Masons and Miners

  • May 20, 2017 2:13 pm

Just a quick update from me, Spring is in full swing now here in South Norfolk. Blue tit’s are nesting in the box on the back of the house, and the Hawthorn hedge at the bottom of the garden was in magnificient full bloom until the rains came over the last two days. Every year I’m fascinated by our wild Red Mason Bees, which have been using the bee nesters I installed on the east facing side of the house for several years now. They are solitary bees, each one creating an individual nest, but they come in great numbers to use the bee nesters now. Starting from around 8 bees when we first moved here to far too many to count now is fantastic to see as they are such important pollinators. I wonder if the neighbours either side are wondering why their apple trees have been producing such vast amounts of fruit over the last few years? I love listening to the constant hum of the bees going back and forth to their nests, and occasionally having a quick peek down one of the tubes to admire the pile of glorious yellow pollen that the bee has accumulated. The females are busy right now, each one provisioning their nest with pollen collected from the surrounding gardens, their rufous fur covered with sunshine yellow, as if they had been dipped in lemon sherbert. A few weeks ago though, the females were still tucked safely inside, and the newly emerged males were vying for the best spot, waiting for the girls to appear. I took this photo of a male waiting inside the nesting tube, warming himself in the early Spring sunshine.

New for this year in the garden are the Mining bees. Much like the Mason bees, they are harmless solitary bees, and great pollinators of course too. As the name suggests, instead of nesting in holes in masonry, these little bees dig their own nest chambers underground, often resulting in a little hill of soil in the lawn with a hole in the middle of around 4mm diameter. These little bees are only about 8-11mm in length and prefer nesting in well drained soil. They are a little shyer than the Mason bees, retreating into their nest when you wander past, but with a little patience I was able to photograph this Early Mining bee basking in the sun at the entrance to her nest.

Although photography is my medium of choice I do occassionally dabble in video too, and this year I was able to film a male mason bee emerging from the nester for the first time. You can take a look at that video here: https://youtu.be/FsDcjPGzLFU

 

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Blog catch up time

  • February 1, 2017 10:07 pm

I realise I’ve really neglected my blog recently, instead I’ve just been adding recent photos to my Facebook page, but I’ve been missing writing, so it’s time for a quick update. Since my last blog in late Summer I continued photographing the bees, and had the pleasure of photographing this beautiful Common Carder bee, a species I had previously overlooked, but one that proved very photogenic. I hope to continue with the bee photography this year, once the weather gets warmer of course!

September - Common Carder Bee

In November I visited the fine city of Norwich to catch up with the wonderful Waxwings, a rather irregular Winter visitor from Scandinavia, always a real treat to see these punky birds with their stunning plumage and beautiful bell like trilling call. They are still around in a few places so watch out for them near any berry bushes you might find.

November - Waxwing

In December during a quick visit to the coast I found this lovely Grey seal, who was gently rolling down the sloping sand of the beach with each sleepy breath, rather comical but very peaceful to watch!

December - Grey Seal

Just lately I’ve been back on my local patch over at Redgrave and Lopham Fen, the Bearded Reedlings seem to have done very well this past year and there are lots around. After many years of trying I’ve finally started to get some nice images of them, so I’m really chuffed, it’s a real privilege to photograph these shy birds.

 

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The Roe deer are still around, and I had a wonderful chance encounter with this handsome Roe buck, notice his antlers are now in velvet.

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Thank you all for reading and for your continued support, I really appreciate it!

 

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Honeybees in the pink

  • September 3, 2016 6:10 pm

Bees are a real running theme for me this year, I just can’t resist the challenge of photographing these beautiful creatures. But they really are tricky to take pictures of. They are constantly moving, even when lapping the nectar from my Sedum plant in the garden, and in macro photography even the tiniest movements make all the difference. They really are fascinating and frustrating in equal measure. But it’s a pleasure really, to study these gorgeous glowing marmalade orange insects going about their business.

Honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeding on sedum, Norfolk, August, UK

Honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeding on sedum, Norfolk, August, UK

Honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeding on sedum, Norfolk, August, UK

The Honeybees arrive in the garden later in the day than the larger Bumblebees, so during an early start I found some other insects to photograph, like this young Green Shield Bug, which was lurking on my rose bush.

Green Shield Bug, Palomena prasina, young, on rose leaf, garden, Autumn, Norfolk

This odd and tiny little creature is a Mint Moth, which normally flutters around the Marjoram in the border, but I found it sunning itself on the Sedum before the bees arrived.

Mint Moth, Pyrausta aurata, on sedum, garden, Autumn, Norfolk

Honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeding on sedum, Norfolk, August, UK

You know you’ve been out in the sun for too long when you start to recognise individual bees!

 

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Yellow and Green

  • August 2, 2016 8:50 pm

Oh the exquisite British Summer, hot, sunny and humid for a week or two then back to the dreary drizzle of rain. The slugs in my garden are alarmingly huge this year, and they have eaten their way through most of my bee friendly flowers, but the little patch of Golden Rod I’ve left is still living and attracting hoverflies and honey bees like this one. Such handsome glowing golden creatures and vital pollinators.

Honey bee, Apis mellifera, feeding on Golden Rod, garden, Norfolk, July, Summer

My local common has a fantastic array of wildflowers however,  perhaps the dry sandy breckland soil helps to control those slugs. Beautiful blue harebells nodding amongst the grass, tall purple flowered thistles attracting Bumblebees and the yellow suns of Ragwort glowing alongside the path. Highly toxic, Ragwort is normally pulled up, but here some is left for the marvellous Cinnabar moth caterpillars which feast upon the poisonous plant, making themselves unpalatable to predators as a method of defence. These smart caterpillars in their stripy jumpers warn of their distastefulness with their stunning black and yellow colouration.

Cinnabar moth caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae, feeding on Ragwort, Norfolk, July, Summer

Cinnabar moth caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae, feeding on Ragwort, Norfolk, July, Summer

Cinnabar moth caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae, feeding on Ragwort, Norfolk, July, Summer

Cinnabar moth caterpillar, Tyria jacobaeae, feeding on Ragwort, Norfolk, July, Summer, Hoverfly on flower

 

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Jiminy Cricket

  • October 4, 2014 6:18 pm

Down at the bottom of the garden there’s a chirping coming from the hedge, but it’s not a bird, it’s a Dark bush-cricket. He suns himself on a plant pot, before boinging back off to the hedge.

 

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar

  • September 13, 2014 6:16 pm

Firstly, apologies again for the blog silence. A number of things have been holding me back recently, not least a bad shoulder injury. (Think: a dog, on lead, and a rabbit, with ‘Carry on dog walking’ style falling over due to the lead wrapped round my legs, all followed by a three hour visit to A & E, and you’ll get the idea.)

Much better now though, and as I was visiting the compost bin in the garden the other day, I realised there was something watching me… I did a double take in fact, as the creature perched on the plant next to the compost seemed to be watching me intently with large dark eyes. Only it wasn’t, it was quite happily munching away on the Great Willowherb, safe in the knowledge it’s olive green colouring and extraordinary markings would frighten me off. It did, but only for a few minutes as I went to grab the camera.

 

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This is an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, a rather spectacularly large (about 8cm long) animal that will, next spring, turn into a beautiful bright pink hawkmoth that will sip nectar from the honeysuckle flowers in the hedge.

There were 5 caterpillars in all, and they have now gradually started to move away to find a safe place on or under the soil to wrap themselves in a cocoon to overwinter, before emerging as moths when the weather warms up next year.

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