The Garden Diary 2005

September - Part 1

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1 September - A dry start to a new month, after last night's thunder storms missed us.

This morning we have had our first visit for many months by a pair of noisy Great Tits, who joined a couple of Goldfinches and a Blue Tit for a short time. Yesterday, I forgot to mention the pair of Long-tailed Tits that spent a short time here. Overall, bird numbers continue to be disappointingly low in the garden with even the House Sparrow flock rarely exceeding a dozen in number.

As I write this at 8.15am I'm keeping half an eye on the tv picture of the House Martin nestbox. I've seen a couple of comings and goings, but there is still nothing to suggest the presence of chicks.


3 September - Yet another pleasant day, although there has been more high level cloud, and I did a little bit of gardening during the morning.

At the moment, the first walk of the day down the garden is a bit like traversing an obstacle course thanks to the webs of the Garden Spiders.

The females are building their webs just about everywhere, with many up to a metre across at both high and low levels.

I must try to get some images of the interaction between a female and a male. I've seen a couple of approaches, but at times when I didn't a camera with me.




By one end of the big pond there is a group of Great Willow Herbs. These are over 5ft high now and have nearly finished flowering, so I decided to remove a couple of them.



When I pulled out the plants their roots were surrounded by bits of the moss that grows in that damp area.

There seemed to be two moss types, as shown here. The photographs in my guide to mosses (grasses, ferns and liverworts) are not close-ups so I will need to look more carefully to try for ID's.


On one of the remaining Willow Herbs was this Seven-spot Ladybird, a rare sighting in the garden this summer.

Talking of ladybirds, another Orange Ladybird emerged from its pupa this morning, too high up the Birch to take photograph.



I thought about clearing some dead plant stalks below the Birch but stopped as soon as I spotted this caterpillar.

A hunt through my caterpillar guide suggests that it is the larva of a Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica). These caterpillars feed from July to September before pupating amongst the foliage or on the ground, the adult emerging in May - a good enough excuse not to do any more clearing at that spot!



That caterpillar reminded me of another one that I saw on the Birch five days ago (and forgot about - damned flu!). That was a one-off sighting which hasn't been repeated.

It belongs to the Geometridae family, the loopers or stick caterpillars. There are numerous candidates in the guide, so I need to spend more time looking through it to ID this one.


The House Martins continue to come and go without any sign of a change in their behaviour, and this morning I spotted a Woodpigeon taking twigs into the conifers beyond the bottom of the garden.


4 September - A very warm and increasingly humid day, and at 9.15pm I can hear the rumble of distant thunder, and rain is forecast tonight.



Despite the summery day, the morning revealed a sure sign of the changing season.

While most of the morning's webs were in sheltered spots, this one, exposed above the 'hedge line' was covered with dew.



At last I was able to grab some images of a couple of visiting Long-tailed Tits. There were at least four of them flitting around between the Birch and the peanut feeder, along with several Blue Tits.

I can't help thinking that the small red mark above the eye gives them a very sad look.




Next to the veranda, the Buddleia continues to flower. Usually the only visitors to the blooms are Large White butterflies, so it was a pleasant change to see this Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) come to feed this afternoon.



The thunderstorm arrived just before 10pm. Like a few nights ago, the main storm seemed to be to the west of us, but this time we had heavy rain and a lot more lightning, most of which was hidden in the clouds.

As a result, out of over thirty exposures taken through our bedroom window, only these three included lightning.



5 September - A dry, but cooler day. Our Discovery passed its annual checkup/test, and I've done very little after a sleepless night.


Just one photograph for today - I spotted a leaf on the Birch that had a ragged edge. A closer inspection revealed that the end of the leaf has been eaten away by numerous very small sawfly larvae.

As is usually the case with sawfly larvae that I find on the Birch, they react to disturbance by flicking their tail ends up into the air.


Over the last couple of days I've been watching an Orange Ladybird larva making the transition to a pupa. Today it is moulting, but I will wait until at least tomorrow to put a set of images to record the change.

Over the last week we have been seeing daily flypasts by a flock of Canada Geese. As usual, they pass by when I've got the macro lens on the camera!

7 September - A very pleasant, bright and breezy day which was spoilt for me by a dodgy back after doing some work in the garden yesterday.


First thing morning, before the breeze picked up, the webs in the garden really showed up as the sun rose over the rooftops.

This one was constructed between the Ivy and the Stinging Nettles, and really showed all the rainbow colours as it moved in the early sunshine.



A disappointment greeted me on the Birch today. The ladybird larva that I had been watching seems to have died during its change to pupa. This happens occasionally, but it is particularly disappointing this time because there are so few this year.

Despite the bright sunshine I could only see one of our solitary bees in action today, so I guess their 'season' is all but over now. While I watched the bee a large ichneumon fly appeared nearby but it didn't stay around while I collected my camera).



There are still bumble bees about, including this one, which I think is one of the Carder Bees, possibly a Shrill Carder Bee.




There seems to be more coming and goings at the House Martin nest box now, although I'm not seeing any faecal sacs being removed so I still don't know if there are chicks present.


8 September - Another very pleasant, sunny day.



Over the last couple of weeks there have been flocks of Canada Geese flying over the local area. Usually we hear them rather than see them, but today I had a couple of opportunities to grab a couple of images.



I think there was more activity at the House Martin box today. An adult is still present in the nest for most of the time, with frequent 'change-overs' taking place, and late in the morning I saw one of them turn up at the nest with a cranefly in its beak.


I haven't seen the Red Admiral return to the garden since the 4th, but today I found this Comma butterfly sunning itself at the bottom of the garden.

The Comma chrysalis on the Stinging Nettles is still hanging from the plant.



Yesterday, I forgot to mention an event that took place the night before last. A log that for many years has been slowly rotting away underneath the Hawthorn was moved a foot or so away from its previous position, and the ground has been dug up. We assume that a fox was probably responsible. There is no sign of any subsequent visit.


9 September - The warm weather continues, although today there has been more high level cloud cover, and this evening there are some more threatening clouds about (thunderstorms in London today).


We had five Goldfinches here this morning, including at least three juveniles and they have been back and fore all day.

The youngsters look quite scruffy with just little bits of red on their heads.




A family group of Magpies has been making a lot of noise around here lately, especially along the line of conifers. Most of the time they are out of sight, so this was a rare chance to get a photograph of (I think) one of the juveniles.

It's a pity that such a good looking bird has such a rasping call.




Late this morning I spend a bit of time trying to get some photographs of the House Martins. I was disappointed by the results but, I think that I can, at last confirm the presence of chick(s) in the nest.

This first image shows a change-over taking place. One adult is leaving while the other one's tail is still visible as it enters the nest.




Here, an adult arrives with a small insect in its beak. Several other pictures also showed insects bring delivered.

Although I didn't photograph it, I also saw several faecal sacs being dropped from the nest entrance.



Finally, a dramatic departure, spoilt by poor use of the flash.

While I watched the Martins I saw several Red Admiral butterflies passing by.



There will be another gap in the diary now as we head back down to Cornwall. After a short stay we will be bringing our caravan home for the Winter. It doesn't seem long since we came back from the summer break, and I still haven't added that to the diary yet. I shall have to work overtime to catch up!

Click on the images to see larger versions -

2005 Garden Diary Index.............Last Month............ September (Part 2)