Garden watching Saturday 24 April 2021
So here we are, well into April and it is still cold with bitter easterly winds; although it has been warm when the sun appears in sheltered locations.
The blackthorn flowers are nearly over and their bees and other insects will have to find somewhere else to seek nectar. The oaks are only just coming into bud meaning that the winter moth caterpillars that feed on oak leaves have yet to appear. These caterpillars are the staple food of blue tits and which birds bring them to their young in great numbers. Hopefully, the bluetits will delay their nesting until the oaks come into leaf and the caterpillars become abundant. Blue tits have been investigating our nest boxes but none have settled into them yet and perhaps they are indeed awaiting the winter moth caterpillars.
Orange-tip butterflies have become abundant over the last few days and this one found itself being chased around the garden by a man and his camera until it settled in full view on a primrose plant (image 1). Other butterflies about are peacocks which appear when the sun shines. We have also seen small tortoiseshells and brimstones but no red admirals as yet.
Our trail cameras picked up a young boar badger at the end of the garden (image 2). It is always good to see badgers about; although sadly, one has been killed on the A272 part way into Petersfield. We have yet to see a hedgehog this year, dead or alive. We did see a fox recently by the bird feeders at Petersfield Heath and roe deer can still be seen in our local grass fields. Brown hares can be seen in arable fields and it is worth looking out for them while driving, cycling or walking our local lanes and footpaths. Reddish brown bank voles are resident below our wildlife tins along with (so far) a single slow-worm. Our tadpoles are now free swimming in the pond.
Other birds in the garden include two blackbird pairs busy collecting earthworms from our rather dry lawn to feed their young (image 3) and we have also seen song thrushes and mistle-thrushes and also dunnocks, jackdaws and a great spotted woodpecker. Starlings have been keeping us awake in the morning because they are nesting in the roof above our bedroom making an almighty racket as they tend to their nest (image 4). Collared doves (image 5) have been rare in the garden over recent years, but this year we have seen a single pair up in our oak tree and feeding on the ground. Collared doves are recognisable as being smaller and more delicate than wood pigeons and having a thin black band around their necks (image 5) – unlike wood pigeons that have white neck patches (image 6). Going out to get the washing one very cold night, Mary was surprised to find a roosting fledgling robin (image 7) on the washing line and we hope it survived in the cold that night. We have had a fleeting visit from a green woodpecker.
Little black and white zebra jumping spiders (only a few millimetres long) run back and forth across our south facing wall when the bricks have been warmed by the sun. These are usually males that we presume are seeking females. These tiny spiders have the most amazing eyes (image 8). Red mason bees (image 9) are busy investigating their ‘bee hotels’ that I have made by drilling holes into assorted pieces of wood. Ashy mining bees are re-establishing their colony on our lawn by digging their vertical burrows into the soil between the grass plants (image 10). These mining bees are parasitised by the bee-flies that lay their eggs in their burrows so that the bee-fly larvae can devour the mining bee larvae.
Finally, it has not been a good week for moths, but this lovely swallow prominent moth appeared in the trap (image 10).