2021 – The Year of the Slug

Well we all started out with high hopes that 2021 was going to be better than 2020. I’m not sure it achieved that, but best to dwell on the positives rather than the (many) negatives of the year. So here’s a round-up of some of my wildlife highlights from 2021, including a catch-up on my clearly over-ambitious New Year’s Resolutions.

The main highlight was probably going to Norfolk. We had originally planned to go in 2020, but covid put paid to that, but we finally made it there in June 2021. We had a rental right by the river in Wroxham, so were surrounded by wildlife from the start – birds, dragonflies and even a resident pike.  We ticked off number 53 on our list of British butterflies with the gorgeous Swallowtail and saw loads of dragonflies and birds. As I write, this I’ve realised I never actually got round to blogging about the birds, so will have to do a bit of a summary of those in a separate post. We visited lots of nature reserves and it was great to see a completely different set of wildlife to that which we get back home in Worcestershire.

Back at home, there’s been plenty of interest in the garden. The moth trap has been running throughout the year, bringing 34 new species to the garden. This takes the total up to an amazing 438 species recorded since I started in 2013. I’d never have dreamed back then that we could get such a huge variety of moths visiting our modest suburban garden. Highlights from this year include whoppers like the Pine Hawkmoth and this Privet Hawkmoth:

At the other end of the size spectrum, there were some lovely micro moths, including this Pearl Grass-veneer – a species I’d been hoping to see for a while.

Another mothy highlight was finally getting to see the flightless female vapourer moth and not only that, but getting to watch her laying eggs on our garage wall.

We put up more bee hotels last year and were rewarded with plenty of solitary bee activity. No new species recorded in the garden, but thrilled to finally catch a leaf-cutter bee actually cutting leaves.

 

The pond continued to delight and I spent many a happy hour there last year watching the wildlife. We got frog spawn in it for the first time and the newts were busy too. I would love to get toad spawn, but I gather they tend to be faithful to the ponds they were born in, so we will be lucky to get those – but I live in hope. We had plenty of dragonfly and damselfly activity, including home-grown damselflies hatching from the pond. Only one new species was spotted – this Blue-tailed Damselfly, bringing our total Odonata species list for the garden to 10.

We’ve had happy and sad news with our hedgehogs in the garden. The good news is that through the warmer months we were visited nightly by at least one, and sometimes as many as three hedgehogs. Lots of courtship behaviour witnessed on the cameras and a few heated hoggy debates over food or ladies. Some of the courtship was quite late in the year though and the inevitable result was at least one late litter of hoglets. While a second litter may seem like a good idea, the resulting hoglets often don’t have time to fatten up before the winter. The result was that in a 2 week period between the end of October and early November, I had to rescue 6 very underweight hoglets, 2 of whom were out during the day as well. None of these would have survived hibernation without intervention as they just didn’t have the fat reserves. The 6 were all taken to local rescues. Sadly despite the best efforts of the rehabilitators, 3 of them still didn’t make it.

Thankfully the remaining 3 have survived. One has even grown enough that he was released back in our garden during a mild spell. Hopefully the remaining 2 can be released back home in the spring too.

Despite all the enjoyment I’ve had from all of the above, the animals of the year have to be slugs! Not everyone’s favourite I know, but over the last year I’ve grown quite fond of them. For most of this year I participated in a nationwide slug survey and am now a slug fan. Some of the slugs are still being analysed back at slug HQ (a RHS lab), so I’ll have to wait a bit for the final conclusions. But slugs really reached the dizzy heights for me when one of the actual slugs from our garden featured on Gardener’s World – it doesn’t get more exciting than that!

As to last year’s New Year’s Resolutions, I think I’ve failed pretty dismally on most of them (as with most things, I blame this on Covid). Here’s what I set out to do and what I did or did not achieve:

  • Video a dragonfly emerging from our pond. I did see some damselfly larvae and found several exuviae on rocks and plants, but didn’t manage to see them actually emerge in our pond. But we did see some emerging while we were in Norfolk, so can I count that???
  • Expand the moon garden – nope – the moon garden is stuck at the same size it was last year. I still had a good year for moths, but there’s always hope for more.
  • See 2 more species of British Butterfly. Only managed to see 1 more, but it was the fabulous Swallowtail, so more than happy with that.
  • Visit 5 new nature reserves. I think we did do that if I include the ones we went to in Norfolk.
  • Rockpooling. Nope – only managed to see sandy beaches in Norfolk, so no chance for rockpooling.
  • Go and see some wild Ospreys. Nope and again I blame Covid for travel restrictions during Osprey season.
  • The moth tattoo! Maybe I should give up on this!

So what about resolutions for 2022?

  • Continue the quest to see all the British species of butterfly. So far we’ve seen 53 out of the 58. We’re hoping to holiday in the Lake District this year, so with luck might be able to tick 2 more species off the list.
  • I had planned on starting a nature journal, recording the daily goings on in the garden. But as I write this, we are already on the 9th of January and I haven’t made a single journal entry – maybe I can start it in the spring?
  • Rockpooling. I would still really love to be able to film some wildlife in a rockpool with the GoPro. Hopefully there will be some rocky coasts round Cumbria to try this out.
  • Try a night-time safari in the garden. While doing the slug surveys, I was amazed how much invertebrate life was active after dark. So it would be nice to spend a night seeing the other side of our garden life.
  • Do a wildlife audit of the garden – hopefully this will be a lot more fun than that makes it sound. I already know how many moths and bee and dragonfly species we get, but I thought it would be interesting to tally up ALL the species we get. Since we’ve got over 400 moths alone, the total species count should easily make it over 500.
  • The moth tattoo – one of these days.

So despite a pandemic’s efforts to put a dampener on 2021, there was still much to enjoy in terms of wildlife. Being blessed with an interest in wildlife can be a real life-saver when so much of the rest of the world is doom and gloom. There is always something in nature to lift your spirits, whether it’s spotting some exotic bird or getting a slug on Gardener’s World! xx

Showbiz Slugs

Last November I joined 59 other volunteers in a project monitoring the slugs in our gardens. Our Slug Count Survey was being run by the lovely Imogen as part of her PhD with the RHS and Newcastle University. Once every 4 weeks we had to go out into our gardens and collect all the slugs we could find in half an hour. We’d then attempt to identify them, before posting them off to Imogen for “proper” identifications.

This year has flown passed for any number of reasons, but I still can’t believe my year of slug counting is already up. It took a bit of explaining to my neighbours as to why I went out each month with a head torch in the dark to wander round the garden with a bucket of carrot shavings (food for the slugs) for half an hour, not to mention explaining to the lovely lady in the post office why I was posting slugs! I actually found it really interesting to go out in the garden after dark and just look at what was around. I was used to going out to check on the moth trap, or feed the hedgehogs, but tended to be focussed on those activities. Searching for slugs, I noticed for the first time all the caterpillars that were out and active, the worms on the grass that vanished as they felt my footsteps approach and the spiders and woodlice and all manner of other species going about their business at night. The garden at night becomes a whole other world.

In total over the 13 counts, I sent off an amazing 1145 slugs! You’d think that might have reduced the population in my garden, but they are still very abundant. Going out the night after a count there seemed to be just as many slugs roaming the garden as before, with no sign of diminishing populations.

And the slugs themselves were clearly doing their bit to increase numbers.  Through September there were several nights when I saw pairs of large Arion slugs trailing each other round the grass. There is clearly a season for it, as I saw multiple pairs for a couple of weeks, but none before or since.

Whatever romancing was involved, it was clearly successful and I can presumably expect more Arion slugs next year.

As well as getting to see a bit of slug romance, I was really chuffed to film one of the Arion slugs getting its wriggle on. This squirming action in the video below is a characteristic feature of a couple of Arion species when disturbed.

The total number of species recorded has yet to be finalised (some are apparently getting sent for DNA analysis!), but is probably around 14. There were at least 4 species of short-keeled slugs, including this Ambigolimax sp.

There were at least 7 species of round-backed slugs including the familiar large Arion species. Finally there were 3 species of the long-keeled slugs. The one below is the Crimean Keeled Slug (Tandonia cristata) which has a network of dark lines criss-crossing the body.

My most unusual find was a Worm Slug (Boettgerilla pallens), another long-keeled slug, which as the name suggests looks like a worm! I only found 1 in all the surveys.

Finding the worm slug was good, but the best was yet to come. Our survey leader appeared on BBC’s Gardener’s World in July to try and convince the (possibly sceptical) viewing public of the delights of slugs. As part of the feature there was footage of several specimens. I was beyond excited when she told me that one of my actual slugs had been filmed for the show. Here’s a still from iPlayer showing my very own slug TV star (a Netted Field Slug, Deroceras reticulatum).

Not only did my slug feature, but it was described as being one of the biggest pest species, doing the most damage to plants. I don’t know why, but I felt ridiculously pleased that I’d got effectively the bad boy of the slug world!

So all in all this slug project has been fascinating. I love doing these citizen science projects. You usually learn something new, or see something new and either way you get the pleasure of enjoying some aspect of nature whilst contributing hopefully useful data to scientists. This particular project has given me a whole new appreciation for slugs, a group I’d previously given little thought to. I know they are not popular with gardeners and they can be a worry for those with hedgehogs in their gardens (slugs can carry parasites such as fluke and lungworm which can pass to the hedgehogs). But everything has its place and slugs have just as much right to be in a garden as everything else.

 

Flightless but Fabulous

This week I finally got to see a moth I’ve been wanting to see for a very long time – a female Vapourer. We often see Vapourer caterpillars in the garden and sometimes the male adult moths, but the female is something else. The female Vapourer has the, perhaps unenviable, trait of being flightless! Her life as a caterpillar proceeds the same as the male, but when she pupates, instead of emerging with beautiful wings, she appears as short dumpy lump who can hardly move (perhaps this is why I empathise with her!). A female Vapourer’s lot is not a glamorous one.

Back at the beginning of July I spotted this large Vapourer caterpillar on the garage wall. They are spectacular looking caterpillars with tufts protruding here, there and everywhere. 

This caterpillar very purposefully headed up the garage wall until it reached the overhang at the top – and there it settled. I saw it there an hour or so later and at first thought it had been snared by a spider’s web, but it was in fact pupating.

The caterpillars spin themselves a fairly thin whispy cocoon and can emerge as an adult within 2 weeks. The good people on a local Facebook group suggested this could be a female, so I checked the cocoon every day for weeks hoping to catch it emerge. Sadly just as the time should have been up, it looked like the garden sparrows or blue tits had pecked her out of her cocoon. We often see them pecking at small spiders and insects on the walls and it seemed this was her fate.

Fortunately that same week, I spotted another 2 caterpillars – also on the garden wall, but this time choosing a slightly safer place to pupate – beneath the garage windowsills. Tucked away there, they were less visible to the birds and perhaps stood a better chance. These ones also had the advantage (for me) of being much lower down the wall, so I could watch them more closely. The caterpillars (at this stage I didn’t know whether I’d got males or females) use some of their hairs and tufts to “decorate”  the cocoon. Since these hairs are irritants, this may serve to provide additional protection to the developing moth inside. You can see various hairs and tufts on the picture below, photographed under the windowsill.

On Sunday, exactly 14 days after I’d seen her crawl under the windowsill, a female Vapourer emerged. When they emerge the females emit pheromones to attract the males. Since the females can’t really move, the males have to come to them and the pheromones draw them in very quickly. So quickly in fact that I missed this stage of the process. I’d checked the cocoons at about 8am – no sign of any activity. I was out for the morning and by the time I checked again at noon, the female was in full egg-laying mode. The males had been and gone. Disappointing as that was, it was still fantastic to see the female laying eggs. Here are a selection of photos taken somewhat awkwardly beneath the windowsill.

On the photo below you can see what I think are the vestigial remains of wings – looking like fluffy ears, either side of her head.

Her body is really a furry sac, stuffed fill of eggs. She has legs at the front to hold on to the cocoon.

The eggs are laid directly onto the cocoon. They looked wet and a sort of olive colour as they emerged but soon turned white with a darker centre spot.

I did try to video the process, not easy as the light wasn’t great underneath the windowsill. She works determinedly laying egg after egg, all neatly arranged on the remains of the cocoon.

In all she laid 401 eggs – I read online that they can lay between 200 and 400, so she excelled herself!

I suppose I should show a photo of a male Vapourer, although their contribution to the whole process is fleeting to say the least. He is, it has to be said, a very attractive moth, with large feathery antennae for detecting the females’ pheromones.

Sadly once the female finishes laying her eggs, she dies. Her body by then has shrunk and shrivelled once it is empty of eggs. I found this one the next day lying on the ground beneath the windowsill, her eggs still safely sitting on the cocoon. I actually felt quite sad to see her like that, but her work was done and with 401 eggs she had hopefully ensured her genes would live on. Her adult life may have been brief, but she packed a lot into it. Flightless she may have been, but to me a fabulous moth. 

 

Another Bee Blog

I’ve not managed to blog much lately, but rather than it being for lack of things to blog about, there’s almost been too much. There’s a lot going on in the garden at this time of year and I get distracted far too easily! Bees, moths, dragonflies, tadpoles – I spend so much time watching them all, I don’t quite get round to writing about them. But it’s a nice problem to have and much better than having an empty garden devoid of wildlife!

Anyway I’ve finally managed to collate some photos of this year’s red mason bees. I blogged about these bees last year (Bee ‘n’ Bees | Too Lazy To Weed) so this kind of follows on with their story. Last year I’d bought a super-duper new bee hotel with viewing windows. At the end of last summer I was left with a number of the tubes in the hotel filled with red mason bee cocoons, all neatly separated by their little mud walls.

Red mason cocoons in house

In February this year I removed the cocoons to allow me to clean out the chambers for reuse. The cocoons were safely stored in a special storage container, before being put out in the release chamber of the bee hotel, ready for them to emerge when conditions were right for them. It was fascinating to see these perfect little bundles, knowing they contained the next generation of red mason bees.

red mason cocoons

The bees started emerging in April, leaving behind their empty cocoons.

empty cocoons

The males tend to emerge first and hang around waiting for the females. Their emergence coincides with the apple blossom, which is always alive with bees of all kinds, including the red masons.

red mason

Red mason peeping out

red mason in blossom

When the females start to appear, the males go crazy buzzing round the hotels trying to be the first to mate. On some sunny days it was a real frenzy around the hotels.

The mating pairs often drop to the ground to “continue their business”, so we have to be very careful where we tread when walking passed the hotels.

Once mated the females start filling up the bee hotels with the next generation. Each egg is provisioned with fresh, bright yellow pollen and sealed in its little mud chamber.

almost full

full mason bee house

The female carries the pollen in a “pollen brush” consisting of hairs on the underside of her abdomen. She then uses her legs to scrape the pollen off the brush and deposit it in the new cell.

There are still a few females about, but the bee hotels are almost full and it’s coming to the end of their season. At the moment there are plenty of developing bee embryos, so the garden should be buzzing with red mason bees again next spring. One slight cloud (albeit a very pretty cloud) on the bee horizon is the presence of ruby-tailed wasps. These wasps parasitize the bee nests, laying their own eggs in there when they get the chance. There have been quite a few of these gorgeous looking wasps around this year, but hopefully the bees have laid enough eggs to spare a few for the wasps.

ruby tailed wasp

Happy Birthday Pond

Our pond is one year old! It’s been quite a year (in more ways than one!) but the pond has been a huge success for the wildlife and for us in terms of a calming presence in an otherwise stressful year. So in a year the pond has gone from this:

to this:

It’s looking pretty well bedded in now, although there are still a few bare spots where the lining is showing that I need to sort.

The wildlife has been abundant. We’ve had frogs and newts – the newts in particular doing really well with possibly hundreds of baby newts hatched.

There’s been plenty of insect activity with beetles, pond skaters and dragonflies quickly moving in.  9 species of dragonfly/damselfly have found their way to the pond already, which is amazing.

As well as the insects we had perhaps anticipated or hoped for, there were others more surprising like moths – this Meadow Longhorn spotted on the marginal plants.

The birds have been making good use of the pond for bathing and hedgehogs, squirrels and the neighbours’ cats have all been seen drinking from it.

The only slight disappointment with the pond last year was that we didn’t get any frog spawn; but the pond was so new at spawning time it was perhaps not surprising. Will we get any this year? Well nothing yet, but it’s looking promising. This pair of frogs in an amplexus embrace have been seen for several nights – so fingers crossed.

So Happy Birthday to our pond. May the coming year bring you (and us) lots more wildlife encounters.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2021

Another year, another lockdown; or more cheerily – another year, another Big Garden Birdwatch! The perfect thing to do for an hour when you can’t leave home.

Saturday it pretty much poured with rain all day, so today seemed like a better birding day. It was still bloomin’ cold sitting there though for an hour and my derrière was pretty numb by the time I finished.  Still it was worth it to record a very respectable 34 individuals of 12 species.

Top of the abundance was, as usual, the house sparrow. I  counted at least 12 in one go, although I’m sure we actually have more than that. Joint second were the blackbirds and jackdaws – 4 of each. I can’t tell the difference between male and female jackdaws, but for the blackbirds there was one female and at least 3 males.

Most of the rest arrived in pairs – goldfinches, great tits, collared doves, wood pigeons, starlings and magpies, although I only seemed to manage to get photos of them one at a time.

And then there was a singleton blue tit, dunnock and robin. The robin was the most sociable of the whole bunch. He even landed on the camouflage netting right by my head – too close to even get a photo. As if sensing that he might be missing his photo op, he then obligingly hopped down to some stems in front of me and posed so I could get his good side. Of course there was still a twig in the way – isn’t there always?

The (almost) highlight of the whole hour came near the end when I think a sparrowhawk zoomed across the garden after a small bird. Unfortunately it all happened so fast that I couldn’t be sure that’s what I saw and I almost got tangled in the camouflage netting in my haste to stand up and get a better look. So although I’m about 80% certain it was a sparrowhawk, I wasn’t sure enough to include it in my birdwatch results. So close!

A bit disappointed that our wren didn’t put in an appearance, nor the long-tailed tits. And really disappointed that our male blackcap was a no-show too. He’s been pretty much resident outside our patio doors for the last 3 weeks, but today of course he chose to have the morning off. Just to prove it, here he is from a few weeks ago.

Submitting my data took a few goes as the RSPB website seemed to be struggling. Hopefully that’s a good sign and means lots of people have been doing the count.

Success in the end though and nice to know I’d contributed in a small way to another bit of citizen science. Talking of which, tonight happens to be my next slug collection night for the Slug Count project. It’s all go!

Miscellaneous Delights

Despite being stuck at home like many people, for much of this year, I don’t seem to have blogged as much as I would have liked. It certainly wasn’t for lack of interest in the garden – having spent an inordinate amount of time sitting out, there was plenty to see. Perhaps there was too much, or perhaps I just couldn’t face being cooped up inside to write. Whatever the reason, I’ve ended up with a lot of interesting (to me at least) snippets, that never saw the light of day. So here’s a miscellany of wildlife moments from the garden this year – they all cheered me up and they deserve their moment!

Most of this will be insects, but there are a trio of mammals making the cut.  Hedgehogs of course featured regularly in the garden. Freda our 3-legged hedgehog from the previous year not only made it through the winter, but produced at least one hoglet. Here she is looking like many mums – slightly harassed by her offspring.

 

Bats (most likely Common Pipistrelles) have always used our garden as a hunting ground in the summer months. A weed-filled garden tends also to be an insect-filled garden, so there are plenty of moths and other food for them. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but the bats do seem to be coming more frequently now we have the new pond. The pond is surely generating extra insect activity, which hopefully means more bats. I’ve tried with very limited success to film them – this was the best of a shoddy selection of shaky videos. I reckon there are at least 3 bats visible towards the end of the clip.

Third mammal is this mouse at the bird feeder, for no other reason than it was so cute.

So on to the insects. I was really chuffed to spot a Dotted Bee-fly again this year, amongst all the regular bee-flies. Both species seemed to favour warm stones around the pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hoverflies were abundant in the garden and as usual I failed completely to get to grips with identifying them all. There were lots of different shapes and colours though, including some of the delightful bee mimic ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One I did manage to identify though was the Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) – one of the biggest British species. They really were huge compared to the other hoverflies.

A new species to me and in fact a new group was this Potter Wasp – so called because some species construct little mud pots for nests.

Continuing on the waspy theme, here’s one of the gorgeous ruby-tailed wasp species. I tend to have mixed feelings towards these – they are of course stunningly beautiful, but they do parasitize mason bee nests and I feel very protective of my little mason bees. But live and let live and it’s nice to have diversity in the garden.

The wasps aren’t the only parasitic insects in the garden. I discovered this new addition to our garden bee fauna this year – a Sharp-tailed bee Coelioxys sp.  These ones make use of leaf-cutter bee nests.

Talking of leafcutter bees, I had meant to do a whole blog post on them. I’ve got a lot of photos and a lot of videos – so many in fact I think it became too daunting to sort through. So a full leafcutter post will have to wait until next year. In the meantime here’s a snippet.

 

We’ve had a few interesting beetles this year too. This one I spotted on the garage wall, while out checking the moth trap one night. For a split second I thought I’d got a Stag Beetle, then reality set in and I realised it was a Lesser Stag Beetle. Still a first for the garden, so very pleased to add it to our list.

The pond of course attracted lots of water beetles. This huge Great Diving Beetle misjudged his landing though and ended up in the hedgehog’s water bowl.

Also misjudging his landing was this Dung Beetle (Onthophagus coenobita) which ended up on a bit of frogbit in the pond.

Moths I’ve covered fairly extensively in other blog posts, but possibly my favourite odd moment this year was watching a male Black Arches moth flare it’s genitalia at me! It was perched on the edge of a pot and while I tried to photograph it, it started this weird behaviour. Don’t know whether it was trying to warn me off, or perhaps entice me (should I be flattered?), but it was certainly very odd. I sent the video clip to some moth experts and they weren’t sure why it was doing it either.

So that’s it really – a quick round-up of some of the wonderful wildlife I was lucky enough to see in our garden, but didn’t manage to blog about before. I feel very lucky to have had a garden to enjoy in 2020; it really has made things a lot easier to deal with when you’re surrounded by so much wildlife.

I’ll do a summary of everything else we’ve seen this year in the next blog post, with hopes and dreams for next year too. Happy New Year everyone. xx

 

 

 

Slugs Count

Way back at the beginning of the year (when the world seemed a very different place) I saw an article asking for volunteers to count slugs. The RHS in conjunction with Newcastle University were looking for 60 people to go out into their gardens once a month and count & identify the slugs in their own gardens. Perhaps I need to get out more, but it sounded great! Since I already spend a lot of time looking at the moths, bees, dragonflies etc. in the garden, it seemed a good opportunity to learn a bit about another group. So I applied and then lockdown happened and everything went on hold.

But eventually I heard back; they’d had nearly 3000 applicants for the 60 volunteers needed, so I feel really lucky to have been chosen. Our survey packs arrived, complete with sampling containers, slug guide and pre-paid postage envelopes (the local post office are going to love me). In an ideal world we would have all met up for hands-on training, but thanks of course to COVID, we had to do all this by Zoom.

First thing I learned about identifying slugs is that it’s really hard! They are extremely variable and they either keep moving or they scrunch themselves up so that you can’t see the bits you need to see. They’re also really hard to take photos of, because again they either keep moving or they’re shiny with slime so that the camera struggles to focus.

Splitting them into the major groups seems relatively straightforward until you get very small ones.  If the breathing pore is in the front half of the mantle (the fleshy sort of saddle on their backs) then it’s one of the Arion types like the one below.

If the breathing pore is in the rear half then it’s one of the keeled slugs like the one below. So far so good.

But separating the keeled slugs is also tricky. There are long keeled slugs and 2 groups of short keeled slugs and the keels really aren’t always that obvious.

Originally it was all planned to start in June but in the end it was early November before we all did our first slug counts! A half hour search around the garden after dark yielded 116 slugs! And that’s without lifting anything up, or rummaging through leaves or plants – just scanning around with my head torch (neighbours once again convinced I’d lost it). So here they are before I’d sorted them out – a bucket of slugs.

And then all potted up with their moist capillary matting to stop them drying out and shredded carrot for the journey.

The lovely post office lady did indeed thing I was a bit odd to say the least when she asked what was in the parcels. I have since done my second count in early December; a mere 88 slugs this time. Many of the other slug count participants have been reporting only a few or even no slugs at all, but that’s clearly not an issue in our garden. I suspect it may be because our garden is so unkempt with plenty of decaying matter for them to feed on – slug paradise.

By far the commonest species so far has been Arion (Kobeltia) hortensis – the Blue-black soil slug. They’re only 2 -3 cm long, but what they lack in size they make up for in numbers; the garden is full of them.

There were also apparently some other small Kobeltia species in my samples, but I’m waiting confirmation of what those are. A few juvenile Arion subfuscus had also sneaked in undetected (by me). Differentiating between some of these is way beyond my current skills set.

The next most common species was Deroceras reticulatum, the Netted Field Slug. This is one of the slugs with a short keel. I found these short keeled slugs really hard to photograph and show the keel, so you may just have to take my word for it that there is one there.

Apparently in my samples there were also some Ambigolimax sp., but since I failed to spot these as being anything different, I don’t have any photos.

I did better with 2 species of long-keeled slugs – Tandonia budapestensis – the Budapest Keeled Slug and Tandonia cristata  – the Crimean Keeled Slug. I managed some photos of the Budapest ones (below) but seem to have got so excited when I spotted the second species that I forgot to take any photos. The keel on the Budapest ones is really nice and obvious – my kind of slug!

The only other species to get picked up in my half hour searches was a single Limacus maculatus – the Green Cellar Slug, although this specimen doesn’t look especially green.

The cellar slug above was by far the biggest slug I collected during the counts so far, but I know we have much bigger slugs in the garden like this giant Arion seen last summer.

The weather is now significantly colder (first snow today) but there are still a fair few slugs out at night. Hopefully in the coming monthly surveys I will find more species new to the garden. I’m finding the whole process fascinating and it’s opened up a whole new world of wildlife to me. Hopefully the slugs in our garden and in those of the other slug count participants will help the scientists to expand their knowledge of this understudied group.