I find a lot of centipedes and millipedes when digging in the garden, usually the same orange or smooth, dark and shiny versions respectively. So I was intrigued when I found this unusual millipede, which has a spiky but flattened back compared to the usual near cylindrical millipede with which I'm familiar. It is indeed called a Flat-backed millipede and is apparently fairly common. Still it was the first I'd seen. More info and a top-down shot after the break…

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I lifted an old paving slab in the garden whilst clearing an area beside a shed and was surprised to see what looked like lizards hiding underneath it. In fact at first I thought they were curled up leaves or bits of wood that looked a bit like lizards, but it was quickly apparent that they really were live animals, though they didn't move. I went on thinking they were lizards for a while, and it was only when I tried to find out what sort of lizard that I realised they were newts – probably Smooth newts. Apparently this is a common enough mistake to make. More pictures after the break…

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This photo was contributed by Chris, showing hundreds of tiny spiderlings clustered on a door handle. Click for a more detailed view. I'm certain that these are baby Garden spiders, and those that make it will grow up to be the fat lumps you see in the middle of large orb webs later in the summer.

These massive clumps of babies are quite fun to play with. They're often all huddled together, but when you touch the huddle with a finger they explode out in different directions, then slowly work their way back.

Thanks Chris!

The BBC has an article and video report on how the reintroduced Beavers in Scotland have been getting on. The answer seems to be basically fine – they're building dams to create small lakes and then lodges in the lakes as you'd expect a beaver to do. They're eating a lot of vegetation and cutting down trees, but it's hoped that this will find a natural balance and be just a form of forest management.


I found this Bumble bee on our decking, basically just sat there trembling, from which it never seemed to recover. Was it just exhausted, overcome with parasites, or at the natural end of a long life? I shall never know.


We've just had summer neatly folded into a single weekend, so it must be autumn now – right? Not according to the BBC, who reckon that it's nearly time for Springwatch, which begins next Monday 31st May at 8pm on BBC2. I can only assume that they're deliberately heading much later into the year in order to cover new and different things, but they couldn't bring themselves to discard the popular Springwatch branding.

Let's hope that Simon King won't be wearing that terrible thin black top that he was modelling on the Springwatch urban wildlife special the other day. Catch it again here – the program was actually very good otherwise).


After a long, hot weekend spent mostly in the garden, here's a short list of the minor natural delights that I noticed as I went about my work:

  • Some sort of wood boring wasps coming in and out of holes in a tree stump, often just sitting with their heads poking out.
  • A team of small black ants struggling to pull a large, nearly dead fly off to their nest. At least I assume that's what they were doing rather than just trying to keep my paths clear.
  • A Red kite directly overhead being bothered by a Rook. I've not seen one from the garden before.
  • Damselflies in a number of different liveries, flitting about the bushes. And we don't even have a pond. Yet.
  • A small blue butterfly (a Holly blue perhaps) notable amongst the cavalcade of larger, commoner species.
  • A number of ladybirds on the wing.
  • Lots of shield bugs, very noisily buzzing through the air and often bouncing of me.
  • A Zebra spider that walked all the way across the table to where I was sitting then very deliberately looked up at me. It jumped on my finger when I put it near. These are my favourite spiders as they're so characterful and will play with you.
  • Lots of centipedes, millipedes and grubs in the soil that I was digging. Apparently a sign of poor soil, but it makes the digging more interesting.
  • A wolf spider running through the grass carrying its egg sac beneath its abdomen like a little blue-white pearl.
  • A solitary bee (as in not a hive-dwelling species) arriving on my newly dug soil and burrowing.

It's amazing what's there to be seen if you're there to see it. If you take a second to observe small animals going about their business and wonder what they're up to it can be very rewarding.

22. May 2010 · Write a comment · Categories: News

Shock news delivered by the BBC, as a study shows that earthworms don't just pass soil through their bodies extracting nutrients – they actively eat seeds and young seedlings. Clearly this doesn't change a thing from the point of view of Joe Public and his lawn, since it's been full of worms all along and there hasn't been an evident problem. However in places where worms were not previously present, such as northern North America, invading worms can wipe out whole plant species. I get the impression this correlation was previously known but not understood, so this new research on their eating habits helps to explain it.


Another photo from the series I took of juvenile Robins being fed by their parents, because I particularly like this one but it didn't make the cut last time.