My 2 year old daughter spotted lots of these small, fuzzy orange bees on the newly dug soil in the garden. I identified them (by text message, having been sent the iPhone picture above at work) as Tawny mining bees. These are solitary bees, only about a centimetre long, that burrow in soil and raise their young underground. They are only to be seen March to May, hibernating the rest of the year in their tunnels. Completely harmless, I find them rather charming and it's fascinating the way many of them will suddenly descend on a small patch of soil to set up home – which is what my daughter witnessed.

27. April 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Plants

I went for a walk in the woods today, braving the April showers, and amid the not-quite-flowering-yet bluebell carpet, a couple of beautiful Snake's head fritillaries. I have these planted in my garden, but seeing them wild is so much more wonderful.


As promised, here are more of David's fantastic pheasant photos, following on from the delectable close-ups of the first post. This time, before and after photos from a presumed fight. David tells it best:

I use a bird hide at Threave Gardens a Scottish National Trust property nearby and had been admiring this Cock Pheasant and his three hens for some time  and all was well one morning. Next time I was up, late afternoon on the same day this bedraggled pheasant appeared with only one hen. I was aware that there was another Cock Pheasant in the woods but thought my “friend” was the dominant bird. I think the two photographs portray the brutality of nature, particularly at mating time.


A family walk in the lovely Cassiobury Park, Watford, was much enhanced by seeing bats flying in broad daylight. It was the first hot day of the year, hitting 20c, and I wonder if that had anything to do with it, though I visit the park only rarely so for all I know they're out and about most days.

The first was hunting in a clearing in the trees by the river, about 20-30 feet up. The second, unless it was in fact the same individual, was skimming low over the canal, patrolling a stretch of a couple of hundred feet. I managed to get a video of the second, though a fast-flitting bat filmed at 12X zoom on a compact camera by an idiot like me does not add up to BBC HD quality results.

What sort of bat is it? I guess either a Daubentons or a Pippistrelle, the former being particularly noted for its water-skimming, though others sometimes do the same.

What drives bats to come out during the day? This academic paper gives a really detailed insight into daytime flying, but suffice to say it's not that unusual and it's probably to make up for poor feeding at night, or to take advantage of good hunting. Or one of many other possible reasons.

01. April 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds


David from Castle Douglas sent in these wonderful close up pictures of pheasants, demonstrating the exotic glories to be found in the UK. He was able to get such wonderfully detailed shots as these pheasants are relatively bold mixing it with the chickens to take advantage of their food.

You'll notice some variation in the look of these two males (and others) – for instance the white ring present only on the second. According to Wikipedia this is because there are various subspecies, as a result of interbreeding down the years.

More of David's wonderful pheasants in a subsequent post, including what happens when they get into a scrap.