Thursday 30 July 2020

We had three young red-backed shrikes in the garden today, so there are lots of photos of those.

There were more flying ants too and that brought in a spotted flycatcher.

3 young red-backed shrikes, Christophstal July 2020

3 young red-backed shrikes, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike with hoverfly, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike with hoverfly, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Young red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Wednesday 29 July 2020
Red-backed shrike with chaffinch leg?, Christophstal July 2020

Red-backed shrike with chaffinch leg?, Christophstal July 2020

There continue to be a lot of young red-backed shrikes hanging around in the garden. I even saw one today with a peanut in his beak, but he didn't really know what to do with it. We'd assumed that they just liked the safely of being amongst the other birds at our bird table, as they're not really seed eaters and our bird tables provide nothing else for them. However, they do seem to like the fact that it's quite low cut around the main bird table and they can catch insects there.

This individual seems to have found something interesting. I'm going to speculate that it's a chaffinch leg, but that's only because we've recently seen a chaffinch dragging it's leg around. I wish I'd got a better photo.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

The knapweeds and scabious flowers in our front garden are now, largely, over so attention has shifted to the marjoram and buddleia in the backgarden. Here's a photo of a high brown fritillary. We also had a few silver-washed fritillaries today.

There are a couple more thornapple flowers today. These are fine looking plants although at a glance you'd probably think they were bindweed. I've added a photo of the developing 'apple' too.

High brown fritillary, Christophstal July 2020

High brown fritillary, Christophstal July 2020

Thornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Thornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Protothornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Protothornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Sunday 26 July 2020
White crab spider with large white butterfly, Christophstal July 2020

White crab spider with large white butterfly, Christophstal July 2020

Protothornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Protothornapple, Christophstal July 2020

Thornapple flower, Christophstal July 2020

Thornapple flower, Christophstal July 2020

Black nightshade, Christophstal July 2020

Black nightshade, Christophstal July 2020

Comma caterpillar (second instar), Christophstal July 2020

Comma caterpillar (second instar), Christophstal July 2020

This white crab spider had made quite a catch today. We always laugh when we see them as they look like they think they're camouflaged, but they're usually really visible and they don't look like much of a threat. We won't be laughing anymore.

We've got a little patch of plants growing in the place where our bird table used to be. There are lots of sunflowers and a couple of rape plants, but this week we noticed a couple of thornapple plants growing. Today we also noticed a black nightshade growing in the same patch. If these both produce fruit, they'll join our Aconitums in our newly designated poisonous plant garden opposite our thistle garden.

The comma butterfly caterpillar has already moved to his second instar.

Saturday 25 July 2020

We had one of our hummingbird hawk-moths emerge a couple of days ago and two more emerged today. I think there's one more still to come.

The featureless caterpillar I photographed on the 18th now has some nice purple chevrons. I've still no idea what the species is though.

Hummingbird hawk-moth ex larva, Christophstal July 2020

Hummingbird hawk-moth ex larva, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown geometrid on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown geometrid on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown geometrid on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown geometrid on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Friday 24 July 2020
House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

House martins, Christophstal July 2020

There were lots more flying ant emergences today including two simultaneously on each side of the house (not in sight of each other). I might post some video here later once I've processed it.

While the flying ants were emerging, large numbers of house martins started flying around and perching on our birch. We don't see them perch very often and they're not very good at it so they didn't do it for very long. I'm not sure what they were doing. I don't think it was related to the flying ants although that might have brought them into the area.

The photos are fascinating. I've never knew that house martins have very hairy legs and feet.

Thursday 23 July 2020

Here's a photo of the caterpillar that emerged today from the comma egg I collected on the 18th. The speed of this surprised me - 5 days from laying to hatching. He's got to feed up really quickly, pupate and spend a while building fat reserves as an adult in order to overwinter. Time is tight.

Here's a photo of a silver-washed fritillary who was visiting our buddleia today. The buddleia flowered two weeks earlier than last year (which was unusual).

Comma caterpillar, Christophstal July 2020

Comma caterpillar, Christophstal July 2020

Silver-washed fritillary, Christophstal July 2020

Silver-washed fritillary, Christophstal July 2020

Wednesday 22 July 2020
Greenfinch family, Christophstal July 2020

Greenfinch family, Christophstal July 2020

A pair of fledgling greenfinches visited the garden with one of their parents today.

Monday 20 July 2020

This photo isn't as bad as it looks. Lots of the birds are doing this at the moment. They seem to be basking in the sun with all their feathers splayed out and usually with their beaks open. We've seen chaffinchs, great tits and blackbirds do this. They're extremely vulnerable when they do this, so there must be some compelling reason - maybe it helps with mites and other parasites.

Basking great tit, Christophstal July 2020

Basking great tit, Christophstal July 2020

Sunday 19 July 2020
Fledgling red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Fledgling red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Fledgling red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Fledgling red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Green mountain grasshoppers, Christophstal July 2020

Green mountain grasshoppers, Christophstal July 2020

Roesel's bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

Roesel's bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

This appears to be a fledgling red-backed shrike. We've saw male and female adults today, but this one was on his own and seemed quite capable of snatching flying ants out of the air (yesterday and today all the ants nests in the garden have been erupting with flying ants).

A quick walk around the garden showed that it has been a good year for grasshoppers etc. This pair of green mountain grasshoppers were sitting in our raspberry patch.

I'm finishing up with a new species for the garden, a Roesel's Bush Cricket. It's hard to believe I've not spotted this very common species in the garden before.

Saturday 18 July 2020

Back on the 21st May, I collected a small geometrid caterpillar from our bird cherry. He's extremely slow growing and is still only 22mm long and very, very thin. He hasn't got many distinguishing features except for a pair of anal spikes.

While standing beside our hop plant, a comma butterfly flew past me. It immediately spotted the hop and layed this beautiful egg on one of the leaves. The hop has been badly affected by aphids this year and is looking very poorly, but I hope I'll have enough leaves to feed this individual when he hatches.

I found another couple of caterpillars on our hedge bedstraw today. One of them is another royal mantle moth, but this one is another CWF (caterpillar without features). I hope his later instars are more interesting.

Red-green carpet caterpillar on bird cherry, Christophstal July 2020

Red-green carpet caterpillar on bird cherry, Christophstal July 2020

Comma butterfly egg on hop, Christophstal July 2020

Comma butterfly egg on hop, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Friday 17 July 2020
Royal mantle moth caterpillar, Christophstal July 2020

Royal mantle moth caterpillar, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on hedge bedstraw, Christophstal July 2020

I took some more photos of the caterpillars I've previously found on our hedge bedstraw. I'm pretty sure the first one is a Royal Mantle moth. I collected three of these caterpillars a couple of years ago, but they didn't emerge from pupation. This one seems to like hanging upside down. His green and purple stripes perfectly match the stems of the bedstraw.

The other two photos are of a quite colourful individual who isn't very well camouflaged on the bedstraw at all. This one has me stumped at the moment.

Sunday 12 July 2020

I got a better photo of Sicus ferrugineus today.

I've been trying to identify bees and wasps recently, with limited success. Here are a couple of photos I've so far failed to identify. These are distinctive enough, so it must be possible. I just need a bit more time.

<em>Sicus ferrugineus</em>, Christophstal July 2020

Sicus ferrugineus, Christophstal July 2020

Wasp TBI, Christophstal July 2020

Wasp TBI, Christophstal July 2020

Bee TBI, Christophstal July 2020

Bee TBI, Christophstal July 2020

Friday 10 July 2020
Rose chafer, Christophstal July 2020

Rose chafer, Christophstal July 2020

Rose chafer, Christophstal July 2020

Rose chafer, Christophstal July 2020

Harlequin labybird, Christophstal July 2020

Harlequin labybird, Christophstal July 2020

Pachytodes cerambyciformis, Christophstal July 2020

Pachytodes cerambyciformis, Christophstal July 2020

Female red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Female red-backed shrike, Christophstal July 2020

Agelena labyrinthica, Christophstal July 2020

Agelena labyrinthica, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on Fennel, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown caterpillar on Fennel, Christophstal July 2020

Our Aruncus dioica is in full flower and is rivaling the knapweeds and scabious in its insect pulling power. Here are a selection of the insects visiting today.

A female red-backed shrike posed nicely for me in our birch tree.

This funnel web spider, Agelena labyrinthica, was watching me while I was out with the camera. This is a new spider for the garden, albeit quite a common one.

Lastly, there are a few of these unknown caterpillars on our fennel plant. They've spun a little case from which they occasionally reach out to grab more leaves to eat. They're remarkably responsive to sound and can shoot back into their nest in the blink of an eye. If I can time it right, I'll bring one of these into my puparium so I can identify the species.

Thursday 9 July 2020

A young jay flew into the window pane of my office today while I was in a meeting. I saw him coming towards me at great speed. He was killed instantly as his neck was broken. I donned gloves and placed him in our composting bin.

After I returned to my office and sometime later I was attacked by a really unpleasant and insistent fly. I've not come across one of these nasty individuals before. Here are some photos after I caught him and euthanized him in the freezer. I'm pretty certain this is Ornithomya avicularia, a ked fly, a known parasite of various birds. Apparently, you're only likely to encounter them if you handle birds. In this case, he probably shot up my sleeve when I took the dead jay to the bin and he sat in my t-shirt until I was back in my office. I'm amazed I didn't seem to get bitten.

I'm reminded of the film Fallen with Denzel Washington where a demon passes from body to body and when that body dies he only has a short amount of time to transfer to a new host (the film is actually better than that synopsis suggests).

<em>Ornithomya avicularia </em>from dead Jay, Christophstal July 2020

Ornithomya avicularia from dead Jay, Christophstal July 2020

<em>Ornithomya avicularia </em>from dead Jay, Christophstal July 2020

Ornithomya avicularia from dead Jay, Christophstal July 2020

Sunday 5 July 2020
Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Kestrel, Christophstal July 2020

Red-backed shrike with bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

Red-backed shrike with bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

Red-backed shrike with bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

Red-backed shrike with bush cricket, Christophstal July 2020

Despite it being a really warm sunny day, there really wasn't a lot going on in the garden.

The only highlights were a kestrel zig-zagging across the valley and a female red-backed shrike who seemed to be hunting near us and taking her prey over towards the north-east. Here she is with a large bush cricket.

Saturday 4 July 2020

We're starting today with two ends of the weevil spectrum. The first is Lixus pulverulentus, a real giant (for weevils) at nearly 2cm and a micro-weevil, Rhinoncus perpendicularis at barely 2mm. You could say that Rhinoncus perpendicularis is the lesser of two weevils. Both are new to the garden, the former feeds on black knapweed and that's what he was sitting on and the latter feeds on bistort - there's a patch of that about a metre away from where I took the photo.

As predicted yesterday, the red-berried elder is bringing in the blackcaps who seem to really love these.

There was also a short visit from a spotted flycatcher.

Lastly, a photo of some impressive sycamore seed clusters.

Lixus pulverulentus, Christophstal July 2020

Lixus pulverulentus, Christophstal July 2020

Lixus pulverulentus, Christophstal July 2020

Lixus pulverulentus, Christophstal July 2020

Rhinoncus perpendicularis, Christophstal July 2020

Rhinoncus perpendicularis, Christophstal July 2020

Rhinoncus perpendicularis, Christophstal July 2020

Rhinoncus perpendicularis, Christophstal July 2020

Female blackcap on red-berried elder, Christophstal July 2020

Female blackcap on red-berried elder, Christophstal July 2020

Female blackcap, Christophstal July 2020

Female blackcap, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Spotted flycatcher, Christophstal July 2020

Sycamore seeds, Christophstal July 2020

Sycamore seeds, Christophstal July 2020

Friday 3 July 2020
Harlequin ladybird, Christophstal July 2020

Harlequin ladybird, Christophstal July 2020

<em>Sphaerophoria scripta</em>, Christophstal July 2020

Sphaerophoria scripta, Christophstal July 2020

Woundwort, Christophstal July 2020

Woundwort, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown frog/leaf hopper nymph, Christophstal July 2020

Unknown frog/leaf hopper nymph, Christophstal July 2020

Sawfly larvae on <em>Aruncus dioica</em>, Christophstal July 2020

Sawfly larvae on Aruncus dioica, Christophstal July 2020

Red-berried elder, Christophstal July 2020

Red-berried elder, Christophstal July 2020

Black-veined whites, Christophstal July 2020

Black-veined whites, Christophstal July 2020

Meadow Grasshopper?, Christophstal July 2020

Meadow Grasshopper?, Christophstal July 2020

We had a new beetle species in the garden today - not one I particularly wanted to see, but here it is, a harlequin ladybird. Interestingly, he was sitting on one of the St John's worts in our front garden and the photo clearly shows perforated leaves, so probably Hypericum perforatum. We've never seen this in the garden before.

There was a new hoverfly too, Sphaerophoria scripta, shown here on woundwort. And talking of woundwort, here's a (blurry) photo of the developing seeds.

I'm annoyed with myself for not getting a better photo of this very small froghopper/leafhopper. I need to see if I can identify it from the blurry photo.

Some sawfly larvae have taken a liking to our Aruncus dioica plant and have skeletonized several leaves.

The red-berried elder berries are nearly ready for the blackcaps to enjoy.

Some more mating black-veined white butterflies were fluttering around.

I'm not very good with grasshopper identification, but I'm guessing this is a meadow grasshopper.

Thursday 2 July 2020

Early this morning there were two kingfishers down by the pond. They are usually fiercely territorial so we're guessing that these are related. The lower one looks like a young bird and the upper one looks like an adult.

At the same time that the kingfishers were about, a hawfinch visited our shamefully empty bird table. He's taking a look to see if there's anything on the ground worth eating. I filled up the table shortly after this photo and he was back tucking in in no time.

Kingfishers, Christophstal July 2020

Kingfishers, Christophstal July 2020

Hawfinch, Christophstal July 2020

Hawfinch, Christophstal July 2020