April 2009

A while ago I asked Lisette's brother for some hairs of their dog (a black shepherd). I once read about offering hairs to birds to use in their nest. I think there are probably specially designed things for sale to offer hairs to birds with, but I decided small nets used for feeding peanuts or fat balls would do just fine. I accidentally came across a couple when cycling through the Ooijpolder, they were attached to a fence at the edge of a meadow. I don't really understand why people feel they need to feed birds in the countryside, but the nets came in handy. I filled two with dog hairs and tied one to the (remains of) our peach tree and the other to the base of the Black Mustard (Brassica nigra, Warte Mosterd in Dutch) skelleton. Unfortunately, the nest box we put up last year is not in use. But somewhere nearby Great Tits (Parus major, Koolmees in Dutch) are nesting. A while ago we saw one collecting moss from our front garden and today we saw for the first time that the hairs were being collected. The picture below was taken through the window, so it doesn't look too great. The bird came back two or three times to collect more hairs.
On my way back from taking my bike to the cycle repairer (for a new inner tube after a second leak in about a week) I noticed lots of so-called 'strobilus' (sporenaren in Dutch) of Great Horsetails (Equisetum telmateia, Reuzenpaardenstaart in Dutch) in a small wet field. Also came across a large patch of flowering Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa, Bosanemoon in Dutch). So when I got home I took my camera and went back to take a couple of pictures. Great Horsetail is a rare plant in the Netherlands. Like many rare plants in this area they are mostly found in the very south of the Netherlands (Zuid Limburg ). The soil conditions in Zuid Limburg are somewhat similar to those around here with lots of loam. Wood Ragwort (Senecio nemorensis) has a same sort of area of distribution. so I'm very happy to see it seems to be doing well in our back garden!
A far less rare plant, but one I'm also very happy to see doing well in our garden is Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara, Bitterzoet in Dutch). Last year was it's first year in our garden and it did very well, growing up to about 2 meters high, climbing along the climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris. Small green leaf buds are appearing all along the long vines. The same goes for the Grey Willow (Salix cinerea, Grauwe Wilg in Dutch). I hope it doesn't get eaten by sawfly-larvae this time...
Something I'm less confident in is the growth of the Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus, Gelderse Roos in Dutch). I took cuttings of the beautiful plant growing at the edge of a meadow nearby when that was cut down (for the beautiful version, see the December diary, 29th, first entry). I treated them as was suggested in a book we have on this subject, even though the timing of taking cutting was far from ideal (too late). They seemed to be doing very well, the leaf buds growing larger and recently small green leafs appearing. But when I dug them out to space them a bit wider, I didn't see any roots whatsoever. It seems maybe all the development has come from the nutrition that was still in the bits of stem... :(


Finally, weekend... Finally time to go to nature reserve Groenlanden to go and see some bees I've been wanting to see again (Andrena vaga, the Mining Bee if I'm not mistaken (Grijze Zandbij in Dutch). But no luck... The weather was very uncooperative. I didn't get to see a single Andrena vaga... :( Loads of nests though, although I'm not sure if they're all vaga-nests. There were a lot of them nesting on this trail last year though. We did see loads of toads, which was also very nice. :)
Once back home, after a while, the sun started shining. Got to see some bees in the back garden, I think mostly Osmia bicornis, a mason bee species. Also, I took a picture of the (finally) flowering Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria, Speenkruid in Dutch).
In the afternoon, Lisette and I went to inventorise plants together with two members of the Plant Workgroup of the KNNV Nijmegen. By then, the weather was really excellent. The walk was nice, we saw lots of plants, some very nice, others less so (I'd like to particulary mention Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Japanse Duizendknoop in Dutch, a plant I pretty much hate). Good ones were Oxlip (Primula elatior, Slanke Sleutelbloem in Dutch), very young Wild Liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos, Hokjespeul in Dutch) and Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium, Paarbladig Goudveil in Dutch). Also got a great look at two Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis, Groene Specht in Dutch) which seemed to be in some sort of territorial dispute (one of them was 'threatening' the other by spreading it's wings while hanging on the side of a tree). Had fun with and learned a lot from André and Elvira, my two collegues from the Plant Workgroup.


The bees are using our bee-blocks again. :) I saw both Osmia bicornis and Osmia cornuta nesting. Below is a (poor quality) picture of O. cornuta as she's heading backwards into the hole to deposit the pollen collected in the hairs on the underside of her abdomen. I saw a O. rufa do 'the 180' (come out of the hole back-first, turn and go back in back-first). These bees collect pollen in the hairs on the underside of the abdomen and collect the liquid nectar in their crop. The nectar and pollen are used to create a food supply for the larvae and a pile is built in the back of the nesthole. This is why the bees have to enter head-first when they want to deposit nectar and turn and go back in back-first to deposit pollen. When a sufficient supply has been collected, the bee seals the cell, in these two species' cases with loam and starts over on a new cell. The amount of cells depends partly on the depth of the nesthole. What the maximum amount of cells for a hypothetical infinitely deep nesthole is I do not know. A bee has a limited amount of time to build these cells anyway.
Another species of bee visits our garden frequently, Anthophora plumipes, the Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Gewone Sachembij in Dutch). Unfortunately they're not nesting in the loam wall I'm offering the bees and wasps (no one is, so far :(), but it's very nice to see these bumblebee-like bees hovering quickly from flower to flower, mostly those of Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch). They're very fast flyers, so it's hard to take a good photograph. The one below is one of my best so far, and it doesn't even show the head...
The Wood Ragwort (Senecio nemorensis, Schaduwkruiskruid in Dutch) plants in our back garden are growing nicely. I saw some in the forest nearby that were looking pretty much the same, which means the ones in our garden are growing at a normal rate.
I also saw some of those Oxlips (Primula elatior, Slanke Sleutelbloem in Dutch) I saw during the inventorising of plants yesterday, but this time at the edge of the forest at a seemingly far less wet place. Also saw a whole bunch of beautifully flowering Wood Sorrels (Oxalis acetosella, Witte Klaverzuring in Dutch), beautiful little carpets. :)


I tried to get some better pictures of Osmia cornuta today, but the light wasn't very good. I did manage to take a reasonable picture of a tiny (less than 5 mm) parasitic fly, in Dutch called a 'satellitefly'. No idea what the English name is though. I'll try to get better bee-pictures again soon.

A small solitary wasp species is building a nest in a hole in the door of our shed. I haven't seen what kind of provission it's using for it's larvae, but it's most likely not vegetarian...
Today Lisette found an Osmia bicornis on a bit of a strange place in our guest/loundry room... It was slow but was 'recharged' rapidly after I put it on the sunny wall of our shed.
As I was taking a short walk through the garden I noticed a buzzing sound coming from the corner of our garden. I located the source quite easily and found mating Osmia bicornis. The male is recognizable by the white hairs on the front of his face. O. rufa is recognizable by the pale hairs on it's thorax. O. cornuta has black hairs on it's thorax. I hope to be able to show that on a good picture soon.
The Hop (Humulus lupulus) that's coming from our neighbours is doing excellent and has reached the top of the branch I'd put in the ground for it to grow along. I'm curious to see if it'll grow along the wire I've put up.


There's a plant growing in our front garden that scares me a bit... It slightly resembles Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Japanse Duizendknoop in Dutch), though I know it isn't. I'll keep a close eye on it.
Lisette and I took a walk in forest Duivelsberg today. We came acros a rather strange sight, a snale suspended in mid air on a thin strand of slime. No idea what it was doing there...Lisette also found a tiny wasp which I managed to photograph just before it took off.
Once back at home I managed to take a (poor quality) picture of a wasp I'd seen a couple of times before in our back garden. Quite an impressive insect, I'm not sure what it was hunting for, spiders, caterpillars or flies probably. It was searching between plants and behind the roof tiles in a corner of our garden. I've looked around on the internet for a possible name and found that it looks a lot like Ichneumon stramentor.


I had a day off today as I had to work on saturday. And I spent it well if I may say so myself, aside from getting a sunburn... I went to two connected nature reserves, Groenlanden and Bisonbaai, to look for bees. And I found quite a few. I hoped to see a species of Mining Bees (Andrena vaga on the trail heading into the Groenlanden, like I did last year. I saw plenty of bees there, including a species of the family Lassioglossum, which I hadn't seen before (except on pictures). This family can be recognized by the groove in the last segment of the abdomen. Also saw a parasitic bee species from the Nomada family that look like a wasps, but no A. vaga. I thought maybe it was just too late in the season, but I found it wasn't when I got to the Bisonbaai. :) Saw both females and males (males are recognizable by the white hairs on the front of their faces), but also other species, like Colletes cunicularius, an unidentified member of the Andrena family (quite possibly Andrena flavipes and more Nomada species, including Nomada fucata, which parasitises on Andrena flavipes (explaining why I think I saw that one as well).



I went back to the same nature reserves I went to yesterday today. I wanted to try to get some more bee-pics and also photograph the typical vertical walls so many of them are using to nest in. I photographed a parasitic bee that's called a 'bloodbee' in Dutch (Sphecodes albilabris), who's host is Colletes cunicularius (Zijdebij in Dutch ('silkbee'), named after the use of saliva to cover the inside of the nesthole, which dries into a silky substance). I also observed the typical behaviour of Nomada fucata (Kortsprietwespbij in Dutch), very often cleaning it's antennae. It's not clear to me why it does this so often, perhaps it has to use the senses located in the antennae a lot when searching for suitable nesthole of a host.
After a quick stop at home, where I photographed a black and yellow wasp inspecting a hole in one of the bee blocks (possibly a member of the Ancistrocerus family), I went over to forest Duivelsberg for a quick look around the site where I found Andrena bimaculata (Donkere Rimpelrug in Dutch) a while ago. I only managed one poor picture, there weren't all that many bees around and those that were proved hard to get on a photograph. At the lake Wylerbergmeer I was able to take a nice shot of a Bee-fly (Bombylius major, Grote Wolzwever in Dutch).
Once back at home I took a picture of the Hop (Humulus lupulus) that seemed to have grown another 10 cm in one day. Pretty impressive. I also photographed a racing pigeon that has been visiting our garden three times in a row now. And I finally took a reasonable picture of Osmia cornuta (Gehoornde Metselbij in Dutch). And I took what I think may be one of my best O. rufa pictures so far... :) We found this female in our guest/loundry room again. After a quick recharge in the sunshine she took off again. A nice picture to demonstrate how kind these bees are. There's no need whatsoever to worry about being stung. These solitary bees are much less agressive than those that form states. Most solitary bee species can't even penetrate the human skin.



I noticed yesterday that the Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) I pass twice every day are flowering. I took my camera along to work today and took some pictures early in the morning.
In our back garden, the Hartstongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium, Tongvaren in Dutch) is unrolling new leafs! :) In the front garden, the scary plant I wrote about April 12th is turning green... And back in the back garden I've put up a new, small bee block. That makes four. :)


A while ago Lisette and I bought a Dog Rose (Rosa canina, Hondsroos in Dutch) at an internet store (Vivara.nl). It was delivered in a box, wrapped in a plastic bag. The 'plant' consisted of two sticks joined at the base and a completely clean root. The root was 'wrapped' in straw. I suppose the straw was wet/moist when the plant was shipped, but it was bone dry when I unpacked it. I planted it, gave it some Cocopeat (a nice alternative to potting soil as Cocopeat doesn't cotain any peat! Yay!) and watered it. Waited, waited... Nothing seemed to happen... But a couple of days ago I noticed a tiny green point rising from the Cocopeat! Yay! Today it looks like this! (see picture below) And... I saw my first Swifts of 2009 today! I was cycling from work to home when I noticed two Buzzards high up in the sky. A bit higher still, and a bit away from the Buzzards, I saw them. 8 Swifts, twisting and turning but still moving quickly to the North-east. :)

Lots of pictures today! This morning I travelled to 's Hertogenbosch with a friend to check out the plantlife in nature reserve Bossche Broek, just outside 's Hertogenbosch. I'd never been there before and was pleasantly surprised. Of course the gorgeous weather and good company helped. :) Neither of us is a real expert on plants, so we had some trouble with some plants that weren't flowering yet (and one Sedge (Carex sp.) that was flowering but are just difficult). We did find Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustris, Moeraskartelblad in Dutch) and Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium, Veenpluis in Dutch), which are both very nice plants. Also saw a beautiful little moth that I later found out is called Purple-barred Yellow (Lythria cruentaria, Zuringspanner in Dutch). Also saw about 6 Canada Geese (Branta canadensis, Canadese Gans in Dutch), two of which mating. Also found a parasitic bee (Nomada sp.), but I'm not sure of the exact species. And... Two more Swifts! :) Really high up in the sky again. I tried, but my camera couldn't find anything to focus on... :/
The bees back home are doing great! Check out all those closed holes in all four (including the four days old one!) bee blocks! :) The vertical loam wall I made for bees and wasps to nest in isn't being used. Well, not for that purpose anyway. A small yellow and black wasp species (possibly a member of the Ancistrocerus family) keeps gnawing off bits of loam to seal holes elsewhere in the garden (the hole in the shed-door for example, see April 11th).
The plants are doing great as well! The Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch) growing only just not in our kitchen seems to feel fine. It looks like it's getting ready to flower. :) It's quite busy in the right hand corner in the back of the garden. On the picture below a couple of thin vines of the Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara, Bitterzoet in Dutch) can be seen starting at the ground at the far left. Next to that, right in front of the roof tiles, Wood Ragwort (Senecio nemorensis) is doing it's very best. The pale green leafs to the right of that belong to Wood Avens (Geum urbanum, Gewoon Nagelkruid in Dutch). Then there are some heart-shaped leafs of Nettle-leafed Bellflower (Campanula trachelium, Ruig Klokje in Dutch) among the huge Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch). In front of that, at the edge, are a couple of Brown Knapweed plants (Centaurea jacea, Knoopkruid in Dutch). Barely visible are two light spots at the very right, just beside the bench. Those are unrolling leafs of a fern, not sure what species, I'll have to look into that again sometime. All over the fern is also White Deadnettle (Lamium album, Witte Dovenetel in Dutch), and of course the Hop (Humulus lupulus of our back neighbours. The only problem is that with all those nettle-like plants, it gets hard to recognize 'real' nettles (Urtica sp.).
The Bloody Dock (Rumex sanguineus, Bloedzuring in Dutch) is looking great as well. Beautiful color of green. I hope the flowerstem can support it's own weight this year... :)
The Bramble or Blackberry (Rubus Fructicosus, Braam in Dutch) is growing fast as well. We planted a tiny plant just left of the rooftiles last year!
Another fine growing plant is Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea, Grote Muur in Dutch). It's flowering very abundantly at the moment. On the picture there's also some Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch) on the left, Hop in the background, some tiny blueish dots that are flowers of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea, Hondsdraf in Dutch). Oh, and barely visible between the base of the Alfalfa is some Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare, Boerenwormkruid in Dutch) (with the feathered leafs). Also with somewhat feathered leafs, but more to the bottom right of the picture is a small Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris, Fluitekruid in Dutch). Then there are some big rosettes of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea, Vingerhoedskruid in Dutch) in front of a jumble of Elder (Sambucus nigra, Vlier in Dutch) and Wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris, Bijvoet in Dutch). Oh, and in front of that jumble there's a tiny tiny bit of purple: flowers of Purple Deadnettle (Lamium purpureum, Paarse Dovenetel in Dutch). :)




This morning during my breakfast I noticed all these little bees peeking out of the nestholes of the biggest bee block, warming up in the early morning sun. After a while I went looking for Orchids (Common Twayblade, Listera ovata, Grote Keverorchis in Dutch) after a tip there might be some growing near lake Wylerbergmeer. I searched quite thoroughly, but didn't find any Orchids. I did find a somewhat shabby looking Comma (Polygonia c-album, Gehakkelde Aurelia in Dutch). And a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva, Vosje in Dutch), which looked less shabby, but was in a shape a lot worse than the Comma... I picked it up and photographed it and it turned out it was missing one of it's four wings... It probably can't survive that way, but I put it back on some plants in the sunshine anyway... :(


Yesterday Lisette discovered some flowering Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha, Parapluutjesmos in Dutch) in our back garden (if it's called flowering in liverworts, which I doubt). Nice, because this time it was a female. I've only seen males in our garden so far, and they don't have 'umbrellas' that look this nice (they are more or less discs on a stick, not tiny palm trees).

Lisette and I went for a nice walk in forest Duivelsberg this morning. The weather was great after a somewhat grey and wet start. We saw a lot of nice flowering plants and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. But I didn't see any Swifts! So I decided to head to the Ooijpolder after lunch. Swifts had been seen there nearly daily above an old riverarm. I cycled out of Beek wearing my sun-glasses and quickly (only just outside Beek) spotted some Swifts. Really high up in the sky, just tiny dots. It took some effort to find them using my binoculars. Even more effort to photograph one... It's not a great picture, but it's the first one of the year. :) I saw a total of approx. 15 Swifts during my trip around the Ooijpolder, in about 4 groups, all flying really high.
Saw some other nice things as well. I saw a couple of Gadwalls (Anas strepera, Krakeend in Dutch), some Garganeys (Anas querquedula, Zomertaling in Dutch) and White Storks (Ciconia ciconia, Ooievaar in Dutch) among others. I also looked around for plants and found some nice ones including Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias, Cipreswolfsmelk in Dutch) and Henbit Deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule, Hoenderbeet in Dutch).
Once back home I photograped the Hartstongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium, Tongvaren in Dutch) again. The new leafs are unrolling nicely (compare the picture below with that in the April 16th entry). And I found two small wasps gnawing away bits of loam from the vertical loam wall I made for bees and wasps. They're using it to close nestholes elsewhere, in small holes in the masonry of our shed for example. :)
Also, the Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornis, Rosse Metselbij in Dutch) are still working hard. There's a huge range in size with these bees. Compare the size of the one on the picture below (with my finger on it for reference) with the size of that on the picture in the entry of April 14th for example!
I also took a picture of another liverwort species in our garden. A plant expert friend of mine came over yesterday and identified this species as Crescent-cup liverwort (Lunularia cruciata, Halvemaanmos in Dutch). The cup on the picture below holds small green balls, the sporophytes if I'm not mistaken ('pre-plants') which are dispersed by water, for example by raindrops falling into the cup.
Oh, and before I forget, I've pulled out the 'scary plants' earlier this week. Lisette noticed they closely resembled a garden plant we removed last year. And indeed, upon pulling them out I found big thick roots which were just like those of the plants we removed last year.
Only just after dinner Lisette saw her first Swifts of 2009. I spotted a group of 5 or 6 at some height pretty much above our street. :)
Yesterday evening I was in the garden at dusk/in the dark, looking at bats. I noticed big insects flying around the edges of the neighbours' trees, occasionally landing in them. They were rather noisy in flight. Today I saw them again and told Lisette about the sound they made and the way they were somewhat clumsily landing in the trees. "Perhaps they're Cockchafers?" Of course! Thank you my dear Lisette! I went back out with a flashlight and indeed, Cockchafers (Melolontha melolontha, Meikever in Dutch), and lots of them. One sat down just low enough for me to be able to photograph it (though it took some effort). I never liked flash-photography, but had no choice as it was already dark. I used the flashlight to allow my camera to focus and combined the macro setting with some zoom. I went inside to check the pictures on the computer and went back out to try and take better ones on I guess three occasions and I'm quite happy with the end-result!



Not much to tell about the picture below. It's just a pretty little weevil (or snout beetle) I came across on the willow in our back garden upon getting home after work.

I've seen a shrew in our back garden a couple of times the past few days. It's a noisy little creature, but hard to spot. I often hear rustling sounds and squeeking, but don't see any movement. Today I caught a glimpse of it as it was searching for food (insects) under the Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch). As the shrew is greyish on top and has a yellowish belly, I suppose it's a Greater White-Toothed Shrew (Crocidura russula, Huisspitsmuis in Dutch). Lisette and I feel it's a nice compliment to our gardening that an animal like this can find enough to eat in our garden. The video below isn't great by the way...