Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Batty about bones

Bug Mad Girl found a pile of bones under a bush in the garden yesterday. We're not totally sure what they belong to, but judging by the very long wing bones and the remnants of fur, we suspect they are the skeleton of a bat.

One set of wing bones are still attached to the body and we can identify the second set. It also looks like the legs are there and the bones at the front of the chest. No sign of a head though!

Monday, 28 April 2014

Eggs for breakfast

We got up this morning to find that the Deaths Head Hawkmoth eggs had started to hatch. This is the first one just breaking out of it's egg this morning. When they hatch, their little tails are transparent, but they soon go black. First thing they do is eat the rest of the egg case, then they wander off to find some leaves. I've given them Privet, Buddlea and Potato to try - then they can choose whichever one they fancy.

Three of the five eggs have now hatched. Here's one (about 3 hours old) with a cute little black tail. They remind me of little dogs!

Hope the Blackbirds are OK!

It's a sad morning!  There's a lot of feathers scattered over the back garden this morning. Maybe a cat or a Sparrow Hawk has caught one of the birds. Just hope it's not the Blackbird babies! I've seen Dad since, so he's OK, but I haven't spotted Mum yet. I really hope it's not her!

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The baby Blackbirds are out of the nest

Bug Mad Girl writes:

Today I looked in the Blackbird's nest and saw that the chicks and the parents had gone! Then mum told me that the chicks had fledged (means they have left the nest). Soon after I heard a loud squawk and  saw daddy Blackbird chasing a Magpie away from their bush. He was putting his tail up in the air, flapping his wings and squawking, but finally he managed to chase the Magpie into the next door neighbour's garden. Mum then told me that the parents carry on feeding the chicks  and looking after them, even when they are out of the nest. It will be about three weeks until they will be independent!

Yesterday the baby Blackbirds looked nearly ready to go

Adder in the garden!

We found an Adder lurking in the garden today. He was hanging out by the pond - probably hoping for froglets for his lunch.

Not really ... we made him out of toilet rolls!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Cheeky Tadpoles

Bug Mad Girl writes:

A couple of days ago, we got some tadpoles from Nanny’s pond. We made them a little enclosure in our pond (out of net) and put them in. They seemed very happy in their new home, so I watched them from a while then left. The next day I found they had escaped! So, we went back to Nanny’s house and got some more tadpoles. Then Mum put some cloth around the inside of their enclosure so they won’t escape. Luckily the changes seem to have worked and they are still in the pond. Now we can watch them as they grow.

Garden designer pops in for a cup of tea

Today I had a visit from a renowned garden designer - slightly ashamed by my lack of weeding, but perhaps she will give me some tips. She met the baby Blackbirds and froglets and was very jealous!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sparrow Hawk Attack

I was just watching the evening news, when a small flash shot into a low bush just outside the window. I assume it was a Sparrow, although I can't be sure as it was travelling so fast. Hot on its heels was a Sparrow Hawk, obviously after its supper. The hedge was too thick for the Hawk and it crashed into the top of it and sat there for a few seconds looking a bit stunned. Then it gathered itself together and flew off.

With wild eyes, hooked beak and ferocious talons, the Sparrow Hawk looked like a fearsome hunter - not this time though as the crafty Sparrow escaped into the dense bush.

Much more exciting than the news and it all happened about 6' away from me, even though there was a window between us. No time to grab the camera unfortunately.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Baby Blackbirds (2)

The baby Blackbirds are growing fast and Mum and Dad are always busy finding them worms to eat. I have seen the parents on the bird feeders a little more in the last few days (particularly on the bird cake and fat balls), so they may have started feeding them something a little more substantial now.

Mummy Blackbird with a baby sticking it's beak out of the nest
I noticed both parents on high alert earlier this morning. Dad was in the Silver Birch above the nest and Mum was on the back of one of the chairs on the patio. Both looked very anxious, with their tails stuck up in the air and their wings flapping at their sides. They were obviously upset about something, then I saw a magpie strutting around on the grass in front of their bush. The Magpie must have been at least 3 times the size of Daddy Blackbird, but he was very brave and did a great job defending his brood. He postured and flapped and eventually chased the Magpie away. Both parents stayed on high alert for the next 10 minutes, then seemed to relax again.

It's interesting that the Blackbirds don't care about other birds near the nest, even the large ones like the Wood Pigeons. Magpies definitely upset them though! I guess they know they are trouble and will steal the eggs or chicks. I just hope the Magpies aren't clever enough to know that upset Blackbirds mean a nest is near by ... I guess we shall see!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Bugs, bones and an enormous Blue Whale

It was the last day of the Easter holidays today, so we decided to go to the Natural History Museum in London. Stupidly I had assumed all the kids would be back at school (as we had an inset day), but it appeared that I was wrong and every child within 50 miles of London appeared to be there with us.

We skipped the dinosaurs as that was mobbed and headed for the slightly quieter areas of the museum. Bug Mad Girl was in heaven surrounded by bugs, bones and a life size blue whale.

 After a quick whizz around the shop (the highlight of any museum trip) we headed for the Sensational Butterflies exhibit. There were masses of butterflies flying all around us, landing on us and happy to sit on Bug Mad Girl's finger (despite the 'Do not touch the butterflies' signs!)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Eggs

Bug Mad Girl is very excited today as she received some very special Easter eggs from Uncle Butterfly. She was given 5 Deaths Head Hawk Moth eggs. They should hatch in about a week, then she'll have her first caterpillars of the year to look after.

Should be lots of fun. The caterpillars get really big, then when the moths hatch out, they actually squeak!

Deaths Head Hawk Moth Eggs

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Blooming Bluebells

We had a fun walk through the woods today. The Bluebells were just starting to bloom and were looking fantastic.

Bug Mad Girl climbed her favourite tree and we hid Easter eggs for the kids to find.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Sparkle the Spider

Just before Christmas, a huge house spider jumped out in front of me and scared me half to death. I've never been very keen on spiders, so I called for Bug Mad Girl to rescue me and she scooped it up and put it in a bug pot. Despite my best efforts to persuade her to release it, she insisted on keeping it. She found a home for her and has called her Sparkle.

Sparkle has become part of the family and seems to have settled into captivity very well. She soon made a big web and arranged her den. Bug Mad Girl feeds her an assortment of creepy-crawlies, but her favourites are definitely small spiders, flies and centipedes. She'll eat pretty much anything that moves and is smaller than her though!

Sparkle eating a fly
One day we noticed Sparkle appeared to be dancing. She was actually making a thick sheet of web. Next morning, the sheet was all wrapped up and she'd decorated it with dried grass and flower heads. I suspected that she'd laid an egg case, but assumed the eggs wouldn't hatch as there was no male spider in with her. She laid a second smaller egg case about 2 weeks later.

2 egg cases, beautifully decorated by Sparkle
To my surprise, the eggs hatched a few weeks later and we had a lot of tiny spiders in with Sparkle. I was slightly worried she would eat them all, but she seemed to have some maternal instincts and seemed quite protective of them.

Tiny spider babies

When they has grown a little and changed their skins, we decided to let them go. They had all scattered all over the cage, so seemed quite keen to get going. They are all in the green house now, so we may be able to see them when they have grown even bigger.

Sparkle is still living with us and seems perfectly happy. I've even grown a little bit fond of her, as long as the lid is tightly closed on her house!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Baby Blackbirds

I had noticed some Blackbirds flying in and out of a box hedge in the garden, so decided to have a quick look. I found the most perfectly constructed nest, but couldn't quite see if there was anything inside. So I fetched my camera, stretched my arm inside the hedge and took a snap ... bit out of focus, but there were definitely some bright blue eggs inside.

I went back the next day to have another quick peep and to my surprise the eggs had hatched and a beak was sticking up out of the nest. Have tried to leave them alone, but I keep catching Bug Mad Girl peering into the hedge. Mummy Blackbird doesn't seem to mind too much, so I will keep an eye on them from a distance.

Playing with the froglets

With the weather warming up, I finally got round to cleaning up the pond in our back garden. I pulled out some of the duck weed, cut back a few reeds and weeds and generally had a bit of a tidy up. To my surprise there were lots of little froglets (at least 9) in the pond and they all seemed to be quite comfortable with me crashing around near them.

Last summer we put some tadpoles into the pond (rescued from Nanny's pond - she has lots of big fish that love to eat tadpoles) but we never saw them again. I can only assume that they actually made it to semi-adulthood and have become members of our froggery. We made Toad Hall last summer, so perhaps they even over-wintered in there.

It's all too much for Bug Mad Girl and she just can't resist trying to hold them. Amazingly, they don't seem to mind too much and haven't made a run for it yet.  I'm not sure the pond is big enough to support that many adult frogs, so I expect some will disappear eventually, but at the moment they are fun to have around.
Toad Hall - made last summer and possibly used in the winter

One of our army of froglets