July 2009

It seems I'm not the only one who is happy a White Campion (Silene latifolia, Avondkoekoeksbloem in Dutch) has settled in our garden on it's own accord. I noticed some small holes in the side of the seed-pods the other day, no doubt made by caterpillars of The Lychnis (Hadena bicruris, Silene-uil in Dutch). Today I took a look inside the pods and could see the caterpillars curled up inside.
The Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch) is attracting quite some visitors. Not just Red Tailed Bumblebees (Bombus lapidarius, Steenhommel in Dutch), though those are still by far the most numerous visitors, and that Longhorn from a couple of days ago, but also regulary leefcutter (Megachile)-species bees. I'm not sure of the exact species (I'm guessing it's Megachile versicolor, but the family is quite easily recognizable by the typical way these bees point their abdomen upwards while visiting flowers. Not just when visiting flowers that have to be 'entered' from above like those of the Spear Thistle, but when visiting any flower. These bees collect pollen between hairs on the underside of their abdomen. Both the dark orange hairs and how much pollen these hairs can hold can be seen on the pictures below.
Also another picture of one of the Brown Knapweed flowers in our back garden. Just because it's so stunningly beautiful.


After a very special Swift-encouter today (see the Swift 2009 Diary) I went home with some plants I got from a fellow Swift-enthousiast. She gave me a couple of Common Figwort (Scropholaria nodosa, Knopig Helmkruid in Dutch) and, by accident, a single Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris, Moerasandoorn in Dutch).
On my way home I stopped for some weird bat-like sounds. They were high-pitched chirping calls very similar to bat calls, but they seemed to originate from the shrubs. I stopped my bike and stood at the roadside for a while. I heard a lot of rustling sounds coming from the shrubs, whatever was making the sounds wasn't alone, there were two or three of them. But I never found out what they were, because although one was really close to coming out in the open, I never got to see one.
Some tens of meters further along the road I heard several calls of a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco, Bosuil in Dutch). It sounded very nearby so I stopped hoping to catch a glimpse of it in the heavy dusk. No luck, though hearing the calls so well was a lucky event on it's own.
I planted the Firgwort and Woundwort in our back garden in the darkness. As I was planting the Figwort in the back of our garden I got near the heavily flowering Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp., Kamperfoelie in Dutch). It's not the indigenous species unfortunately, but it's old, big and smells great, attracting bumblebees and moths so I'm quite fond of it anyway. I wish I could make my website smell like it's flowers... Such a great scent.

I found out who's making all those holes in the leaves of our Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch). Tiny Caterpillars of Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui, Distelvlinder in Dutch) use silk to fold a leaf in such a way that a safe roof is created. From underneath the roof they eat from the leaves with great enthousiasm...

The Black Mustard (Brassica nigra, Zwarte Mosterd in Dutch) is growing very well and has opened it's first flowers. Compare the picture below with this one from June 27th. It's attracting many insects. Mainly small bees, but also a lot of hoverflies.
Speaking of bees, I'm seeing several different species in our garden. The one on Borage (Borago officinalis, Bernagie or Komkommerkruid in Dutch) is possibly the leefcutter bee Megachile willughbiella. It's pretty big, makes a very typical sound and holds it's abdomen in a typical way when visiting flowers (see also the bit about leefcutter bees in the diary entry of July 2nd). These big bees also visit Bellflowers (Campanula species, Klokjes in Dutch).
Much smaller bees are regulary visiting the flowering Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea, Jakobskruiskruid in Dutch) in our back garden. I'm not sure, possibly Hylaeus-species but I think it's probably Heriades truncorum?


The liverwort Marchantia polymorpha (Parapluutjesmos in Dutch) is doing very well in our back garden. There are several places where it's formed a sort of tapestry. At some places there are only asexual reproductive organs (cup-like structures), but at others there are sexual reproductive organs. These are shaped like palmtrees (female) or umbrellas (male). The males produce sperm cells that are transported by water if I'm not mistaken. If these reach the female plant's ova these develop into a small plant that remains attached to the parent plant. The small plant produces spores that can develop into new complete plants. There's a nice picture explaining all this on the Dutch Wikipedia page. On the first picture below male umbrellas can be seen on the front, the female palmtrees are a bit behind them.
There are two different plants from the same family flowering in our garden at the moment, Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch) and Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca, Vogelwikke in Dutch). The individual flowers look similar, but the shape of the plant and the leaves are very different. Alfalfa grows into a shrub-like plant and has leaves that are comprised of three leaflets (small bits can be seen on the third picture below). Tufted Vetch is a climber and has leaves that have 8 to 12 pairs of leaflets (small bits can be seen on the second picture below).
Another climber in our garden is Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara, Bitterzoet in Dutch). It started as two small shoots that I took home from a nearby lake where a lot of Bittersweet can be found. Now one of them has grown into a more than 3 metres long plant, growing through the Climbing Hydrangea (Klimhortensia in Dutch). There can still be a couple of flowers found on the plant, but most flowers have turned into those beautifully colored berries.
We've been having a lot of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus, Huismus in Dutch) visiting our garden, mainly to feed on our breadcrumbs. Today I photographed a juvenile while it was feeding. I took more pictures than the one below, but the light was poor so most are a bit unsharp.
Thanks to the use of flash the toad on the last picture IS sharp! We found this one during a walk in the forest Duivelsberg. We saw a lot more than this toad, but I just wanted to share this picture as I think it's very nice, a toad on a 'toadstool'... :)


I noticed the other day that a small plant is growing in our front garden (one we didn't plant there). It has a very distinctive smell, as it's a small Thyme plant! A nice surprise. :)
Also, I've been hearing these chirping calls in/around our back garden lately. I went to look for the source yesterday but couldn't find it. Today I could! It's a male Dark Bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera, Bramensprinkhaan in Dutch). I could see the source of it's calls as it was rubbing it's short wings together (this is called stridulation, rubbing certain bodyparts together to produce sound). It took me quite some effort, but I managed to get it on film as well!


The Pink Lady (Vanessa cardui, Distelvlinder in Dutch) caterpillars are growing well. Like I wrote in the July 5th entry, the caterpillars usually protect themselves with silk, as can be seen in the first picture below. They sometimes venture out into the open as well, which enables me to show that their appearance has changed quite a bit.


Yesterday the caterpillars, today the butterflies! A beautiful specimen came to drink nectar from the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch) today. It took a bit of effort, but I was able to photograph the butterfly with the caterpillar in the background. :)
A species that visits our garden less frequently came to drink nectar as well, the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina, Bruin Zandoogje in Dutch).


Amazing... After the visit of yesterday, another Pink Lady (Vanessa cardui, Distelvlinder in Dutch) came to visit the Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch) today, but this time not to drink nectar! This one came to lay eggs! The picture of the egg was dificult to take as of course such an egg is very, very small.


One of the big caterpillars on the Spear Thistle (you can guess the scientific and Dutch names by now I hope? :)) decided it was time to get ready to pupate today! It appearantly made it's way over to the door of our shed and attached itself to the window sill. It was regulary bending up the way it was when I took the picture below at the end of the day. To be continued of course!

The caterpillar was very busy today. It swung from side to side as it was pupating. A very intrueging process. Litle over three hours after I took the first picture below I took the second one. The pupa was still moving about quite heavily at that time from time to time. A big caterpillar seemed to be observing from on the Spear Thistle, which gave me a nice chance to photograph it.


Another good butterfly-day today. A Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus, Boomblauwtje in Dutch) came to visit some of the Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch) flowers. There is some Ivy (Hedera helix, Klimop in Dutch) in our garden, which is one of the host plants for Holly Blue, but I didn't see this butterfly on that plant.
We also have two of the host plants for Comma (Polygonia C-album, Gehakkelde Aurelia in Dutch) in our garden (Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica, Grote Brandnetel in Dutch) and Hop (Humulus lupulus)), but the Comma I saw in our garden today only stopped to sit on the bramble for a minute as far as I saw...


My mom and I were able to take a nice look at some Spotted Flycatchers (Muscicapa striata, Grauwe Vliegenvanger in Dutch) at the end of a walk today. There seemed to be a couple that had young nearby. The one on the picture below seemed to have caught a Comma (Polygonia C-album, Gehakkelde Aurelia in Dutch).
A little further along the way home we had a very nice 'Swift-experience'! I wrote about this in the Swift-diary.

The special Butterfly Bush variety 'Dartmoor' is in full bloom at the moment. And it's attracting plenty of butterflies! Lots of Pink Ladies and Large and Small Whites, but sometimes also the Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina, Bruin Zandoogje in Dutch).


We were honoured by the visit of a Common Frog (Rana temporaria, Bruine Kikker in Dutch) to our 'pond' today! In my opinion our 'pond' is looking quite nice these days, and appearantly this frog felt the same way. I'm not sure when and why Common Frogs visit water. Green frogs are bound to water not just during the mating season but also outside. Common Frogs only need water to lay eggs in. Of course places near water make for good hunting areas for frogs, so that was probably the reason this frog gave us this nice visit.