Garden Wildlife Sightings
During the coronavirus lockdown members of the group have been recording the wildlife they have seen in their gardens and on local walks and it makes some interesting reading. Here are some of the reports that people have sent in:
From Clare and Frank
We managed to get to Hartsholme at the beginning of the week, and were lucky enough to have the kingfisher sitting 10 feet from us near the black bridge. Also saw Siskin and a flock of 50 Redwings, amongst a good birding list. In addition, whilst walking the dog in the fields around Ingham two days ago, we suddenly realised that we could hear Corn Bunting! There was a mixed flock of buntings, but we think there was about 10 Corn Buntings! How lucky! And wonderful to see.
My June report is as follows:-
The Song Thrush continues to visit my garden on a regular basis and on 12th June even proudly showed off the whole family, bringing along his partner and two young offspring! It only happened on the one occasion so felt a special privilege to witness and it was heartening to learn they are thriving in the neighbourhood. I've also had juvenile Robins, Dunnock, Blue Tits, Goldfinch, Starling and more Blackbirds in the garden.
Summer thus far has been rather more unpredictable than the exceptional Spring weather. Nevertheless on the warmer, sunnier days there has been plenty of insect activity. I discovered a clutch of around 30 bright green eggs, rather like miniature peas, on the back of a leaf of my garden variety of Hoary Ragwort. Realising that they were nothing like the eggs of the White butterflies, I was curious as to what they might be so put them in a pot and waited for them to hatch! To my surprise they transpired to be Green Shieldbugs!! Before reaching adulthood the young are referred to as instars which look quite different to the adult bug and mine were the first instar which would be followed by three more as they transform again and again. On 20th June I saw my first Brown Hawker of the year in the garden as well as a Meadow Brown newly on the wing.
Earlier this year I acquired an old Skinner moth trap and used it for the first time on two separate occasions in June when the weather conditions were conducive. I ran it overnight and was amazed by the quantity and quality of moths attracted to it by morning. I had 60 pots ready in which to put the moths for ID purposes and needed all of them both times! Although there were some duplicates, it wasn't that many, so trying to ID them all was quite a challenge and in the end I managed around half. Easily the most impressive were the hawk-moths of which I had an Eyed, Privet and two Elephant the first time round. On the second occasion as I approached the trap I was immediately alerted to there being a good number of hawk-moths by the loud banging and clattering noises coming from within! In fact this time there were eight in total; four Elephant, three Privet (see photo) and a Poplar.
The Elephant Hawk-moth was particularly nostalgic as I saw my first one at the age of nine or ten. I recall being transfixed by the sight of large numbers of the larvae on a patch of Rosebay Willowherb. "What on earth could these monsters looking similar to the trunk of an elephant be?" I wondered. So I carefully transported one back home along with its larval foodplant and reared it to adulthood in a jam jar. Imagine my sheer delight as I marvelled at the spectacular pink and lime green creature that emerged from the cocoon. Nowadays it's highly unlikely you would come across such huge numbers of the caterpillar in one place as I did back in the late 1960s. As an adult I've only ever come across the odd one.
It's amazing how well camouflaged moths can be, none more so than the Buff-tip which looks remarkably similar to a broken Birch twig. Having only seen them in pictures before I was delighted to discover not just one but four in my second trap. I have always been fascinated by the intriguing names of some moths which are often based on the appearance of either the moth itself or behaviour of the caterpillar. Some of the more descriptive of those I caught were the Spectacle (which does indeed look like it's wearing a pair of spectacles!), the Flame, Bird's Wing, Burnished Brass, Blackneck, Beautiful Hook-tip, Snout and Small Bloodvein.
A walk across the Meadows, my local patch, on 26th June when the weather was warm and sunny proved particularly productive. Small Tortoiseshells were plentiful as usual with the addition of Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Large Skipper, Green-veined White and a Red Admiral. There was a new insect discovery identified later as a Tiger Cranefly which had, as the name suggests, a striking yellow and black body. Odonata were out in force on the River Witham with a male Emperor Dragonfly chasing the abundance of Banded Demoiselles and two male Black Tailed Skimmers attempting the same before being seen off by the larger Emperor.
So already we are half way through the year and I wonder what new discoveries there will be to come?
From Alan S
Sightings from the garden during May.
Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Starling, Dunnock, Stock Dove, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Swift, Kestrel, Collared Dove, Herring Gull and Tawny Owl (heard but not seen).
Muntjac with fawn, Grey Squirrel and Hedgehog.
Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Peacock and Brimstone.
With the relaxation in lockdown rules this month I have had two field trips out in the car while still remaining fairly close to home. The first was to Southrey Wood on 15th May where I encountered far fewer people than on my local patch.
In normal circumstances I would pay my first visit of the year to the area in April to take in the sight of the Wood Anemones which carpet the floor of the wood like snow. While there was the odd flower here and there, it was rather late in the season for them. However, there was plenty of other flora including Lesser Celandine, Tormentil, Greater Stitchwort, Yellow Archangel, Bugle, a few bits of Ragged Robin and a patch of Early Purple Orchids. There must have been some Devils Bit Scabious too as I even saw a couple of Marsh Fritillaries! I've not seen them there before so that was quite a highlight of the day.
Other insect sightings included my first Large Red Damselfly and Four Spot Chaser of the year, a Red Headed Cardinal Beetle, lots of Dark Bush Cricket nymphs, various Nomada Bees, a Dark-edged Bee-fly, Common Malachite Beetle, Golden Bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle, Tortoise Beetle, Cinnabar Moth and both male and female Orange Tips (my first females of the year).
The air was alive with birdsong; Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Actually managed my first sighting of Willow Warbler, as well as seeing Whitethroat again and Yellowhammer. There were a couple of birds of prey overhead in the form of a Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk too as I sat eating a picnic lunch. A surprising encounter in the wood was that of a Hare which I would usually only ever come across in fields.
The following week on 20th May (the hottest day of the year so far!) I visited Chambers Farm Wood. Although the car park had been re-opened the facilities remained closed as expected. There were a few other cars but it wasn't too busy so it didn't create a problem for social distancing.
With Marsh Fritillaries on the wing I was already encountering the smaller males before I'd even reached their stronghold, Little Scrubbs Meadow, so I guessed they'd be out in good numbers and I wasn't disappointed. The majority of them were busy nectaring on the white flowers of Dewberry along the edge of the meadow and while most of those seen appeared to be males, there were a few females too. I expect numbers will now be at their peak.
Other new insect sightings included Grizzled Skipper, Wasp Beetle, Black Spotted Longhorn Beetle, Cucumber Spider (green as the name suggests!), a male Broad Bodied Chaser as well as a few Burnet Moth cocoons on blades of grass in the meadow. Also quite a large Common Lizard on a log pile in the middle of the meadow.
Again, plenty of birdsong although with the trees in full leaf I didn't see any of them this time. As well as the usual warblers I also heard (finally!) my first Cuckoo of the year, a Green Woodpecker and a Tawny Owl.
So two very enjoyable and refreshing escapes from lockdown!
In the garden this month I had an early birthday present in the form of my first Swift sighting overhead on 5th May. The two Blackbird fledglings who were already beginning to grow their first full tail feathers at the end of April have gone from my garden, no doubt fending entirely for themselves now. Taking their place have been a large family of Starlings who have suddenly invaded the neighbourhood, their raucous calls to one another quite often drowning out the sound of other songbirds. On one occasion I counted at least two dozen on the bird table after I had just put out some mealworms. In the meantime my Blue Tits have been tirelessly back and forth to the nest box all month with a seemingly endless supply of caterpillars for their young. Sadly, for all their efforts they were rewarded with just the one which fledged on the 25th, a day earlier than the two which fledged last year, and again I managed some photos.
Across the meadows, my local patch has been awash with an abundance of white Cow Parsley and Hawthorn blossom as if to reflect the new purity in the air and remind us that there have been positive outcomes of the lockdown with the reduction in pollution levels and the opportunity for nature to thrive. On 3rd May I saw my first Common Whitethroat over there and they are still singing away scratchily from almost every Hawthorn bush. Along the drain there is much evidence of active Water Vole burrows but sadly, unlike others in the group, the nearest I have come to actually seeing one is to hear the plop of one dropping into the water.
At this time of the year I always look forward to seeing one of my favourite insects, Banded Demoiselles. Nevertheless, on a stroll alongside the River Witham over the meadows late afternoon on 8th May I was most surprised to come across two females resting in the reeds. This seemed particularly early in the season as I would not normally expect to see them until much later in the month but they did appear to be freshly emerged and I didn't see any others that day. Now there is a dazzling display of both males and females over there.
As Spring merges into Summer the Hawthorn blossom has given way to Dog Rose and as the Cow Parsley fades, Hogweed emerges to take its place. The insect season is truly here and I look forward to new discoveries.
Both my dad and myself have been hearing the cuckoo daily either here at home, near Skellingthorpe woods and occasionally in Saxilby.
Bank holiday Monday I walked some of the south common, and saw, magpies and carrion crows, also half a dozen speckled wood butterflies. Along with robins, blackbirds, heard chiffchaff, great tit, goldfinch too.
I met a friend at Hartsholme for a socially distanced walk, with sightings of the odd juvenile heron still sat in the nest, mallard ducklings, Greylag goslings, one great crested grebe, and your other regular water and small birds.
I've heard the Cuckoo, calling twice recently, on the 9th and 12th of this month. Somewhere in the trees at the back of the house. Both my parents and myself have heard it on both occasions, but sadly not seen. It's the first time we've heard it so clearly and so near to us for many years. We used to hear it daily when we first moved here in 2001, then nothing for years until recently.
From John and Brenda:
The wildlife is doing well in the garden, despite regular attacks from crows, magpies and the sparrowhawk. Blackbirds and robins have successfully raised young and we now have a pair of great tits squeezing into the blue tit box to a raise a brood. They kept attacking the wood inside the metal plate designed for blue tits. We are still getting regular visits from the great spotted woodpecker and it is good to see the return of swallows and swifts.
On our walks on the field paths surrounding Nettleham we have seen skylarks, meadow pipits, yellowhammers, jay, whitethroat, blackcap, buzzard and the usual more common species. Sue let us know that she had seen water voles in Nettleham beck and we have been fortunate enough to see one.
From Alan K:
Saw and heard the cuckoo this morning on the cycle track to the Pyewipe. I heard it first then it flew across in front of me.
The swifts are back today - first there was just two flying around and then I heard screaming up high and there were about 15 over the village. We are usually lucky enough that one pair nest under a roof tile so fingers crossed. There are swallows nesting in the farm shop and house martins on at least one of the older houses so we have three hirundines in the village. Can't imagine we'd get sand martins anywhere nearby.
22nd April Whitethroat seen and heard just outside the village. Seem thin on the ground this year. 30th April Lesser Whitethroat head and a brief flit seen, again just out of the village. Not heard since. 5th May single Swift over village in morning. By evening around a dozen were above the village screaming.
April observations from my North Hykeham garden nature reserve:
To begin with some firsts of the year for me this month. Heard my first Chiffchaff in the trees behind my garden on 1st April but have yet to actually see one. Finally seen my first Swallows on 23rd along the River Witham near where I live. As for insects in my garden they include first Holly Blue on 5th, Dock Bug on 8th, male Orange Tip on 10th (all those seen so far have been males, no females as yet although I understand they are now on the wing), Small Purple and Gold (Mint) Moth on 23rd and Speckled Wood on 24th. Also several whites on the wing this month. Although usually flying too fast to ID with certainty those I have managed to seem to be mainly Green Veined Whites with a few Small Whites.
A most welcome new regular visitor to to the garden since the beginning of the month is a Song Thrush who is doing a grand job of controlling the snails and slugs which abound - my Hosta leaves have never looked so good! Early one morning recently while looking out of my bedroom window was thrilled to see it at close quarters sat on the fence preening (see photo).
The Blue Tits in the nest box have been taking their time building the nest but appear to have reached completion. In the meantime I now have two Blackbird fledglings running eagerly round the garden after their dad who is being a very conscientious provider of food. I see them several times a day, sometimes coming across them unexpectedly, once even inside the greenhouse where the youngsters appeared to be enjoying the extra warmth while dad continued to do all the hard work foraging on their behalf in there!
With regard to Graham's hoverfly, although there are many different species it may well be the same as those I have been getting in my own garden if the behaviour is similar. Like Graham I have been unable to get a photo as they move too fast and rarely settle for long. However, I have been able to observe them with my close focus binoculars and from their markings they would appear to be Drone Flies, so named because of their resemblance to male honeybees. There are two very similar species Eristalis pertinax and E. tenax if he would like to look them up. The behaviour of those that I see is to hover over an area of the garden, occasionally turning and darting towards anything that invades "their" space. I believe they may be males defending their territory.
From Alan S:
Sightings from our garden at Washingborough during April (we back onto Pitts Wood):
Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Starling, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Black-headed Gull, Canada Goose, Mallard, Wren, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Blackcap and Treecreeper. Heard but not seen: Tawny Owl and Green Woodpecker.
Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip and Holly Blue.
Muntjac, Hedgehog, Grey Squirrel and Common Shrew.
Sightings from walk along River Witham at Washingborough:
Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Starling, Greenfinch, Swallow, Blackbird, Robin, Mallard, Great Tit, Reed Warbler, Jackdaw, Reed Bunting, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Greylag, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Magpie, Black-headed Gull, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Dunnock, Cuckoo, Song Thrush, Grey Squirrel and Rabbit.
From Jill and Colin:
Colin spotted the first 2 swallows this evening on the electric wires in the field (at last!). Bird seed sales going surprisingly well. People ring in an order and collect from our doorstep, popping the money through the letterbox.
My neighbour takes a walk along a footpath in Brant Broughton around 9 am. Sky Larks sing and a Muntjac deer often crosses her path. This morning she spotted bright blue, broken shells (from Dunnocks eggs?) near the hedge
Our first swallow overhead on 4th April and the following Saturday (11th) as I queued to go into our village farm shop there were at least eight dashing about and checking out all the old outbuildings where they nest.
We have two different male pheasants (one very silvery backed and one more coppery) coming into the garden to clear up under feeders and bringing their harems with them.
A house sparrow seems to have taken over the gap under a pan-tile where "our" swifts go so I am hoping the swifts can find somewhere when they arrive.
17 April: Hobby over garden, spotted by Clare and missed by Frank (not happy!).
16 April: Three Yellow Wagtails in Sheep field.
15 April: Blackcap finally spotted, nine late Fieldfares in Sheep field.
12 April: First Swallows spotted over village.
8 April: (Clare’s Birthday!) Chiffchaff seen, Blackcap heard.
7 April: Willow Warbler seen and Chifchaff heard. 3 House Martins over house in afternoon.
Generally we are also seeing the best numbers of Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows we have seen for years.
I went out for a walk this morning into Swanholme Lakes. Less than 200m in I came across an adder sat on the path taking in the sun (see photo) - my very first adder-ever!
The sunny weather earlier in the week brought out several Hoverflies in my garden that have hovered over my lawn for long periods, although to my extreme frustration, not long enough for me to get a decent photo. The interesting thing is that at times they seem to be in pairs with one being considerably larger than the other. Does anyone have an idea what these might be?
A quantity of wet feathers on my patio this morning seem to point to the demise of a female blackbird, possibly victim to a Sparrowhawk, as it is sometime now since I have seen any cats in my area. Mind you I have not seen the Sparrowhawk either, mores the pity.
I do not have very much bird activity in my garden at all. I did have a few goldfinches last year that lived in a large cherry tree, 3 doors down from me, but unfortunately the new owners had it severely pollarded earlier in the year, so no more goldfinches. I have a resident blackbird who sits on top of my neighbours TV aerial singing away, a very underrated songbird in my opinion. I sit in my garden listening to him in what is quite a complex song made up of whistles, cheeps, churs and chirps. He starts early in the morning, and is still going at sunset. Not sure what my neighbour threw in her garden yesterday, but it attracted a flock of about a dozen black-headed gulls that wheeled and squawked over her garden for about 20 minutes.
Had Willow Warbler, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff this evening
Butterflies seen in garden this week Holly Blue, Orange Tip, Brimstone. Also regular Flocks of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, a pair of PiedWagtails. All being flushed by regular sorties from a SparrowHawk
Saw first swallow a couple of days ago and heard blackcap singing last night. Still doing quite well for birds in the garden.
From Michael and Wendy:
The following have been seen in our garden or on boundary features since lockdown. Blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit, goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, blackbird, starling, robin, dunnock, pied wagtail, wren, 2x great spotted woodpecker, green woodpecker, sparrowhawk, kestrel, jackdaw, rook, crow, pair of mallard, jay and a stoat. We have also seen several bee fly featured by Neil which we have never seen here before.
Greetings to everyone from Wendy and Michael.
I spotted this fly (see photo at top of page) sunning itself on my outhouse wall today, I looked it up and I think it is a large bee fly.
From Frank and Clare:
We are so lucky that we have a connection to the natural world and can find beauty anywhere. We have a beautiful old pear tree just outside the village and have been making a pilgrimage everyday to look at it as it flowers; should be fully out this weekend (see photo). Amazing how many of our fellow villagers don't notice it! We have also been enjoying, until a couple of days ago, a group of around 500 Fieldfares in the same area. Numbers have radically dropped as I think they are leaving us. Now waiting for old friends to arrive...amazed we haven't heard a chiffchaff yet.
Sightings in March from my North Hykeham garden nature reserve:
Regular visitors are as follows:- Dunnock, Blackbird (nesting nearby), Starling, Collared Dove, Wren, Robin (nesting nearby), Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit (nesting in my own nest box for third year), Wood Pigeon. Occasionally overhead Buzzard and Sparrowhawk.
Common Pipistrelle Bat (first seen on 18th March so early to be out of hibernation but a warm evening).
Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell (first sighting of both on 22nd), Comma (first sighting on 24th), Peacock (first sighting 25th), Dark Edged Bee-fly (first sighting 24th), Female Hairy-footed Flower Bee (first sighting 26th and a new insect ID for me - see photo), Green Shield-bug (26th).
From John and Brenda:
At home the birds are busy nesting. We have robin, blackbird and dunnock already nesting in the garden. We also have regular visits from blue, great and long-tailed tits, goldfinch, chaffinch, collared doves (13 on one occasion!), woodpigeon, magpie, wren and occasionally a great spotted woodpecker, goldcrest, siskin, coal tit, yellowhammer and blackcap. We also have a regular fly pass of the sparrowhawk. We are fortunate to be able to have an interesting daily birdwatch.
We also have daily visits from grey squirrels and at least two hedgehogs out of hibernation and feeding every evening, caught on a trail camera.
I have been enjoying the lovely weather by catching up with gardening and allotment work. The spring flowers have been lovely and I have noticed birds looking for nesting materials. I have seen my first brimstone and peacock butterflies, some bumble bees and hover flies. All welcome pollinators as my blueberries are coming into blossom.
We were surprised to have a reed bunting pair in the garden for two days earlier this week and I saw bats for the first time yesterday evening.
From Jill and Colin:
We are very lucky to have lots of space and had some new lambs and ewes delivered yesterday. Colin saw a Peacock butterfly hatch out in the shed and we are recording our sitings on the ‘Big Butterfly count’ – about 5 or 6 to date! We are also keeping a lookout for the first swallows coming; it’s usually around 6th April. It’s lovely to open the door in the morning and hear all the birds twittering away. There is a woodpecker somewhere close by. One of our friends had a hedge full of sparrows but they have all disappeared – how very odd?
Please keep sending in your reports
To find out more click on the RSPB logo or go to www.rspb.org.uk