Tuesday, September 29, 2009


You Ain't Seen Me, Right?

Mottled Beauty (Alcis repandata)


Sunday, September 06, 2009


How do those legs work?

I think these arachnids (harvestmen, not spiders) are amazing - how does they manage to move with such long, thin legs? That brick ia about 65mm high and some its legs are nearly that long. According to Wiki, it's really different from a spider - no venom or silk glands, one pair of eyes that look sideways, a merged main body instead of one in two parts, and legs that continue to twitch after being detached.


Saturday, July 04, 2009


Living on the ceiling

Quite pretty, it's a Small Magpie Moth (Eurrhypara hortulata) hiding unsuccessfully on our kitchen ceiling after having flown in through the open window:

From UKSafari.com,

Size: Wingspan approximately 25mm.
Distribution: Found throughout most of the UK. Less common in the north of Scotland.
Months seen: June and July.
Habitat: Hedgerows, roadside verges and gardens.
Food: The larvae feed on stinging nettles, mint and bindweed
Special features: The small magpie moth gets its name from the black and white markings on the wings. There are also some orange-yellow patches at the tip of the tail and where the wings meet the body.

The caterpillars remain hidden from predators by feeding inside a rolled up leaf.


Saturday, March 14, 2009


There were these tree fellers...

Sadly the demi-tree outside our house has stopped being a carbon sink and now lies as logs in the back garden.

As you can see from the following pictures, the tree has slowly been moving towards the horizontal from the vertical for a while. The worry was that we would come home one day to find roots and earth where our front door used to be so the tree had to go.

The sharp-eyed may notice that the tree seems to have received some surgery in the past. Years ago when we moved in, there was a large branch with a lot of growth on it which blocked the view of the doorway from passers-by, as well as cutting out light. It was felt that a gloomy, concealed doorway was not ideal and the saw came out. The whole tree would have gone if I hadn't stepped in when it obvious only the big branch was causing the problem. So, if we had left the branch still attached, the much heavier tree would have moved sideways much earlier and be gone long before now.


Sunday, November 23, 2008


Woodley Reindeer

The Winter carnival in Woodley is pretty much what you'd expect for a small town - stalls selling bits and bobs for presents, second hand books, burgers, and what-have-you, some small-time musical entertainment from the back of a lorry, and a grotto for Santa.

The last bit was for us the main attraction and what convinced us to walk into to town as we fancied seeing the advertised reindeer.

Did you know reindeer meat is very tasty? Sadly there was none on sale today.

Also, reindeer food (dried lichen) looks exactly like packing material and makes you wonder at first if they are eating the wrong thing by accident.


Saturday, September 06, 2008


Evidence of witchery in the garden!

Hygrocybe conica, the witch's hat mushroom:


Friday, August 22, 2008


At last! A butterfly that ISN'T a Cabbage White!

Using this on-line butterfly identifying tool, I quickly found out this is a speckled wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria).


Sunday, July 27, 2008


Busy Bees

After a Springwatch program a few years ago, we bought a bee home (which we could have made, admittedly). We hadn't seen much active until this year when I noticed inside one of the bamboo tubes making crunching noises. A week or so later I've had a look to see if there have been any changes and the first thing I noticed was a green plug in one of the tubes:

And - after waiting for the bee to buzz off - here's the back (the red asterix is the tube filled in the front view; the orange asterix is near a tube leaking gloop):

Here's our busy worker returned to add more green plaster to one of the tubes not quite filled enough at the back:

And then 45 minutes later the bee is round the front:


Saturday, July 12, 2008


Amphibian relocation scheme

During the bagging up of all the garden waste from the last few years, we managing to find (and not step on) five frogs, three toads and a newt. Hopefully that was ALL of them and there aren't any in the black sacks thinking "dark in here".
All have been safely moved under an amphibian relocation scheme to the end of the garden where there is a shaded area set aside for mini wildlife (overgrown with some rotting logs, etc.)

Common Frog - Rana temporaria

Common Toad - Bufo bufo - with two common frogs

Smooth or Common Newt - Triturus vulgaris


Sunday, June 15, 2008


Sunbathing Bee


Sunday, June 08, 2008


Out in the garden...

A soldierfly, showing its lovely metallic sheen while sitting on a pear tree leaf

New season's rose



Summer is here

It seems a really long time since last summer so I'd forgotten what it was like. And the things you have to do, like gardening. So yesterday was a big offensive on everything green. The grass had its second cut of the year - before I started it was even longer than when I cut it for the first time a few weeks ago. Thankfully the grass only covers about 180 square metres (0.044 acres). For comparison, the centre circle of a football pitch is 260 square metres.

The hedges that were starting to block the paths were chopped back and a few holly tree branches felt the bite of the saw. Hidden away in the topiary (a.k.a. the round hedge) was a small Yellow Shell Moth.

According to UKMoths.org.uk, this is a common creature that grows up to an inch in wingspan and flies from June to August.

The flower beds in the back garden (and I use the term "flower beds" quite loosely) are becoming overwhelmed by a crawling blackberry plant. Calling something with long tendrils a bush doesn't seem quite right. And loads of grass so we can't actually see where the lawn ends and the beds begin.

A survey of the plants-in-pots has shown a high mortality rate - I know it has been raining quite a lot but it has also been dry in between and that was when we failed to supply water ourselves. A few rose bushes have turned to twigs and one of the 10-year-old horse chestnuts has given in, although it's twin a few pots along is covered in large leaves. The ash tree is fine, although that has a larger pot than the rest, but the sycamore looks sickly. This is strange as normally a sycamore is like a weed and grows everywhere as quick as you like.

The avocado struggles on, year after year, despite all the neglect I shower upon it. Admittedly it is a lot shorter than in recent years after being cooked inside the plastic greenhouse. I disposed of the greenhouse a few weeks ago as it was just becoming too full of holes - the plastic the manufacturers chose for the sheeting was almost as poor a quality as that used to connect the metal poles together. I now have several months to decide what to do before the frost returns - maybe the avocado will come back inside the house (providing it no longer has any bugs on it that crap on the floor).


Saturday, August 04, 2007



We do see hedgehogs in our front garden from time to time but normally at night. I'm therefore a bit concerned that this young hedgehog might encounter some undesirables (AKA local kids) in its search for food.


Sunday, January 28, 2007


Big Garden Birdwatch

As we get so many birds visiting our garden (for its size), we joined in with the RSPB "Big Garden Birdwatch" to help them with trend data.

The birds are artificially drawn to our garden on the whole with peanut and bird seed dispensers - during the summer they tend not to bother at all. The most frequent visitors are Blue and Great Tits that take over the tree/bush/weed at the end of the garden where we hang the food dispensers. The occasional House Sparrow will turn up and wait its turn - the tits are quite territorial and not worried about chasing other birds off.

The birds are very messy when picking out food and many fall seeds to the ground which is where the Wood Pigeons come in (they also hop up onto the garden table where I have spilt peanuts and seeds when filling up the dispensers). A lonely Robin will hop down from the to along the floor too, and a pair of Dunnocks (Hedge Sparrows), especially under the fat balls.

Lastly a pair of blackbirds will root around in the rotten wood and under leaves looking for insects, like bargain hunters at a jumble sale.


Sunday, December 03, 2006


Disaster! Almost...

The weather reports said that gale force winds were on the way (around 3am) so I knew I should do something about the flimsy greenhouse. Except I went to bed and hoped it would manage - that dustbin of water should be heavy...

except that I had let it all evaporate without refilling. Oops.
The greenhouse wasn't fixed to the wall {must get round to that}...

and was blown to the end of it's string that I'd tied to the outside tap.
And the Avocado? Happy as Larry. I could almost imagine it smiling at me as it sat there in the exact place I left it inside the greenhouse initially.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


A greenhouse? At my age?

It's that time of year where our Avocado plant has to be brought into the house to prevent it turning into a stick when the frosts come. Since being planted from a nut way back in the late 90s, the avocado has struggled on against scorching sunburn, parching drought, messy infestations and munching vermin. In fact the infestations (which crap waxy gunk on all surfaces directly underneath, such as carpets) were the deciding factor in leaving it out in the garden. Of course, the plant would need some help so we've bought it a cold greenhouse to stay in.

I've learnt so much about cold greenhouses in the last few weeks in a desperate attempt to convince myself I wasn't sentencing the poor, innocent plant to a Siberian existence. For example, this is why there is a dustbin of water in the greenhouse - during the day the sunlight will warm the air within the greenhouse and therefore warm the water in the dustbin; during the night the heat of the water will slowly radiate away into the cooling air within the greenhouse to offset the cold a little. I'll keep the greenhouse zipped up all the time too to keep the scarce warmth inside.

Currently its a balmy 15°C and warm nights ahead so nothing to worry about just yet.

Compact Walk-In Greenhouse



Cold November Rose

Here we are in mid-November and there are still roses blooming. Admittedly we haven't really had any harsh weather yet - a couple of light frostings but nothing really cold - but I would still expect less greenery and flowers than there are. I even saw a fly and a wasp at different times today.
I'm sure the rose is the same as in my July blog but looks much paler.


Monday, July 24, 2006


Roses grow on us

I had always thought that roses were trouble to transplant so when my brother-in-law gave us all the roses from the garden of his new house I wasn't expecting much success. But easy come, easy go if they died then no loss and as Gary didn't like roses then they'd have gone to the tip if we didn't take them.

He'd already shaken the soil off the roots (which made me wince inwardly) but, after replanting into our garden (and various pots when we ran out of space), they've survived. Even the most sickly seems to have come round with just some compost to kick it off and regular watering. Here's a peachy-pink rose (snapped July 13th):


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