Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Ladybirds Have Hatched

Well, not hatched like birds but emerged from their pupal stage - or whatever ladybirds do.

A week or so ago - all the larvae had disappeared to be replaced by pupae attached to bits of wall, stone, the garden bench and any surface around. I've never seen this stage of their development. Like butterflies and other insects they form a chrysalis which like the larvae is black with yellow markings. Within a week they've turned from the fat, black, prickly larvae with yellow spots into the familiar ladybird beetle.

I was lucky enough to take a break in the garden yesterday and saw several of them emerging from their cases. They had pale orange-yellow wing cases with no spots at first but gradually as they dried out in the sun the spots started to show through. One of them extended it's pale yellow wings, presumably to harden up and dry. There are still a few to hatch out but I've already noticed plenty of aphids around so they'll have enough to feed on and hopefully then hatch out the next batch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I heard and then saw a great spotted woodpecker today. Now that I can recognise their call fairly easily. It flew up onto a tree just across the gardens and sat calling as it perched in true woodpecker fashion before flying off.

So that's another to add to the local list.

Springwatch 2007

There's nothing so delightful as watching owl chicks live. The wonderful Springwatch is being broadcast again with live coverage of a range of animals in spring time, birds, badgers and many others.

For those night owls amongst you - you can watch the real night owls or their chicks. They are sooooo cute. Different sizes, looking like a collection of rather fluffy russian dolls with their adult feathers poking through the soft fluffy down. The barn owls are obviously well fed this year, as they sit hissing at each other waiting for Mum to return and stuff another rat or mouse down their gullet. A box of young Tawny Owls chirping pitifully

A nestbox with barn owl chicks showed one older sibling devouring it's younger sibling - down in one. I didn't know whether to laugh as it sat with the poor younger chick half sticking out of it's mouth, two little legs either side of it's mouth or to wince at the thought of such cannibalism. But that's why they're spaced out over several days. If food is in short supply - only the older chicks survive as they're stronger than their siblings so get to the food first and the younger chicks usually starve to death and probably then get eaten. I didn't realise that they were actually on the menu.

The Barn owl chicks look like drunks on a Saturday night. Slightly wobbly on their feet with that concentrated look on their face just like a drunk, concentrating very hard but not being able to focus and not very co-ordinated, as they tear up whatever morsel mum has provided, closing their eyes and swallowing down way too large a chunk and having to pause with it half in, half out with the effort.

I clearly remember watching the littlest of the owl chicks last year swallowing rat that was almost as big as it. It must have taken twenty minutes to swallow this thing down whole and was left with the tail sticking out of it's beak. Even now I can't help but smile remembering the comical vision it presented.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Chilly, Drizzly Runs

Managed to get out for a couple of runs this week. Weather wasn't brilliant it's got cold and drizzly. Although the rain is welcome, mid-week I was running in a heavy sea-mist so didn't see much - even the other dog walkers although they weren't out either.

The dewpond which had dwindled down to a large puddle has filled up a bit. I haven't been close enough to investigate if there are any amphibians in there this year.

The whitethroats are around as are the swallows and linnets. I could have sworn I saw a flock of curlews flying over the Tye the other week. They are around but I've never seen them up here - Cuckmere and Pulborough maybe. I didn't manage to get close enough for a definite confirmation but just got a glimpse of a down-curved bill.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The ants seem to have found their way into the house again. A little earlier in the year than usual but at first I spotted one or two wandering around - thinking I'd just brought them in on my shoes or feet and then spotted a whole string of them investigating a plate I'd left on the coffee table. Quite impressive how they manage to find things. I quite often get a troupe visiting my compost container I have on the side in the kitchen before it gets transported out to the bins. I'll need to be more vigilant before they decide to set up home inside my house.

I've also noticed with all the recent rain and general dampness, that the ant hills have appeared on the lawn. Also seems to be a lot earlier than last year.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ladybird Bugs

There have been masses of ladybird bugs around the garden this weekend - rather ugly looking black bugs with yellow spots. I occasionally spot one or two but this year I counted fifteen in one small patch of garden so it's definitely been a good year for ladybirds.

Whether this is because it was such a mild winter or an early spring, I don't know but it's good for the garden and bad for the aphids.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Cuckmere - Godwits

A grey, cool and breezy day down at the Seven Sisters Country Park, on the Cuckmere meanders. I got there early and the carpark was practically empty so ahead of the Sunday walkers. The usual birds around but several Bar-tailed Godwits, flying up and down along the river bank - disturbed by the canoeists. I also spotted two in their orange-brown summer plumage on the lagoon, which was almost dry but with several Canada geese heads peeking up from the vegetation on the islands. Presumably nesting there. There was a pair up near the carpark with a few goslings feeding in the fields.

I only saw three Little Egrets this time - surprising considering how many are usually down there. While down on the shingle, I also spotted four curlew in flight. I wasn't too sure at the time, their curved bills seemed obvious but it could just have been the light, then when I got up to the visitor centre I saw they were listed down on the sightings board, so I'm putting those down as a tick.

There wasn't much to report out of the usual suspects - more surprising what I didn't see - no dabchicks, only a few egrets and no kestrels. I watched a lovely pair of stonechats down on the shingle ridge with it's bright white collar, a couple of reed buntings (or maybe the same one) and a small flock of linnets. I also spotted my first whitethroat and wheatear of the year. The summer migrants are certainly turning up - despite having to battle with the strong north-westerly wind that's been blowing for a few days.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fixing A Stile

A lovely sunny day and a mid-week volunteering task over in Washington at the foot of Chanctonbury Hill. Three of us out today plus Richard, fixing a stile and replacing a way marker post.

We had to park down the road near the pub and then walk up the road with tools and materials. Although it looked like a relatively simple task, we were replacing the foot boards on the stile and replacing the way marker, it did take us most of the day, having decided to replace both boards and also having to dig holes in solid chalk which isn't the easiest thing to do and realising why the posts had been placed were they were in the first place.

We did have a leisurely lunch break at the Frankland Arms, a luxury that isn't usually available on tasks where you sit munching sandwiches and drinking flask flavoured tea on the grass or avoiding thorns and brambles and the smoke from the bonfire.

Didn't have time to check the other marker posts up the hill as we had to pack up and get back to Stanmer by 4pm but the gate looked a whole lot smarter (and safer) once we'd finished with it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bar-tailed Godwits on the seashore

Cycling back from town this afternoon, I'd stopped off for tea at Ovingdean as it was such a lovely day. Cycling on past Rottingdean and I spotted a couple of wading birds out on the shoreline - quite far away as the tide was well out. Just for a change I had my binoculars with me and was surprised to see that they were bar-tailed godwits. Not something I've seen along this particular part of the coast. Incredibly long bills - looking almost as long as the snipe.

There were three of them, just standing on the seaweed down by the water's edge. One already with it's orange summer plummage clearly visible. The other two were still in their winter plummage. It was only as I was about to move on that I spotted another one. Not much else to be seen except for the usual mix of seagulls, rock pipits and oystercatchers.

First swift of the year

Just seen my first swift of the year flying past the window. I was just wondering when they'd return. Perhaps I just haven't spotted them before.

I haven't seen any swallows or house-martins around here yet but if the swifts are here - they must be around too. I did spot a couple of swallows the other day at Pulborough.