I haven't been able to do as much as I would have liked, and as a result the diaries are getting a bit neglected. Anyway, on the weekend I saw a Green-veined White butterfly for the first time this year, this was one of the few butterflies seen in several days.

Today it is dull and very wet, and it has been a case of watching the birds from the shlter of the house. The two Blackbird fledglings have been about a lot. There is no sign of either parent showing any interest in feeding them now, but they still appear ever hopeful that mum or dad will appear with food. It was amusing to watch one pestering a male Chaffinch that was on the ground searching for sunflower kernels. It seemed as though the young blackbird, wings vibrating, was trying to coax a meal from it.

The Robin and Starlings continue to take food away. I still haven't seen the robins' young yet. I have yet to see any Sparrow offspring and the Collared Doves appear to have had second thoughts about a nest in the Hawthorn. I was surprised to see them even consider such a busy spot for a nest. A couple of Great Tits have been here frequently today, although they have been going to the peanut feeders down the side of the caravan shelter and have not come near the house.

The first of the Thrift flowers started opening yesterday. Today's dull conditions have meant the flowers staying closed - hopefully I can get a photograph of them tomorrow.


14 May - Today the weather was much better with sunshine and only the occasional threat of rain.

The thrift plant responded to the better weather by opening its flowers.

There were no chances to take any insect pictures today even though I kept my camera handy. I had hoped to get some images of bumble bees on the Red Campions but they wouldn't stay in one spot for long enough!

I spent a bit of time trimming new growth on the Hawthorn tree, taking care not to cut any flower bearing branches. I see that some of the petals are already starting to shed so I must take a photograph of the tree tomorrow.

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