19th March 2015

Bees are about again, Spring is on it’s way, though it is still pretty cold. Male honey

Honey Bee out for food the other day

Honey Bee out for food the other day

Only the Queen Bumble Bees live through winter. They emerge to find nectar in spring

Only the Queen Bumble Bees live through winter. They emerge to find nectar in spring

bees die as soon as they have fertilised the eggs so it is only the females that survive through the winter– they huddle round the Queen in the hive, moving, to keep her warm, and only emerge to feed if it is warm enough, but they don’t hibernate. Bumble Bees are differentonly the Queen survives the winter and she emerges in Spring to gather nectar for energy. You can se them out and about in warm weather now, as shown in the photo taken a couple of days ago. They then look for a nest site, gather pollen and lay eggs, having been fertilised last year. Conditions: Still, cloudy and chilly day. Temperature: Max 7- Min 3c

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17th March 2015

Frog Spawn and Marsh Marigolds, signs of Spring

Spawn laid in shallow water has the best chance of surviving

Spawn laid in shallow water has the best chance of surviving

The shiny, dark leaves and bright yellow flowers of Marsh Marigolds (Kingcups) are out before most wild flowers

The shiny, dark leaves and bright yellow flowers of Marsh Marigolds (Kingcups) are out before most wild flowers

– being near the Botanical Gardens today I popped in to see if Frog Spawn was there yet- sure enough, huge quantities have been laid in the shallow end, which is where the spawn has the best chance of surviving. There’s never too much- an individual female lays, on average, 4,000 eggs but predators, disease and cold destroy most of them. Watch the black centres closely- you will see them gradually change shape if they have been successfully fertilised, and survived the conditions. If the spawn goes milky, it means it has ‘died’, probably through the cold, but any that successfully hatch will eat the jelly so nothing goes to waste. If, like us, you have a lot of Newts in your pond you are unlikely to have successful spawning, since Newts are a main predator. Conditions: Overcast and still. Temperature: Max 7- Min 3c.

From tens of thousands of spawn, a few Frogs survive to adulthood.

From tens of thousands of spawn, a few Frogs survive to adulthood.

16th March 2015

These wonderful Long-Tailed Tits are probably already gathering materials and building their complex nests. The nests, built by male and female working together, are usually located in dense thickets among shrubs with thorns. I haven’t see any gathering any of the 2,000 or more feathers they use to line their nests yet and will put feathers out for them in a few days, in order to help. The other three materials are lichen, moss and many spiders webs. The latter are woven into the fabric of the beautiful nests so that, as the young hatch and grow the elasticity in the webs allows the nest to expand as they do. In the meantime, we are lucky just to be able to watch these fascinating birds at the feeder. Conditions: Dreary day with drizzle and heavy rain. Temperature: Max 6- Min 3c.

Such small round bodies and long tails!

Such small round bodies and long tails!

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13th March 2015

Frogs are back in the ponds! I checked my records and this is just one day earlier than they arrived here last year. I’m sure you know that the males are smaller than the females, and cling to the backs of females during the mating season. So many can attempt to mate with a female that it is not unheard of for females to be drowned during this time. Listen out for the males croaking at night, attracting females to mate with. Conditions: A dull rainy start with sunny intervals predicted later. Temperature: Max 9- Min 1c.IMG_7244IMG_7258

12th March 2015

Siskins, along with Redpoll and Brambling, have been more scarce this year in much of England than in recent years. We have seen Siskins a couple of times only, and the others not all, in the garden. There is speculation that this lack of sightings is due to unusually good crops of wild tree-seeds, including a very good year for Sitka Spruce seeds in Scandinavia– lets hope this is the reason, and they’ll be more common

Female Siskin

Female Siskin

Male Siskin, with its yellow markings and black bib and cap

Male Siskin, with its yellow markings and black bib and cap

Male and female Siskins at the feeder

Male and female Siskins at the feeder

another winter. Male and female Siskins differ at all times of the year, as can be sen by these photo’s. It is still not too late to catch sight of them, so keep your eyes peeled before leaves come on the trees and the overwintering birds return to their summer haunts. Conditions: Mild but grey, with dense cloud. Temperature: Max 12- Min 5c.

11th March 2015

Sheffield has the smallest and the fastest bird at the moment. Goldcrests, like the one here, which I watched in the garden the other day, are still feeding in gardens in the area, sometimes on fat-feeders as insects are still a bit scarce at this time of year. Even more exciting- Sian told me last night that the Sheffield Peregrines are back on camera at St George’s church. For anyone anywhere in the country, just search Sheffield University Peregrines- you’ll find a link to the live nest-cam but this year they have two camera’s- one on the nesting box and a new one which is really welcome, with a wider view, including a perch on the side of the Church- last night a Peregrine was there for ages, as it got dark. Conditions: A sunny morning giving way to steady rain in the afternoon. Temperature: Max 10- Min 4c.

Goldcrest in the garden

Goldcrest in the garden

10th March 2015

Tufted Ducks, our smallest diving duck and very common in parks, on reservoirs, gravel pits and open fresh water, are here in even greater numbers in winter, joined by many birds from Iceland and Northern Europe. These little ducks are classic cartoon-duck shaped, and easy to identify with their bright eye, little tuft and, in the case of males, their distinctive black and white bodies. They dive for molluscs and insects and, as can be seen from this photo of the female, water weed. Although they are pretty common the reduction in the numbers of  ‘Tufties’ means they are on the amber list. Conditions: A sunny and milder day, thanks to a gentler breeze. Temperature: Max 9- Min 2c

In winter Tufted Ducks are usually in small flotilla's like this or in large groups.

In winter Tufted Ducks are usually in small flotilla’s like this or in large groups.

A male Tufted Duck

A male Tufted Duck

This female Tufted Duck had just emerged from a dive, with weed in it's bill

This female Tufted Duck had just emerged from a dive, with weed in it’s bill