Welcome to Lockdown Wildlife Watching 20th-27th April 2020.
What a glorious week of sunshine we’ve had. How wonderful to look up into a totally unblemished sky of pale blue from which the sun has beat down relentlessly. Shame about the chilly wind, but ho hum. The streets are full of families out for walks or bike rides, the birds are singing all around and it’s been rather pleasant don’t you think? I do however admit to feeling torn. On the one hand I confess to actually rather enjoying the feeling of getting back to basics and connecting with the local environment, on the flip side I’m missing the prime bird migration period and can’t help but have a pang of jealousy when I read reports of what coastal residents are seeing from their own back yards. One is never satisfied it seems. But this missive concerns my own back yard and the wild inhabitants therein, join me for a walk on the wild side in deepest, darkest Sprowston.
The blackbirds have fledged, well at least one of them which is actively being fed by dad as I write. Mum wasted little time in getting back to domestic duty to refurbish the nest for a second brood. Within a day of one set of chicks leaving their home, she was collecting mud from the edge of the pond and smoothing it into the nest cup in anticipation of depositing another set of green-brown speckled eggs therein.
Those scandalous, salacious dunnocks have also managed to raise chicks which are happily pecking around the shrubbery. Both parent and chick have been most obliging for photography, posing perfectly within a metre of the kitchen window. Why can’t all birds be so cooperative? It looks like there will soon be a brood of great tits soon as well – mum and dad are busily visiting their swift box home to satiate their youngster’s appetites. The blackcap that serenaded us for a week or so seems to have moved on, or maybe he’s found a mate and they are busy raising a family. Time will tell. And maybe best of all the swifts have returned. I saw my first on the evening of 27th April, a whole week or so earlier than the usual date. Great to have them back.
The ponds have produced the goods again with the first large red damselfly on 26th April. I have three regular breeding species of damselfly; large red, azure and blue tailed. The large red seems to do very well, the other two species less so. Once a willow emerald damselfly appeared which knocked my socks off, but I don’t think that species is likely to colonise my humble puddles. The tadpoles are doing remarkably well, are bulking up and still in their hundreds. Looks like being a bumper year for these amphibians which will be most welcome because they have not fared well of late with consequential decline in numbers of adults. Newts are actively courting and laying eggs within the tangle of water mint roots. Fascinating to watch one of the females lay an egg and then use her hind legs to wrap it carefully within a leaf.
The good weather brought forth many insects and other invertebrates which means my macro lens gets much use as I hunt around looking for subjects. Most pleasing was the appearance of a lovely speckled wood butterfly. These lovers of dappled shade like the bottom third of the garden where tall hedges and dotted shrubs give a feel of woodland edge. There’s usually one or two there throughout the late spring and summer. Other butterflies during the week have been orange tip, green-veined white, peacock and at least two holly blues.
I was intrigued by a small, rather hairy day flying moth with enormous antenna that was dancing around the climbing rose. I knew it was a longhorn species but which one? Happily nowadays there are some excellent reference works available so I am able to almost confidently say this one is Adela reaumurella – with those monstrous antenna I don’t think it could be anything else. As I was trying to photograph the moth I was constantly buzzed by a good number of St Mark’s flies, you know the black fluffy ones with the dangly legs. Both of these are new species for the garden.
Another first was the appearance of a nomad bee species. I’ve tried to identify this one and I think it might be Nomada Flava or Flavous Nomad Bee to give its common name. I would be happy for this, or indeed any of my attempts at identification to be corrected or confirmed.
That’s it then, another week in lockdown summed up. The weather has now changed with bands of rain sweeping across from the west. If this keeps up, next weeks garden rummaging may comprise slim pickings, although something of interest always seems to come along. For previous blogs on this subject click here.