May 2010

A week in the village Benenberg in Germany together with Lisette, my mother, my oldest sister, her husband and their three kids! We stayed in the holiday accomodation Eifelhof (website in Dutch), a nice and big accomodation in the small village near bigger places like Schleiden, Kall, Hellenthal and Blankenheim. The weather wasn't all that great, cold mainly with some hail and sleet. The entire spring so far had been cold, so the flora was a bit behind from what I had hoped for (like maybe some early flowering Early purple orchids (Orchis mascula, Mannetjesorchis in Dutch, which I didn't get to see). Highlights of what I did see and areas I visited: Cowslip (Primula veris, Gulden Sleutelbloem in Dutch) everywhere! Beside the highway for example, loads in nature reserves. Finding Water avens (Geum rivale, Knikkend Nagelkruid in Dutch) in the back garden of 'Eifelhof'. Wildenburg (small village with a nice castle and great views), Gemünd (home to Bäckerei- Café Poth that sells excellent rye bread! (Aachener Strasse 17) Also the place where I got to see a White-throated dipper (Cinclus cinclus, Waterspreeuw in Dutch) for the first time in my life! Very nice! Also very nice: nature reserves 'Biesberg' (near the small villages Thuir and Thum near Niddegen and Zülpich), 'Sistig-Krekeler Heide' (very close to Benenberg), two small (nameless?) nature reserves between Froschberg and Sittert near Blankenheimerdorf and 'Seidenbachtal' (also near Blankenheimerdorf). Finding (old) Greater broomrape (Orobanche rapum-genistae, Grote Bremraap in Dutch) stems very easily near Broom (Cytisus scoparius, Brem in Dutch), for example in nature reserve Sistig-Krekeler Heide. Enormous amounts of Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella, Witte Klaverzuring in Dutch). Seeing a lot of Red Kites (Milvus milvus, Rode Wouw in Dutch), such beautiful birds of prey. All those beautiful streams everywhere and (I guess) Brown Trouts (Salmo trutta fario, Beekforel in Dutch) in pretty much all those also beautiful fast running rivers (such as the Olef). Also very nice was a visit to the Oleftalsperre, a dam in which I found Swifts nesting!The old village core and castle of Reifersheid, beautiful and great views from the castle. An awesome view at Swallows (Hirundo rustica, Boerenzwaluw in Dutch) foraging only just above the water of the Olef and Urft in Gemünd (in the rain)... And of course spending time with Lisette and my family! :)




It may not have been very good weather during our holiday in the Eifel area in Germany, but the garden looked a lot greener when we returned home. The Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala, Klimhortensia in Dutch) had openened a lot more leaves, creating a nice green wall in the back of our garden. The Absinth Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Absintalsem in Dutch) seemed to have grown a bit more still. :) The Wild Chervil (Anthriscus Sylvestris, Fluitenkruid in Dutch) has grown into a big plant and is flowering, though the umbles are hanging a bit. Walking into the garden I noticed a beautiful damselfly on a leave of the Ribes. Turned out to be a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Vuurjuffer in Dutch) (I'm not very good at recognizing damselfly-species). The Greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea, Grote Muur in Dutch) is flowering nicely. It's obvious it's the white flowers on the picture below. Others that can be seen are Alfalfa (Medicago sativa, Luzerne in Dutch) (the clover-like leaves), Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare, Boerenwormkruid in Dutch) (with the fine compound leaves in the front), White Campion (Silene latifolia, Avondkoekoeksbloem in Dutch) (the slightly to the right of the middle of the picture) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) (the climber in the back with a vine going through the middle as well).
The Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum, Grote Kaardenbol in Dutch) rosettes are looking very impressive. The one on the picture is one of four looking like they'll flower this year. :)
A plant already flowering (and one that we bought leaves of on holiday in a supermarket, very tasty!) is Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum, Daslook in Dutch). If the seedling grow into mature plants (next year?) and this flowering plant produces more seedlings, perhaps we can eat some home grown Wild Garlic next year! :)
Back in January (see January 16th entry) I wrote about a grass I was hoping would turn out to be Wood Millet (Milium effusum, Bosgierstgras in Dutch). Well, an inflorescence is appearing and there's very little doubt! Wood Millet, that gorgeous grass species is growing in our back garden! Not spontaneously, no, but still! :) I hope I'll be able to photograph the beautiful inflorescence once it has 'unfolded', it's hard to photograph though.


I'm looking for ticks a lot when I go into the back garden. Not because I like seeing them of course, but I don't like to have them in our garden, so ehm, I 'get rid of them'... Not very vegan of me, but yeah. Too bad... Anyway, looking for ticks in the tops of Soft Rush (Juncus effusus, Pitrus in Dutch) where I often find them I noticed a different small creature. It's a caterpillar of a moth from the Psychidae family. Caterpillars from this family built 'bags' (which explains their Dutch name, 'bagcarriers' (zakjesdragers in Dutch) from all kinds of materials, the one on the picture from plant materials (as most species do). I'm not sure if the one on the picture is eating from the rush, but it's welcome to, more than enough of this plant species in our garden...
And once again, the Hairy-footed flowerbee. Sorry, it's just such a nice bee species... :p I keep trying to take a picture I'm satisfied with. Not quite there yet...


This morning I noticed a damselfly (a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula, Vuurjuffer in Dutch)) that had just left it's larval-skin. It was clearly still pretty 'fresh', very little color and it's wings still not a bit blurry. It took a long time before it began to look better, I guess the weather didn't help. I took another picture 4 hours later, it looked a lot better by then. But it still sat there for a long time. Then, of course, suddenly it was gone.
I wrote about the Cardinal Beetles (Pyrochroa coccinea, Zwartkopvuurkever in Dutch) in the entry of April 24th. There are still beetles in our garden, but some of the Snake's Head Fritillary have made seeds anyway. A couple look just fine, untouched, but some, like the one on the picture below have clearly been eaten...


I read on the internet this morning there might be thunderstorms in the evening. Well, that prediction certainly came true... It was just some rumbling at first, but then a huge amount of water fell from the sky. And then hail. Stones of nearly 1 cm across... :/ Quite impressive...


The Cow Parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris, Fluitenkruid in Dutch) may have looked a bit sloppy on the picture in the May 8th entry, it sure is looking strong and heTITLEhy by now! It makes our pond look even smaller... ;) It's not attracting a lot of insects though.
Not attracting insects either, but also looking strong and heTITLEhy is the Absinth Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Absintalsem in Dutch)! It's starting to resemble it's mother-plant! (see the plants-pictures section, second picture) I took a cutting from that when it looked it might disappear due to construction work. It is indeed gone these days, so I'm happy to see it's surviving well in our back garden. :)
The Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch) is growing very well also. Compare to the picture in the April 13th entry!
Not growing fast at all, but renewing it's leaves that will last another year is the Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium, Tongvaren in Dutch). A very nice plant to have growing in our garden. But all above mentioned ones are! :)
And this evening as I was upstairs in the second bedroom looking for Swifts, I saw something very spectacular! A Jackdaw (Corvus monedula, Kauw in Dutch) was chased by a Goshawk! (Accipiter gentilis, Havik in Dutch) I saw only a flash of the action, I heard the jackdaw and saw it go round the corner of the house across the street chased by a very big brown bird, must've been a female Goshawk. Pretty impressive to see this from so close by! A while ago, I think it was May 12th, I went to an excursion with the plant workgroup of the KNNV. As we were waiting for the start time, some of us saw something similar. A large group of Jackdaws were following a Goshawk calling frantically. Understandable, as the Goshawk was carrying one of their kind... She went into the nearby forest, no doubt on her way to a nest full of hungry chicks.


What an excellent day today... :) Lisette and I went for a walk in the forest at around 9:15. It was a little cloudy when we woke up, but it was just perfect weather went we left home, a clear blue sky, nice and warm. It'd been a little while since we last went for a walk, so it was extra nice to see how gorgeous everything was. The flowering buttercups were making all the meadows look so beautiful (with help of Red Clover and Cow Parsley for example). We came across a wasp-like insect, I'm guessing it's one from the 'Tenthredinidae' family, sawflies. Not sure though.
Flowering Common Hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna, Eensteilige Meidoorn in Dutch) are such a delight. They smell just wonderful, look beautiful and attract such large amounts of insects from diferent families. Several fly species and all kinds of beetles. Among them a couple of very impressive Rose Chafers (Cetonia aurata, Gouden Tor in Dutch). The picture below isn't perfect, the beetle wouldn't really pose (there's a somewhat better picture in the diary entry for May 29th 2009) and it only shows a bit of the beautiful metallic shine of it's wing covers. As they flew in the sunshine though, it was just stunning, a beautiful copper shine, explaining the Dutch name 'Golden beetle'. The English name Rose Chafer is easy to explain as well, the Hawthorne belongs to the rose family. :)
Later we got to the 'tick bench'. We're calling it this because it's so very easy to find ticks at this bench. Just kneel down and look around, especially on the tips of the Poverty Rush (Juncus tenuis, Tengere Rus in Dutch), a grass-like plant that grows around the bench in tussocks. I found several, about 10 I guess. The shows two, perhaps a male and female? Mother and child? I don't know. The picture after the ticks shows the bench. Be careful if you want to rest on that one...
It was ehm, interesting to walk under oaks. It sounded like they were falling apart, tiny bit by tiny bit. Well, they kind of are... There are so many caterpillars now. Especially in oaks. Caterpillars of Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria, Grote Wintervlinder in Dutch) and the Winter Moth (Operophtera brumata, Kleine Wintervlinder in Dutch) mainly I think. Oaks are being eaten almost completely bare. The sound under oaks is that of falling caterpillar droppings. It must be a feast up there, not just for the caterpillars, but for all kinds of birds and parasitic insects as well...
As we passed a path heading toward the building that used to house SOVON (Dutch bird research foundation) I recalled hearing about the orchid species Twayblade (Neottia ovata, Grote Keverorchis in Dutch) along this path. So we went onto this path and pretty much immediatly spotted something else very interesting! Spiked rampion! (Phyteuma spicatum, subsp. nigrum, Zwartblauwe Rapunzel in Dutch) I'd seen a picture of a flower of this plant on an info-panel, but I'd never seen the plant itself before. There were plenty on this beautiful little meadow beside the path though! The first picture shows an unopened flower that explains the first part of the flowers name ('blackblue'), it's still so dark.
It didn't take long before I found the Twayblade either. About five plants beside a place where a tree once stood (cut down this winter), only just starting to fower.
In the moring I had noticed a plant that looked very familiar... But what was it... No idea... But in this meadow were the same plants! Greater Yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus angustifolius, Grote Ratelaar in Dutch). I sowed some seeds of this plant last year. Greater Yellow-rattle is a half-parasite, parasitizing on grasses. Half-parasite means it can make it's own food with chlorophyll but also takes food from other organisms. Only one plant in our back garden though and it's looking a bit small. We'll see.
New in our garden is Common Hawthorne! I planted three of these that I ordered at Vivara ( on Friday and were delivered Saturday! We're getting rid of the Yew (Taxus in Dutch), so we cut off all it's branches. More light for the pale looking Hawthornes (they were packed in a plastic bag in a cardboard box).
Another plant I planted in our garden is a Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Speerdistel in Dutch). The gorgeous plant I enjoyed so much last year (even though it chose a rather unhandy place to grow, just beside the back door) didn't return as Spear Thistle die after flowering. I did plant some seeds, but nothing happened. So I took a plant from a roadside that is going to be mowed soon anyway. I hope it grows well, I took it out at a somewhat unfortunate time I guess, just about to shoot up to flower (I think). But it seems to be going ok. :)
And the Hawthornes were not the only plants I ordered at Vivara. Verbena bonariensis, a cultivated version of Vervain (Verbena officinalis, IJzerhard in Dutch) was another. The Vervain I bought two years ago at the small and very nice shop De Kaardenbol in Nijmegen is doing very, very well. Last year it grew into a very big plant that flowered enthousiastically. I bought a Verbena bonariensis once before, but that didn't take for some reason.
And the Wood Millet (Milium effusum, Bosgierstgras in Dutch) is flowering! Such a beautiful grass, but very hard to photograph due to what makes it so beautiful, the very loose and fine inflorescence.




The Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch) is flowering! It hasn't openend up completely yet, but it's already looking very beautiful. And there are several flower buds more. :)
We (Lisette, my mom and me) went to visit the beautiful Maasheggen-area today, close to the village Vortum-Mullem. The Maasheggen (the Maas being a river and 'heggen' Dutch for hedges) is a relic of how most of the Dutch agricultural landscape must've looked like before the agricultural consolidation (ruilverkaveling in Dutch). I would love to see this type of landschape closer to home, right here in the Ooijpolder for example. What's so special about this landscape is that it's very small-scale, relatively small parcels 'fenced off' with hedges. Probably layed hedges mostly in the past, but mostly 'thicket-hedges' these days. I prefer the thicket-hedges, they're so beautiful and rich in wildlife. Two sides of the edge of a wood more or less, the part of a wood richest in life. We'd just walked into the Maasheggen-area when I noticed Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes, Kruisbladwalstro in Dutch), a plant mostly seen in the 'river-area', near the large rivers (Waal, Rijn and Maas) and on the Red List. I actually didn't take a picture (! ;)), but I took this one a long time ago, May 5th 2008 near (Fort) Pannerden, right next to the river Waal.
Just like during previous visits to this area there were lots of songbirds singing. Among the songs I heard one I don't hear very often but that is pretty easy to recognize. It didn't take very long to find the bird singing that song, a Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Gekraagde Roodstaart in Dutch) as it was singing in a treetop. The song always reminds me of that of a closely related bird I hear much more often, the Black Redstart (Phoenicurus ochruros, Zwarte Roodstaart in Dutch). Not that their songs are that much alike, but they're both a bit rasping. I like both species a lot, the Common Redstart is a really beautiful bird with a nice song and it's always fun to find a Black Redstart after a short search in the city centre after hearing it's song.
Along the way we came across a lot of insects in the flowering Hawthorns (Meidoorns in Dutch). Among them a lot of insects I thought were robber flies (Asilidae, Roofvliegen in Dutch). At home I searched on the internet (mainly using the wonderful forums of (both in Dutch) to find the name of this insect. These forums are so very helpful for this... I soon discovered these flies were Dance Flies (Empididae, Dansvliegen in Dutch), Empis tessellata to be exact. The females often eat while mating...
Other insects we came across were butterflies, among which The Map (Araschnia levana, Landkaartje in Dutch). This butterfly flies in two generations in the Netherlands. This orange version is the spring generation. In the summer these butterflies are black with a white band. I photographed two seperate butterflies so I'm able to show the underside of the wings (giving the butterfly both it's English and Dutch name as the pattern resembles a map) and the upperside.
At a nice little pool (once a drinking pool for cattle) we saw several big dragonflies, a big goldfish (... Who would put such an animal in a pool like this? Eating a lot of animals that actually belong there... Too bad we couldn't remove it from there) and huge amounts of tadpoles (I'm sure the goldfish likes these as well).
Near the end of the walk I photographed a bug on my arm. I didn't know what species, so I looked around on the abovementioned forums for this one as well. It looked a bit like a Crucifer Shieldbug (Eurydema oleracea, Koolwants in Dutch), but lacking three white dots. So I searched a bit more and found the Pied Shieldbug (Tritomegas bicolor, Dovenetelwants in Dutch). Seems to be the one! It's a species that feeds mainly on Deadnetles (Lamiaceae, Dovenetels in Dutch).

Later today I cycled into the Ooijpolder! It'd been quite a while since I went there and I'd been looking forward to it for a long time. I started at the dyke at the Dutch-German pumping-station and took the first turn left because I wanted to go to a place called Vlietberg where a stone-recycling plant used to be. That has been removed over a year ago and the place is slowly turning green. One of the houses across the stone chimney that was spared when the plant was removed has been home to a colony of House Martins (Delichon urbicum, Huiszwaluw in Dutch) for as long as I can remember. It was nice to see quite a lot of them around that house, though the number of nests wasn't all that high. It was dry, so maybe there just hasn't been enough mud for them to build their nests with. A passing resident told me he once counted something like 42 nests. Must've been amazing... Throught all the twittering of the House Martins a Starling could be heard. It was on the edge of the roof, flapping it's wings enthousiastically as Starlings often do when singing. Always a nice sight.
A bit further along the way, at a place where I once saw a couple of beavers (see the video on the videos page in the pictures and videos section) I heard a Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus, Koekoek in Dutch). I heard a very typical sound in between the well-known Cuckoo calls that seemed to be coming closer, a sound you only hear when the Cuckoo is very close. Looked around and there it landed on a branch of a dead tree. The light was a bit poor by then unfortunately, so the picture isn't all too great. It does shows the very typical way a Cuckoo holds it's wings when perching.
Back on the dyke, passing through clouds of insects from time to time, I saw enormous amounts of flowering Greater Yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus angustifolius, Grote Ratelaar in Dutch). Always a nice sight. And there were rafts for the Black Terns (Chlidonias niger, Zwarte Stern in Dutch) in the 'Oude Waal' (an old arm of the river Waal) again. And they were very popular! Lots of calling Black Terns flying back and forth between the rafsts. I also saw a mating pair on one of the rafts. No young yet though, they seemed to only just have started building their nests. They normally do that on drifting water plants such as Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea, Gele Plomp in Dutch) or Water Soldier (Stratiotes aloides, Krabbenscheer in Dutch). But Water Soldier in particular has decreased very strongly, so the Black Terns can use some help in the shape of rafts. And I'm grateful they're offered these rafts as well, such graceful flyers and it's so nice to hear their calls (a short 'kik'-like sound (you can hear it on this page.




I thought at first the Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch) only flowers when the sun is shining on it, but I read it only opens it's flowers in the morning, they close again around noon. I'm not sure why though. It does explain the plant's Dutch name ('morningstar').
I'm seeing flies that look and sound a bit like Anthophora plumipes (Hairy-footed Flowerbee, Gewone Sachembij in Dutch) in our garden a lot lately. They resemble bumblebees but the sound they make when flying is much higher pitched and they fly a lot faster. I looked around on the forums and found it's a hoverlfy called Volucella bombylans (Hommelreus in Dutch). Bombylans refers to Bombus, the family name of bumblebees.
In the evening Lisette and I went along with 'the Tuesday evening excursion' of the Bird Workgroup Nijmegen. It's an excursion by bike in the Ooijpolder that takes place every Tuesday. We started at the pump station 'Hollands Duits gemaal'. First we went to a spot where a Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio, Grauwe Klauwier in Dutch) had been seen. We searched for it for a while but didn't find it. We did see several Hares (Lepus europaeus, Haas in Dutch), a Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus, Ree in Dutch), Goldfinches (Carduelis Carduelis, Putter in Dutch), Linnets (Carduelis cannabina, Kneu in Dutch), Stonechats (Saxicola torquata, Roodborsttapuit in Dutch) and (mostly heard) Marsh Warblers (Acrocephalus palustris, Bosrietzanger in Dutch). Then it was on to a very nice developing bit of nature called Zwanenbroekje. We stood at the edge of the smallest village of the Netherlands, Persingen and had a nice view at the very shallow water at the edge of the Zwanenbroekje-area. There were a lot of Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa, Grutto in Dutch) there that showed nicely just how shallow the water was (it must be something like 10 cm). Other birds present were a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia, Groenpootruiter in Dutch), several Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna, Bergeend in Dutch), a couple of the always noisy species Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus, Scholekster in Dutch). Passing by were some Black Terns (Chlidonias niger, Zwarte Stern in Dutch). And feeding overhead were Swifts (Apus apus, Gierzwaluw in Dutch) :). Oh, also saw Swifts mating in the air earlier that evening, at the place where we were looking for the Shrike.

The Purple Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius, Paarse Morgenster in Dutch) is flowering really nicely now. :)

I was looking around for small plants around the pond today. Well, actually I was hoping to find small Orchids because I sowed those tiny dust-like seeds. But I guess it can take years, so no wonder I didn't find any of those. I did find something else that was nice to find though. More Greater Yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus angustifolius, Grote Ratelaar in Dutch)! They're a bit hard to find on the first picture below. Just look for the typical toothed leaves.
The White Campion (Silene latifolia, Avondkoekoeksbloem in Dutch) that found it's way to our garden last year is flowering again. I wonder if The Lychnis (Hadena bicruris, Silene-uil in Dutch) will let some seeds develop this year. Last year on July 2nd I photographed a caterpillar of that species inside the fruit body which I think ate all seeds...
Near where the White Campion is growing I discovered a strange shaped plant that reminded my of a plant I would hate to find in our garden, Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum, Adelaarsvaren in Dutch). Thankfully, it was a plant much more welcome! :) Bird Vetch (Vicia cracca, Vogelwikke in Dutch)!
The Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum, Grote Kaardenbol in Dutch) are looking powerful... The one beside the vegetable garden in particular...
Another flowering plant in our garden is Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara, Bitterzoet in Dutch). It's always such a joy to see bumblebees collect pollen from these flowers. They hang onto the yellow cone upside down and buzz. The buzz loosens the pollen inside the cone which are then ejected from the tip of the cone and collected by the bumblebee onto the 'collector hairs' (not sure of the correct English term for those).
Another Campion is growing and flowering in our garden. Red Campion (Silene dioica, Dagkoekoeksbloem in Dutch) which I think originates from the back neighbour's garden. :)
Like last year the mushroom Tarzetta catinus can be found in a corner of our garden, if you get down on your knees and look closely. :)
And it's always nice to see the Hart's Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium , Tongvaren in Dutch) make new leaves. They are unfolded much like in other fern species and will last another year. :)
The Dog Rose (Rosa Canina, Hondsroos in Dutch) we bought at is looking great as well. It's growing fast which is fine as it still has plenty of room.
Another fast grower is Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba, Bosrank in Dutch). I planted a seedling just beside the garage doors and gave it a wire to grow along. It's alowed to cover the garage doors as we don't use those at all, but it still has a long way to go...