Monday, 9 March 2015

Of Bumblebees, Yellowhammers, Hawfinches, Kestrels And Moths

Hello All.

How are we all today? Here, it is gloomy, overcast and spitting. I have walked the dogs, finished all the outstanding college assignments, polished a talk I'm giving the first years at college on butterflies (have managed to sneak in some moths!), washed sheets and towels, cleaned the kitchen, done a small muck out of L's room, caught up with other general household stuff and nattered to ma on the phone about General Sewing Matters. I am not feeling smug however because I've been stuck indoors since ten and now I have cabin fever and am longing to go for a run around outside. The food shop is due so I can't :o(

Instead, I'm giving you the promised Moth Post from last night's trap. It isn't hugely inspiring, but there were two new species in there: a Common Quaker and the very pretty Oak Beauty, whose arrival I have been anticipating for the last couple of weeks. My Oak Beauty is a boy, because Mrs Oak Beauties are another species of female moth that don't have wings. The boy OBs are perfectly adapted to hide against Oak Trees which is where the girl OBs tend to hang out. Note his rather splendid feathery antennae too :o)

Oak Beauty


Oak Beauty

Common Quaker
For those of you who've recently joined and may not have seen the Moth Box before, here it is In Action. The lamp is mercury vapour and lights up the surrounding countryside considerably once darkness falls. The moths are attracted to the light and funnel down inside the box where they fall asleep on egg boxes and that's where I find them in the morning. The moths are then photographed, noted down and left to sleep until night when they wake up and fly off to resume their mothy business.


In light of the rather Poor Showing from the moths, I'm adding in some photos taken on Saturday when the weather was glorious. Unfortunately, I had to spend several hours locked in a darkened room with lots of naturalists talking about slugs (among other things), staring at the sun outside and feeling rather grumpy and resentful. Never mind, the bees were still out when I got home and a run soon drove the stale sensation away (and a gin put paid to the grumps :o))

We've had an influx of Tree Bees here over the weekend- I counted three on Sat. One was not well and I don't know whether she survived or not, but the other two were in fine fettle....







The orange fluff is diagnostic. Tree bees are a success story. They are recent colonists to the UK and in only a few years have successfully spread across the country. They don't appear to upset the native bees and instead exploit empty niches, which is all Good News at a time when so many bees are in trouble.

Bumbles are incredibly gentle creatures and will go to great lengths NOT to sting you. They have several warning signs they employ to persuade you that they are really fierce and Mean Business. First they raise a foreleg at you, then they turn onto their backs, and finally they show you their bottoms. After that? Well, to be honest not much happens. By that point they've pretty much exhausted all their warnings and as they really don't want to sting you, as long as you're careful and gentle you can pick them up- assuming they're in need of help like the one in the pics above. This usually means they've run out of energy and need some sugar water or nectar.

This is bringing back memories of last Spring (do you remember?) and various Bee Rescues that went on :o)

As well as Tree Bees, we've also had Early Bumbles and Buff-Tailed making a bee-line (sorry) for the Daphne. Great Stuff.

Buff-Tailed Queen

This 7 Spot Ladybird was also in evidence and sat patiently while I faffed about with the camera...


The Vole Proofing of the Broad Beans has done its job I'd say :o)


Bulbs are shooting up...


Drone flies were out (so-called because they sound like honeybees buzzing)

  
As were one of my favourite Hoverflies- the Marmalade :o)


We've clumps of pretty and cheerful primroses everywhere at the moment....
 

And I suspect the birds will be nesting before long, if they aren't already. We're off to get some more nest boxes to put up round the garden at the weekend and have also been planning the new wildflower area, which is exciting :o)

Blue Tit
Mrs Sparrow

Mr Sparrow

The doggies and I have had some lovely walks recently, seeing all kinds of wonderful birds. I tried to get pictures of the yellowhammers who are singing about little bits of bread and cheese in the hedgerows like mad right now  (I'm assuming you all know the thing about a yellowhammer's song sounding like 'a little bit of bread and some cheeeeese' otherwise you will think I've gone cuckoo). But so far have only managed perfectly in focus branches and perfectly out of focus yellowhammers sitting in front of them....


Our best sighting earlier last week was a pair of Hawfinches. I've never seen them before and my two are the first record for the estate in six years of searching so that has gone done very well indeed :o) Hawfinches are notoriously secretive birds so I did well to get close enough to watch them, especially given the zooming about proximity of Small Girl and Ted.

We found this lovely lichen deep in the woods near where a whole bunch of new trees have been planted...

 
And then, on the way home, were treated to this still-as-anything female kestrel whose entire attention was focused on some small prey she'd spied on the ground. Aren't they lovely birds? She is one of a pair who nest on the estate and I've been watching them play and listening to them since January.

 
I'll leave you with some pics of the Hounds, who tell me they feel they've been somewhat under-represented on the blog in recent days and unless I do something to redress the balance sharpish they will invoke their union....

 



Happy Dog Days :o)

Hope all are well? Wishing you all a pleasant and peaceful evening. I've made the Toad signs and will be out with the torch again once it gets proper dark.

CT :o) 

36 comments:

  1. Your blog show us that Summer isn't far away CT. Great photographs and always very informative!

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    1. It does feel that way once the bees start buzzing again :o)

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  2. Do keep posting about insects, I'm learning such a lot. I'm ashamed to be so ignorant about them. What a contraption you have for the moths - why are they attracted to the light (do they think it is a white flower), why mercury vapour and what is the catchment area, ie how far away can it be seen, and be attractive, to moths? Think I missed the toads post, going back to read.

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    1. I am a wee bit insect-obsessed and have missed them all so much over the still months of winter. Getting Very Excited now about them all starting to appear again :o)

      No one knows why moths are attracted to light- one theory is that they use the light of the moon to navigate by, but it isn't certain. The mercury vapour is used because it produces a clear, strong, bright light but I'm not sure how far away the moths come from- I suspect not too far but I don't think it's ever been researched. I shall have a look now you've mentioned it!
      A recent innovation in moth trapping is the invention of pheromone lures, they don't work on all moth species but they have helped enormously with the recording of so-called 'rare' species such as some clearwing moths (they look like hornets). It's all fascinating stuff.

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    2. Thanks for the info CT - keep being obsessed, I'm feeling excited too - though I have had active lacewings in my workshed all over winter, as soon as I open the door a robin, or wren will fly in and help themselves. They are super efficient at finding all the spider hiding places too.

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    3. Such clever birds, robins and wrens- they are the two species who often come into the house here through open windows and doors. We once woke to the sound of a small something whirring about over our heads. I assumed it was a hawkmoth, but it was only once I cupped my hands round it, took it to the window and opened them that I realised it was a wren. She bobbed up and down, gave me a curious look with her head on one side and flew off. Adorable :o)

      Green Lacewings turn yellow when they're about to hibernate. I suspect yours haven't done a full hibernate but have woken up to forage on milder days.

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  3. Wonderful photos :o) Can't wait to see more bees buzzing about the garden... bliss! :o)

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    1. Many thanks my dear. Am hoping to get some time next week to catch up on my blog reading and will look forward to catching up with you then xx

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  4. Ohh, new mothy folk!! I better get back to paying attention to what sorts they are. I thought that there was a bee enjoying the crocuses last week, but now having seen your pictures I am not so sure, it might have been one of these other insects! It all makes me very confused!!! The bees will be coming back to see you for your honey supplies again this year I expect!! xx

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    1. Ah well, give it a few more weeks and there'll be plenty of pics here (hopefully) to help you work them all out :o) Sorry not to be reading all your posts recently- March was always going to be hugely busy here. I will catch up, promise xx

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  5. Hey CT,
    We have noticed more bees on the wing too. On Saturday a butterfly it may have been a tortioseshell, but not sure) fluttered onto the beach and settled near Olly's bucket for a while. Olly was quite enamoured.
    I'm glad your moth box is back out.
    Leanne xx

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    1. Hey hun :o)
      I so love the way Olly loves all the wild things, it makes me smile and feel happy every time I hear his stories through you. You are doing such a great job of showing him all these wonders. I am sure it will help to keep him rooted and steady as he gets older. xx

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  6. Well you have lots of great visitors this weekend, don't think our weather was quite as good, strong winds. Great to see the moths back, I did try with my home made trap but no joy. Need to plant up some early spring flowers to attract the bees I think. Did you learn anything new about Slugs at your talk ?
    Amanda xx

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    1. I did actually- I moaned about having to spend an afternoon indoors but there were some very interesting talks from some wonderfully eccentric people who've devoted lifetimes to studying these creatures. That will be you and me in another 40 years time.... :o) xx

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  7. I saw what I thought was a squashed frog on our road a few days ago, after reading your toad post it suddenly occurred to me this morning that maybe it was a toad. A shame. I shall look out for others. The moths are lovely, and well done for squeezing moths into your talk. I rescued a bumble bee from the garage yesterday. I huffed on it a bit and put it in the sun. Next time I will supply sugar water as well, thanks for the tip. There were a pair of butterflies in the garden earlier this week. Not sure what sort, I couldn't see them, they were flitting away so fast. Red admirals or peacocks maybe. Hopefully they're tucked up somewhere sheltered now. Great bird photos, and how lovely to have seen hawfinches. We've never seen one. Have a good week CT. CJ xx

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    1. Ooh, sounds like you are doing really well for wild things this week my dear :o) Re the frog/ toad, froglife want records of dead ones too to help build up their database so it's worth noting down numbers and the date and sending them an email. We've been out on toadwatch every night since Sat- I am knackered! Have a lovely week xx

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  8. Not a bloody bee in sight here, to be honest I'm beginning to think that my budding wildlife garden is insect unfriendly as there is absolutely bugger all sight nor sound of any bugs at all :(
    Your post is lovely as always CT and your pictures are stunning.
    John

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    1. Don't despair honey- give them time and they will come. It may just not be warm enough yet. They aren't out every day here yet and we're further south than you :o)

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  9. Goodness, what a busy day.

    I just love those primroses.

    All the best Jan

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    1. Thanks Jan. Primroses gladden the heart :o)

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  10. You have me exhausted by all the chores you have accomplished before 10.00am!!!! However the rest of the post has me energised again as it is very informative and have beautiful shots on not only Moths but flowers and birds.

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    1. I'm sure you were the same when your little folks were all still at home :o) Apols for not catching up with your blog recently- I am hoping to get time next week- running about like a mad person here at the mo! x

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  11. It is great to see Spring here again. Unfortunately, although our daphne is covered in flowers, it is looking very sick and has lost most of its leaves.
    As ever, your post is both interesting and entertaining.

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    1. Wonder what's up with your Daphne? Did you cut it back last year? Apparently, they don't like that.

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  12. I find it totally amazing that with alll you do in a day, you find time to charm us with informative and amazing posts. I love this - thank you.

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  13. I love the primrose and bee photos - did you use your new camera? Apart from moths and Harlequins no other insects here at all at the moment. Well done on the hawfinch sighting - a great record.

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    1. A mix of the new and old cameras. New still proving rubbish at certain close ups although it is OK outdoors. Old is my standby for the moths. I think your pics of your Oak B were miles better than mine! So thrilled about the Hawfinches- have kept eyes peeled but not seen them since :o)

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  14. Had tree bumblebees living in my roof last year, they adore ceonothus in high summer, my folks have one and it is always buzzing with them. Haven't actually seen any bumbles yet, only honeys, but I suspect when I'm next off shift on a decent day I will. I bet it will be a red tail queen on a dandelion!

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    1. My ceonothus is still tiny wee at the mo but they were enjoying the other garden blooms last year. It's such a good news story, the tree bees, isn't it?
      I am keeping my eyes peeled for a red tailed, haven't seen any yet this year but it is early days still. We'll have to have a competition! :o)

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  15. Envious! I saw my first bumble bee yesterday, but to be fair I haven't been outside as much as I normally would have been. Have seen plenty of Brimstones though. Grey and dull now. Great bunch of photos and the dogs look like they are really put out from not appearing in the blog much. ;-) Good for you helping the toads out. xx

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    1. Well, you're beating me on the Brimstone score :o) None here since the one who was hibernating on the wall left. Toad watch is both upsetting (lots dead on the road) and lovely (lots rescued). Am knackered though! xx

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  16. I haven't seen a yellowhammer for years CT. Your pic reminds me of my infamous snow bunting a couple of years back! Your's is infinitely better though.

    Those Primula are so unbelievably perfect. I don't think I've ever seen them like that. They almost look plastic, in the best possible sense of their being indestructible!

    Lovely catching up. Am having serious problems finding the time at the moment. xxx

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    1. Hey Em :o)

      I've been particularly rubbish at catching up with you recently too- so busy here at the mo, I've had time for a few posts and a few comments and not much more blog wise! April should be quieter. Hope all's well with all of you? Will pop over and see what you've been up to soon and try and send an email too xxx

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  17. Great photos CT. That's interesting about the Bumble Bees. 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