The Garden Diary 2009

Pseudopsocus rostocki

Autumn Observations
18 September - 25 November

Part 2

*In this part of the diary, all timings are in GMT (after the first hour of the 25th!)*

25 October - Last night's low was 11C. For most of today we had blue skies and sunshine, which brought us a high of 18C on the veranda, although the afternoon ended and dusk approached with showers. Dusk came an hour earlier today since the clocks changed from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time during the night.

The first timing for rostocki is in BST - she left the shelter to produce a faecal pellet at 10.34pm.

At 12.13am (BST) she started a period of quite vigorous activity which included work on the silk canopy and extended out a short way. She finally settled again just over 50 minutes later at 12.04am (GMT).

At 3.14am she left briefly to defecate but I didn't see a pellet produced. At 6.25am she left the shelter again, and two minutes later arrived at the lichen. She spent this feeding session on top of the lichen thallus, leaving at 6.58am and taking just a minute to return to the shelter.

The only other activity during the day was her leaving for just a minute to defecate at 4.04pm. It produced another pellet at 5.56pm.

At 10pm an extended period of activity began. For the first hour it was confined to the shelter, but after 11pm it extended out to the right and down a bit more, until rostocki returned to its shelter quickly when a earwig appeared at the right edge of the image.

No photographs today, but looking out of the window this morning I noticed that the dozen Goldfinches that were at the feeders had been joined by the first Greenfinch that I've seen in the garden since March.


26 October - A low of 11C last night followed by a high of 17C today.

At 3am rostocki left the shelter and disappeared below the edge of the image frame. At 3.48am it reappeared at the lichen where it fed under the thallus, on the log to the right of it, and finally had a quick nibble on the thallus itself before heading back to the shelter at 4.02am.

It returned to the lichen at 7.02am. This time it grazed at the edge of the thallus before spending time on the top. That meal was completed at 7.38am and it was back in the shelter a minute later.

Rostocki didn't feed again today, but left the shelter to defecate at 11.25am, 4.51pm and 11.27pm.

A earwig appeared again at 5.52pm and 5.52pm.


27 October - A low of 12C last night and a high of 19C on the veranda today - quite remarkable temperatures as we approach the end of October.

The predatory mite was about again today, making its first appearance at 1.42am as it searched other parts of the visible area but stayed away from rostocki's shelter.

Rostocki's first activity of the day was to defecate at 2.24am. At 4.33am it left the shelter briefly during a short period of activity to produce another pellet.

At 6.36am the mite appeared again and this time got within millimetres of the shelter. Rostocki didn't respond then, but three minutes later it left the shelter. This didn't seem to be in response to the mite's visit as it meandered down to the lichen. It started to feed but when the mite arrived again it headed out of frame. After a few minutes it returned to the lichen and continued to feed until it left at 7.05am to return to the shelter a minute later.

At 7.42am it headed back down to the lichen and grazed on the edges and top until 8.09am. As usual it took a minute to return to the shelter.

After that there was a long period of inactivity apart form about five minutes activity in the shelter at 2pm and a two minute trip out to defecate. At 5.04pm rostocki started on another long period of activity, this time strictly within the shelter, and which ended at 6pm.

There was no further activity before midnight.


28 October - An overnight low of 11C and a high of 19C during the day as the mild spell continues, and it was dry.

At 12.31am and 5.03am rostocki left briefly to defecate. At 6.47am it left to feed on the lichen, and on the log to the right of it. That meal ended at 7.35am and it arrived back at the shelter a minute later.

After that there was no further action until a very small barkfly nymph appeared by the lichen at 4.25pm and spent half an hour grazing on the the bark surface to the left of it. At 5pm rostocki became active for just over an hour, although it remained completely within the shelter.

Its only other activity today was when it left the shelter briefly at 11.10pm. Once again it looked as though it was going to defecate, but I don't think it did.


29 October - A marginally cooler day with a high of 18C after an overnight low of 10C - still dry and bright!

Rostocki started the day by leaving the shelter briefly at 12.35am to defecate. It was 6.44am when it was next active, meandering to the lichen and grazing at the top edge of the thallus. However, at 6.59am it was dusturbed when the predatory mite appeared and it headed directly back to its shelter.

The mite didn't attempt to catch rostocki but did catch and feed on a small barkfly nymph, the incident taking place largely out of sight under the lichen thallus.

The mite was still under the lichen when rostocki left the shelter once again and returned to the lichen to continue its meal. Disturbed by the mite again, this time it disappeared down below the image frame. When it did reappear aT 7.47am it undertook a period of intense feeding before heading back to the shelter at 7.55am. The mite remained active in the area until 8.15am.

It was 4.33pm when rostocki undertook a short period of activity in the shelter and left just to defecate at 5pm. Another five minutes of activity took place at 5.50pm.

During the afternoon there were several periods of activity by small barkfly nymphs. This levle of activity hasn't been seen since I started this monitoring of rostocki. And at 6.41pm a wingless barkfly (nymph?) that was as large as rostocki appeared briefly for the first time.

At 11.55pm Rotocki left the shelter briefly to defecate.


30 October - Overnight low of 11C and a high of 17C.

2.35am - left shelter to defecate
3-6am  - a great deal of (small) barkfly nymph activity at bottom of frame.

6.35am - Departed shelter and meandered to lichen. Fed along top edge of thallus before grazing on the top surface itself. Meal finished at 7.02am and back in shelter 7.03am.

7.15am - left shelter to defecate

9.20am - left to feed again. Arrived at lichen at 9.23am, finished meal at 9.53am and back in shelter a minute later.

3.48pm - left shelter to defecate

5.40pm - active within shelter until

5.50pm - it left the shelter and wandered out of frame briefly, being back in the shelter by 5.52pm.

11.16pm - left shelter to defecate.


31 October - Overnight low was 12C and the day's high was 19C.

2.08am - left to feed

2.09am  - defecated en-route

2.10am  - started feeding at edge of thallus;2.20am left lichen and returned to shelter by 2.21am

6.54am - left to feed again. Arrived at lichen at 6.56am; fed on top of thallus until 7.27am; back in shelter at 7.28am.

3.35pm - left shelter to defecate

4.38pm - activity in shelter until 5.10pm

8.27pm - left shelter to defecate


November 2009

1 November - overnight low of 9C, day's high 13C

6.50am - left to feed; arrived at underside of lichen at 6.51am; fed there before moving to top of thallus until 7.40am; returned to shelter at 7.45am.

4pm activity in shelter until 5.20pm; and again 6.15pm - 6.40pm, 8.55-9.10pm


2 November - Overnight low 7C, daytime high 13C

1.48am - Activity inside shelter until 2.40am

7.20am - left shelter to feed on top of lichen thallus from 7.28am until 8.15am; back in shelter at 8.17am.

4.26 - 4.52pm - active inside shelter, although it left shelter briefly and seemed to be adding silk around 6.31pm; no sign of defecation taking place.

11pm - left shelter to defecate.


3 November - Low 7C, high 14C

5.12am - left shelter to defecate

7.07am - left to feed at lichen from 7.11-7.55am; grazed along top edge and then top surface of thallus; back in shelter at 7.56am

4.35pm - left to feed again; at lichen from 4.39-4.56pm; back in shelter at 4.57pm but remained active until 5.35pm

6.03-6.20pm - further activity within shelter

6.55pm - a hunting spider approached but seemed to hesitate as soon as it encountered the silk threads below shelter and left the area.

10.50-11.05pm activity inside shelter


4 November - Overnight low 8C, high 13C

5.57am - left shelter to defecate

7.27am - left to feed,; arrived at lichen at 7.29am; out of sight under right side of thallus until 8.41am; back in shelter at 8.43am.

4.21pm - left shelter to defecate

6.42-7.42pm active within shelter.


5 November - Overnight low 9C, high 13C

7.20am - left to feed; arrived at lichen at 7.26am; grazed on top of thallus until 8.13am; back in shelter at 8.15am

3.20pm - left shelter to defecate

4.17-4.49pm - active inside shelter


6 November - Overnight low 9C, high 13C

12.58am - worked on silk outside shelter before defecating; back inside shelter at 1.01am

8.01am - left to feed, although it spent some time working on silk outside shelter before heading for the lichen; Fed from 8.06-8.54am, some of this time spent hidden behind the thallus; back in shelter at 8.57am

3.37pm - left to feed again; fed under thallus between 3.41-4.10pm; back in shelter at 4.11pm.


7 November - Overnight low 6C, high 12C

3.29am - left shelter to defecate

7.14am - left to feed; defecated en-route; at lichen from 7.21-8.55am (stopped feeding briefly at 8.16am); back in shelter at 8.56am

4.52pm - defecated

6-8.15pm - left shelter to defecate

CCTV monitoring set-up with IR lighting, 7 November 2009


During the day I replaced the colour camera with a black/white camera, and the red lamp with an array of 48 infra-red LEDs. These emit IR light at a wavelength of 940nm, so that they are completely invisible to the human eye.

This picture shows the arrangement, with the LED array to the left of the camera and a reflector on the long arm to the right. The yellow rectangle shows approximately the area on the log covered by the camera.




8 November - Overnight low 4C, high 10C

5am - Other barkfly (nymph) activity at lichen

7.20am - Left shelter to feed on top of and then under lichen (7.30-8.16am); back in shelter at 8.18am

3.41pm - Left shelter, defecated and then meandered to lichen; fed (3.45-4.26pm) on upper surface of thallus and then underneath it;  back in shelter 4.28pm.


9 November - Overnight low 3C, high 8C

7.20am - defecated without leaving shelter (rear of abdomen pointed out through an 'exit'.

10.19am - Left shelter; defecated; arrived at lichen 10.28am; grazed under thallus until 11.07am; back in shelter at 11.11am

3.50pm - 3.55pm activity in shelter, may have defecated without leaving shelter again.


10 November - Overnight low 5C, high 9C

8.06am - left shelter and defecated before meandering to lichen, arriving at 8.18am; fed under thallus until 9.19am; back in shelter by 9.22am

2.15pm - left shelter to defecate

4.14-4.20 and 5-7pm - activity inside shelter.


11 November - Overnight low 5C, high 11C

7.53am - moved to 'exit' of shelter

8.12-8.15am - grazed near shelter before heading to lichen; fed on top of thallus between 8.18-9.22am; back in shelter at 9.25am

9.16pm left shelter to defecate.


12 November - Overnight low 9C, high 12C

5.45am - started to move about in shelter, although only occasional position changes seen.

7.52am - Started heading out of shelter, but paused at 'exit' for ten minutes

8.03am - left shelter at 8.03am grazed on top of lichen thallus from 8.05am until it was disturbed by a barkfly nymph and left the lichen at 9.03am.; back in shelter at 9.06am

5.55pm - worked on silk around lower 'exit' of shelter before wandering to the right briefly; back in shelter by 6.01pm; continued work on silk for a few more minutes.


13 November - Overnight low 9C, high 14C

8.14am - left shelter to defecate

8.19am - left to feed; at lichen from 8.19am until disturbed by springtail at 8.30am; back in shelter at 8.31am.

10.15am - Left lichen to feed again between 10.17-10.51am, favouring the left edge of the thallus; back in shelter at 10.54am.

4.50pm - activity in shelter until 6.50-6.55pm when it worked on silk at lower end of shelter

8.29 - 9.15pm - further activity inside shelter.


14 November - Overnight low 10C, high 14C

7.40am - moved to exit; paused until it left at 7.58am; defecated en-route to lichen. Grazed from 8.03-9.12am; back in shelter at 9.14am

11.11-11.32am - activity within shelter; and again at 11.58-12.27am, 12.46-1.20pm, 3.10-3.20pm

4.03pm - left shelter to defecate


15 November - Overnight low 8C, high 14C

8.55am - moved to exit

8.58am - left shelter; defecated; headed for lichen; grazed from 9.06-10.02am; back in shelter at 10.04am

10.35pm left shelter to defecate


16 November - Overnight low 8C, high 13C

2.15am-4.30am activity inside shelter; and again 5.15-5.50am, 8.35-9.11am

A technical problem meant that there was no monitoring between 9.50-11.25am

No further activity seen today


17 November - Overnight low 8C, high 14C

Further technical problems meant that there are no records for today, up until 9pm. There was no activity seen between 9pm and midnight.


18 November - Overnight low 11C, high 14C

12.10am - left shelter to defecate

2.35-3.35am - activity inside shelter, and again at 4.15-5am

9.26am  - left shelter to feed at lichen (9.29-10.14am); back in shelter at 10.15am

4.27-4.50pm activity within shelter


19 November - Overnight low 11C, high 15C

12.30am - left shelter to defecate

7.50am - left shelter; defecate at 7.52am; arrived at lichen at 7.53am; grazed until 8.34am; back in shelter at 8.36am

2.32-2.50pm activity inside shelter

3.39-4.25pm - activity inside shelter

4.37pm - left to defecate -  this time the pellet was 'captured' by a strand of silk, only the second time that I have seen a pellet not projected out of the image frame; activity continued inside shelter until 4.50pm.

9.08-9.46pm more activity inside shelter


20 November - Overnight low 10C, high 15C

3.04-4.03am - Activity inside shelter

7.40am - left to feed at lichen (7.44-8.24am); back in shelter at 8.25am

4.39pm - left to defecate

11.15-1120pm - activity inside shelter


21 November - Overnight low 9C, high 15C

4.58-5.10am - activity inside shelter; the activity continued with pauses until

7.44am - left shelter to feed at lichen; returned to shelter at 8.25am

11.45am-2.15pm - activity inside shelter

4.37pm - left shelter to defecate

7-9pm - activity inside shelter, and again at 9.50-10.15pm


22 November - Overnight low 9C, high 13C

3.45-4.45am - activity inside shelter

8.07am - left to feed; left lichen at 8.32am; back in shelter at 8.35am

11.41am - left to feed at lichen again; returned to shelter 12.11pm

3.36-3.43pm - activity outside lower end of shelter, working on silk.

4.08-4.33pm - activity inside shelter.


23 November - Overnight low 11C, high 13C

1.20am - started to become active

1.35am - moved to lower 'exit' and then remained still until

Then there was a drastic variation in rostocki's behaviour. It left the shelter at 3.17am, and disappeared from the image (the camera was covering just the area around the shelter as I had been trying to capture the process of defecation). It hadn't returned when we got up, so I went outside and panned the camera back to cover a larger area. I was relieved to spot it feeding on the 'usual' lichen at around 9.32am.

While I watched, it finished the meal a minute later and wandered off. However, instead of heading 'home' it meandered around as though lost. Eventually it found itself back at the Lichen at 9.39am. As soon as that happened, it seemed to pick up the trail back to the shelter and was back inside within a minute.

One problem with photograph (still or video) at this range is the very shallow depth of field. The lens on the cctv camera has to be focused manually so I have to guess the best position when I try to capture events like the barkfly defecating.

P. rostocki defecates - pellet projected to the right, 23 November 2009In this case everything seemed to be right until she lifted her rear end higher than I had anticipated, and I had to dash outside to adjust the lens by a small fraction of a millimetre. I made it just in time as she projected the pellet out of frame!

The lower images show consecutive frames in the sequence.

 At the right of the three pictures you can see a similar, spherical pellet that was projected by her two days ago, but which was 'captured' by a strand of silk. That is the only pellet produced by her that I can see in the area around the shelter.

10.04am - left the shelter to defecate

10.35am-2.15pm - periods of activity inside the shelter

2.16pm - stopped with rear of abdomen sticking out of lower exit of shelter

4.37pm - reversed out and defecated; returned inside shelter immediately afterwards.


24 November - Overnight low 9C, high 14C

7.15am - left shelter to defecate

7.47am - left shelter and headed up, disappearing out of sight.

8.20am - it reappeared and spent time grazing on algae near the top-right of the image (above the lichen)

8.32am - returned to shelter

3.39pm - left shelter and headed down-left out of view; returned to shelter at 3.49pm

The change in rostocki's behaviour continued today, with it staying away from the shelter for a much longer period than at any time since the beginning of October. It seems that it has lost interest in the lichen which has sustained it since the beginning of October.

At around 10pm barkfly nymphs started grazing in the area below the shelter. This activity continued all through the night, with at least eight nymphs in the group, and occasionally one would approach within millimetres of the shelter.


25 November - temperatures not recorded, but similar to yesterday

At 7.29am rostocki suddenly left the shelter and headed up out of the image frame. When I first checked the image at 9am she had still not returned. Five minutes later I spotted it grazing on algae some way to the right of the shelter. Soon afterwards she headed down, passing to the right of the lichen. The camera recorded her briefly just one more time as she headed back up and off further to the right. This time she went towards an area of the log which is covered with lichen similar in type to the one she has fed on since I started watching her.

She had not returned to the shelter by this afternoon and I have spent a couple of hours searching for her in vain. While its disappearance is a bit disappointing, I'm not really surprised. The solitary lichen is looking rather worst for wear, and I had wondered how long it would be before she needed to find a 'fresh one'. I will be checking the log again over the days to come, but with so many hiding places available, coupled with her tendency not to wander far, It's going to be a real game of hide and seek!

I spent a short time examining the shelter in the hope of confirming the presence of an egg (see notes for 16 October). However, that inspection didn't reveal any sign of one. at some point during the winter I need to look again with better lighting and a more powerful magnifier.

There were no further sightings of rostocki over the next twenty four hours, and despite several searches of the log I have failed to find it. The back of the log  has a thick covering of lichens, as well as mosses which are growing along the cracks in the bark, so it is very possible that rostocki has found better grazing. I will continue to check on the log during the rest of the winter, and spray it with rain water regularly when there is no danger of frosts.

Click on images to see larger version

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