The Garden Diary 2009

April (part 2)

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16 April - Another bright day and although the occasional dark cloud passes overhead it  remained dry all morning with the temperature reaching around 18C by lunchtime. It stayed that way until the late afternoon when it turned much more cloudy and threatening.

Male Robin sings in our Himalayan Birch


For much of the day we were entertained by the song of the male Robin, although I'm not seeing any sign that there is a female nearby.

In this shot you can also see how the Birch is starting to turn green as the leaves develop. It won't be long before a photograph like this will no longer be possible.


First Red Campion flower of the year


Down nearer ground level there are a couple of plants to report on.

Our Red Campions will dominate parts of the garden in a month or so, but in the meantime here is the first Red Campion flower of the year, on a plant next to the large Bamboo plant by the workshop shed.



Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)


Also in front of the same Bamboo is a large cluster of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

I first reported these in the garden in 2007 when the flowers on a single plant at the same spot opened  on 30 April. They were absent in 2008 but have returned in numbers this year.

The small flowers should be attractive to the smaller insects.


2-Spot Ladybird amongst Garlic Mustard flower buds


One cluster of Garlic Mustard flower buds yielded the first ladybird I've seen so far this Spring, a 2-spot Ladybird.

A short time later I found another, smaller species - a 22-spot Ladybird (Thea 22-punctata). Unfortunately that wasn't in a camera friendly position.


Common Carder Bumblebee at White Dead-nettle


A plant that has been in flower for a couple of weeks is the White Dead Nettle. That seems to be a favourite of the Common Carder Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum).

I spotted one of the black bumblebees sunning itself on a Bamboo plant. Unfortunately I had the 65mm MP-E lens on the camera so no photograph without getting too close, but I did notice that while the body was all black, its pollen combs appeared to be orange. I think it was similar in size to the Carder Bumblebee in the photograph.


Solitary bee (Osmia rufa) on path


The solitary bees around the bee hotels are just too sensitive to movements for me to get close to them at the moment. However, just once in a while, when a cloud hides the sun you can sneak up on one that has settled on a paving stone!

I think the species is Osmia rufa, and the pale hairs on the face indicate that it is a male.


Hawthorn Shield Bug on bamboo



In the Bamboo plant itself I've had my first sighting this Spring of a Hawthorn Shield Bug.



Green Shield Bug on Stinging Nettle leaf



In my entry for the 13th  I forgot to include this Green Shield Bug that I spotted on the Stinging Nettles.




Ground Bug (possibly Scolopostethus sp.)


And another bug, this one sunning itself on my kayak this morning.

It appears to be a  species of the genus Trapezonotus, possibly T. arenarius, although while that species is widespread in the UK it is mainly coastal in its distribution

Over the last three days the wind has been from the south, so it is possible that it has been carried up from the coast.



No butterfly photographs yet this Spring, but during the morning I was frustratingly close to a Speckled Wood butterfly without getting the opportunity to take a photograph of it. There has also been a Large White in the garden.

Sawfly (Rhadinocerea micans) on bamboo leaf

Another first of the year this afternoon in the form of a sawfly that breeds here - Rhadinocerea micans, relying on our Flag Irises as the food plant for its larvae.

I didn't see these until the beginning of May in 2008.

I see that several of the young Iris leaves have already got edges eaten away by something - It looks as if I'll need to check the plants after dark to spot the culprits as I see no larvae on them during the day.


As for the PC - I've decided to ignore it for a few days until I can think clearly again before deciding the best course of action to take.


18 April - Yesterday was a washout, with constant grey skies, rain and cold, with the temperature not getting up to 10C.

Today has been quite different. Although it started grey, the cloud base was quite high, by the end of the morning there were breaks in the cloud, and this afternoon was sunny, with the temperature getting up to around 15C briefly.

The Birch starts to shed its male catkins


Over the last two days the breeze helping our Birch tree to shed its spent male catkings, and they are scattered over the path below the tree.

In the meantime the greening of the tree is now obvious from the other end of the garden.


A Social Wasp queen sunning herself on guttering


Just a couple of insect pictures today -

The first is a queen social wasp that was sunning itself on part of the guttering on our caravan shelter. This is actually the second wasp I've seen so far. The first was spotted two days ago but I forgot to mention it in that entry.


A bug (probably Coreus marginatus) on bamboo leaf)



The second photograph is also of an insect that was warming itself in the lunchtime sunshine.

It is a squash bug, probably Coreus marginatus, a species that turns up from time to time in the garden, although I haven't recorded it here since April 2006.

A bug (probably Coreus marginatus) close-up to show horns between antennae




While it is similar to some other species, a distinguishing feature of C. marginatus is a pair of small horns between its antennae.





22 April - While indoors things have tended to be somewhat gloomy these last few days (see Nest Box Diary), outside we have had several perfect Spring days, with lots of bright sunshine and daytime temperatures approaching 20C - I even wore shorts today!

Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum)



In the garden, a couple more plants have now come into flower, the Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum).

While I originally planted these in front of the workshop shed, this Spring they have flourished on the slope up to the West Wing.


Triangular Garlic (Three-cornered Leek - Allium triquetrum)



It is in that spot in front of the shed that the first Triangular Garlic (Three-cornered Look - Allium triquetrum) is in flower.

The majority of these plants are under the Hawthorn, where they seen to be a long way from flowering at the moment. In contrast, the Wild Garlics look as though their flower buds will burst quite soon.



Bee-fly (Bombylius major) on pathIn past years the appearance of a Bee-fly was irregular, but at the moment it is very definitely a daily visitor.

It was quite fascinating to watch it moving between flowers in the area below the bee hotels. They are literally buzzing with the sounds of the O. rufa who seem to be the only species active at the moment.

As the males try to find females to mate with they are likely buzz any insect with a similar colouring to themselves, including the Bee-fly and even a small bumblebee.


Talking of bumblebees, while it is the Carder Bumblebees that continue to be the most frequent visitors, we saw a Red-tailed Bumblebee ( Bombus lapidarius) here yesterday.

Speckled Wood butterfly with deformed wing


Today I saw our first Holly Blue and Orange tip butterflies of the year. Also making a couple of appearances were a couple of Large Whites, but it was the Speckled Woods that showed up most frequently.

This one had a rather crumpled front wing, although it didn't seem to hinder the butterfly's flight too much.



As I continue to watch out for the arrival of House Martins I've been pointing my new lens on anything that flies over us as I get used to its manual focusing. Most of the time it has to be aircraft  as very few birds pass by at the sort of altitudes that I expect the Swifts and Martins to occupy.


A Rook high overhead


Just occasionally a bird such as this Rook will oblige.

I'm including these images even though they are not particularly sharp because they bring to mind the Choughs that I hope to point this lens towards when we eventually head down to Cornwall!


Parachuting from a hot air balloon


When this hot air balloon appeared way to the south of us a couple of days ago it seemed like a good test of the lens (with 2x converter added). It was quite a surprise when I realised that someone was climbing out of the basket.

It very difficult to judge distances, but based on the basket being about 4ft high, my calculations (which could well be hopelessly wrong, of course) put the balloon just over 2 miles away....


Collared Dove nest in Silver Birch tree


Directing the lens back into the garden, well almost - I can't actually claim this nest.

One pair of Collared Doves have decided to nest deep inside the canopy of our neighbours' Silver Birch tree.



The area around the feeders has turned very quiet now, with only the House Sparrows regularly visiting their feeder (Budgie seed). I haven't seen a Siskin for the last week and the Goldfinches have become only occasional visitors. I suspect that the Goldfinches at least will return once they have fledglings to feed.

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