September 2008

I have been trying to get rid of Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium) in our back garden for a while now. Without much luck, as new shoots keep appearing everywhere. It's hard to remove every tine bit of root, and a tiny bit of root is all this plant needs to grow a brand new plant. As I was looking at a particular area of our garden I thought for a minute that things were going well there, as I didn't see any Hedge Bindweed at all. But those thoughts didn't last long, as I noticed a plant climbing up the Ribes sanguineum. It didn't look to great though, as it seemed to contain more holes than chloroplasts... I searched for whatever had done this and eventually found a tiny, tiny caterpillar. I still find it hard to imagine this tiny creature ate such large amounts of this plant, but I couldn't find what else could have done it. But I can't guarantee this one caterpillar is alone... As I'm writing this it's been a couple of days since I last saw it. It's either gone (eaten by a Great Tit perhaps?), or showing it's skills in camoflage. I'm hoping it's still in there somewhere, eating away the Hedge Bindweed and turning into a huge Convulvus Hawkmoth caterpillar... ;)


I had only just left the house this morning when I recieved a phone call from Lisette. Something sad had happened. A juvenile Blackbird had flown into one of our windows and died on our terrace. The bird silhouet stickers on each of our windows didn't help. We know they're not full proof, but it's still sad.
Thankfully, there are also nice things happening in our garden. I finally saw the caterpillar on the Grey Willow again. I hadn't been able to spot it for quite a while. And it has grown significantly since I last saw it! The willow's leafs are full of holes, but I discovered that isn't just the caterpillar's doing. There are also a whole load of sawfly larvae. I took a picture of those as well, but that wasn't sharp. They're doing a nice job eating the willow though...
And we have a 'pond' now! I bought a cement tub the other day. It wasn't handy cyling home with that thing, but I managed. :) I got some waterplants from a collegue, along with some water from one of her ponds to 'inoculate' with (she has two, one with and one without fish, the water and plants came from the fish-free pond). Inoculation is necessary to get the bacteria needed for healthy pond-water in tap water. I added a couple of stones to keep the submerged plants from drifting around, but the drifting plant is still just drifting around a bit. In time I'd like to get a plant that rises out from the water as well. And we're also planning on digging the tub in so it's level with the ground. I have plans on creating a bit of a marshy area around the tub by digging in some foil that will hold the water that spills over the tub's edge after it has rained, at least for a while. I'd like to fill the space between the tub and the foil with sand that is poor in nutrition, hopefully creating a place suitable for growth of some interesting plants. But for now, the tub is just on the terrace.


I took another picture of the sawfly larvae on the Grey willow in our back garden today. They're growing rapidly and eating a lot. I hope there will be some leafs left for the willow to photosynthesize...
The Wood Ragwort (Senécio nemorénsis subsp. fúchsii, as it's officially called (I think I've been calling it Senecio nemorensis mostly) has opened it's first flowers! :) I think it's a beautiful plant and I'm happy it's doing so well in our garden. I didn't notice at the time of taking the photo, but there's a caterpillar on it on the second picture. It looks a lot like the caterpillar that was on the Grey willow, which coincedentally I haven't seen after I photographed it on september 8th.


Today I went on a long excursion to the Millingerwaard, a large nature reserve near Kekerdom and Millingen. It was an excursion for the plant workgroup of the KNNV Nijmegen department, starting at 10 in the morning. The group was fairly small (7 people) for such a nice day in such a nice nature reserve, but I had fun regardless and we saw a lot of nice things. The pictures below are not placed in chronological order. We saw the Common Jewelweed after only a minute or 10. It's not common at all in the Nertherlands though. We found plants that weren't flowering at a known growing place at first, but were happy to find a single flowering specimen a little further.
The Millingerwaard starts out with marshy forest, formed mainly by willow trees, which is where we found the Common Jewelweed. The forest ends quite abrubtly which is where a rough field starts. At the beginning of this, in a recently added field which still looked quite maintained Piet Smeets and I photographed a caterpillar of Champion on White Champion (Silene latifolia). The caterpillar of this species eats the fruit of Silene species and has to empty several seed pods before it can pupate. It was quite nice to see this caterpillar, as they usually feed during the night, leaving the plant to hide on the ground during the day.
Then it was on to the river Waal beaches. A lot of speciel plants grow here, as the river frequently overflows the beaches, something many plant species cannot survive. Several cabages (Brassica cultivars) were growing among the stones of one of the groynes. Piet and I noticed several Small Whites flying among the cabage plants. When we saw one bend it's body around a leaf, obviously to lay an egg, we decided to take a closer look to see if we could find it. And we did. As we were photographing it, holding the leaf upside down, a Small White came to sit practically on our fingers!
Among the nice plants we saw were Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium), tomatoes (in fruit, which some of the attendants of the excursion enjoyed a lot :)), Golden Dock (Rumex maritimus) and several Goosefoot species (Chenopodium sp.). Golden Dock and one of the Goosefoot species can be seen on the last picture.
We were back at the rendevous point around 4 'o clock. During the bike ride back home, the excursion leaders Sophie Hochstenbach and Gerard Dirkse and I saw a Great White Egret, a very large group of Lapwings and the typical winter guests Wigeons with their typical whistling calls.


This morning Lisette and I went along with an excursion of the KNNV's Nijmegen department to the Duivelsberg ('Devilsmountain'), the forested hill that lies only a couple hundred meters behind our house. The excursion started at 9:30, at which time the heavy fog was only just dissolving under the early morning sun. The excursion leader, Jos Leeman, explained a lot about how the lateral moraine was formed and shaped by the last ice age. We also saw a few mushrooms of which the right names were found quickly. I looked around at the plants a lot as well and saw several nice species, although I'd seen all of them here before. I took a couple of pictures of Dear Fern (Blechnum spicant), which I often have trouble with as they usually grow in somewhat dark places. I'll have to try again to take a picture of a plant that has both types of leafs; fertile and infertile. The fern on the picture below only has ferile leafs, infertile leafs have smaller segments that are placed further apart then those of fertile leafs (as is poorly visible on the last picture).
Another nice plant species is the Common Woodsorrel (Oxalis acetosella). This plant only grows in the shade and has very vulnerable leafs (both to sunlight as for example to hard rain). It can grow in as little as 1.5% of the sunlight (!), and grows best in 25%.


Things are going well in our garden, for the most part that is. As can be seen on the first picture, sawfly-larva have eaten every single leaf of one of the Grey Willow plants for which I've done my best to get them to grow in our garden. When I first noticed the then tiny caterpillar-like creatures, I thought I could just let them do their stuff. I didn't really expect them to completely devoure the entire plant... I've put a couple of the now about 2 cm large larvae in a jar with some sand and Grey Willow twigs coming from nearby bigger shrubs. I'm very curious to see what the adult sawflies look like. I hope the larvae don't have problems living in a jar.
The Bittersweet's berries are coloring beautifully. Starting green, they change gradually to red. Though the berries are pretty much the same size, they don't change color at the same time. I don't think the berries will be eaten by anything, even though they look pretty tasty. I think I recall reading somewhere only Stone Martens eat them, but I don't think those are walking around in our garden (yet?). Would be nice though, they might lower the amount of cars on the street. Woops, did I say that out loud? ;)
The Bloody Dock seems to be investings rather heavily in leafs after it has flowered. I suppose it has to build up reserves in it's roots to get through the winter, because all those beautiful fresh green leafs will die off for the winter.


             Lisette and I went along with the excursion of the KNNV's Nijmegen department to the Bizonbaai today. Looking out the window when I got out of bed I saw it was pretty foggy. While cycling to the rendevous-point, the fog get denser and denser. By the time we got to the rendevous-point, the fog was so dense my binoculars were of no use, the visibillity was perhaps 50 meters. The geese we could hear flying directly above us were completely invisible. We could of course see the things closer to us, so we saw some very nice plants and a beautifully camouflaged spider (Arctosa cinerea). I took a couple of pictures, some of which I've uploaded. They can be found in the pictures & videos section. The spider, along with some mushrooms and a crab is in the misc. section, there are a couple of plants in the plants section (on the newly made page 2), there's a caterpillar and moth in the other insects section, and there's a tiny little bee in the bees and wasps section. :)

Took a very nice long walk today with Bart, a good friend of mine. We started in the so-called Stadswaard, just minutes from the Nijmegen city centre. Saw some nice plants there, including some Radish (Raphanus sativus) plants with beautifully veined flowers (unfortunately, the quality of the picture dicreased quite a bit upon resizing). Also always funny to see the wild cows and horses carying loads of Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa).
From the Stadswaard we walked into the Ooijpolder, passing the Vlietberg. There used to be a big stone processing plant located at the Vlietberg, but the old stone chimney is all that's left now. There's a great plane of sand surrounding it. The former plant grounds will be transferred to nature. :)
At the end of the path Lisette and I call 'Great Tit path' after a Great Tit's nest we once discovered in a vertical pipe there, Bart pointed out a Hornet's nest he had seen on a walk a couple of days earlier. It was nice to see the 'paperwork' of the nest. The Hornets were very busy building, flying up and down by the tens.
Also collected some new seeds. I'll need to grow some Stinging Nettles in order to succesfully saw these though, as they're of Great Dodder (Cuscuta europaea) which is a plant that parasitizes on Stinging Nettles or Hop (Humulus lupulus) in it's first stages of life. After that, pretty much all plants will do. It would be interesting to see the development of this plant though. A small plant grows from the seed, which searches for a host by making a swirling motion. Once a suitable host is found, the young plant taps onto it and grows on the hosts costs. If no host is found, the Dodder seedling dies as it only has the food from the seed to grow and it cannot photosynthesize on it's own. A picture of Great Dodder can be found in the plants section of the pictures & videos page (first picture on the fourth row).


A couple of days ago I noticed a large moth hovering beside the flowers of the Buddleia in our front garden. As I suspected it to be a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, I sprinted outside and was able to confirm my suspision only just before the moth took off. Hummingbird Hawk-moth are awesome creatures that really honour their name!