August 2008

             Today I photographed a small bee on the Black Mustard plant in our back garden. It was windy, so the plant was swaying a lot, which made it difficult to get nice photos. At one point, while I was doing my best to get a nice close up, the bee crawled onto my lense! :) For the other pictures I took, go to the bee and wasp section on the pictures & videos page.

             The Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) in our back garden is flowering! :) It has attracted a couple of bumblebees already, which collect pollen in a way that is nice to watch. They hang onto the yellow cone and buzz. The buzzing releases pollen from the inside of the cone, which then puffs out of the cone's end. The bumblebees catch the pollen and transport it to their legs. But sometimes the pollen is 'blown' out quite strongly, leaving the bumblebee in a cloud of pollen.

Today I went for a walk in Dal Palland, about 5 minutes from our house. :) The area is beautiful in my opinion and there is a lot to be seen. The first picture shows a close up of a Slender Rush (Juncus tenuis) flower. This non-indigenous plant typically grows beside or on trails and paths. It's seedwalls get sticky in moist weather and stick to the soles of shoes or to bicycle tires, by which it can be spread over great distances. The plant appearantly also offers a nice 'hunting ground' for ticks. One location in Dal Palland in particular seems to be home to a lot of these tiny creatures, a corner with a bench in the southern corner of the valley. The tick didn't respond to the warmth of my finger in the way I'd seen a tick in our back garden do, but I went back to Dal Palland on august 9th and was able to film that behaviour of a smaller tick (see next entry).
The last picture shows a heavily loaded small bee species, photographed on the top of the hillside in the nothern part of the valley.


I went to Dal Palland again today. I was finally able to film a tick responding to the warmt of my finger, though it was only a small tick and the behaviour was performed with less enthousiasm as a tick we'd seen in our back garden a while ago did.
Also filmed and photographed a couple of very impressive ichneumon wasps on Hogweed. The video has some nice bird sounds as well, the alarm call of the Winter Wren (like stones being hit against eachother at great speed), and the call of the Green Woodpecker (a loud laughing call). At about the same location of where I saw the wasps, I was able to photograph a juvenile Robin from very nearby (approx. 2,5 metres).

             In the early spring I planted a couple of Grey Willow root-fragments in our back garden. After the failed attempt of planting a cut off branch, the root-fragments did grow fresh new leafs. I wanted a Grey Willow in our garden because willow flowers are one of the first nectar and pollen sources in the early spring. Beside that, willows are the host plant for many species of butterflies. Willows are dioecious plants, which means there are male and female plants, rather than male and female flowers on a single plant. I'm not completely sure what sex we have in our garden now. I'm hoping for males (we have two plants), or a male and a female, because male plants quite possibly have the biggest flowers of all native willows. They're most beautiful in my opinion any way.But we'll have to wait 'till spring next year to know for sure, that is, if they'll flower in their first spring after having been planted in our garden.
But even though they're not flowering yet, they ARE already attracting insects! Today I photographed the first caterpillar (as far as I've seen), though it's only a small one. No idea what species, but it's nice to see it anyway. :)

             Today I discovered the nest of a pottery wasp (Eumenes sp.) on the wall of our garage. There are 4 species of pottery wasps in the Netherlands, of which Eumenes papillarius is the most common. The female pottery wasp starts the construction of her nest by building a round or egg-shaped, urnlike pot with a small, collar-shaped opening. She then slides the tip of her abdomen inside and attaches a stalked egg to the cellwall. Next she brings in caterpillars and pushes the in through the small opening. Finally, she breaks off the collar-like structure and using it as mortar to close the opening. Because of this, the closed nestplace loses it's urn-shape and is harder to discover. I think the urn in our garden was never used, as I found out the next day that it'd been destroyed, there was a large hole right in the middle. Thanks to the Guide to Bees, Wasps and Ants by Heiko Bellman for being so educational and fun to read!

As I was looking around in the garden today, I noticed a soft sound of grass being torn apart. I knew we have a mole in our garden, as there are clear tunnels going through our back garden. It seems to dig only close to the surface, there are no mounts of soil. The soil and grass is just pushed up a bit whereever the moles goes.
So I went for a closer look at where the sound was coming from and kneeled down. I waited for a while and then saw the grass moving. The mole was only just beneath the surface, but I couldn't see it. I waited and watched, hoping to catch a glimpse. I saw worms coming out of the ground at the places where the mole was pushing up the grass. After a while, there was a big worm, gliding towards me, and for just a split second, I saw the pink coloured nose of the mole coming out of the grass. I managed to get that on film, but was hoping to see more. I waited and waited, but didn't see anything happen anymore after a while. Then I noticed the sound of grass being torn apart coming from behind me, in the back of the garden, behind our logs. I quietly walked over there and kneeled again. The back of our garden is more moist and has a lot more moss growing between the grass. I saw the claw of the mole once for only a split second, but then after a while, I saw a worm coming out from where the mole was digging. This time the mole followed it by coming out from beneath the grass. I watched it crawling fast between the grass, take hold of the worm and quickly crawl back to the safety of it's tunnel. I'm so happy to have caught it on film, and it was so nice to see! No mole hunting here! :)

             A loud thumping sound notified us of a visitor today. The beautiful lady on the picture landed on our window. These are huge insects, and they can bite pretty hard. So I handled it with caution. ;) It walked up our window for a while, then jumped and flew over the the neighbour's house. Impressive creatures...

This weekend I visited the 2008 edition of the annual Bird Fair. It took quite some travelling, but I really enjoyed myself. On saturday I attended two lectures, one by Marjos Mourmans of the non-profit Swallow/Swift Advice Bureau and one by Theunis Piersma, a well known biologist. I really liked both lectures. I had planned to attend Marjos' lecture, as it was about Swifts and I was looking forward to meeting Marjos in person, after having emailed with her so often. But the Theunis Piersma lecture wasn't planned. I didn't even know about it untill I entered the Fair ground. It was announced on the speakers after I'd just entered, and started pretty much at that time, so I rushed over to the place where it'd be held. I've read a book by Theunis Piersma that I really enjoyed, and I've read about him in the magazine of the Waddensea Association, and I was looking forward to seeing him in real life. His lecture was on Black-tailed Godwits. Very interesting and impressive...
I'll write a bit more on the Bird Fair soon. I might also add a picture or two. :)

             Another mammal in our garden! As I was spreading some birdseed, I noticed a nibbling sound coming from the back of the garden, behind/in the plants. I kneeled and waited (even though after a while my knees lost the interest I still had) and after seeing nothing but some movements in the plants, there it was, a small greyish shrew! Cute little creature, probably enjoying the seeds of the Geranium (shrews may eat insects most of the time, seeds are also on their menu). I went to get my camera and waited and waited. Caught a few glimpses of the shrew that appeared to be climbing the stem of the climbing hydrangea, but that happened in the darkness behind other plants, so no chance of photographing it there. After a while, I heard it on the other side of the garden. Went over there and could hear it nibbling something just behind the fence on the neighbour's side. Waited again, with my camera pointed at the most likely place for the shrew to return to our garden. And there it was. Unfortunately, the light was poor, and the shrew moved fast, so the picture is blurry. But you get the idea. Agile little creatures. :)