Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Bee Success Story, A Goldcrest Comes To The Garden And Winter Knitting Begins!

I took L into Winchester for new school shoes this morning. £48! If Poppy eats those she'll find herself providing the leather for the next pair....
He amused both me and the girl who was serving us by giving the new shoes a Proper Workout, which involved running, skipping, leaping and jumping about the shop, to the extent that I felt I had to assure the girl there was nothing wrong with him.

Wet here today. As opposed to yesterday which was positively hot (19 degrees). We spent part of yesterday helping clear scrub at Magdalen aided by the small herd of British White Cattle who are used as conservation grazers on the hill. They were Curious as only cows can be....


We had a bonfire, which we all regretted as we were dressed for winter and it was already boiling hot. You couldn't get near it without your skin peeling, it was that fierce.


After a pub lunch, M and I took the dogs out for a walk round a friend's farm. There is still a surprising amount of colour in the land, considering November is almost upon us. Most of it is either yellow or white, provided by mayweed, nipplewort and dandelions.....


We passed several tall, elegant Parasol Mushies, which are edible.....


The light bathing Green Lane was beautiful....





It gave the land an ethereal, otherworldly feel.....


Roe deer were in evidence....


As were Green Manure crops, which our friend plants in many of his fields to give the soil some protection from winter erosion and to provide nutrients in the spring....



The setting sun resembled the moon....


And seed heads were a reminder that, despite the warmth, Autumn is now well and truly here....


Near the top of the field I found a badger run, which I'm including for those of you who've never seen one before. See the dark hole in the middle of the pic? Mr Brock ambles through there on his nightly visits out of the lane and across the fields.



How can you tell it's a badger run? Look for the tell-tale black and grey hair clump which will be stuck to the lower strand of barbed wire as the badger scrapes beneath it.....


I used to love doing this sort of Nature Detective Work when I was little. Truth be told, I've never grown out of it or lost the thrill of discovering tracks and signs. It's a way of reading the land that lets you in to its secrets; like having a window on a private, hidden world that no one else sees.

On that theme, I noticed hundreds of these tiny perfect holes had been drilled into the sandy soil at the field's edge. M walked over them without noticing, but I get drawn to these kinds of things. They are irresistible to me :o)


We had mining bees in our lawn a month ago so I supposed that's what these were. Anyway, I settled down to watch and after a few seconds of stillness the air above the holes and the earth around them became filled with the buzzing, the tooing and froing and the busy walking of many tens of small stripey people......




They are Ivy Mining Bees and they are Very Special, because they were only discovered as a species in 1993 (recorded first in Southern Europe). They were entirely new to science at that point. They were first recorded in the UK at Langton Matravers in Dorset in September 2001 and since then (much like the Tree Bee) they have begun a steady colonisation programme which has been so successful that they now live as far north as Shropshire and Staffordshire. They have also spread all along the south coast down to Cornwall, and are found in Norfolk and Wales. Their spread across Europe has been equally successful.

 
The bee is very distinctive, with a ginger head and a narrow stripey body. It doesn't sting (only the females can and they will only do so if squeezed) and they don't do any damage to the ground or to plants and flowers or other species. They are solitary bees that nest in holes in the ground in large colonies (if that isn't a contradiction in terms) and are very important pollinators of Ivy, which is their main (some say sole) food plant. Ivy is also crucial for many birds and other insects over the winter so these bees are doing a grand job by pollinating it. The fly for about 6 weeks during the Autumn and are generally on the wing in September.



The reason why they are so important is that they are one of only a couple of bee species to buck the trend of overall bee decline. There is no evidence that they cause a problem to our native bees, so we should all be welcoming them and celebrating their success....


Now, I know my family get driven mad by the time I take looking at and photographing small details when we're out and about, and I'm sure it must be annoying if you don't share that total absorption in the minutiae of nature, but I think I can honestly say this is the first time M has physically picked me up, put me over his shoulder and carried me away from Looking At Something Small And Interesting.

As soon as he put me down I of course scampered back to the bees and finished observing them and taking pictures. I was rewarded by this little one who wandered down the hole, turned round and popped it's head back out again.....Magic.....Incidentally, if you do see one, the BWARS is asking for recorded sightings, especially if you live further North than Shropshire (David?). Go to BWARS.com for more info :o)

 

 


All the wild things are feeling the change in the seasons, even if the weather has been unseasonably mild. There is a Small Tortoiseshell butterly hibernating on our TV and a magnificent Herald Moth has fallen asleep for the winter on the wall beside the attic stairs. I'm not sure it's the quietest place he could have chosen as the boys play shoot 'em ups on their xbox in the attic above at full volume, but he seems happy enough..... Incidentally, this is the only time of year I ever see Herald's- when they come indoors to hibernate.


My winter knitting projects have started again. I'm knitting squares of all shapes, colours and sizes to stitch into a blanket for L's bed. The long winter evenings require knitting, a warm fire, a big glass of wine and one of my TVBFs on the tele.....


I'll leave you with a Wonder who appeared in the Apple Tree this afternoon, flitting busily from branch to branch. In fact there were two, and given how small they are, how fast they move and how rubbish and overcast the weather is today, I am pretty chuffed with the resulting photo.....Goldcrests. First time I've ever seen them in the garden (although I did once see one in the lane - eight years ago!)



Happy Days!

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

31 comments:

  1. You did well to capture those beautiful Goldcrests! Little beauty's. I do like that yarn you are using, it looks lovely and chunky. I do love this time of year and warm fires, red wine and knitting are the perfect accompaniments to the season.

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    1. Thanks to my (uber expensive) new bins, I spotted them up close and personal and so got the camera out. Smashing little birds :o) I learnt last year that thick wool was the way to go - it takes half the time to make things! x

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  2. Ok so when I took the Olly and Alf to have their feet measured in Clarks, the (very young) fitter asked Alf which cartoon helper he wanted to measure his feet. I thought he was going to deck her. Have I told you this story before? I've been told by the kids that I'm constantly repeating myself.
    The Goldcrest is a beauty.
    Leanne xx

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    1. You haven't told me that before, but I can well imagine Alf's reaction. L would doubtless have responded with withering sarcasm, or come up with some terribly embarrassing cartoon figure like Miss Hot Pants for eg. As it was I got the feeling he was playing to his audience (pretty young lady) by skipping about like a fairy. Glad you liked the Goldcrest. I was extremely chuffed to get it on film xx

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  3. Oh I saw mining bees when we visited Hinton St George, I had never seen anything like their nests before.

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    1. They are fantastic insects. There are several different varieties of mining bees and these ones are doing so well: it's nice to have a happy species story, amid all the gloom :o)

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  4. The Ivy bees were on Autumn watch last night, and we have Goldcrest at the park, such a sweet little bird. Lovely set of photos, been another nice day.
    Amanda

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    1. I know! And I missed it! Just realised today :o( Will have to get M to i-player it for me. xx

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  5. Love the Ivy Mining Bees :) I've been checking ivy flowers regularly when out and about but haven't seen any yet.

    Well done on the Goldcrest - keep an eye on your feeders in the colder weather as we've had one feeding on fat balls in the past :)

    I've re-started my knitting too as am watching more tv than usual - some good programmes on at the moment. I'm following your example and using remnant wool from dozens of scarves to make a blanket for D as there is a limit to how many scarves I can wear :) Trouble is I am only managing a few squares a week so its going to take for ever. Might start making some smaller ones!!! :)

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    1. That's interesting- has the Ivy been out long with you? Would love to know when/ if you do see some. I've now logged the sighting with BWARs and had confirmation back that they are Ivy Miners.

      Will keep an eye on the feeders- never seen Goldcrests on them before but there's always a first time :o)

      Knitting smaller squares made the blanket achievable last year. Mine is not remotely neat and tidy, but it is one of my most prized possessions nevertheless. You'll have to post the progress of yours as it comes on :o)

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  6. Laughing about your son jumping around in the shoe shop, CT. Yes, some parts of winter are good like knitting, roaring fires and home made soup...oh, and stew and dumplings if you live in Yorkshire, which I do.

    Carol

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    1. He is called the Family Jester for obvious reasons. I've never had to reassure someone that he's normal before today though. Having a lovely half term with him, a laugh a minute. I shall need a rest to let my sides stop aching at this rate :o)

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  7. I like those ivy bees too, I didn't realise they'd got as far as shropshire and staffordshire, I thought south warwickshire was about their furthest north at the mo! I'm in the very far north of Staffordshire, bordering Derbyshire, but I hope it's not too long before they make it here :)

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    1. I'm thinking they may already be further north than staffs, given that the most recent distribution map I could find was 2011. I've emailed the Chairman of BWARs to ask him and will let you know what he says. It is such a good news story, at a time when all conservationists and people who love nature could really do with one :o)

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  8. Very interesting and full post. Loved the Ivy Miners Bes and the Goldcrest.

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  9. I shall be keeping my eyes peeled on future walks.

    Jean
    x

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  10. A great look at the countryside around you CT. Love all the images and especially the bees.

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  11. Your life sounds so idyllic. I'm sitting eating lunch at my desk in a big open plan office on the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and reading about all your nature sightings, the bees and the birds, the cows and the bonfires, and wondering why I am sitting at this desk...I love your posts but they don't half make me think I need to upsticks some time soon! Lxxx

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    1. The countryside is always a tonic to me, so I'm very glad you are enjoying the posts. I don't think I would last very long in a town or city :o) Flossy would like life in the country I'm sure xx

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  12. Lovely Goldcrest! So exciting to see those bees. I've been looking out for them but not seen any yet. Interesting about them not stinging. Great deer pic too. As for the shoes.....I think you need to have some kind of high level shoe storage system going, above the height that a certain terrier lady can jump. I suggested a swap after your last comment to see if their respective partners can whip them into shape. I doubt it though! xx

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    1. I don't think I could inflict that kind of punishment on poor Snip! I am training L to leave his new shoes high up on the stairs, as the small fierce person knows she's not allowed up them :o) xx

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  13. Your photos are lovely! Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. :)

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  14. So, not only am I behind on reading blogs, but on watching TV shows as well, I was just watching Autumnwatch from earlier in the week, and they were talking about the Ivy Mining Bees, and when I saw that first picture of the holes, I thought immediately, Ivy Mining Bees, and then, sure enough, you talked about them.... Spooky hey, you are teaching me to look out for and notice and remember all kinds of things!! xx

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    1. I'm so pleased! Hope you are ok? xx

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    2. Mmmmmm, so so! Thank you for asking though. Just going to have a cuppa and watch some more autumnwatch before having burgers and fireworks later! xx

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  15. I just checked back my photos of mining bees from September but they are less hairy on the legs than these ones - well I guess there are tons of different mining bees! How great to still see so much activity late in the year. I know what you mean about other family members not getting quite so excited about the little things. :-) Love the Goldcrest too - great news and great images! xx

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    1. There are different sorts of MBs so it could have been a different species? (or maybe French ones shave their legs). SO chuffed to get the GC pics- and they've been back around the house again this week, lovely noisy little things xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x