|One of several clumps of Narcissus in flower|
A lovely start to the week was the first 7-spot ladybird I've seen this year, wandering around on a Mahonia plant which has flowered throughout the winter and is still flowering now.
|7-spot Ladybird on Mahonia|
|Small Tortoiseshell on Viburnum|
The Butterfly Conservation society in the UK runs a number of surveys as well as the popular Big Buttterfly Count (this year taking place from 17th July to 9th August). One of these is a garden butterfly survey (which I've recorded these for) in which species seen in the garden are noted and in which months from spring through to autumn with earliest dates in each of the months if available also recorded. These records are then submitted to Butterfly Conservation at the end of the year. More information about this and Butterfly Conservation's other surveys can be found here.
|Buff-tailed Bumble bee queen on Mahonia|
Bumblebee queens were busy gathering pollen from catkins high up in a large willow tree, as far as I could see, and from their size, these were more of the early emerging Buff-tailed bumblebees.
|Dinner is served... a predatory fly eating what I think was a midge|
Familiar woodland birds were singing, and Great-Spotted Woodpeckers, proclaiming their territory, were drumming in the tops of some particularly resonant trees. The sight and sound of Ring-necked Pheasants are commonplace in the arboretum, however a large selection of feathers indicated that one had met its demise, possibly predated by a fox.
Old leaves of a Downy Oak were speckled with old Spangle galls, the work of a cynipid wasp, I'm assuming Neuroterus quercusbaccarum, though as always correct me if that's wrong. The galls typically fall off the leaves before the leaves themselves fall in autumn, and the larvae continue to develop before emerging as adults the following spring. Having failed to fall, these galls will have dried up and the larvae failed to develop.
|Spangle galls on Downy Oak|
|A selection of pheasant feathers|
Friday was of course the day of the partial eclipse. With an appropriately timed coffee break, I ventured into the garden to see what I could see, and also with a vague hope of being able to photograph it. As it turned out we were very fortunate that there was a little light cloud cover - not enough to obscure the eclipse, but the clouds acted as a giant diffuser just enough that we could view it quite well. During the time the sun was largely blocked by the moon, it became noticeably cooler, maybe 2 or 3 degrees at a guess, and it seemed that the birds quietened with the darkening of the sky, a strange kind of twilight. One bird unphased by the eclipse was a male Sparrowhawk that shot across the garden right in front of my husband and a regular Robin (distinctive by a lack of feathers on his/her head) had a very close call indeed.
Not wanting to damage either my eyes or my camera, using manual settings I took a few quick photos using a small aperture and a very high shutter speed and was really pleased to get some fairly clear images to remember it by - a giant sunny smile in the sky on what happened to also be International Happiness Day - a wonderful sight and an uplifting way to finish the working week.
|Partial eclipse 20th March 2015 (9.29am)|