March 2010

The Crocusses are finally flowering. As are the Snowdrops. :) The wait for the first bumblebee (attracted by Crocusses, not by Snowdrops) is now on... :)


The willows in our back garden are looking more and more promising. There are three willows beside eachother now. One is just a branch of a White Willow (Salix alba, Schietwilg in Dutch), not even sure if that's going to grow, so I'm not sure if that counts as a willow. The other two are probably of the same species, though I'm not completely sure what species that is. Might be Grey Willow (Salix cinerea, Grauwe Wilg in Dutch) or Eared Willow (Salix aurita, Geoorde Wilg in Dutch), or a hybrid. Either way, one of them started as a piece of root, the other as a branch. Both are carrying catkins, those of the 'root-originated plant' are more abundant and larger. The picture below shows what I think is the first catkin to have shed it's bract, the reddish leave in which the catkin started to grow, protected against frost and other negative conditions. Can't wait to see them fully flowering, but I have little choice but to do just that of course.


Another picture of the Wild Chervil beside our pond. I'm impressed by it's powerful appearance. I'm looking forward to seeing it grow into a large and strong plant. A nice white screen of flowers beside our pond, attracting insects for the frog(s)? :)
Also another picture of the flowering Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis, Sneeuwklokjes in Dutch). Just because they're nice. :)
Behing our shed two Elders (Sambucus nigrum, Vlier in Dutch) are starting to make leaves again. One if pretty big but somewhat flexible, a long single branch, about 1,5 meters in length. It was still in a knot with the Hop (Humulus lupulus), so I released it a bit. It's leaves were much less well-developed, it probably got less light than the smaller Elder because of all the Hop. The picture below shows the smaller plant, a much more sturdy plant.
On the other side of the garden, behind the garage, the leaves of the Climbin Hydrangea (Klimhortensia in Dutch) are (very slowly, judging by the pile that's still there) being decayed by small fungi. Well, of course, all fungi are small, but these also have small fruiting bodies (see pictue below).
Between those leaves was a very nice surprise! I'd completely forgotten ever doing something to get Lords and Ladies (Arum maculata, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) in our garden, but whatever it was, it worked! I honestly can't remember what I did to get it in our garden, but I suspect I sowed it as they're protected plants and I wouldn't ever dig one out.


I have no idea how I missed it when I was looking at the Lords and Ladies (Arum maculata, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) yesterday, but there's another really nice plant growing in that corner of the garden! Wild garlic (Allium ursinum, Daslook in Dutch). I planted a plant of that species I bought at the small wild plant nursery De Kaardenbol ( last year, but I wasn't sure if it'd make it, as it was flowering at that time. Not the best time to relocate a plant of course. But it seems it survived! :)
Speaking of the Lords and Ladies. I noticed several small white-ish/green tips come throught the dead leaves around the one large Lords and Ladies leave. I cleared away some of the dead leaves and it's pretty obvious now that there's more than one plant growing there!
A small green leave that appeared a while ago on the edge of one of the flowerbeds in our garden has finally showed some features so I can see what it is. It looked like a shoot of grass at first, but then it got too dark-coloured. Then a couple of other leaves appeared and then, finally a flower bud. It can't be anything but the Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris, Wilde Kievitsbloem in Dutch) of which we planted several bulbs bought at I'm looking forward to seeing more of these plants popping up, and, of course, to seeing the amazing checkered flowers!
Not much to say about that last picture. It's just a Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus, Staartmees in Dutch) that came to visit our garden because of a (vegetable) fat block, also from vivara. Very cute birds in my opinion.


After I lifted up my shoes to put them on to go to work this morning I noticed an insect I hadn't seen for a while. Not hard to recognize once you know them, it was the nymphal stage of the Masked Hunter (Reduvius personatus, Maskerwants in Dutch). This one was quite a bit larger than the ones I've seen before though. It looked a bit like the mature insect, though that is grey and not fluffy and white. That is why these insects, or at least their nymphal stage, is so easy to recognize. The bodies of the nymphs are covered with sticky hairs. The nymph covered those with all kinds of debry particles. Indoors this'll be mostly dust, outdoors it would be sand and organic matter. It's an excillent camoflage, though this white one on our doormat was rather eyecatching. Masked Hunters are, as their name suggests, a hunting species of bugs. No harm in those in our house (as long as we don't pick it up and mess with it, they are said to be able to give a painful bite...), so we just left it where it was. The second picture shows a nymph we saw back in 2008, it was a lot smaller...


I had a day off today. It started pretty early though, my mom came by at around 6 in the morning. We immediatly left for the forest, we walked to a bench in Dal Palland in about 10 minutes in half light. We sat down and just enjoyed what we went there for so early: birds singing, the dawn or morning chorus as it's called in English. We don't have such a term for it in Dutch I think. As we sat down the Blackbirds (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch) and Robins (Erithacus rubecula, Roodborst in Dutch) had already started singing. Blackbirds start at around 5 I guess, Robins are very early as well I'm sure. Other birds we heard, more or less in chronological order were: Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos, Zanglijster in Dutch), Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus, Houtduif in Dutch), Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes, Winterkoning in Dutch), a Marsh Tit (Parus palustris, Glanskopmees in Dutch), Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs, Vink in Dutch), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major, Grote Bonte Specht in Dutch, not singing but drumming, which started later than I had thought), Jays (Garrulus glandarius, Gaai in Dutch), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus, Grote Lijster in Dutch) and the Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis, Groene Specht in Dutch). We may have heard others, like Great and Blue Tits (resp. Parus major and Cyanistes caeruleus, Kool,- and Pimelmees in Dutch), but I don't clearly remember hearing those. We didn't hear all birds listed above sitting on the bench. After a while, after hearing the Jays I think, we were cold and not many other birds were singing. Before we left for a walk though, we saw two Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris, Rode Eekhoorn in Dutch), chasing eachothers through the treetops pretty much right above our heads. We heard the Mistle Thrush in the forest during the walk. I was glad to hear that, I thought maybe we'd miss it. It was a nice walk, nice and quiet people-wise.
Once back home, enjoying a delicious cup of Japanse Green tea (Gyokuro), my mother drew my attention to my first butterfly for this year! She thought it was a white butterfly, but as it got closer, flying through gardens across the street, it turned out to be yellow, a Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni, Citroenvlinder in Dutch)! It'd been a while since the last time I saw one of those, unfortunately.
I even saw a second butterfly today! A Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, Kleine Vos in Dutch) passed by as I was waiting for a bus on the edge of Beek. All thanks to the beautiful weather... :)
I checked a lot of Crocusses today, hoping to see my first bumblebee on this beautiful day. But none... So I cycled into the Ooijpolder to check a growthplace of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara, Klein Hoefblad in Dutch), one of the few wild flowering plants at this moment. It was a nice trip to that place, nice weather and the Ooijpolder is a beautiful place. Saw some nice Wigeons (Anas penelope, Smient in Dutch) and a male Green Woodpecker. No insects on the Coltsfoot though... :(


I spent all day yesterday looking at Crocusses, hoping to see my first bumblebee. But no luck. Today was another day with great weather, but I had to spent most of my day at work. As I steered my bike into our drive I automatically looked at the Crocusses beside our house. I immediatly stopped because there it was! My first bumblebee of 2010! A Buff-tailed bumblebee to be exact (Bombus terrestris, Aardhommel in Dutch). The weather wasn't all that great anymore by the time I got home and it was nearing the end of the afternoon, so the bumblebee was motionless, I assumed it was ready to spend the night in the Crocus that would close it's flower for the night. A nice shelter for the night, wouldn't you say? In the Crocus next to it (!), my first bee for 2010! What would turn out to be a Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis, Rosse Metselbij in Dutch) on the next day was also motionless inside a flower. A male, recognizable by the white hairs on it's forehead. Males of this species always fly before the females do. It's interesting how this happens. A Red Mason Bee builds her nest in a cylindrical hollow, separating each chamber she makes with a wall of mud. Each chamber is filled with nectar and pollen (nectar carried in the crop, pollen in the hairs on the underside of it's abdomen). An egg is layed in each chamber, of course, the first chamber built and finished, is in the back of the hollow. Yet the first to hatch are the ones built last and males always hatch first. I hope to be able to show more of these nice bees this coming season.
On March 14th I noticed a leaf of Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum, Daslook in Dutch). I have no idea how it happened, but I seem to have missed a different, far bigger leaf? :/ On the picture below the leaf I discovered first is in the background.
The Lords and Ladies (Arum maculata, Gevlekte Aronskelk in Dutch) leaf is unfolding nicely just behind the Wild Garlic. :)


The Red Mason Bee was still in the Crocus today. I could get a better look at it now as it has shifted it's position so it was clear to me now that it was a Red Mason Bee. I had put the picture I took yesterday on a forum asking if anyone knew what species it could be, but no one had answered yet, so I could let everyone know what it was myself today. :)

The Red Mason Bee was still there today... It has rained though and the weather isn't all that great anymore. The bee was wet and looked very weak... Nothing I could do for it though... :(
In our back garden, the willow looks great, very promising... The catkins are very soft and look beautiful with some drops of water on them. Still no clue what sex the plant is.
Strange bits of plants are floating about in our 'marsh'. I suspect they are bits of Marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris, Moerasandoorn in Dutch), as I planted that in the marsh last year. How these 'bits' came to be I'm not sure though. They look very much alive though and might very well turn into new plants I think.
In the back of the back garden, behind our garage, the Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch) is attracting visitors. I was hoping for Hairy-footed flowerbees (Anthophora plumipes, Gewone Sachembij in Dutch), as this plant turned out to be really attractive to that species last year. No luck yet though. Plenty of bumblebees though. :)


The Red Mason Bee was looking very, very weak today... I picked it up and put it on the sunniest place I could think of. I also provided it with a drop of very sweet jelly, though I'm not sure it it'd use that. I watched it from the livingroom every now and then and it disappeared at one point. I hope it took off, but I'm afraid it just fell to the ground...
Beside the pond the Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris, Kievitsbloem in Dutch) is growing well, taking a very typical shape. I like the way the leaves are spreading from the main stem and of course I'm looking forward to those beautiful flowers...


I saw my first flowering willow on my way home from work yesterday! So I took along my camera today and crossed the busy road across which the flowering willow is growing. I didn't feel like climbing over the fence as well, so I only took some low quality pictures. Great to see the willows flowering again though... :)


IT'S A MALE!!!! :D I'm talking about the willow of course! When I came home from work today and looked into our back garden it immediatly caught my eye, even though it's just a single partial flower.
So I went inside and got my camera, but the first thing I photographed was the flower bud of a Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris, Kievitsbloem in Dutch). With some imagination I can see why it's called snake's head. You can already see the typical checkered patern on the flower petals.
So the willow's a male. One of the catkins shows stamen emerging from between the hairs. Other catkins seem near that point, you can see the tops of stamens in between the hairs on the third picture below.
The flowering Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch) is still attracting plenty of visitors. Today I actually saw my first Hairy-Footed flowerbee (Anthophora plumipes, Gewone Sachembij in Dutch)! It was clearly a male, it passed all three flowering Lungwort plants in our back garden a couple of times, on patrol... They must have great eyesight, it's such a quick pass. Hairy-footed flowerbees are very territorial, which is why I'm guessing the one I saw passing on a couple separate occasions was all the same male. I tried to take a picture, but it passed by so quickly... I did manage to film one of those quick passes, but it's only a flash. Too much work to covert the video for that, sorry. I'm sure I'll be able to show some better Anthophora plumipes-material in the near future. I hope they'll use the loam wall... :)
A different visitor of the Lungwort flowers was a lot easier to photograph. It was a male Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis, Rosse Metselbij in Dutch). The nice weather has woken up a different Osmia species as well. When the sun breaks through, males of Osmia cornuta can be seen hovering in front of the bee blocks. Like with Osmia bicornis, the males are easily recognizable by the white hairs on their forehead. The males are hovering in front of the bee blocks awaiting females. I haven't seen one of them yet though.


Just one day of nice weather and the willow looks completely different... Several flowers now, looking great... :)
And there are more flowers (on their way). The Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum, Daslook in Dutch) is showing a small flower bud. And the Sweet Violet (Viola odorata, Maarts Viooltje in Dutch) is looking great and the smell is delicious. Very subtle, you have to really get your nose quite close to the flower, but it's worth kneeling down for. I sometimes wish I could convert smells with my website... :p The Ríbes is another great smelling plant, smelling quite strongly like cassis (black currant that is) that I'd like to share.
Rosettes of an as yet unidentiefied plant are growing at several places in our back garden. It looks so very familiar... And as there are several of them, it's probably something that grew in our garden last year as well... But still, no idea yet... Anyone? :) Oh, and just as I finished writing this, I remembered! It has to be Nipplewort (Lapsana communis, Akkerkool in Dutch)!
Our pond will be a busy place this summer... Quite a few Yellow Flag (Iris pseudacorus, Gele Lis in Dutch) plants are growing in there. I hope at least one of them will flower this year.


Saw my first swallows today! Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica, Boerenzwaluw in Dutch) to be exact. Lisette and I were in our back garden and I looked up because I was annoyed by the noise of a plane. But the annoyed feeling was gone just like that as two swallows passed by. :)
We made a bumblebee-home. It's a large flowerpot with a hole in the bottom. We closed the top with a large plastic bag after putting a bit of nesting material in it (some hay and some dead leaves). We then placed the flower pot upside down in a large hole, making sure the hole in the bottom was more or less level with the ground. A couple of stones make sure rain can't fall directly into the hole. It might be a tiny bit late in the season, as most queens will already have found a home, but I'm sure it'll still be available next year.
Another willow-picture... Just because it's so beautiful. :)
A while ago I placed a couple of bits of wood under the loam wall to prevent moisture being sucked in from below (see also the entry of February 27th). It dried up nicely and today I drilled a couple more holes which, 'of course', I blew clean with a straw again. :)


A nice and sunny day today! So I went to look at the bees in the rye field nearby. See also March 22nd of 2009. That was the first time I saw this great spectacle. Thousands and thousands of bees... That was the first generation of what later turned out to be Andrena bimaculata, a rare bee species. The second generation flew in June. The first generation builds an underground nest, one nest a bee, so these are solitary nesting bees, even though they're flying around in thousands. That's because this is just a very suitable location. Sunny and lots of accessable soil. Rye leaves a lot of room for other plants but evidently also for bees to nest. After the first generation has built their nests, they die. The larvae probably grow into fully grown bees that wait until it's time for the second generation. In June, males will hatch first and will mate with the later hatched females. Those will again built a nest. The first generation builds their nests among tiny Rye plants, the second flies among the stems of Rye at full height. The larvae in this nest however will most likely grow into a popa that will stay that way the rest of the summer and winter until next early spring. Quite amazing...
So anyway, I went to take a look and enjoyed this awesome sight for the second time (or third, counting the second generation as well). Quite a few of dead or injured bees on the path that runs beside the field (see second picture), but luckily there were still thousands left. On my were to the field I found my first flowering Wood Anemone (Anemona nemorosa, Bosanemoon in Dutch) and saw my first of another bee species, the mining bee species Andrena vaga, a male. I wasn't able to take a nice picture of it unfortunately.
More bee stuff! In our garden the bees are very busy as well! Osmia cornuta males have hatched and keep checking the holes in my bee blocks for hatching females. Two males (recognizable by the white hairs in their faces) can bee seen on the last picture.


I noticed two Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornis, Rosse Metselbij in Dutch) on a just 'opened' willow flower in our back garden today. They're a female and a male, the female on the left on the pictures below, slightly larger and with black hairs and 'horns' on her face (see second picture). The male has white hairs on it's face, just like the males of Osmia cornuta in the picture I posted yesterday.
Also, the Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum, Daslook in Dutch) that I planted while it was flowering last year seems to have set seed succesfully. A couple of seedling are growing right where the flower used to be. :)