July 2008

             Today I noticed a small ichneumon wasp on one of the logs in our back garden. It was on the log that my mom gave to me when she moved. It'd been in her garden for a while and grass was growing on top of it, in between the bark and wood. The log stood on a tile on the balcony of our previous house for a couple of years. Mushrooms grew from the base and top in the fall. The grass disappeared unfortunately. Now the log is in the back of our garden, in the middle of the lawn, next to a Birch log I took home from a nearby lake not too long ago. It's decomposed quite a bit since I got it from my mom, the bark has let go on most sides, there's only a bit left on the side facing the house.
The wasp reminded me of Dolichomitus imperator, though that is a much larger wasp species. I've seen Dolichomitus imperator a couple of times while walking through 'Dal Palland' on the lateral moraine that these days lies only a couple of minutes from our house, see the picture in the pictures & videos section. Unfortunately though, I've only seen pictures of the so-called oviposition (egg laying) of this impressive insect, never a live performance. This smaller wasp that was in our garden provided an excellent example of how it must look though! She moved very quick and in what seems to us humans like a very nervous way. She continuously touched the surface of the wood with her antennae. I'm sure she could sense the presence of her prey with them by listening for the sounds they make inside the wood. In Dolichomitus' case the prey are large beetle larvae. I assume this smaller wasp has similar prey but smaller ones. She clearly found something suitable in the wood though, as she stabbed her ovipositor deep into the wood a coupe of times. An ovipositor is a long, thin and hollow 'drill' which the wasp can stab into the wood to reach larvae. Once the ovipositor reaches the larva, an egg passes through it to land on the larva. In Dolichomitus' case, the egg is somewhat rubbery, so it can stretch to reduce it's width so it can pass through the narrow inside of the ovipositor. Once in place, it retakes it's original shape.
I was once again very happy with my camera, a Canon Powershot S2 IS, as it has an amazing close up function. I can not only photograph small objects from very close range, but also film them. Visit the pictures & videos section for another picture of the wasp, as well as a video that shows the process of oviposition!

We might have something special in our garden! I was browsing through the Ecological Flora this morning (quite possibly the best book in the world), hoping to discover what species of Dock we have growing in the back of our garden (next to the logs). The only Dock species that seems to fit is Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguineus). That might be special though, as the book says the following: ...'Remarkably enough, Bloody Dock, which is only known as a forest plant these days, is mentioned in old floristic literature as a garden weed'. I've asked a fellow member of the KNNV plant workgroup, Gert-Jan van Mill, one of the many members that know far more about plants than I do, if he can confirm the species from these photographs.
And so he did, july 16th! :)


As I was in our back garden doing something I can't remember yesterday evening, I noticed bat sounds coming from the neighbor's-roof. Lisette and I live in the corner house of a row of three, then there are two driveways up to the garage-boxes of us and our neighbors, and then there's the neighbor's corner house. Our house has a very nice (that's what I think anyway) eave, or roof projection? I'm not sure what it's called, under which I've installed my nestboxes (see this picture). Our neighbor's roof doesn't have that, they've renovated their roof some years ago and now have an edge of tiles and some kind of strip, I suppose to keep birds out? (see this picture). The strip bends away from the wall about a meter below the roof's top. I could hear the bats under the roof tiles, and the first couple I saw leaving the roof seamed to be coming from the holes between each tile, just barely visible on the right on the picture. I stood in the garden and pretty much right beside the neighbor's house for a while and counted at least 25 bats leaving the roof. Today Lisette and I both went to look at them. Again, we could hear the bats at around 21:30 (and long before that occasionally), but they didn't start taking to the sky untill about 21:45. Lisette noticed they were coming from behind the strip, rather then from underneath the roof tiles/out of the holes. Lisette went back inside after a while, but I stayed 'till it really was time to get to bed. I counted at least 30 (may have missed a couple). Quite and impressive colony I'd say, but I don't know what the 'standard-size' is. In the first movie Swifts can be heard, and, just before the first Swift calls, the bats can be heard (listen carefully as the sound is similar to that of the bats, short and high picthed. It sounds somewhat like the wings of a large insect that is flying up against a window. A bat can be seen leaving from below the strip, though it happens in just a split second. The second movie shows a bat coming from out of one of the holes in between the tiles afterall, so there are more ways for them to get under/out from under the rooftiles.

Today Lisette suggested to remove the tiles we'd placed on the lawn in the back of our garden because at that time the soil was so moist. We placed the tiles in a corner in such a way that maybe some toad, frog, or at least some insects will be able to find shelter there (see this picture). Upon lifting one of the tiles, we found this huge beetle larva. It's the larva of a Common Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha). I'm sure a lot of people would remove such an insect larva from their garden, as, even without reading about it, it's most likely causing damage to one plant or the other. However, we appreciate pretty much all life forms, and we couldn't help feeling a large amount of respect for this huge grub... Reading about it only increased the amount of respect I have for it. This grub lives in the soil for three up to five years. It does indeed feed on plant roots, by which it can cause damage. It's probably feeding on the roots of our grass though and we don't really have the most beautiful lawn ever anyway... The larva will develop into a Common Cockchafer, a beetle species. I've seen this beetle's larvae being fed to young Little Owls (Athene noctua) on the 'Beleef de Lente' website (Dutch).
The second picture has my finger on it as well, to show the size of the grub, about five centimeters. Unfortunately, the close ups of the head I took were of very poor quality due to lack of light and movement. :(


             A really quick entry, and perhaps not very special to most, but I'm happy to see our Teasel flowering. :) And I know at least one bumblebee was happy with it for a minute as well. By the way, in case you're not familiar with the Teasel: it's not actually family of the thistles, even though the Teasel is quite a prickly plant. The way it flowers is remarkable, it starts in the middle, which you can see on the photograph, but then spreads both up and down. It always reminds me a bit of a fire burning in two directions at once.

Lisette and I went for a walk in the forest on the lateral moraine this evening. As we were passing by a field in a 'valley', next to a piece of forest that holds a Black Woodpecker's nest by the way, we spotted a Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)! Pretty nearby as well. We stood there for a minute, in comlete silence of course, hoping we wouldn't scare it off. We didn't, it was peacefully eating buttercup-flowers (aren't those a bit toxic?) and we were able to take a very nice look at it using my binoculars. Also took some pictures, and made a short movie! While I was filming we heard some voices in the distance. So did the roe deer apparently, as it chose that moment to leave.
Also saw a lot of Common Swifts (Apus apus) high in the sky above our house (and the surrounding area of course) later that night, see the Swifts section for pictures and a video! :)

Went on excursion today to nature reserve the 'Bruuk' with the KNNV department Nijmegen . Ans Klomberg lead the excursion. We saw a whole bunch of special Sedges (Carex) species with the help of Ans' expertise. Also saw a rare butterfly I'd never seen before, a Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene). I took a lot of pictures using my zoom lense, among which quite a few nice pictures, but eventually it just posed! I'll post only a couple of pictures here in the diary, the rest will go into the pictures section of this website, so take a look there if you want to see more (soon, I'll need some time to re-size, tag, etc.). A great excursion and beautiful weather! A big thank you to Ans, and a thank you to all those beautiful plants and animals! :)


The day after that wonderful excursion to the Bruuk, Lisette and I went for a walk in Ubbergen, in the area around the Kasteelselaan. We saw two Kingfishers and a Broad-Leaved Helleborine meters from where we'd parked our bikes. We then walked past the busy road, the N325, on the bicycle path. From there we saw how Hogweed's flowers attract amazing amounts of insects. One of them was a beautiful Map Butterfly. Once on the actual street/path the Kasteelselaan, I looked for the Wild Liquorice we'd seen on an excursion with the KNNV in the early spring. I had no difficulty finding it, as it was still on the same place of course, and pretty much ten times bigger! Unfortunately, it was no longer flowering, but there were some beautiful seed pods on it. I'll have to go back next year to get to see it flowering I suppose. Oh, what a horrible fate... ;)
On the way back, I noticed a big caterpillar rapidly crossing the bicycle path. We're still not completely sure about the species. I've asked the Dutch Butterfly Foundation if they could help. They're not sure, it looks a bit like a Convolvulus Hawk-moth's caterpillar, but it lacks the typical needle-like 'tail'. It also resembles the Eurois occulta caterpillar.
Anyway, a couple of pictures I took during this walk are in the pictures section.
Later that day, I went for a cycle by myself. I wanted to photograph the flowering Hoary Platain I'd seen on a bike trip before. But once there (on the Kerkdijk, near the Thornsestraat, right in between Ooij, Leuth and Beek), I saw other beautiful things as well. Like Barn Swallows, of which one flew a couple of meters next to me at the same speed at which I was cycling for about 10 meters. And flowering Spiny Restharrow and Yellow Oat Grass (see picture on the right). I was pretty sure it was Yellow Oat Grass, but I took a flowering blade along to the KNNV plant workgroup's excursion the next wednesday (see also july 30th) and Gerard Dirkse, the latin/greek-speaking man with the palmtop, confirmed that for me. :)

             It'd been a while, but today I went along with the weekly wednesday evening KNNV Plant Workgroup excursion. This time a so called game field was the excursion site. Used by hunters to shoot game, this field is kept free of trees to keep a free sight. There were no hunters present this evening, so the site was nice and quiet. Walking to the field from the point of gathering, I heard some bird calls I couldn't identify. They reminded me of the calls of the Woodcock, which I remember very well from a vacation to one of the Waddensea islands, Schiermonnikoog.
But it's the Plant Workgroup, so we looked at plants mostly. One of the most remarkable findings was Reseda phyteuma, a rare (not indigenous) plant in the Netherlands. Another nice find was Coral Necklace. Indeed the flowering plant resembles a coral necklace, but it's Dutch name, 'Groundstar' isn't bad either, see the fifth picture below.
The first three pictures below show one common plant, Ragwort, one rare plant, Jacobaea vulgaris subs. dunensis (could not find an English name), and a cross between the two, showing character traits of both parents (note the ray flowers).