June 2010

My mom has a new house, an appartment at the fourth floor in a five floor building. Her balcony looks out over treetops! :) I'm always very interested in what goes on up in the trees, it's a bit of a hidden world. There are butterfly species that are hardly ever seen because they live their entire live up in the treetops for example. Haven't seen those yet as far as I'm aware, but we've seen a couple of Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris, Gewone Eekhoorn in Dutch) and today I saw a bird that I don't see all too often, a Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus, Kuifmees in Dutch). Not a great picture, but it was far away and very restless. Still nice to be able to take a picture of one though! :)


Awesome news today! Check out the Swift Pojects section, Hessenberg page at June 2nd!
Other news, well, news... More flowering Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch)! :) Another plant seems to be doing, ehm, weird? It's looking very wrinkled... :/
A wasp, I'm guessing it's an Ancistrocerus species wasps (a genus of potter wasps) seems to be nesting in the loam wall! At first I thought it was just taing loam to built it's nest elsewhere, but when I checked a picture I took on the computer, I noticed it was carrying a caterpillar. It seems unlikely to me that it'd come to collect loam while also carrying a prey (food for it's larvae). But who knows? The Hairy-footed Flowerbees are still working hard, there's debris at the entrance of the nest tunnel.
It was also very nice to see a Common Toad (Bufo bufo, Gewone Pad in Dutch) use what I'd placed in our garden for animals such as toads; roof tiles. I noticed the toad near them and it went into hiding behind them. :)
Also, the Blackbird's nest (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch) is being used afterall. By blackbirds! Haha, they may well be very same ones that built this nest in the first place (well, the female that is), but now they're using the materials to build a nest elsewhere, I think in a rather dense treetop of a tree in the garden of the back neighbours.


The Peach-leaved Bellflowers (Campanula persicifolia, Prachtklokje in Dutch) are flowering again. And just like last year, small bees are using the flowers as hotels. They lock themselves to the pistil (stamper in Dutch) with their jaws and spend the night hanging in the flower. :)


The Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum, Grote Kaardenbol in Dutch) are growing very well! Compare to the picture in the May 31st entry!
In the mean time, a less spectacular plant in my opinion, the Climbing Hydrangea, is flowering very abundantly. It attracts a lot of bumblebees and bees, but also other visitors, such as the Click Beetle on the picture below (Elateridae species, possibly Athous haemorrhoidalis).
It's a bit hard to see on the picture below, but I've planted three of my favorite plants in our garden, Common Hawthornes! (Crataegus monogyna, Eensteilige Meidoorn in Dutch) I hope they'll grow into nice dense shrubs with those delicious smelling flowers... :)
I went along with the Tuesday-evening bike-excursion of the Bird Workgroup Nijmegen this evening. We passed a very, very beautiful dyke. The plants flowering so abundantly there have no doubt been sown, but it's looking awesome... Among the flowers are beauties (that are great for insects as well) such as Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis, Beemdkroon in Dutch) and Greater Knapweed (Centaurea scabiosa, Grote Centaurie in Dutch).
The excursion reached a crossing where the group went in the direction back to Nijmegen, but that would have been a bit of a detour for me, so I went in a different direction. And in hindsight I'm very glad I did! After passing through the village Ooij I heard Blackbirds (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch) stressing out. I stopped to see what was going on and found what I was hoping would be the case... Little Owls! (Athene noctua, Steenuil in Dutch) I'd never seen one before, but here were two! One on each of the two chimneys of this house at the edge of the village. Gorgeous through the binoculars, a bit less gorgeous on the picture, but I'm still very glad I got to see these lovely looking birds!
A bit less lovely-looking were the clouds that approached as a got closer to home... I was home just in time! I hope the rest of the group was as well, but somehow fear they weren't...


The Greater Yellow-rattle is flowering! :)
Skins of whatever they were are sticking out of some of the holes in the bee block. I hope it was a happy ending, that bees left these holes like the female that worked so hard had in mind. But I'm not completely sure so I've placed the picture below on a forum to see if anyone can help me out there.
The Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum, Grote Kaardenbol in Dutch) are still growing fast. The biggest one is getting taller than I am! :)
I placed a bad apple in the back garden today, near the pile of branches and other organic material in the corner behind our shed. Within half an hour it looked like it does on the picture below! Not sure what did that so very fast... Could there be something in the pile of branches that comes out and eats it this fast?
I had completely forgotten... I've sown not only Purple Salsify Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch), but Meadow Salsify (Tragopogon pratensis, Gele Morgenster in Dutch) as well! Hahaha!


During a walk through the garden today I noticed a very beautiful beetle on the Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare, Boerenwormkruid in Dutch). I'm guessing it's a beetle from the Cryptocephalus family (Steilkopjes in Dutch), possibly Cryptocephalus sericeus, but I'm not sure.
I've done so before, but again I wish I could not just show a picture but also convey smell. The flowers of Perennial Wall-rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia, Grote Zandkool in Dutch) smell delicious. A very sweet honey-like smell. The flowers of other members of Crucifers (Cruciferae) often smell similar I think, at least those of Black Mustard (Brassica nigra, Zwarte Mosterd in Dutch) and Rapeseed (Brassica napus, Koolzaad in Dutch) do.
The Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba, Bosrank in Dutch) is growing very well. It can take the entire garage door if it wants and I've got more wire ready for when it reaches the roof. :) The way this plant climbs is nice to see. Hop (Humulus lupulus) has all these small hooks to hold onto whatever it's twisting around. Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara, Bitterzoet in Dutch) doesn't really climb but leans on other plants while growing upwards with lone vines. Old Man's Beard uses it's leaves though. The stem of a leaf can twist around a support like the metal wire as can be seen on the picture below.
I filled the bird food silo again and man, that attracts a lot of House Sparrows (Passer domesticus, Huismus in Dutch). So nice, all that chattering and cheeping. :)


So I wrote about that bad apple getting eaten so quick after I put it in the back garden the day before yesterday. Today I did a little experiment. I placed the core of a (good) apple at about the same place as I placed the bad apple the other day. I set up my tripod and photo camera in front of it and pressed the 'film' button. Then I went back inside. I had to go back to the camera-setup every 15 minutes or so because the camera can't film much longer than that. If the apple hadn't been touched I deleted the video to make room for a new one and re-started filming. After a couple of attempts I saw two birds flying away as I looked round the corner of the shed. Couldn't make out the smaller bird, the bigger was a Blackbird (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch). Looking at the video on the computer it turned out the smaller bird was a male House Sparrow (Passer domesticus, Huismus in Dutch).
I thought it was so nice this setup worked so well, I gave it another try. This time I put my tripod up as high as it could so the camera was at about the same height as the well-filled bird feeder. The second video below is a compilation of no less than 15 clips taken in three filming sessions! :) Quite a job to cut them from the original videos and paste them all together, especially since the software was NOT cooperating at all... So I hope you enjoy it!

(After clicking play, select "480p" for higher quality video)

On this sunny day it was amazing to see how many bees were flying in front of the largest of the bee blocks in our back garden. Quite a few males hoping to find females to mate with I'm sure, but no doubt nesting females as well. I'm not sure of the species though. They were small and black, maybe they're Halictus or Lasioglossum species...? Either way, hard to show on a photograph how it looked and I didn't try filming it, so you'll just have to take my word for it, it was impressive. :)
After not having opened anymore for a couple of days, one of the Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch) flowers has turned into a beginning ball of fluff. :)


I went along with the second KNNV excursion to the Eifel area in Germany again this weekend! We stayed in Blankenheim in the middle of such a beautitul area. Like last year, we visited several awesome very small and larger nature reserves and saw loads of gorgeous plants and animals. There's far too much to tell and I'm way behind with this diary, so just a few highlights in text and images:
Even though the bee species Andrena florea (Heggenrankbij in Dutch) isn't all that rare in the Netherlands, I hadn't seen it before. It was on my 'wishlist' though, so I was very happy to discover this pretty little bee even before we had entered the first nature reserve of the excursion ('Biesberg' between Thuir, Thum and Nideggen). The first one I saw seemed to be sleeping in a Whyte Bryony flower (Bryonia dioica, Heggenrank in Dutch), the plant on which this pretty little bee is specialized. Later, pretty much at the end of our walk through this gorgeous nature reserve I saw more of these bees. By then it was sunny, so those were pretty active.
Seeing a snake in that same nature reserve was very interesting as well! One of the people that went along on the excursion was a, entomologist. He turned over stones looking for interesting insects and found a snake under one. It was a Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca, Gladde Slang in Dutch). I'm not sure about the blueish eyes, probably just protection, it's eyes are normally yellow.
Two more highlights in this same nature reserve (I'm not even mentioning all the Orchids!) regard insects. I thought it was very nice to find the nest of a European Paper Wasp (Polistes dominula, Franse Veldwesp in Dutch). It took some effort to get the female on the picture as well... Had it been sunny at that time, it would have been a lot harder still I'm sure. The other insect I thought was very nice to find was a Black Hairstreak (Satyrium pruni, Pruimenpage in Dutch). These pretty little butterflies can be found in the Netherlands as well, I just haven't seen one here yet.
The day after was great, we visited nature reserve 'Kalvarienberg' near Ahlendorf. Such a beautiful place... No pictures of that in this entry though, take a look in the entry for last year's visit for some. We also visited the waterfall near Nohn. Wow... Not just beautiful, but also home of White-throated dippers! (Cinclus cinclus, Waterspreeuw in Dutch). Their nest was very hard to see, but I managed by climbing into the small cave that can just be seen on the left in the picture below. It was also nice to manage to photograph a Chimney Sweeper (Odezia atrata, Rouwspanner in Dutch). A beautiful black day-active moth. Not all that fast or anything, but it didn't seem to enjoy posing...
And finally, from the third day, on which we went to another beautiful nature reserve, Eschweiler Kuppen near Gilsdorf. I wasn't planning on posting pictures of Orchids as I've shown so many of those in last year's entry, but, well... It was just stunning, the amount of them on this hilltop. The largest population of Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora, Poppenorchis in Dutch) of Western Europe! (the barely visible yellowish-ones on the second last picture).
And finally, a picture of the group (minus me). Great company. :)




Breadcrumbs can have quite an effect! After making bread in the morning I usually throw the crumbs on the terrace for whatever likes them. This morning it was clear who liked them most. House Sparrows! (Passer domesticus, Huismus in Dutch) So nice, all that chirping and activity. :)
Later today, I went into the garden to try and photograph a moth Lisette and I had seen flying around a lot today and yesterday, on our way to work for example. Browsing through the excellent fieldguide Nachtvlinders (a revised translation of the Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland by Paul Waring and Martin Townsend) I'd found a close resemblance to Rannoch Looper (Macaria brunneata, Bosbesbruintje in Dutch). That was listed as being a rare species though. But posts about the massive appearance of this moth were made on the forum of the workgroup Gelderse Poort as well, suggesting for example that the status be renewed. They don't pose very well though, they're very easily disturbed.
But what I wanted to say before all this about Rannoch Looper, is that I came across another moth in the back garden. One that looked a bit more spectacular and carries an impressive Dutch name ('White tiger'). It was White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda, Witte Tijger in Dutch), sitting on a leaf of Hop (Humulus lupulus.