A bit of a surprise recording this one. Our third sawfly species confirmed so far in the garden and a bit of an oddity. It’s only been recorded in the country since around 2002, and it has already spread over much of England and Wales. It is heavily associated (as it’s name would suggest) with certain Barberry species, however it’s larvae are also associated with Mahonia species.
The area is not really known for Barberry, although we have noted a small patch of Mountain Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) down in our local nature reserve, we have no idea how this non-native got there in the first place, likely a garden escapee. We did pop down the reserve to see if we could spot any of their brightly coloured larvae on its foliage but we found nothing.
The little guy below just plopped itself down on a Oxeye Daisy leaf for a rest, clearly to tired to worry about our fussing around it.
You can see from its damaged wing that this fella has been through the wars a little, but was still capable of strong flight and soon was on its way. The yellow tip to the abdomen we believe is characteristic of this species. Either way we’ve not seen anything quite like this in the garden to date, so its a nice addition to the list.
It’s useful to visit other places and in particular other gardens to see what species are about in different locations and this is just what we did when recently we stayed at a converted barn in Devon.
This was very much a rural garden, on a much larger scale than typically found in an urban area such as Bristol and of course has much greater connectivity to the wider countryside. In total, and without trying very hard, we recorded 65 different species of plant, a mix of native and non-natives.
We also recorded numerous animal species. Click HERE to see what we found whilst away during what was a very warm week in July.
Sometimes its easy to be jealous. This beauty was not recorded in our garden, but instead was found by our neighbour in hers. This is the Eyed Hawkmoth, a species we have never recorded in our garden so not on our species list (yet!).
It’s called the Eyed Hawkmoth due to the pattern on its hind wings resembling eyes, unfortunately we couldn’t persuade this fella to show us its colours.
Thankfully it is still a rather common species so hopefully one will visit us of its own accord at some point.
Apart from having one heck of a Latin name, the female of the wasp species Gasteruption jaculator has what must be one of the longest ovipositors relative to it’s size. These guys are often overlooked but relatively regular visitors to the garden.
If you happen to have a bee hotel and even luckier to have one that bees actually use, then you may see these ladies hanging about. The long ovipositor is pushed into the larval cells of solitary wasps and bees, where they will develop out of harms way chomping on the grub within. We’ve never seen this for ourselves and it would be interesting to see how strong the ovipositor is, as most of these cells seem hardened and it looks so fragile.
It’s a long way to the top of the food chain and G. jaculator is nowhere near the summit. They too run the gauntlet that is the struggle to survive long enough to pass on those all important genes. In the rather grizzly video below, which took place on our hazel tree, we see a struggle between a cucumber spider, in this case we think Araniella opisthographa, and a male G.jaculator (note the lack of ovipositor).
At some stage we can only assume the spider made a successful venom bite and from then on there really only was going to be one winner in this struggle.
Finally, we have a garden record for the largest hoverfly found in Great Britain. We’d been wondering when it would show up as it’s not at all rare in the South of England.
At first, admittedly without glasses on, we thought this was a Hornet (another species we are stilling waiting to record) and at first felt a little gutted when we spotted it was a fly rather than a wasp. But once we realised what species of hoverfly it was we were well chuffed. These guys are known to be mimics of Hornets so that made us feel a little better as well.
Our March 2022 garden calendar update is now on the Wildlife Garden website. An unusually sunny March, although it seems a long time ago now with the wet start to April. Lots of inverts making an early appearance this year. Be interesting to know what wildlife others have seen in the Brislington area this March. Click HERE to see what was about.
The end of winter was a grey and wet affair in Bristol, especially considering the dry winter we have witnessed. Hibernation and dormancy in many species is coming to an end and resident wildlife, as well as those species that just like to visit, are slowly becoming apparent. See our diary entry for February 2022 (click HERE).
Progress in the garden is slow as one would expect in January, but there is always plenty going on and worth keeping an eye out for firsts of the year.
Firsts of the year!
Blackbirds, Carrion Crows, Black caps, Robins, Blue Tits, Gold Finch and Starlings have all been about in good numbers. A small patch of Hairy Bittercress became the first plant to flower this year (on the 3rd January), closely followed by the Hazel, who’s catkins opened and its tiny red flowers emerged to be pollinated, thus ensuring a crop of Hazel Nuts this coming year.
We finally had our first significant frost on the 14th January, with the wetland pond freezing over completely. We ended up with a few days of frosts but no sign of snow. Indeed we had some very mild weather.
New species already!!!
We’ve already recorded some new species this year to add to the project list. Having ended 2021 with a list of 406 species, we have now jumped to 411. As per the previous blog there was the spider Zygiella x-notata, which since first recording we are noticing everywhere. Also two new snail species, a Glass Snail – Aegopinella nitidula (left below) and the Girdled Snail – Hygromia cinctella (right below).
Add to this a tiny species of woodlouse called Trichonsicoides sarsi (left below) and our first identified Springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi (right below), both of which require a microscope to identify. The microscope revealed several other species, including at least 3 other species of springtail and a mite which we are yet to identify. Plus what we think is a soldier fly larvae.
One regular visitor, in fact an almost permanent visitor to the garden, are the midges that swarm around the ponds. We are yet to attempt to capture and identify one. But even in the middle of January, when not much else is stirring, here they are again, swarming and mating and making our heads itch (not that these ones bite).
The wildlife pond on the middle layer of the garden was cleared of much of its silt in December (see below), to lower the pond nutrients and be more favourable to a greater variety of wildlife. No signs of amphibians returning to the pond yet, but hoping to hear some noise in the coming weeks.
Since we noted the bottom of the garden flooding in the summer, we have also noticed that many of the more invasive species in the garden, particularly those that like wet conditions have spread. This is likely because the flooding occurred during heavy rainfall just as many flowering plants were setting seed. Most notably over the winter we have seen Hairy Bittercress, Curled Dock and Creeping Buttercup pop up in good numbers. We spent a good amount of time plucking Bittercress from all over the garden, amassing a large pile, but it keeps appearing in new locations and we may have a fight on our hands.
The creeping buttercup last year was found solely under the hazel / maple border. However a new patch has formed adjacent to the new wetland area as shown below (left). We decided we needed to nip this spread in the bud, so we firstly raked the whole patch to remove much of the leaf area and hopefully break the rhizomes by which it spreads.
To further attack the rhizomes we then made repeated 20mm cuts into the soil using a shovel (left below) and have since covered the whole area with pond liner to help prevent it recovering (right below). How successful this will be we will find out in the spring, but already we are finding new patches emerging.
That’s probably enough for now, but plenty going on as usual.
Well, it’s a new year and it didn’t take long to confirm our latest new garden species, and we are so glad to see another species of spider.
Zygiella x-notata is a very common species and we have likely just overlooked it to date. Viewed up close it really is a fantastic looking animal, which we found tucked away earlier today within a bunch of hazel catkins.
This really was a tiny animal, but we were able to get some good close up photographs using a cheap macro iphone lens attachment.
Black ants are a part of everyday life for most of us, and a nuisance to some when they infiltrate our homes. But watch them in the garden, even for a short while and you will likely notice some form of interesting behaviour. In our 15th Article we look at some of the observations we recorded of this species during 2021.