The Garden Diary 2014

May (part 4) 

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20 May - The first Swift eggs are laid.

After the last few sunny days when the temperature sometimes exceeded 22C, today was a disappointment. It was mainly cloudy with a few light showers in the latter half of the afternoon - at least they were not the heavy rain showers that the forecast had predicted for us.

Since the previous entry we have been very busy with the family so there are no sightings to record, apart from this beetle which I spotted yesterday afternoon.

 It is a Common Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis). It was on a leaf of a Red Clover. In the deep shade the red colour appeared quite drab, the bright colour seen here was thanks to the necessary use of flash.

This was my first sighting of this species in our garden.



The first eggs were laid in two of our boxes during the morning, the first in SW(ri) and the second in SW(le). I cannot give precise timings as I have not had time to go through the records.


Here is SW(ri), showing how the egg can be moved around easily on the wooden floor,






and SW(le), where the remnants of the Sparrow nest has provided a softer base for the nest cup.






This is an interesting sequence seen via the external camera at around 8.40pm this evening. A Swift had entered SW(1) earlier and was looking out when another bird flew up to the entrance and attempted to enter.

Clearly, the Swift already inside blocked its progress.





Then, as the would be intruder hung on a third Swift made a very close pass before turning to head off across the road.

Moment it (I presume) was back, and this time it flew directly at the intruder, which it grabbed and pulled away from the box.

Both birds fell out of sight of the camera. Suspecting that they must have fallen to the ground I went outside but found neither of them.

Ten minutes later the resident of SW(1) left and I don't think it returned before darkness fell.






Just one plant note this evening - the Rowan has started flowering. Hopefully it will be more successful than in 2013 when despite a good dis[play of flowers no more than a couple of berries were produced.





22 May - Egg #2 in SW(le)

After yesterday was bright with none of the rain that had been forecast it seems more certain that mybitoftheplanet will get wet today! Yesterday's high was 18C and this morning, at just before 10am it is 14C (two degrees cooler than the same time yesterday).



As 10am passes I'm still waiting for the Swifts in SW(ri) to move away from their nest cup, but a short while ago this was the view in SW(le).





At 10.30am came my first chance to confirm a second egg in SW(ri).

The pair in SW(up) have still to produce any eggs.





The status of the front-of-house boxes is unclear. I have seen birds going in and out of all four boxes, and early this morning, just after 5am (recording began at 4am) I saw single Swifts leaving SW(2) and SW(3).

It seems that SW(1) wasn't used last night.

However, a bird entered it at around 5.30am and was still inside an hour later. This is a picture of a Swift entering that box at just after 8.30pm, leaving again before 9pm.

I had hoped to get a photograph of a Swift looking out of SW(2) but it retreated away from the entrance before I had chance to point the camera!




And before I forget to mention them once more, the Sparrows are still in possession of SW(lo), despite having to put up with Swifts 'banging on the door' from time to time. They have at least two chicks in there (reminder - the female laid three eggs, 27-29 April) that, Swifts permitting, will fledge in the next week.




23 May - A disappointingly cool day with a high of 14C that wasn't reached until 5pm which coincided with the clearing of the skies after a largely cloud day with occasional light showers.

This return to cooler conditions is coinciding with the flowering of our Rowan. I hope it doesn't lead to a repeat of last year's failure to produce a crop of berries - there is certainly a shortage of flying insects in the garden at the moment.

Yesterday morning I spotted this rather damp looking Tree Bumblebee resting on the stem of a triangular-stalked Garlic (which itself had been flattened by heavy rain). I rescued the bee from the deep shade using a Dandelion leaf and placed it on a Bamboo leaf that at the time was in sunshine.

The brightness didn't last long, and in the evening the Bumblebee was still there, although it had now moved to the more sheltered underside of the Bamboo leaf.

There was no sign of it this morning.





Back on 13 May I found this caterpillar on a Birch leaf.






Then, two days ago (21 May) I spotted this interesting situation on the underside of another leaf on the same branch.

I suspect that the caterpillar was the same individual and which had been parasitized. The parasitic larva had then left the caterpillar in order to pupate. In the right hand image you can see slight banding on the pupa.





By this afternoon the pupa, which is 5mm tall, had changed colour quite dramatically.

I'll leave a note to myself to take another look tomorrow morning.






Two more photographs from the 21st - First, our first damselfly visitor of 2014, a female Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans).

This is a brightly coloured variant, most likely the rufescens form.





The second picture is this Spider amongst the pond vegetation.

It is probably Tetragnatha extensa although its legs are somewhat darker than the illustration shows in my spider guide.

This is a common inhabitant of low vegetation near water and has quite striking markings on its slender abdomen.




Back to tonight for this Early-nesting Bumblebee, another example of a bumblebee caught out by the change in the weather. This one is sheltering under a Hazel leaf.






And earlier, before the sun set and while the swifts were still enjoying the now clear skies, it seemed as if this  Swift Louse Fly (Crataerina pallida) had taken on the task of watching over the eggs in SW(le).

There were no new eggs laid by the Swifts today.




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