Archive of posts with the category 'Wildlife'

First frog spawn of 2010

Yesterday I was really pleased to see a clump of frog spawn in the pond. The appearance of frog spawn is slightly earlier than last year (18th March) and later than both of the previous years (3rd March and 23rd February). Sorry for the arty photo 🙂 This morning I was even more pleased to see two more clumps of spawn. This is the most we’ve ever had in the pond. One big difference this... Read on

Signs of spring?

We’ve had a few days of warm weather and the garden is bursting in to life. One of my favourite sights at this time of year are crocuses. I love the fact that these early flowers give a splash of colour and provide nectar to the first insects to appear after winter. I also saw another early butterfly, following on from the Red Admiral I saw in January, I saw a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)... Read on

Pond tidy up

I spent some time clearing up the pond this weekend. The pond was getting a bit overgrown (as seen on the pond timeline). It was fairly chilly work but it’s the best time to clear out the excess weed from the pond as the animals and plants haven’t really got going yet. As a result the effect of removing the weed has the lowest impact on other things. Despite the cold weather, and it being... Read on

First butterfly of 2010

I saw my first butterfly of the year today; one of those moments an entomologist looks forward to every year. It was a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), a species that overwinters as an adult. I think the warm weather brought out this individual a bit earlier than usual. Hopefully this is a positive sign that we’ll have a good year for butterflies. Read on

Foxy visitor

One of the advantages of our new back door is that we get a good view of our garden at all hours of the day. Last night we spotted a young fox on our patio only a couple of inches from the door. The fox looked quite young and didn’t appear worried by us as we watched. I even managed to get a picture when it moved further away: A young fox on the steps... Read on

Another new butterfly in the garden

Whilst clearing up some of the vegetable beds this afternoon I noticed a butterfly species new to the garden. I saw a single Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) feeding on the flowers of the Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica) growing in the margins of the pond. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo of the butterfly but I did take one of the Fleabane flowers: Common Fleabane flowers Read on

Summer work and summer chafers

I’ve now started work on the raised beds and steps closest to the house. I’m planning to build the beds out of fence posts and deck boards. We’re also going to clad our “feature sleeper steps” (estate agent speak) since they ooze tar when it’s warm weather and so we can’t sit on them. We could just buy pressure treated ones but it seems a shame to get rid of these ones so cladding with... Read on

Harlequin pupae

We’ve had the Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) present in or garden for some time. this year I’ve seen even more adults than last year and we’ve lots of pupae in the garden: Pupae of the Harlequin ladybird Read on

Chicks fledged

I know it was only last week when I first mentioned the birds nesting on or in our house this year. However, they had been there for a while before I posted and both sets of chicks have now fledged. Once again we managed to miss seeing them leave their respective nests. Read on


I’ve been meaning to post for a while as we’ve got two groups of birds with chicks at the house. Once again the starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are nesting in the eaves of the house. They nest in the roof each year and the chicks hatched a few weeks ago. They must be getting quite big by now – they’re certainly noisy. We’ve also got Blue tits (Parus caeruleus) nesting in the sparrow terrace. This is... Read on

D,E,F – Damselfly, Eft and flowers

Whilst working on stage 2 of the testudarium today I had plenty of time to look out for interesting things in the garden. The first things I spotted was the first damselfly of the year. This is a Large Red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula), it was probably a female and had only recently emerged from the pond as it was rather reluctant to fly (which meant photographing it wasn’t too tricky): Whilst clearing a bit of... Read on

First Rose chafer of the year

I was doing a bit of weeding today and unearthed a Rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). Our garden attracts quite a few Rose chafers each year and we often have the grubs in the garden too. I assume this adult had developed in the garden as a grub and then pupated underground before being unearthed prematurely by me. Read on

Shelled-slug blows bubbles

Whilst building the Testudarium I found one of my favourite slugs, Testacella maugei. This is one of the shelled-slugs (you can see the shell in the picture) and they are carnivores preying on earthworms and other slugs. I moved the slug out of harm’s way but it then blew a large quantity of mucous bubbles at me – which seemed worthy of a photograph: I also found this fantastic slow worm (Anguis fragilis) which I... Read on

Bird bonanza

The garden is slowly coming to life after a rather cold winter. Encouragingly we’ve had a lot more birds in the garden recently. In fact, just now, we had four species at the same time: Dunnock (Prunella modularis) Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) It may not seem like much for those who live in the countryside but for a city garden that used to be very barren I think... Read on

First frog spawn of 2009

Having posted on Sunday about the lack of frog spawn I was really pleased to see a clump of frog spawn in the pond this evening. The appearance of frog spawn is later than last year (23rd February) and the previous year (3rd March) – I don’t care how late it is though, I’m always really pleased to see it in the pond. A clump of frog spawn in our pond (March 2009) Read on

First newt of 2009

Today I saw my first smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) of 2009 in the pond. In factIi saw at least three separate newts. This is earlier than the first sighting last year. I also saw several water measurers (Hydrometra stagnorum) around the pond margins. Unfortunately we’ve not got any frog spawn in the pond this year (yet). I was hoping that the lack of spawn was due to the cold weather during February and the frogs... Read on

Big Garden Birdwatch – bumper bird day

V and I have been doing the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for about four years now. Unfortunately the birdwatch is usually a rather depressing activity as our garden doesn’t get that many feathered visitors. We’ve always thought this was probably due to the fact that the garden was very empty when we bought the house. There were no trees or shrubs and therefore very little cover for the birds. Over the last four years we’ve... Read on

Pair of Robins

I saw a pair of robins in the garden today. They were feeding on the seed feeder and also on the Cotoneaster berries hanging over the fence from next door. We will encourage more birds into the garden… oh yes! Read on

Late green manuring… again

We had some good weather this weekend so I took the opportunity to put another coat of paint on the back of the house and also tidy up the veg plot a bit. I dug up the shrivelled remains of the beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn… all have been a disaster this year. I’m not sure if it was just the weather (a bit cold and very wet) but we’ve had very little out of the... Read on

Frogs and newts in the flowerbed

I decided to clear out some of the dead plants in the flowerbed closest to the house today. In the process of tidying up the flowerbed I found a juvenile frog and then also found an adult newt and three young newts. Adult smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris) One of the things I noticed was the very different colouration of the adult newt when compared to the breeding colours they adopt in the pond. Three young... Read on

The harlequin arrives!

I knew it was coming but it doesn’t make its arrival any less welcome. Yes, the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) has finally arrived in my garden. I thought I saw one individual last year but wasn’t 100% sure. This year there’s sadly no doubt: The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) - succinea variant The harlequin ladybird arrived in Britain in 2004 and has been spreading rapidly ever since. The ladybird out competes with our native ladybirds... Read on

Emperor's visit

Whilst having lunch next to the pond we noticed this fantastic Emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator). The dragonfly was next to its nymphal exuviae so had obviously climbed out of our pond. Emperor dragonfly drying its wings having emerged from the nymphal skin I also noticed this horse-fly (Tabanus sp.). The larvae of horse-flies live in damp soil so I suspect this one could’ve originated from the mud surrounding the pond. Adult horse-fly We’re also now... Read on

Great tits in the garden

We’ve been seeing an increasing number of birds in the garden recently (a blackbird and once again the starlings are nesting in our roof, the chicks hatched this week I think). I think this is partly due to the food we’re putting out but also the fact that the trees we planted are starting to provide a bit more cover. I popped out into the garden before work this morning and was pleased to see... Read on

Blackbird in the garden

Over the last few days I’ve noticed a blackbird (Turdus merula) in the garden. In a lot of places I suspect this isn’t a very notable event but we’ve had so few birds in the garden since we bought the house that it’s good news for us. We’ve been working quite hard on encouraging birds into the garden so hopefully the regular visits by this male blackbird are a good sign: Read on

Tadpole update 5

This evening we released our first froglet. The spawn came from our pond on the the 23rd February so it’s taken 73 days for the first frog to go from spawn to froglet. Here is the first froglet to be released into the wild: …and here’s the froglet sculling across the pond after release: Read on

A good year for water measurers?

When we first built the pond in 2005 one of the early visitors was a water measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum). I assumed it came in on a plant but could easily have flown to the pond. Over the last two years I’ve only seen one or two a year. They run across the surface film and feed on mosquito larvae which they spear from above with their mouthparts. However, over the Bank Holiday weekend I saw... Read on

A new butterfly in the garden

I’m always pleased when we get a new butterfly species visit the garden. I was especially pleased to see this individual. It’s a Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) and although it’s quite common it’s a very welcome visitor to our garden. Apologies for the poor photo but it insisted in feeding at the top of our Rowan tree and this was the best I could manage. Read on

First damselfly and dragonfly of the year

The weather has been quite warm this weekend (residents in the UK will note that this is unusual) and this has encouraged some of the damselfly and dragonfly nymphs in the pond to emerge and make their final moults. This was the first damselfly we spotted this year. It’s hard to tell what species it is until they’ve had a chance to develop their adult colours but I almost positive it’s a large red damselfly... Read on

Slow worms full of the joys of spring

When I lifted the old carpet off our compost heap today I found this fantastic pair of slow worms (Anguis fragilis). The lower of the two definitely looks quite fat and a bit lumpy to me so I suspect it’s a female and she’s pregnant. Slow worms carry their young within their bodies and the young are born live covered by a thin membrane which they quickly break open. We’ve had young slow worms in... Read on

Tadpole update 4 – the move onto land

After spotting the first tadpoles with front legs yesterday, I decided to put some wood into the tank this evening so they could climb out of the water if they wanted. It turns out that they were pretty keen… no sooner had I put the wood in than this little fellow hopped out onto it: Once his tail has started to shrink we’ll release the froglet into the pond. Read on

Tadpole update 3

When I got up this morning I discovered that some of the common frog tadpoles (Rana temporaria) in the tank have now got front legs as well as back legs. If I remember my biology properly I think the front legs develop inside pouches down the side of the tadpole and then pop out. The back legs develop externally and so their progress is more gradual. Read on

Tadpole update 2

Exciting news, the tadpoles in the tank have started developing their back legs. Some of the largest tadpoles are now about 4cm in length and, either side of the base of their tail, we can now see their back legs. It won’t be long before I have to start thinking about putting something into the tank that they can climb out on to. The tadpoles in the pond are, as you’d expect, some way behind... Read on

Tadpole update 1

On the 23rd of February we found a large clump of frog (Rana temporaria) spawn in our pond. Last year many of the tadpoles were eaten by our newts so I thought I’d bring in a small piece of the spawn this year and rear it through. The spawn has been in a fish tank in our kitchen since the end of February. The remaining spawn in the pond has now hatched and the tadpoles... Read on

Rose chafer larvae

Beetle grubs may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m always amazed by them. I was emptying out one of the large plastic flower pots in the garden and found ten large larvae of the rose chafer (Cetonia aurata). We often get a few adults of this large and attractive beetle in the garden each year. They are particularly fond of the blossom on the rowan tree. I moved all the larvae to a... Read on

First adult frog!

Today is a very special day for me, it’s the first time that I’ve seen an adult frog (Rana temporaria) in our garden. We know they must visit as we’ve had frog spawn for the last two years. However, in four years, we’ve not actually seen an adult frog in the garden…. until today. I was doing a bit of weeding in the flower bed closest to the house when I spotted this handsome individual:... Read on

Bugs, green manure, seeds and bluebells

It was a warm day today and it obviously brought out some of the early spring insects. There were many solitary bees buzzing around our daffodils. They looked like mining bees to me so I suspect they’ll be looking for bare patches of earth to dig burrows in too. I also spotted this adult green shield bug (Palomena prasina) crawling along the branches of my loganberry: Having now received my veg seeds for 2008 I... Read on

First butterfly of the year

Today I saw the first butterfly of the year in the garden, it was a Small white (Pieris rapae). The butterfly was flying round the agricultural mustard that I planted as green manure on the vegetable plots. The agricultural mustard has also started to flower, apparently you’re supposed to cut it down before it flowers but the flowers are great for bees and butterflies that are out and about in spring. Read on

First frog spawn of 2008

Few events can herald the arrival of spring like the appearance of frog spawn. Our pond received its first clump of wild frog spawn last year but we’ve yet to see any adult frogs (Rana temporaria) in our garden despite being in our house for almost four years. It’s not through lack of looking either. However, see them or not, adult frogs obviously do visit our garden as, within the last 24hrs, we’ve had a... Read on

Has spring sprung?

An exciting day in the garden today. We’ve now got five crocuses in bloom (four yellow and one purple) and they’re really cheering up our view of the garden. Also, for the first time, I saw a robin (Erithacus rubecula) in our garden. I’m a huge fan of robins as they don’t seem that bothered by people, eat loads of slugs and they have a fantastic song. Seeing one in our garden for the first... Read on

More birds in the garden

I cleaned out the bird’s peanut feeder this weekend and also replenished the seed feeders. We still don’t have a vast number of birds visiting the garden but the numbers are increasing. Regular visitors now include wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), collared doves (Streptopelia decaocto) a male blackbird (Turdus merula) and most recently we’ve been visited by a wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). Apparently wrens are the commonest breeding bird in the UK but due to their size... Read on

Too wet, even for pond skaters

The weather has been awful this weekend and it seems that the torrential rain was even too much for the group of pond skaters (Gerris lacustris) that live in the water butt. Here they are sheltering on a leaf that’s blown into the water butt and is floating on the surface. I must admit, I thought that pond skaters left the water in winter and hibernated well away from it. These individuals are adults (they... Read on

Caterpillar update 4

It’s been a pretty awful weekend in terms of the weather. We’ve had really heavy rain, gale-force winds and even hail. However, it’s been a good weekend for the large white caterpillars (Pieris brassicae). Many of the large caterpillars have left the food plant and are obviously looking for a place to pupate. I spotted this one climbing up the side of the greenhouse. Looking round the greenhouse and the nearby fence I found a... Read on

Caterpillar update 3

The larger of the large white caterpillars are still feeding well despite the cold weather we’ve had over the last week or so. Unfortunately some of the smaller ones definitely didn’t survive the sharp frost. Interestingly enough many of the dead caterpillars are still clinging to the cabbage despite being killed by the frost being several days ago: However, amongst the large white caterpillars I did spot this unusual caterpillar. This is the caterpillar of... Read on

Caterpillar update 2

This morning’s hard frost may have been beautiful but I don’t think it was great for the large white caterpillars (Pieris brassicae). I think the large caterpillars should be OK despite them looking pretty cold: However, I think the frost may have been too much for the less developed individuals. I’ll keep and eye on them and report on progress but they don’t seem to have done as well as the others. Read on

Caterpillar update

A few days ago I mentioned a very late brood of large white caterpillars feeding on my cabbage. The caterpillars appear to be doing OK despite the cold weather so I’ve taken a picture of their progress. There is still quite a range of sizes but some are late instars now and should be able to pupate before the weather gets really cold. Read on


I’m taking a day off from the greenhouse build today, mainly because I need some help with the next steps as they can’t be done by just one person (and V is at work). Anyway, I had a wander round the garden as it’s really sunny and quite warm for October. Despite sowing my green manure late, the plants seem to be coming up well. If it stays reasonably warm for a bit longer then... Read on

Nest box clean up

In September 2006 we bought a Wiggly Wigglers’ Sparrow Parade. We put it up around this time last year and, in spring this year, we were pleased to see that a pair of blue tits (Parus caeruleus) had taken up residence. The blue tits successfully produced a brood of chicks but we don’t know how many as they left the nest while we were on holiday. Anyway, as the weather is getting colder we thought... Read on

Oxford Bee Company nest in use

I’ve had an Oxford Bee Company mason bee nest in the garden for a couple of years now. This year it’s been used for the first time though. Strangely enough it’s been used by leaf cutting bees (Megachile sp.) rather than the mason bees though: The leaf cutting bees and mason bees still prefer the bamboo canes in the other insect nest habitat I have though. Read on

Newts and bugs

Despite the cold weather there are still a few cold-bloodied creatures that are active in the garden. Whilst tidying up around the edge of the pond today I found a young smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris). I’m not sure if they’re called Efts after they’ve left the pond but this newt was only 3cm long so will definitely have been one of this year’s brood. I’ve also been noticing a few other young newts remaining within... Read on

Grey dagger moth caterpillar

Today I found this fantastic Grey dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta psi) on the small-leaved lime tree in the garden. These caterpillars eat leaves on many different trees and shrubs including birch, hawthorn and lime (two of which we have in the garden). Grey dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta psi) Read on

Hatchling slow worm

Today I found this hatchling slow worm (Anguis fragilis) on our patio. It can’t be very old because it’s less than 100mm in length, it’s strong evidence that the adult slow worms we see in the garden are breeding. Young slow worms develop inside the female and when they are born they are enclosed in a thin membrane. They quickly break free from the membrane and are fully mobile. The edge of my lens cap... Read on

First wild frog spawn

Today was a very exciting day. Our pond is only about 21 months old and today we noticed our very first clump of wild frog spawn in it. The spawn is from the common frog (Rana temporaria) but, other than some donated frog spawn we had last year, we’ve never seen a frog in our garden. True to form, the parents of this spawn were nowhere to be seen. It’s interesting to note that frogs... Read on

Wolf spiders

This time of year is great for wolf spiders (Pardosa sp.) in our garden. The warm weather brings out the females as they like to bask and warm their egg sacs. Female wolf spiders show a considerable amount of parental care. They attach their egg sacs to their abdomen and carry it with them. When the young spiderlings emerge they climb on her back and she carries them around for some time like this. Read on

Woodlouse stronghold

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of woodlice we have in our garden. There must be hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Sometimes when you lift up a rock or a piece of wood the ground actually seems to ‘boil’ with them as they all struggle to hide. At some point in the future I’ll do a survey and find out how many species we have here. Read on