Tuesday 23 December 2014

Runner-up again!

I entered a photo competition in August organised by the Freshwater Habitats Trust. They wanted pictures for their 2015 calendar. I didn't win one of the three major prizes, but my entry was selected as the September page of the calendar and I received a runner-up prize of a mug picturing a very handsome toad!

My picture of a swimming grass snake has already appeared here on this blog. Their caption in the calendar reads "Even ponds full of alien invasive plants and algae can provide a habitat for priority species like the grass snake." Is that praise for my garden pond or are they telling me to clean it up?

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Autumn in the birches

There are lots of birch trees in my local patch so my latest finds are not really surprising.

The birch polypore is a fairly large fungus that appears in autumn and can last for over a year. This is a fresh one which appeared this month. The tree is dead and a favourite haunt of greater spotted woodpeckers. (As seen here)

The fungus is said to have many medicinal properties but is unpalatable for eating. A piece of this fungus was carried by "Ötzi the Iceman" – the 5,000 year old mummy found in the Tyrol.

Another unsurprising find was this little shieldbug.

It's the birch shieldbug, Elasmostethus interstinctus. This one was probably looking for a place to hibernate today. They overwinter as adults and emerge to mate and lay eggs in the spring.

Monday 29 September 2014

A fly for a sunny day

A pretty sight on a September day! This hoverfly is known as the sun fly (helophilus pendulus).

It spent some time feeding from the Michaelmas daisies. They are at their peak this week so the sun flies are probably happy.

Their larvae are some of the "long tailed" maggots that are found in very wet situations - marshy ground, wet compost heaps or buckets of water with rotting vegetation inside. Leave some around if you want more of these pollinators.

Saturday 27 September 2014

An invader!

It's another bug but this one is an American! The western conifer seed bug, leptoglossus occidentalis, arrived in Europe in 1999 and immigrants have been reported on the south coast of England since 2008. This one is the first recorded in this part of Sussex. Apparently they live on pines and there are lots of those in Heath Common, where I found it.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Box bug

I've seen a couple of these in the garden in the last few days. I love its latin name - gonocerus acuteangulatus. I've seen that described as a perfect example of "Harry Potter" latin.
It was named the box bug because it was originally known only on Box Hill in Surrey, feeding on box trees. It is now known on other hosts and probably comes from the yew tree in my garden.

Thursday 21 August 2014

Today at the pond

Visitors today included a pair of common darter dragonflies, depositing eggs into the water. I was not able to photograph them but I caught their jealous attendant, another darter resting on a nearby perch.

The other visitor is becoming very familiar to me now. My resident grass snake. Today I finally caught it in a picture displaying its forked tongue.

You can see there is plenty of pond weed for it to hide in. I am still hoping the newts survive!

Thursday 17 July 2014

Return visit

It looks like a return visit from our local reptile, none the worse fror its earlier mishap. (See May 18th) It was seen leaving the pond after a morning dip in the very hot weather today.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Interesting insects


During a light shower of rain a few days ago I found this cinnabar moth sheltering on a ragwort stem.

Ragwort is the food plant for its caterpillars so the moth may have been laying eggs. I will keep an eye on the plant to see if the caterpillars arrive.

This female stag beetle may have been about to lay eggs too. She was just near to a rotting tree stump which would be just the place for her to deposit a clutch.

A new beetle for me! The violet ground beetle or rain beetle, carabus violaceus.

Both adult and larva feed on slugs and vine weevils so they are very welcome to stay in my garden.

Friday 20 June 2014

Wildlife in June

There was a surprise for me when I looked in the pond this week.

A newt was sitting on the pond weeds and was in no hurry to go anywhere.

After a few photos I managed to identify it as a palmate newt by the orange stripe which extended along its back.

Then I came across an unusual looking longhorn beetle sitting on a calla lily flower.

It is a spotted longhorn beetle, rutpela maculata. The adults feed on pollen. There was plenty of that on the lily.

And my third surprise was this spectacular moth larva which was feeding on one of my garden mulleins. 

That's a good clue - it's the caterpillar of the mullein moth, most commonly found on the wild mullein plant.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

More visitors

The pond was a popular place on this very hot day. There were several of the blue damsels I first saw yesterday, but today at least one pair had formed and egg-laying was taking place. I now know that they are, in fact, azure damselflies, not common blues. A much bigger visitor was a female broad-bodied chaser. She was also occupied laying eggs and never settled. I managed to get a picture of her in flight.

Another unusual insect caught my attention this afternoon. This is a wasp beetle, clytus arietis. Their larvae live in rotting wood  and the adults eat pollen. They look scary but are completely harmless. They mimic wasps as a way of deterring predators.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Around the Pond

There were a lot of visitors at the pond today. Several large red damselflies had mated and were laying eggs. A few blue damselflies had arrived too - my first of the year.  None of them seemed to be paired yet. One of them is pictured below.

But the biggest surprise was this!

A grass snake had caught itself in the netting and I had to cut it free. It slithered off gratefully into the shrubs around the pond.

Sunday 13 April 2014

First Damsel

I have been off the blog for a while settling in to my new home and garden but I'm ready to get back in business now! The sight of my first damselfly of the year set me going.

So here it is. A large red damselfly on April 13th! That seems really early this year. It must be down to the mild winter we had - lots of rain but not much frost here. My pond never froze over.

We seem to be in for a good spring for butterflies and other insects so I'll be trying to get some good pictures.

Where do I Walk?

Mainly around the National Trust land at Washington Common and Warren Hill in West Sussex. I also spend some time around my old Steyning walks and other interesting places in West Sussex.