Crickets (well it is nearly Ashes time) and Grasshoppers are a bit hard to tell apart from the distance but this little one, barely a centimetre long, must be a Cricket. The antennae of Crickets are much longer than those of Grasshoppers and they don’t get much longer, proportionately, than in this tiny one. Another difference is the way they make their ‘stridulations’ or calls. Crickets do it by rubbing their wings together, Grasshoppers by rubbing their extraordinarily long and powerful legs against their wings, but I doubt if any of us amateurs would be able to spot this difference as it happens! Another difference is in their diets. Crickets are Omnivores while Grasshoppers are Herbivores. And that’s all I can say on the subject (already too much information for some I’m sure!) Conditions: Some rain in Sheffield I believe, sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13 c.
Fledgling birds, including the brown speckled baby Robin, are a round a lot at the moment. Here are a fledgling Robin, the similar-looking fledgling Dunncok and a young Long-Tailed Tit. The baby Robin will be fed for about three weeks after fledging, often by the male at this point because the female is getting ready for her second brood. Robins are so fiercely territorial towards other Robins (they will fight to the death), it is thought that young Robins do not get a red breast till a partial moult when they are 2-3 months old, to protect them from attack by adult Robins! The young
Dunnock, though a bit speckled, is very similar in general colour to the adult, as is the Long-Tailed Tit which is just fluffier with less distinct markings. Conditions: Sun and cloud following two gloriously sunny days down here in Sussex. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13c.
Goldfinches are back, loving the sunflower seeds but proving rather messy eaters, bits of seed flying off all over the place! I’ve talked before about the Victorian trade in these beautiful birds, trapped to sell on as caged birds. I didn’t quite realise the numbers: for example, 132,000 were taken in Worthing, Sussex, alone, in the year 1860! No wonder the population crashed and the Goldfinch became one of the first priorities of the putative RSPB (first called the ‘Society for the Protection of Birds’). I also always thought the collective noun ‘a Charm of Goldfinches’ was due to their charm but apparently it derives from the Old English c’irm which described their delicate chattering calls. Conditions: Less breeze, dry with a lot of light cloud after yesterdays much needed rain showers. Temperature: Max 20- Min 11c.
Young Coal Tits differ in colour from adults. These photo’s show how their underparts, cheeks, wing-bars and nape are more yellow whereas as in adults the cheeks, wing-bars and nape become white and the underparts more buff. We have seen at least four young in the garden this year, a good number for us. These, the smallest of the Tits that visit us, have small, thin beaks which allow them to feed on conifers, but in our patch they love the sunflower seeds and fat bars. Conditions: Cloudy, showery day. Temperature: Max 18- Min 13c.
Bullfinches have produced their first brood and we have had five individual Bullfinches in the garden this week– two young, two male and one female adults. Two adults were mating so we should get a second brood. We are very lucky- the BTO records show that less than 10% of UK gardens have Bullfinches visiting regularly. Their call is really worth getting to recognise as the birds themselves are often shy and overlooked. The call is described as a sad ‘phew’- it sounds more like a resigned sigh to me! Bullfinches are slowly increasing in numbers– they have risen from a red list (endangered) bird to amber status in recent years. The juveniles can be distinguished from females because they lack the black cap. The juvenile in this photo was resting on our doorstep- it flew off later. Conditions: Cool and mostly cloudy. Temperature: Max 15- Min 13c.
Young Great Spotted Woodpecker. This time of year is exciting, with the adult and newly fledged birds turning up together, but this morning, in this inner city Sheffield garden, was exceptional, with 18 bird species turning up in an hour of watching! None was more exciting than the young Great Spotted Woodpecker, easy to identify by its red cap. Once adult, the red on the head either disappears, as with the female adult, or ‘moves’ from the cap to the back of the neck, as with the male. Take care not to confuse with the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which also has a red cap but is much smaller, much rarer and has different patterns of black and white on the wings. Conditions: A moderate westerly breeze with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 16- Min 11c.
One million Pollen grains- that is the sort of number of grains in a bee’s full pollen basket and this Carder Bee, one of the most common bees, especially in inner city gardens, has very full pollen baskets! Bees have different sorts of hairs on their legs,
to comb the pollen that gathers onto their body into the grooves which form their pollen baskets on their hind legs. Carder Bees are social bees and nest in tangled vegetation or mouse holes, and our garden is alive with them at present, feeding off the very bee-friendly Lavender plants. The big bracts at the top of the flower hold no attraction for them- it is the tiny flowers below the bracts that are the source of nectar and pollen. These Bees get their name from their habit of combing or ‘carding’ material together to form the cells which will hold their larvae. Conditions: A fairly still, mostly cloudy day. Temperature: Max 17- Min 13c.
Fledgling Blue Tits, although beginning to be able to feed themselves, are still calling for and being given food by their adults. The adults are, unsurprisingly, looking pretty tatty and under stress by now, having fed the young in the nest and since fledging. Blue and Great Tit fledglings are pale yellow on their cheeks as well as chests at this time. This is a vulnerable time for young Tits, which are having to learn fast how to feed and find safe shelter from their adults. Conditions: Very heavy and much needed rain over night and morning, easing until brighter late afternoon. Temperature: Max 14- Min 12c.
Seven-spot Ladybirds: These are supposed to be the most seen and widespread Ladybirds in the UK but this is the first and only one I’ve seen this year so far, and it was in the south. The same happened last year when, again, the only Ladybirds I saw in our garden in Sheffield were the Harlequin Ladybirds which devour native varieties like the 7-spot. Seven-spots are great for pest control and were introduced to North America for just that purpose. One Ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids in their short life-time. They are an important species to record, being a part of Nature’s Calendar and Springwatch/Woodland Trust species that we are asked to record when we first see them each year. Conditions: A still, warm day with cloud building and heavy rain due by midnight. Temperature: Max 20- Min 12c
Common Blue Butterflies– these breed throughout the UK, except for the Highlands of Wales and Scotland. These individuals were mostly
feeding on one of their favourite food-plants- the Birds Foot Trefoil. They also feed on thistles, knapweeds, fleabane and other flowers of the pea-family. Male Common Blues have bright blue upper wings while the females upper wings are predominantly brown. Common Blues have two broods in the south and one in the north. The males are more active and patrol their territories- I watched two males having frequent spiral climbs sparring over a territory. Common Blues roost communally at night, often with several to one grass stem. Conditions: A still and sunny day. Temperature: Max 20- Min 10c.