I removed an old path of paving slabs from the garden the other day. They were just laying on top of the soil and not entirely surprisingly underneath almost every single one of the slabs was a heaving mass of ants and their white grubs. Of course the minute I exposed them they started rushing to take their grubs off down their tunnels to safety, but it took them over half an hour to do so.

The ones above are probably literally Black ants, and the ones below Yellow meadow ants. More information on the UK's native ant species is available via h2g2 or


RSPB conservation director Mark Avery has blogged about a nesting pair of Purple herons at their Dungeness nature reserve. There are a couple of good photos too. I think if you saw one in the wild and weren't aware of such things as Purple herons (I wasn't before today) you'd probably convince yourself it was a 'normal' Grey heron demonstrating quite a severe variation from the traditional plumage, or perhaps imagine that it must be the light.


I've previously found what I thought were Chafer beetle grubs whilst digging in the soil of my garden borders, but this time I'm certain. Those little legs at the top and the overall shape give it away – at least as far as my best internet research tells me and it may be a Cockchafer, being about 35mm long.

They live in the soil for several years chewing at roots and potentially causing visible surface damage to lawns and plants, before emerging as an adult beetle that only lives a few weeks before laying eggs deep in the soil and starting the cycle again.

Quite the beastie to discover if you weren't expecting it!


I recently left a patch of un-mown grass around a tree stump, mainly because of the Snake's head fritillaries and interesting Geraniums growing there, but also for a slightly wilder look. It's amazing how quickly the grass shot up, and whenever I glance down into it I see a large meadow trying to get out. It's quite astounding how plants and insects will colonise and be right at home in such a short time.

At the weekend I noticed some movement and looked closer to find a fairly large Grass spider – about 25mm across including the legs and one of the finer looking spiders about. At least I'm fairly sure that's what it is, but the internet disappoints in bringing definitive photographic clarification, in that all the things out there labelled "grass spider" don't look quite the same.


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

I'm slightly knocked back by this evening's TV listings which are positively bursting with naturely content, notably:

  • Halcyon River Diaries – BBC1, 18:10-19:10. A new series with husband and wife Philippa Forrester and Charlie Hamilton and their sons looking at water voles, sticklebacks, otters and mallards. Which promises to be nice easy viewing, perhaps in the style of less frantic Springwatch. We shall see.
  • Countryfile – BBC1, 19:10-20:10. Not strictly a nature programme, but usually of relevance and following straight after Halcyon River Diaries.
  • The Seasons with Alan Titchmarsh – ITV1, 19:00-20:00. Easy-going Alan shows us all sorts of summery UK nature. Second in the series apparently, but the first I've seen of it.


As I lazily strolled past a flowering bush in the garden I noticed a small bee land right on top of another and thought it was rather odd. I looked closer and the one on top had the other well and truly pinned and though it tried to squirm out of its grip it was trapped. The squirming got less vigourous as this grip went on for a few minutes (there was enough time to go and get a camera) though I'm not sure how it all ended as they disappeared when I was checking my camera for a good shot.

It didn't look like mating to me (bees mate with birds don't they?) so I assumed it was some sort of predation or parasitism, but actually further research suggests they probably were mating, or at least working up to it. I might even go so far as to suggest that they are a solitary species like a Red mason bee, and that it's a smaller male on top.

Can anyone confirm my interpretation?


What's going on here exactly?


This is (quite clearly) a male pheasant in its finest garb. The white ring around the neck shows that is probably a Mongolian ring-necked pheasant, or at least has some of those genes in it. Some have a thinner ring or none at all in which case it would likely be a Caucasus pheasant, at least in the UK. That is, if I've correctly interpreted Wikipedia's extensive page on the Common pheasant, which appears to be the catch-all term that covers these subspecies.

12. May 2010 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds, Seasonal

As I left work today I noticed Swifts swooping around the sky for the first time this year. Perhaps they're scarpering back to Africa to get away from the freezing weather!

Apparently it's common to see them at the start of May and it traditionally heralds the onset of summer. So there's hope yet.