The Garden Diary 2005
13 June - We are back home. In fact, we travelled back yesterday and have been taking time to sort things out around the house and garden. We had a great couple of weeks down in Cornwall. I kept a diary on my laptop, and will add it to these pages as soon as I can within the next two days.
One of the most memorable features of the Lizard at this time of the year are the hedgerows which are in blossom and looking fantastic. However, as we drove home it was noticeable how the roadsides became less colourful.
Arriving home, one of the first things I did was to look over the garden fence to check the garden where the profusion of Red Campion, and other plants could easily have been a bit of Cornwall brought home!
In the pond we have missed most of the flowering of the Flag Irises, although there are still a few buds left to open.
This morning, when I walked out onto the veranda I heard a rustling under the bench in the corner. I peeped underneath and saw a Sunflower seed bag moving! The picture shows what I found - the seeds had all been emptied out into the blue container and replaced in the bag by a hedgehog.
I cut the bag open down one side and put the hedgehog, still in the bag, into the unoccupied hedgehog house.
I can safely say that the hedgehog wasn't in the bag yesterday as I took seed from the bag yesterday.
The pictures show an adult in the right hand box. The fact that she is staying in that box for long periods indicates that she is sitting on eggs.
The left hand box is also in use, although I didn't manage to photograph a bird in that one this afternoon. I wonder if egg-laying has not yet finished in that box.
The central box shows signs of some attempt to alter the entrance, but I haven't seen any signs of a bird going to it.
I can't help but wonder if any of these birds are the same ones that were here in August/September last year. There is also another pair nesting in a natural nest across the road from us.
14 June - A weary day as the holiday 'catches up' with me.
I haven't got the job of transferring the holiday diary finished yet, I have now inserted the basic pages, but there are a couple of items missing, and I have not yet added the larger images. Hopefully I will complete the task tomorrow. Please forgive any link problems that you find - I'll be checking those when I'm more awake tomorrow.
A follow-up on the House Martins - having seen activity in the two end boxes yesterday, I can now confirm activity in the middle box as well. At the moment it appears that the central and right hand boxes must have eggs that are being incubated. I'm not sure about the status of the left hand box which appeared to be unoccupied for long periods today.
To add to the excitement, as I watched the boxes a pair of Swifts suddenly appeared, flying down the drive that we share with our neighbour. Suddenly, one of them flew up to the front corner of my neighbour's house and disappeared into a gap under the roof tiles, into a spot being used by House Sparrows in April and May. It looks as though we will have some interesting activity at the front of the house in the weeks to come.
Just one picture from the garden today. I was checking the Birch for Orange Ladybirds this morning (saw one too high to photograph) and I spotted this group of newly hatched bug nymphs.
On a cool day, the group had not started to spread by the end of the afternoon.
15 June - A morning of rain - a welcome sight, although nowhere near enough had fallen before the sun appeared in the early afternoon. Now you have to watch where you tread in the garden to avoid stepping on frogs and slugs!
It is disappointingly cool and a low level of insect activity in the garden reflects that. However, we had a brief glimpse of a Tortoiseshell butterfly, and this damselfly made an appearance, hunting around the Oxeye Daisies.
The sunshine that we had encouraged a bit of bee activity, although this one needed to spend a lot of time in this position in the afternoon as it waited for the sun to come out.
There is also renewed activity at the bee hotel, with even smaller bees than this one using the 2.5mm holes. I hope to get pictures of these as the weather warms up over the weekend.
Just before I headed for bed my usual torchlight walk down the garden uncovered two more 'visitors' to the daisies.
First to be noticed was this Small Magpie moth (Eurrhypara hortulata), not seen here since March last year.
On another flower, a trap lay in wait for insects like the moth in the form of this spider (Misumena vatia).
I shall have to watch out for a male, which is smaller and dark in colour.
16 June - It's here, the day of the last Springwatch program of what has been a very interesting and entertaining series, and the program in which mybitoftheplanet plays a small part (if the live program goes to plan!). My fingers are crossed, the video is primed and we wait with some trepidation to see how the day of filming has been chopped and squeezed to fit its 90 second slot!
As for the garden, this morning has been miserable and damp. with periods of drizzle. At lunchtime I can see no activity at all at the bee hotel, and the bug nymphs I photographed two days ago are still in the same tight group around their egg cases.
At the front of the house there has been little sign of the House Martins today, and I haven't seen the Swifts, which isn't surprising considering the dull, damp and breezy conditions. I saw a swift go into its nest last night, confirming that they are in residence next door, and I mentioned their presence to my neighbour Joe this morning. He hadn't realised that they had moved into his loft, but he had noticed strange noises from up there during the night! Hopefully I'll get some chances to photograph them in the weeks to come.
I may start to put up a scaffolding tower in the front garden (as I did last year - Its presence last summer had absolutely no adverse effect on the House Martin family then) in order to get a better angle for photographs of both the Martins and the Swifts.
A cctv camera is now being used to monitor the three Martin boxes and I'm recording 4 hour periods to get a better idea of the level of activity. It may be possible to set up a webcam later, if I think there is enough activity to warrant it.
While there are these positive developments at the front of the house, the garden has been notable for its lack of birds since our return. The Blackbird sings as usual, and we see the occasional Goldfinch, Chaffinch Starling and Collared Dove, but where are the House Sparrows? Before we went away I filled their main feeder and also set up a larger temporary feeder. Unusually, on our return the main feeder still had some seed in it and the other feeder had hardly been touched. There are still Sparrows about. One pair is nesting in the roof of a house opposite us, and another pair seem to spend time on our roof ( perhaps evicted by the Swifts?) but this week so far I have not seen any feeding here. There are no feathers about to suggest that they have been scared off by a Sparrow Hawk, or a cat (I distributed quite a bit of a product called Lion's Roar before we left to discourage them).
Well, Springwatch has been on, and it's amazing how quickly 90 seconds passes! Sheila thinks they did a good job of whittling down the hours of filming into the short sequence and was quite pleased with the result. I agree, although I would have liked it to have shown more of the garden and less of me. In case anyone wonders why I haven't mentioned that a Blue Tit is using my box - it isn't. The producer obviously found a clip of a BT leaving a box similar to mine and added it, although everything else did belong here.
Just one photograph for today, taken at around 10pm -
It is the nymph of some sort of bug, although I can't identify what species.
17 June - A warm, humid, but largely cloudy day with blue skies arriving by the evening.
For me the day as been a bit of a battle against weariness. I managed to get a bit of pruning done of the Elder, Willow and a rose bush on the far side of the pond, but the job had to be left left half done (as usual!).
Checking the rose clippings afterwards revealed several small groups of ladybird eggs, and those bits are now tucked into the undergrowth in the hope that the eggs hatch out.
On a couple of the leaves were several of these curious structures, measuring 1 to 2mm across.
I assume that it is a sort of gall in response to the egg laying of an insect but I will need to investigate them further.
On another leaf were three of these eggs or pupa cases(?) measuring about 1.5mm in length. Whatever they are, they certainly attracted the attention of this ant which spent ages inspecting the pair shown in the photograph.
Down on the Birch, the group of bug nymphs continues to be crowded around their egg cases. I wonder how much longer it will be before they start dispersing.
While I was photographing the cricket this insect literally crashed into another leaf on the plant before dropping down out of sight.
Although much of the image is blurred, I can make out very small elytra (harden front wings) and it appears to be a Devil's Coach Horse (Ocypus olens).
The Oxeye Daisies continue to attract a variety of species. This micromoth appeared in the late morning. I'll need to search for its ID when I have more time.
The colouring of this Green Shield Bug stood out against the white and yellow.
The appearance of this beetle on the flowers was a real surprise. It is an Oedemera nobilis, a pollen feeder.
Although the insect guides describe it as common, previously I have only noticed it on our trips to the Lizard where it is often found in the flowers of the Hottentot Fig (In fact I have still to add the photograph I took then to my holiday diary)
The photograph doesn't really do justice to its metallic sheen.
There are numerous solitary bees visiting the flowers, but today I turned my attention to the small bees I mentioned a couple of days ago. These are the ones most active at the bee hotel at the moment. To give an idea of scale, the hole in the left hand image is 2.5mm across.
My insect guide suggests that they could be Chelostoma campanularum, although the pollen brushes under the females' abdomens do appear to be the bright orange described there.
18 June - A hot and humid Saturday, with the garden temperature over 30C in the afternoon.
First, a bug spotted last night on the Oxeye Daisies.
I haven't identified it. I looks very similar to Coreus marginatus, although it is much slimmer than that species.
Back on 25 June last year the bee hotel was visited by a parasitic ichneumon fly (possibly a Gasteruption jaculator) with an incredibly long ovipositor and during the morning I commented to Sheila that its offspring may appear next week. Well, there was flying around the holes this afternoon, although I can't tell whether it emerged from one of the eggs laid here last year.
The left hand image represents the only chance I had to record one arriving at the nest.
The bottom right image, captured from cctv footage has a ghostly quality(!) and the top right image of one in flight is only included because of the 'red-eye' effect caused by evening sunshine reflecting from the retina of the Swift's eye.
The other two boxes continue to have low levels of activity, consistent with incubation taking place.
Over the last two days I've seen an interesting interaction between the Martin in our right hand box and the martin in the nest across the road, with the same behaviour repeated several times. First, I would hear the Martin across the road looking out and calling from its nest. 'Our' Martin would look out and as the other one left the nest, it would call before flying out. The two of them would then fly off together, and at least once returned at the same time.
19 June - An even hotter day with the temperature topping 32C in the shade in the garden.
Just one photograph for the records, of this Speckled Wood. Butterflies have been noticeable by their almost complete absence this week.
Yesterday I had a brief glimpse of one which was likely to be another Speckled Wood, and I think a Small Tortoiseshell passed through.
I did see a G. jaculator again this afternoon, but it was moving about too quickly to get a photograph.
Click on the images to see larger versions