Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Home Patch (7): LBJ? ... Not Quite

I noticed over at 10,000 Birds that there was a post on the Best Bird of the Weekend. I may be running a few hours late, but that need not stop me from posting my pictures of this LBJ. The bird scuttled in the undergrowth between showers, and at first I thought it was going to be one of the resident Dunnocks. I got my camera out and took the pictures that you see, keeping my distance as the bird was clearly shy, and using my maximum zoom. The bird splashed about in the rain water, before turning to face the window.

It wasn't a Dunnock, but it took me a while to realise that ...

... this fluffy little bird would soon fall out of the LBJ category for it was in fact ...

... a young British Robin!

It was hopping about in the company of its father, who kept a certain distance, presumably so that the youngster would begin to gain a measure of confident independence. Adolescent birds lose their speckles at the age of about 2 months and only gain their highly visible feathers of resplendent red once these creatures are of an age to handle territorial squabbles and boundary disputes!

The one in the photos above may be the first juvenile Robin I have ever seen or noticed. I shall continue to watch its progress with interest - and, who knows, if it stays around in the garden, it may soon feel able to venture out from the cover of the twigs and brambles and show off its fiery adult plumage. 

More about the Robin ...

STOP PRESS: I posted this with an anecdote in mind from a new book by USA poet-playwright John Dotson. John's latest publication, entitled Love for Ever Meridian and subtitled Finding Dylan Thomas in the 21st Century charts the author's 2007 journey to South Wales, where I lived for 19 years. John explored the Swansea and Laugharne area in the footsteps of Dylan  and in the company of Peter Thabit Jones, editor of The Seventh Quarry, and Dylan's daughter, Aeronwy. You can read more about the book here ... and if you decide to acquire a copy, you will find the robin episode on p.61!  

    Monday, 23 April 2012

    Rainbows and Reflections (1): April Showers

    We saw this beautiful rainbow yesterday in between the showers.

    I wonder if you can make out the colours in this order:

    red orange yellow green blue indigo violet

    I reckon I can see these, but then I also sense a couple more colours underneath, so perhaps this was more than one rainbow! A rainbow is formed by the two processes of reflection and refraction. Sunlight and water droplets are needed: you can read about the process here

    We live on the edge of 'Constable country' ... and I love the artist's painting of a double rainbow, which you can see here. You can read more about Constable here - and about the Stour Valley 'Managing a Masterpiece' project.

    Flatford Mill, UK

    Thursday, 19 April 2012

    Eye-catching Insects (9): Hoverfly

    I have very little knowledge about Hoverflies, but having caught a few on camera, I thought I would post a photo of my latest 'catch'. I know Stuart of Donegal Wildlife knows a fair bit about these insects, so you may like to take a look at his blog.

    The insect above was enjoying the euonymus in my garden two days ago, before the chilly weather set in. I thought it might be a member of the species Epistrophe grossulariae, which is prevalent in Britain, but I am guessing that it is too early for this species. In my previous post, I looked at the Bee-fly, which mimics a bee for the purpose of keeping predators at bay, for fear of being stung. [Aside: do insects experience 'fear', I wonder?]. A similar mimicry thing is going on here with the wasp-like stripes of the Hoverfly.  

    The Buglife website is full of 'Hoverfly Superfacts' here.  

    I have added in these two previous photographs to demonstate the range of preferred flora and the diversity of habitat frequented by the Hoverfly. The insect above was in a dappled stream in Wales and the one below was enjoying a sunny garden.

    An incredible 68 species of Hoverfly have been recorded for my postcode! Why not tap in your location to find out more ... this may only be for the UK. I shall certainly be keeping my eyes open. There are more Hoverflies over at Pencil and Leaf.  

    Wednesday, 18 April 2012

    Home Patch (6): A Visiting Bee-Fly

    We had a typical British 'April day', with showers, hail, a rainbow and eventually a short spell of hot sun. I was delighted to find that the Bee-fly (or one of its relations) I had seen on 27 March 2012 had returned to the garden. It was a good opportunity to take a few quick photos before the sun went in again. The Bee-fly darted about, beating its wings very fast and alighting every so often for a short spell on the Flowering Currant.

    Since I last saw this creature in the garden I discovered that there is also a Dotted Bee-fly, so I was keen to take a special look at its wings. No dots ~ no matter!

    These insects look so furry ... and I would prefer them to be bees rather than flies, but, of course, they are what they are - and for good reason. Other creatures are aware that bees can sting - and are therefore keen to keep their distance.

    Can you make out the long proboscis, through which it sucks nectar? 

    You can read more about the Bee-fly here. I did not know that the insect in its larval stage makes its home in the nests of Solitary Bees.  

    You will find my earlier Bee-fly of the season here, but I would particularly encourage you to take a look at Rosie's beautiful photographs over at Leavesnbloom.

    Monday, 16 April 2012

    Home Patch (5): Blackbird Profile

    This female Blackbird is becoming quite a regular. She appears to have a number of suitors, who make quite a noise when they land in the garden. I presume the female bird is already beginning to prepare a nest: you can see tufts of grass in her beak.

    For those who live outside the UK, it is worth pointing out that it is only the male Blackbird who sports black plumage. The female is brown, and sometimes has dark speckles on her chest. What I believe is a little unusual about this female is that she has so much white. The bird is obviously not an albino for she most of her pigment is dark and she does not have pink eyes. I am guessing that she has a measure of leucism, particularly since many of her kind are known to have been affected by this genetic anomaly. You can read about Blackbirds and leucistic tendencies on the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website here.

    I shall record this Blackbird on the BTO Abnormal Plumage Survey here ... and on the subject of recording wildlife, I would like to point out Juliet Wilson's informative post here.

    Have you seen anything slightly unusual in your home patch recently? 

    One of our male garden Blackbirds - in 'standard' Blackbird plumage

    Saturday, 14 April 2012

    Home Patch (4): Long-tailed Tit

    Long-tailed tit on left: Blue tit on right

    Not a good photo - and not taken in my home patch - BUT since we enjoyed a short visit from a single Long-tailed tit in our new garden on Saturday, I thought I would post this old photo for those who are not familiar with these delightful birds. We have also seen Blue tits and Great tits. My 'bird tally' for our new home patch runs as follows:

      Incidentally, I was surprised to see a single Long-tailed tit as I always think of these birds flying around in small flocks. Although often listed alongside other tits, the Long-tailed Tit is apparently not a true tit, but a member of the Aegithalidae family.

      I have also spotted an as yet unidentified bird of prey overhead (I know it wasn't a Red Kite, Kestrel or Buzzard!) - and a couple of geese.

      Thursday, 12 April 2012

      Ladybird Alert (8): More 7-Spots

      7-Spot Ladybird in my garden today

      Close-up of Ladybird above

      A different 7-Spot in my garden (and the 3rd one scuttled away before I could photograph it!)

      I have seen three more 7-Spot Ladybirds, which makes a pleasing change after my previous sighting of a Harlequin!

      I shall be logging these 7-Spots with the UK Ladybird Survey, and would encourage you to do the same if you have Ladybird encounters! If you have Harlequin ladybird encounters, you might care to log them here on the Harlequin Ladybird Survey site.

      You might also be interested in Project Noah (networked organisms and habitats), described as 'a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.' I have only just discovered this wildlife platform, but I believe it covers the world. My thanks to Andrea (see Comments below) for setting me on the trail to find it!

      Home Patch (3): Elusive Birds ... and Other Observations

      The 'shy' bird was hiding in the budding branches this morning ...

      ... and I was delighted to catch it on camera, albeit from some distance.

      Is it a Dunnock (or here), I wonder?

      A Buff-tailed Bumble bee? Possibly a Queen ...

      ... was enjoying the flowering currant.

      Last night I spotted this moth through the window ... just a record shot!

      Here is the web, but where is the spider?

      There is something exquisite about a drop of water, something akin to 'a world in a grain of sand' ...

      These dew drops remind me of a feature on the secret life enclosed in a droplet in a recent WWT Waterlife magazine.

      The resident Robin seemed a bit tamer today, and allowed me to take two photos ...

      I wonder what my next sighting will be ...
      Those who have been reading my recent posts will know that we have recently moved to Suffolk, UK, and that I am exploring the wildlife in our new 'home patch'. I also noticed some (more) 7-spot Ladybirds: these will feature in the next post.

      Wednesday, 11 April 2012

      Home Patch (2) More Beautiful Birds

      I was delighted to add another bird to my 'new garden' list this morning - in the form of this fine Greenfinch. I have often seen these birds, but have never - to my knowledge - actually had one in my own patch ... until now. In the light of the RSPB report on the bird disease, Trichomonosis (which particularly affects Grenfinches), I am pleased to report that this garden visitor looked in good shape.

      I also spotted a trio of Bluetits, but it was raining so I shall try to take some better photographs of them at a later point.

      Garden list update:

      • Blackbird
      • Blue tit
      • Greenfinch 
      • Herring Gull
      • Jay
      • Magpie
      • Robin
      • Song Thrush

      I have also seen Sparrows, and am waiting to get a better look, but I think they may be Tree Sparrows.

      Tuesday, 10 April 2012

      Home Patch (1): Beautiful Birds


      Blackbird (male)


      Great Tit

      Wood Pigeon

      The birds in the photos above have all been spotted in our new garden in Suffolk, UK. The full list to date runs as follows:

      • Blackbird
      • Chaffinch
        • Goldfinch
        • Great Tit
        • Jay
        • Magpie
        • Robin
        • Song Thrush
        • Wood Pigeon
        I hope to add to this list in the days ahead. I have also seen Sparrows, and am waiting to get a better look, but I think they may be Tree Sparrows. Incidentally, I have three Sparrow Haiku in an International Kukai tomorrow ...

        Postscript: My thanks to Mary for leading me in the direction of her Goldfinch photographs from the USA. These birds are so different from ours ... though if 'my' pair return today, I will try to photograph their gold patches!

        Monday, 9 April 2012

        Ladybird Alert (7): Harlequin

        I 'spotted' my first Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) of the year on Saturday. It was crawling across a rug inside, and had perhaps been over-wintering indoors. Harlequins have 0-22 spots, and I reckon this one is near the upper limit, though some of the spots have become run-on blotches! It comes under the umbrella of succinea Ladybirds on account of its black on red colour-scheme. You can see the characteristic black 'M' or 'W' on the pronotum, but my photograph fails to show if the legs are reddish in colour. We know from this source that this ladybird was called Coccinella axyridis Pallas, way back in 1773.

        More information can be found here. If you find a Harlequin Ladybird in Britain, it would be good to report it to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey.