30 Days Wild – Day 4 – Garden Bioblitz Part 2

It’s day 4 of 30 Days Wild and I spent the morning taking more photos of the wildlife for our Garden Bioblitz. I’d started the bioblitz at about 09:30 yesterday, so I was trying to cram in as many more species as I could before 09:30 this morning. This wasn’t helped by the fact that my camera has packed in (I hope temporarily) so I was having to use Chris’s camera and swap lenses back and forth.

The day started at 04:30 to beat the birds to the contents of the moth trap. I had hoped for a good haul to boost my species tally, but the trap was fairly quiet – possibly because it had been quite windy last night. Still there were some nice moths including a few of these beautiful and distinctive Angle Shades – virtually impossible to mistake these for anything else, which I like in a moth!

Star of the moth show was the Elephant Hawkmoth making a timely debut for the year in our garden. I’ll never tire of these stunning moths with their bright pink bodies. If you were to make a toy moth, I reckon this would be it.

I put a specimen of each moth in the fridge (it does no harm but keeps them calm until  you can photograph them) and went back to bed for a couple of hours. 8 o’clock though and I was back up photographing said moths, then scouring the garden for more wildlife. I hadn’t managed to photograph any birds yesterday, so I topped up the feeders and waited expectantly to see what would show up. As usual the sparrows were the first to show, landing on last year’s teasels to check things out before heading to the bird table.

The starlings and jackdaws came next, followed by the blackbirds and pigeons.

There were several no shows for birds that normally frequent the garden – no sign of the robin, wren, collared doves, great tits or gold finches. A blue tit just appeared in the last minutes to scrape into the bioblitz total. For the last few days I’d been seeing a big black bird, bigger then the jackdaws, so was disappointed initially when it didn’t show for the camera. But then I downloaded the trail camera which had been running for the last couple of days and there he was – a carrion crow.

The trail cam also picked up a couple of hedgehogs – one of which looks like our old foster hedgehog Meadow – i.e. it was a big chunky looking hog!

There were of course bees in the garden, although being a busy bee myself chasing everything else around I didn’t actually manage to get that many photos of them. But here are two favourites – a Buff-tailed Bumblebee and a Common Carder Bee.

There was also this bumblebee mimicking hoverfly (Merodon equestris).

Our snails were also being sneeky and hiding away over the last 24 hours – several species that I know we get refused to show. Fortunately both the White Lipped (top) and Brown Lipped (below) appeared out of the Pendulous Sedge to get their photos taken.

I also found three species of slug including this large yellow one and the stripy ones which I think are Iberian slugs.

I spotted this tiny nymph of the Speckled Bush Cricket, when I saw its antennae poking over the edge of a buttercup. Unfortunately the buttercup was blowing about in the wind a bit – hence the less than perfect focussing!

While turning over stones, I disturbed loads of woodlice. The top one is a Common Striped Woodlouse and the ones below that are Common Rough Woodlice. The bottom pinky one may just be a variant of the latter, but I hoping it might be a 3rd species – just waiting for someone on i-Spot to confirm one way or another.

 

Beetles are the largest insect group in the world, so it would have been a bit weird if I hadn’t found any in the garden. My favourite Swollen-thighed beetle of course appeared, but so did this lovely shiny Black Clock Beetle.

This tiny carpet beetle was making the most of the flowers.

One group I’ve never really studied is the centipedes/millipedes. This beauty turned up under an old piece of wood. I’ve yet to work out the species though (suggestions gratefully received).

So that’s a selection of our bioblitz species for 2017. As always I ran out of time, so didn’t manage to root about in the pond, or look for ants, flies, grass moths and a host of other things. It was also a bit disappointing that no butterflies or shieldbugs or ladybirds appeared in the last 24 hours, but then that’s the way it goes. The bioblitz is just a snapshot of what you can find in the garden over a day. I love that it gets me looking for groups that I don’t normally study (easy to get in a bit of a rut with the bees and moths and butterflies and forget the others sometimes) – always good to broaden my wildlife horizons.

I’m still identifying photos and gradually uploading them to the i-Record website, so I won’t know the final tally for a while yet. So far I’ve only managed to load 32 species, which apparently puts me 10th on the bioblitz league table. Sounds good until I realised the person in the top spot at the moment has 167 species – I’ve got a way to go yet!

 

30 Days Wild – Day 11

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_11Day 11 of 30 Days Wild and last night’s drizzle has turned into today’s rain. We had planned on a trip to the Wyre Forest in the hope of seeing the Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries – they would have been a new species for us. But no point going in the rain, not much likelihood of seeing butterflies on a day like this.

So thought I’d just go with the flow today – if it’s raining, find something to do with animals that like the rain! It may be nice weather for ducks, but our pond is too small for them. I did see a frog this morning when emptying the moth trap, but of course it was long gone by the time I decided on the wet weather plan. So what’s left? Well one thing our garden produces lots of is molluscs. And in the rain this morning it was heaving with snails and slugs.

A quick trawl round produced 5 species of snail (we have others, but they would have required more hunting than I was prepared to do in the rain).

Assorted snails

Garden SnailFirst up our largest species at Too Lazy To Weed – the Common Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum). Plenty of these today hiding amongst stones and a few intrepid individuals heading across the grass.

 

Next up two very similar species, the Brown Lipped Snail (Cepaea nemoralis) and the White Lipped Snail (Cepaea hortensis). The Brown Lipped has a brown band around the opening of the shell (top image below) and the White Lipped has (not too surprisingly) a white band at the opening (bottom image). Other than that the two species both vary hugely in colour patterns from near white, yellow, brown and all manner of stripes in between.

Brown lipped

White lipped

Fourth snail today was a Girdled Snail (Hygromia cinctella). This species is a relative newcomer to the UK, being first seen in the south in the 1950s – well it’s now reached Malvern. It has a keel or girdle round the middle, defined by a white line. (the photo below was actually taken a few months ago, because for some reason I couldn’t get today’s one to focus!)

Girdle Snail

And finally we found one of the Glass Snails (Oxychilus sp.) These glossy little snails have a blue/black body and some supposedly smell of garlic.

Glass snail

In addition to the snails, there were at least 2 slug species around. I think the big one is part of the Large Black Slug group (Arion ater agg.) When I moved it, it rolled up into almost a ball and started rocking from side to side – apparently a characteristic of this group. Not sure yet what the smaller slimmer slug is – any suggestions welcome.

Arion ater

Slug

Having assembled a selection of molluscs for the photos, I decided to do something I haven’t done since I was a child – have a snail race! My sister and I used to collect and race snails all the time (mainly when we were killing time with our friends on a Sunday afternoon in the pub garden while our parents were all inside!) I did consider inviting my sister down for the race, but figured she has probably sensibly moved on from such things, while clearly I have not!

When we were kids we would of course just race any snails. But since I am now older and if not wiser, at least a bit more knowledgeable about snails, I decided to pit one species against another. Oh yes the fun never ends in our garden! The girdled and glass snails were a bit small and the garden snail was too big, so the obvious choices for this gladiatorial contest was the Brown Lipped versus the White Lipped.

So I set up a track, with a finish line and “raced” 2 Brown Lipped against 2 White Lipped.

The finish line

Race 1

The snails of course did exactly what they used to do when we were kids – veered all over the place – they have no concept of sticking to their lanes!

 

It took a bit of time but eventually 2 snails did approach the other end of the course, although one was not technically between the finishing lines, but I decided not to be picky. In a nail biting finish, the White Lipped Snail won by an eye stalk!

 

After so much excitement, I thought perhaps it was only fair to let the garden snails have a go. Unfortunately though, they really didn’t seem to get the hang of racing and made the other racers look positively professional!

 

Don’t think you can draw too many conclusions from this non-scientific competition – pretty sure another time a Brown Lipped may well have raced ahead instead. But for today at least the White Lipped Snails were the fastest molluscs in Malvern and I was back being a kid again!

Herb Bennet 30 WEEDS

And finally today’s weed in my 30 Days of Lazy Garden Weeds is Herb Bennet or Wood Avens. I must admit I have a love-hate relationship with this one. I love 5 petals interspersed with the 5 sepals into form a star shape. But I hate the seeds – they form masses of curved or hooked seeds that are designed to stick in the fur of animals that pass by. They do of course stick in clothing (towelling dressing gowns in particular!) just as well, where they seem to burrow in only to emerge later to stick into you like a splinter! I guess no pain no gain though, so I’ll put up with the seeds for the sake of the flowers.