March 2009

We took a walk in forest Duivelsberg again today. We do that pretty much every sunday, and it's nice every time. :) The weather was great, sunny and not cold at all. We saw and heard the ruffles of some Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, saw a Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis, Havik in Dutch) using the warm air to circle to greater altitude and three Roe Deer, probably scared out of their hiding place by a dog or cycler (...).
Also passed a beautiful Goat Willow (Salix caprea, Boswilg in Dutch) in between the Goshawk and the Roe Deer. It's absolutely crammed with huge catkins. Such a beautiful sight. I'll have to check up on it on a regular basis, can't wait to see it flower. Not in the least because it will be attracting loads of bees, just like it did last year (I hope).


There were some nice things to see in the garden as well today. Some of the Crocusses are ready for bumblebee visits, though I didn't see any in our garden today. I did see my first two of the year nearby though, just flying around, not on flowers. No doubt visiting the Crocusses in other people's gardens as there isn't much else flowering yet (I haven't seen any flowering Lesser Celanine (Ranunculus ficaria, Speenkruid in Dutch) or Dandelions yet for example).
I was inspired to take a close look at the ground where the old Hop (Humulus lupulus) lianas emerge by my Belgian friend Nick. His Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba, Bosrank in Dutch) showed it's first small green shoots last week. Thanks for telling me Nick, because now I know our Hop is growing as well! It's shoots aren't green though, but pinkish, as can be seen on the picture below. They don't have the distinct grating feel to them yet, caused by the stiff hairs Hop uses to take hold of whatever it uses to gain height by climbing along it.
It's also very nice to see fresh young leafs of Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare, Boerenwormkruid in Dutch). Though I really love the smell of it, I managed to restrain myself from crushing a bit of leaf. :)


After it stopped raining it was really nice weather today. I noticed a tiny Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria, Speenkruid in Dutch) plant near where I planted one last spring. I've looked for it before but didn't find it untill now. But then I noticed some more Celandine leafs coming up from between the Foxglove (Digitalis Purperea, Vingerhoedskruid in Dutch) leafs. We have quite a few Foxglove plants in our garden, so I didn't have any problems removing some Foxglove leafs to give the Celandine some room. As I removed some leafs I noticed some of the tiny Celandine bulbs weren't covered by soil. The bulbs are pale brown and have given the plant it's Dutch name (Speenkruid means something like rubber teat herb). I covered the bulbs with some soil, I hope it feels good in our garden so we can enjoy it's beautiful spring flowers...
Speaking of spring flowers... The Ríbes is showing big flower buds. The leafs are only just unfolding but there are several big pinkish flower buds emerging from between the leafs. I'm not sure what exactly the species is, but there's a good chance the flowers will atract early bee species.
In forest Duivelsberg we heard ruffling woodpeckers and we saw a whole load of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch). And we saw a beautiful female Hazel (Corylus avellana, Hazelaar in Dutch) flower. Also heard the calls of a Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis, Havik in Dutch) near the nest they also used last year.
After our walk through the forest we went for a walk around the lake Wylerbergmeer. Not much to see there, we continued to a spot where we'd seen yellow flowers at the base of a tree. Lisette had noticed them on her way to work. When she pointed them out to me I thought they might be Celandine flowers, though I thought that was kind of strange as I hadn't noticed any Celandine flowers anywhere else yet. When we got there they turned out to be Yellow Anemones (Anemone ranunculoides, Gele Anemoon in Dutch)... On our way there we did see some actual Celandine flowers though! :) I stood with my legs spread over a water filled ditch when I took the close-up picture below. The last picture shows a different growth place.


Blackbirds are happy with our little experimental marsh. They're frequently bathing in the shallow layer of water. I can't imagine they actually get any cleaner, but perhaps they're really, really dirty?
Last year a tiny plant with a single leaf was growing somewhere in the back of our back garden. A short while ago I discovered it was there again this year. It's a bit bigger than last year and a second leaf is on the way. Still no idea what species it is though. It reminds me of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculata, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch), but it could just as well be some kind of garden plant. We'll see I guess.
A lot of things are really starting to grow now. We sawed a whole load of seeds two weeks ago and the first seedling have appeared. They're of some kind of Lathyrus species, not sure which one. Didn't find seedling of any of the other 20 or so species we sawed. But some of the plants that were already growing in our garden are doing well. The Hop is growing steadily, the Ríbes has opened it's very first flowers and keeps unfolding it's leafs and the Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch) is growing strong new shoots. Lovely plant that 'Luzerne' (it's beautiful name in Dutch).
And last but not least, we had a visitor today that I hadn't seen in our garden for a while (which doesn't mean none have been around). A Common Frog was sitting in the open just as I was to leave. Took a quick picture (the first of the two below) and went away. When I came back I thought I might not find it again, as I'd been away for a while. But then I noticed it looking out from under a leaf at the base of our Absinth Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Absintalsem in Dutch). A little while later a Blackbird started pulling leafs out in it's search for food. I was curious to see what would happen to the frog, but the Blackbird didn't get to the place where that was hidden. I noticed it was still there when I went to put the leafs back. Must've been a scary moment for it.


After about 5 minutes on my way to work everyday I pass a nice Grey Willow (Salix cinerea, Grauwe Wilg in Dutch). It's been showing a lot of silvery catkins for a while, but now the flowers have finally emerged. At first I thought they were male and just needed a bit more time to develop, but I soon found it these were female flowers. Like the male flowers, they produce a lot of nectar, attracting plenty of insects. As I was taking pictures of the flowers, bumblebees were buzzing all around me.
In our back garden the Hop (Humulus lupulus) is growing well. It's feeling rough now, due to the small hooks it uses to climb along other plants to gain height to catch sunlight.


In my previous entry I wrote about a willow I pass on my way to work. There are actually a couple of willows I pass on my way to work (and back home of course). The one I pass 5 minutes after I leave home is a female, but there's a very nice male plant about 15 minutes further along the way (I pass a couple more, but this particular one seems more beautiful than those). Today I took my camera with me to work and on my way back home I stopped to take some pictures. I had to cross the busy road to get to it, but it was well worth it. Such beautiful flowers...
After that, I went for a quick visit of the Wylerbergmeer-area. There's another distinctive willow growing there which I wanted to check out. It wasn't as spectacular as the one I'd photographed, but I photographed another nice plant a bit further along the way, a Sweet Violet (Viola odorata, Maarts Viooltje in Dutch).


First day of spring! And beautiful weather! I discovered today we will probably have two plants of Wood Ragwort (Senecio nemorensis, Schaduwkruiskruid in Dutch) growing in our garden this year! :) We're also going to have quite some Hop (Humulus lupulus) in our garden. We have our own plant, but there's also the back neighbors' plant... That's a bit older so it seems, because there are at least 10 strong shoots coming up in the corner at the fence. I attached a steel wire to a pole in that corner and to the opposite wall and stuck some branches that came from the pear into the ground. In theory, the Hop should grow along the branches up to the wire and then along the wall a bit. I'm also trying to lead the Bramble up to the wire. The Bramble seems to be doing well. It's got some strong looking new shoots. We'll have to keep an eye on it though. It makes long branches which dive into the ground after a while. They don't always go in the handiest direction...
Also in the garden I saw my first solitary bees of this year! Unfortunately I haven't been able to identify the species of two of the three I saw. One of them was the Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes, Gewone Sachembij in Dutch). That was flying on our Spotted Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch), making a very distinct high pitched buzzing. I didn't manage to get that on a picture though, they (I saw a couple) were fast and they seemed to be shy. The other two, or perhaps a male and female of the same species (though they don't look alike at all), were flying on the Ribes, which isn't flowering very enthousiasticly (yet?) unfortunately.


An excellent second spring day! :) Lisette and I took a walk in the forest this morning. Excellent weather, nice and sunny. The Goat Willow (Salix caprea) I photographed on March 1st (see that entry) is flowering beautifully now. The Wood Anemones must be doing so as well, though we missed those (the picture below was taken later today).
But we saw something else that was so spectacular that I don't mind missing out on the flowering Wood Anemones. I'll see them flower some other day soon, but I doubt I'll see that other thing again anytime soon...
We were walking along a path beside a Rye field (there's a couple of those in forest Duivelsberg, this one is the largest) when we noticed bees. Not a couple, but thousands... There were bees flying a couple of centimeters above the ground over the entire field. Most must've been males, searching for emerging females. Males usually emerge from their nest earlier and then search for the females to mate with them. I saw a female being chased by five or six males, strugling to get a hold of the female, pulling other males off her back.
I'm not sure of the species yet, it's probably a member of the Andrena family, the largest family of solitary bees.


I've been trying to find out what the bee species was I saw March 22nd. I sent a picture and link to the movie I made to someone at the Entomology Laboratory of Wageningen University. He sent them over to one of the few real wild bee specialists of the Netherlands; Ivo Raemakers. He was thinking it was Andrena bimaculata, but I had to check the upper part of the propodeum. I wasn't sure what that was, so I checked my bee guide. It's the last part of the middle segment. A. bimaculata was supposed to have a clearly wrinkled propodeum. I saw bumbs and such, but without references, I wasn't sure wheter this qualified as wrinkles. I took a picture of the propodeum, or at least as good as I could, and sent that to the two bee experts. Also, when we saw the bees above the field, I found a couple of dead ones on the path beside it. The one I took the propodeum-picture of was in the best shape (the others were probably stepped on), so when Ivo asked me to send one of the dead ones over, I chose this one. Today I recieved the definate determination, it's indeed Andrena bimaculata, the one I sent was a female. This is a threatened species, so I'm going to ask the 'manager' of the area to try to protect this population.
Below is the propodeum-picture I took.

I wrote on March 21st we'd probably have two Wood Ragwort (Senecio nemorensis, Schaduwkruiskruid in Dutch) plants in our back garden this year. Well, there'll be three even! I saw a third emerging a couple of days ago and photographed all three today. I also photographed some in the forest today, though that picture turned out to be a bit blurry back home. Might be because I took it in the rain and had to take care not to get my camera wet...
On my way to the forest I heard a Goldinch (Carduelis carduelis, Putter in Dutch). I was able to take a decent picture (pity the sharpness isn't great).
In our back garden some new seedlings have emerged. I'm not completely sure what species they are, they might be Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis), or maybe Common Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris subsp. vulgaris). We'll see...