I mentioned a couple of days ago that spiders seem to be everywhere at the moment. This continues to be true, but none are cuter than a cluster of tiny little babies that I found on my shed. That's a nail head in the corner, to give an idea of scale. Actually I found several clusters, presumably recently hatched. If you prod the bunch with a finger they all scamper apart as if the group has exploded, then they slowly crawl back together again.

These are the babies of the standard Garden spider (Araneus diadematus) which I've blogged about before. Come autumn there will be loads of adults stringing their webs across every part of the garden.

If you look very closely at the picture (click for a higher resolution version) you'll see another even smaller beastie just above the nail head: a black and red thing with two long antennae, facing towards the left. I have no idea what it is (answers in the comments please) but it's amazing how often I notice such things only when examining macro photos on the computer.


At my favourite watery wildlife spot I saw a new critter yesterday, though I knew what they were the minute I saw them: whirligig beetles. There are some great close-up photos and facts on that linked page – well worth a look. My photo above shows how metallic they appear on the surface – seedlike blobs of mercury almost.

I recognised them instantly because they were clearly beetles, and were whizzing around in circles and figures on eight on the surface in a fairly hectic manner. Particularly notable is that they have eyes split into two, for seeing above and below the water (the link above has a particularly good picture of this).

According to the BBC, the 100 or so monk parakeets living in the wild in the UK are to be removed by Defra, one way or another. That means preferably housing them in aviaries but could mean shooting them. It is feared they could become a major pest if allowed to prosper.

They should not be confused with the ring-necked parakeets that are more commonly seen in fair abundance in the South, squawking through the trees. The main difference is that the monk parakeet has a pale grey face and chest, whereas the ring-necked parakeet is almost entirely green apart from the eponymous dark-rose-coloured ring around its neck.


A few things I've noticed of late:

  • Butterflies abound, of many species, but orange tips are particularly noticeable.
  • The cherry blossom has been and gone in a scant couple of weeks. It was blowing down the road today like snow as strong winds whipped in ahead of the storms (which never actually came).
  • Wasps are bigger than I remember. Or is it just queens building their new nests?
  • It's been ridiculously hot and dry and looks set to stay that way for a little while.
  • I've seen lots of frogspawn but that's gone and I don't see any tadpoles.
  • Spiders are everywhere in the last couple of weeks – in the house, in the garden, many varieties, big and small.
  • A lot of the birdlife in the garden has faded away in favour of quarrelling sparrows.

You might spy this white flower growing in the wild at this time of year, as did a regular correspondent of this blog who wondered what it was, growing in the shady margins of a footpath. Actually she figured out for herself that it is Greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) but I thought I'd post her photograph and enlighten the wider populace.


I found the oddities pictured above in a small pile beneath the mouse nest from my shed. It seems to be a small collection of hollow pots apparently made out of mud and with a hole in the end of each one. They're only about 7mm long each.

Question is – what are they? I have my own favoured best guess, but I thought I'd throw this out to the masses. So have at it in the comments!

Update: I believe that Rachel is bang on the money in the comments when she wonders if they are cocoons built by wasps. I've struggled to find particularly good information, especially UK-centric, but it seems most likely these are the work of some sort of mud dauber wasp. They create a a cocoon from mud then put an egg and a paralysed spider in it as food for the larva. Eventually the young wasp breaks out and the cycle repeats. However the images I've found on the web (e.g. the mud pots hiding in a roof rack) are generally not quite like these ones. Can anybody provide a more positive identification?

15. April 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds, News

Time for the third and final instalment in our interview with Chris Packham. Check out the first and second parts if you haven't already done so.

A large and varied set of questions to finish, ranging from the whimsical to the serious and taking in the view of Chris' garden, including his laundry. Thanks to Chris for agreeing to the interview and to Allinson bread for setting it up as part of their Conservation Grade association.

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After yesterday's introduction, here follows the second instalment in our big interview with Chris Packham, supporting Allinson's Conservation Grade program and associated free bird feeder promotion. The third and final instalment is also now available.

In fact you may well have seen Chris on TV this evening presenting the Animal's Guide to Britain on BBC2. I thought it was rather good, especially the beavers and jumping up and down on the rippling layer of 'land' atop a buried lake.

Topics this time round include being something other than a bird-spotter and Chris' nature photography. Stay tuned for more, including Chris' favourite nature related joke in the next instalment!

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As part of a current on-pack promotion that Allinson Bread are running, UKNB has had the chance to interview Chris Packham, of Really Wild Show fame (if you grew up when I did) and more recently Springwatch and Autumnwatch amongst many many other endeavours.

Allinson are giving away 8,500 bird feeders in a bid to help bring Britain’s birds back to our gardens. All you need to do is buy four loaves of Allinson Bread, send off the on-pack tokens and you’ll be the proud owner of a brand new bird feeder. This on-pack promotion runs until the end of April and supports their brand new partnership with Conservation Grade, an initiative that works with farmers to encourage ecologically sustainable agriculture. From speaking to Chris it's clear that he's passionate about Conservation Grade and is keen to see more companies supporting it, and to see consumers supporting it with their spending power.


There was a lot to talk about, so I've broken the interview into a few instalments to be posted over the coming days. Follow the link below to continue reading the first part, which deals with the heavyweight issues of conservation today, but don't worry – more whimsical topics will follow!

Update: be sure to read the second and third instalments as well.

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Clearing out the shed at the weekend I found lots of evidence of things living there past and present! Right in the back corner buried beneath a mountain of old flowerpots was this scrappy ball of detritus. I assume it must be a mouse nest as it has clearly been constructed by some animal, having very clear circles of dead grass in its base (not visible above), bits of old string and even nylon line of some sort.

I couldn't discern any actual 'entrance' to the nest as such or any definite evidence of mice – e.g. droppings in the shed, but I can't see what else it could be. I did once see a small sandy coloured mouse sprinting down the side of the shed, so I know they have been present. Perhaps a harvest mouse?