Thursday, March 20, 2014

“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head, and whispered to her neighbor...winter is dead.” ...

It's only nine days since I was last sat here writing up a blog entry but those days have been almost exclusively filled with sunshine-what a difference it has made to nature, the countryside and my mood!



A note of caution, we are promised a return to frosts and low pressure shortly, for now though, things are really starting to move on apace. First thing of note is that our local Blue-tits seem to be interested in taking up residence in one of the nest boxes again this year.

There are two boxes that have been used but this seems to be their favourite. T'other one was preferred, until I decided one year to fit a camera inside to allow me to observe the young, since that day, it hasn't been considered.

The cherry tree at the front of the house is in full flower now and alive with honey bees, the sound is amazing...here's a snap, sans bees...





There are also sunny daffodils everywhere right now; here's a short clip of a few swaying in the wind in slow motion...

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(A reminder here about these videos only showing in the online version and not the e.mailed one)

On a walk through the local countryside the other day I spotted this new grass growth-what a colour, I couldn't resist a shot...



Yes, there's little doubt that England is entering one of the most exciting times of year for not only the creatures that I love to seek out but for any of us that enjoy nature in all its forms. Today is officially the first day of spring and the sap is definitely rising! Well, it seems to have done so for this tree, it appears to have taken a bit of a detour en-route though...


Joking aside, I have no idea what might have caused this strange deformed growth but yet again, just had to photograph it.




Back in the garden, I have been trying to photograph springtails again. I have featured these little creatures before in my blog and you may remember that they are only tiny and as such create problems as far as getting detailed photos goes. 
Well I have discovered a species in the water barrel that is even smaller than those I have previously been seeing. To give you an idea of size, take a look at the picture on the left here.
I have marked the width of the rim of this little dish and inside the red circle is a teeny black dot. Actually, that is one of the springtails before getting the macro lens on it to try and show some detail.

The next photograph shows how surprisingly well marked they are..


This was photographed at x5 but even then didn't fill the frame and so a crop was required; I really want to try and get even closer if I can as cropping loses detail.


Something completely different now. I had an afternoon 'birding' recently-just around the local fields and woods and took a few photos but.....as sometimes happens, one that I 'messed-up on' by shooting into the sun, somehow had an appeal of its own when I saw it on the computer and so, I messed around with it a little more! And here's the result for better or worse, you decide...


Okay, just as proof that I can manage "normal" shots as well...


The robin was really interesting to watch actually, I saw a pair exhibiting courtship behaviour, with the male feeding the female. Apparently this is clear evidence that they are in the early stages of nesting.

Robins spend a lot of time on the ground foraging for their food...





Before I bring this update to a close I should add that as yet, there has been no change to the cocoon that featured in the last update.

I'll wind up this entry with yet another of those moments when I have been left speechless by nature. The bee pictured below (and special mention must go to my good friend Tim Ransom and his 'bee expert' chums who identified it for me) was absolutely loaded to the gunnels with pussy-willow pollen to an extent I have never seen before...

Andrena praecox
And so, as I always say...'until then next time...'

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

At last the weather relents...

What a change since I last updated the blog-the weather is what I refer to of course. We seem to have left the wet stuff behind in favour of sunshine and warmer temperatures (I hope I don't regret saying that) and it now feels as though spring has been urging winter to retire in favour of new life and has grabbed this opportunity without waiting to see if it was done.

Just today walking locally, I spotted primrose, cuckoo-flower, blackthorn, violet, wood anemone all in flower.
There were lots of brimstone butterflies, a few comma butterflies, as well as peacock and small tortoiseshell.

The pussy willow is coming in to flower now and that is always one of the earliest forms of pollen available to the insects...




Click any photo for a larger version

Did you spot the butterfly in that picture?



The honey bees have also returned in force and were busy on the crocuses...
(Please be aware that if you only view the e.mailed version, this video won't show, you'll need to click the link at the bottom of the email.)


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I spent around three hours at Ashdown Forest last week, I arrived early morning to search for adders but despite a thorough search of several likely areas, found none on the day. There were a few other finds as always and so it wasn't a complete waste of time and maybe I'll try again in a few weeks.

Ashdown Forest


Continuing meanwhile with the tradition of mystery objects...this is from the fence in the garden and I almost overlooked it, thinking it was just another spider 'nest' and who knows, maybe it'll turn out to be exactly that. What particularly interested me though, were all of those tiny orange dots. I can't pick out any detail myself from this one photo but I shall be keeping an eye on it to see what develops. The whole thing is I would guess about 20mm across.

I know for instance that garden spider spiderlings are yellow when juvenile and so maybe orange isn't so strange after all?







You might remember that I mentioned in my last update I had seen my first moth of the year. It had actually flown into the house-well, here's the photograph that I took at the time. I am still not certain of the identity but offer Tortricoes alternella as a possibility. It's only a tentative idea and is really based around that species being one of the earliest to emerge.

There will be somebody who knows for sure, there are far too many for my liking to choose from. I hope to improve my skills though as I get into using the moth trap again through 2014.
In fact, I may well dig it out and set up in the next few days if the weather stays as it is.




Since that find I have discovered another moth. This time on one of my afternoon walks. It was sitting on a fence-post and well camouflaged. It seemed very lethargic and wasn't at all bothered by my taking pictures and was still in exactly the same spot when I passed again sometime later.

I wonder if this one could be an early grey moth. Flying time seems just about right but again, just not sure-to me the markings seem to be less distinctive than I would expect. Whatever it turns out to be, it is nice to see these returning as so many insects are now that the weather is more forgiving.




Now....here's the exciting bit I've been dying to share with you since getting the latest photograph; I said in response to a comment on that amazingly tiny cocoon in my last update that I'd try and add an updated photo here. Well I took another close-up (x5) shot of it just today and there has been a big change as you can see for yourself here...



I'd be interested to hear if anyone has an idea of exactly what may eventually emerge using just the clues in this photo- there are some definite...shapes! But what are they? It has just occurred to me that it may be a parasite?

Finally for now, here's what I think is a wolf spider exhibitinBallooning behaviour (link)..




Until the next time.....