My apologies for the quality of the header image that is present whilst this blog post is current. It is a screen grab from video taken by one of my garden trail cams and features an event that I'll speak of towards the end of this post
The fortnight that is featured in this blog post was one that found me somewhat busy with major chores around the house and garden and with getting sorted out with arrangements for future wildlife monitoring, club activities, and putting a talk together. I did, nevertheless, manage to take some photos, and even got out on a few occasions. There were also a few significant episodes during the two weeks. So here we go!
Monday, 19th April Garden
After breakfast, which we always have in the conservatory, I noticed a lacewing on the outside of the conservatory window. I went for the camera and managed a shot of its underside from inside. The light was difficult on this tiny insect and the sun illuminated dust spots on the glass (only myself to blame as I'm responsible for all window cleaning!). I believe this to be Chrysoperia carnea.
Later that morning, when I went out to the garage, I noticed a tiny spider on the garage back door. This is one of the jumping spiders.
|Chrysoperia carnea - garden|
Common Dog-violet grows as a weed in our garden and, in the past, I have tried to keep it down. This year, however, I have left some small patches to get on with it, and we're finding them to be quite delightful.
|Salticus singulatus - garden|
|Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) - garden|
The biggest garden surprise of the day, however, was our first Redpoll for the year. I was beginning to think that we'd missed out on a spring visit from this species.
That night, the moth trap went out. The result was not so good, with just 11 moths of 4 species. However, I did get two firsts for the year with Early Thorn (1) and Brindled Beauty (3). The second image, below, was carefully placed on a leaf to give a more natural-looking background as friend David in Canada prefers it that way! I fully sympathise with this view, but transferring a moth from a trap onto a leaf and getting it to stay there is not often easy!
|Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden|
|Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria) - from garden moth trap|
Tuesday, 20th April Garden
|Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria) - from garden moth trap|
I was disappointed to go into the garden first thing in the morning and find a mass of feathers on the ground and a trail of feathers going out through the Hedgehog hole in the side gate. The feathers looked like Stock Dove and the trail said "cat". On examining the garden trail cams, I saw that I had, indeed, had the two Stock Doves that had been regular visitors for a year or so now, and the black cat that is a real menace in the garden had been around at the same time. I did not, however, get any footage of the attack.
Here is a video clip of the Stock Doves from that morning. I'm trying out presenting video in a different format in the hope of achieving better resolution. I hope that it does not cause too many problems with increased bandwidth - my apologies to Diane in advance if it doesn't work with your slow internet!
While having lunch, a moth bumped into the conservatory window and landed on the outside sill. I grabbed the camera and rushed outside and just managed a few shots before it flew. I had some difficulty identifying it, but @MothIDUK came to the rescue. It was Small Ranunculus, and a garden 'lifer'.
Wednesday, 21st April Garden
|Small Ranunculus (Hecatera dysodea) - garden|
Nothing remarkable this day, but I did take a few shots of a Goldfinch outside my study window.
Thursday, 22nd April Garden
|Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden|
A sunny period brought out male and female Orange-tip butterflies. I got some shots of a female which, although it visited the Garlic Mustard in the garden, showed no signs of ovipositing.
Friday, 23rd April Garden
|Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (female) - garden|
I was busy in the garden for much of the day, but had my camera to hand. It kept the birds away, but I took some shots of insects. Please excuse me not having the time to research what species the bee might have been. To me, it looks a little like a Western Honey Bee, but it was behaving strangely, probing into the lower parts of the grass-like leaves of the 'fibre-optic plant' in our mini-pond.
|Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) (female) - garden|
|bee sp. - garden|
Saturday, 24th April Sence Valley Forest Park
|Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) (male+female in cop) - garden|
Last year, I was invited by Forestry England to survey for odonata at some small ponds in an area recently added to an existing forest park. These ponds were behind a fence and not accessible to the public. I did this a few times last year but in a limited fashion due to the Covid situation and FE's own regulations on volunteer working during the pandemic. This year I have been given the go-ahead for full access. Although it was rather early in the season for any species that might be found in this sort of habitat, I though I should take a look-see at the current situation on site, and check that the key I had worked the locks to the gates.
As I approached, the Blackthorn blossom alongside the perimeter fence was spectacular.
I was not wary enough as I approached the first pond as I was having to watch my foot-fall to avoid the newly planted trees in the area. This resulted in a Green Sandpiper seeing me before I saw it, and taking off, heading towards Kelham Bridge, before I could get a shot. The Mallards, however, that I spotted on a visit (outside the fence) a week or so earlier were still there.
|Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) - Sence Valley FP|
I was disappointed at the state of the ponds, with very little water in the first pond where the sandpiper had been, the next pond being totally dry, the third pond was not in too bad a condition, but the fourth pond (by far the largest) was seriously covered in thick blanket weed. This was almost certainly caused by run-off from the surrounding land which, until a couple of years ago, had been intensively farmed and regularly spread with manure. This place was good for dragonflies last year, but I am not over-hopeful for success this year.
Having checked inside the fence I took a look at the scrapes between the fenced area and the River Sence. These too were well down on water compared to last year.
I then followed the Sence westward, and was heartened by the song of Skylarks way up in the sky above me.
They didn't even stop when a Sparrowhawk came drifting by at a great height - obviously not in hunting mode.
|Skylark (Alauda arvensis) - Sence Valley FP|
Reaching the north west edge of the park I headed into the older area, taking shots of butterflies as I went along.
|Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) - from Sence Valley FP|
|Green-veined White (Pieris napi) (female) - Sence Valley FP|
|Peacock (Aglais io) - Sence Valley FP|
I then headed to Usbourne Pool at the far south west of the park and had a good look around, but saw no sign of any dragonflies or damselflies there.
|Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) (male) - Sence Valley FP |
Just before getting back to my car, I took a shot of a Long-tailed Tit near the path.
Sunday, 25th April Heather Lake : Saltersford Valley : Garden
|Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Sence Valley FP|
I do not usually like to go out looking for wildlife at weekends, especially on Sundays when places can get over-busy. However, there are a few places nearby which are relatively quiet people-wise at weekends. One of these places is Heather Lake, and on this day I went to check it out as I had not been there for a long while, and I wanted to see if there was any sign of dragonflies and damselflies emerging.
My first impressions as I passed through the gate that lets onto the track to the lake were not encouraging. There were huge stacks of felled trees beside the track. However, this seemed to have been as a result of thinning out the woodland that had been very densely populated with trees.
On my way down the track I photographed one of the several Speckled Wood butterflies that were around the track.
There was another worrying sight when I reached the lake and that was that the water at the edge of the lake was choked with chopped up reeds floating on the surface. I'm somewhat mystified as to how this has happened as the vegetation on dry land at the edge of the lake was unharmed, but there were virtually no reeds left standing in the water. It was if they had been shredded by someone on the water. I am concerned that this might have ruined this place as an odonata hot-spot.
|Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) - near Heather Lake|
The usual suspects (Mute Swan, Coot, and Moorhen) were all present on the water, and I suspect someone has been feeding them, as a swan followed me round the lake and a Coot swam towards me as I approached. The Moorhens, however, were far more wary!
|Coot (Fulica atra) - Heather Lake|
|Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Heather Lake|
There was absolutely no sign of any odonata activity, so I departed to check out one of my other dragonfly locations - Saltersford Valley. No signs of any odonata activity here either, but the visit was not without interest.
|Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Heather Lake|
I was pleased to see a very distant Jay.
At the lake which is furthest from the entrance, I noticed an interesting-looking midge-like creature on the surface of the water. The experts assure me that it is a non-biting midge of the Chironomini group, but there's not enogh detail there to take the ID further.
|Jay (Garrulus glandarius) - Saltersford Valley|
A Great Crested Grebe was out on the water.
|Chironominid - Saltersford Valley|
Further round the loop I saw this insect which I took to be a type of wasp. I am now relatively certain, however, that it is a Flavous Nomad Bee.
|Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Saltersford Valley|
|Flavous Nomad Bee (Nomada flava) (female) - Saltersford Valley|
Back at base, and doing a bit of gardening in the afternoon, I found this very small, but strikingly coloured, beetle in a dark corner - hence the poor photo!
Tuesday, 27 April Garden
|Scarlet Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii) - garden|
Another unremarkable day in the garden. However, I did grab a shot of one of the Carrion Crows that occasionally visit the garden, but usually hide themselves behind branches. This one was on the back fence, and a bit more out in the open.
I used to set the timers on the trail cams to switch on half an hour after sunset, and switch off half an hour before sunrise. More recently, as the nights get shorter, I have not re-adjusted the settings, so I am getting some daylight recordings. I found this next clip of Starlings having their bath before bedtime, in what we jokingly refer to as "the duckpond", to be amusing.
|Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden|
Wednesday, 28th April Garden
My latest spring record of Siskin in the garden had been 20th April (in 2016) so it was good to be able to record that this species was still with us at this late date.
|Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden|
Not to be outdone, however, the male Bullfinch put in an appearance.
|Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden|
Friday, 30th April Moira Junction Nature Reserve
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden|
In discussion with the local Community Ranger of Leicestershire County Council's Country Parks Service about monitoring the dragonfly situation at Saltersford Valley CP, he told me of a local site that I was totally unaware of. This was Moira Junction - a relatively small site at a former railway junction, where the long disused Burton on Trent to Nuneaton line once joined the still used Burton to Leicester line. There used to be a railway yard here, serving the local coal industry. Now it is a nature reserve, with two small, but long, ponds, and it has dragonflies. I decided I should take a look.
I arrived to find that, over the winter, much thinning of the local woodland had taken place and the brush used to build barriers in an effort to stop dogs getting into the water. This seems to have worked well as I was delighted to see Moorhens with young chicks on the ponds.
There was also an extremely attractive information board on site.
|Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Moira Junction NR|
I look forward to checking this place out when the dragonfly season gets underway - it seems to have stalled at the moment!
|Information Board - Moira Junction NR|
Saturday, 1st May Garden
I was pleased to see that the remaining Stock Dove paid us a visit, but it was also a rather sad occasion as it didn't feed. I got the impression that it had just returned in the hope of finding its partner safe and well.
I was, nevertheless, somewhat cheered by a pair of Bullfinch being more obliging than usual. The male had a bit of an arguement with a female Chaffinch!
|Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden|
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) + Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (female) - garden|
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male)- garden|
I still maintain that Bullfinch are the messiest eaters in the garden, as witnessed in the above image!
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female)- garden|
Sunday, 2nd May Garden
This day brought the biggest surprise we'd had for a long while when I looked out of the bedroom window as I got out of bed and saw a pair of Mallards in the garden. These were a garden 'lifer', and although we have what we call "the duck pond" its surface area is about the size of a kitchen sink and is not as deep as one. At Lindsay's suggestion, I ran down stairs, stark naked, and grabbed the camera but, without risking exposing myself, I was not able to get a usable photo. However, fortunately, the trail cams captured the event.
This was not the only surprise, however. The trail cams also captured a visit by a Fox. Sadly, this vixen has a problem with her front right leg. It appears that she has lost her foot, or maybe more. This brings me to the end of this blog post. I am hoping that we will soon get an improvement in the weather situation so that, now that the rules condone such travel, I will be able to get out and about more and bring a little more variety to what I present on my blog posts.
Thank you for your visit. I'm not sure when I'll be back but, in the meantime, take great care and stay safe.