Garden Robin

Garden Robin

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Peppered Moth

A Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)was in the moth trap yesterday morning - another new species for the year.

This species provides a good example of evolution by natural selection in action.

Peppered Moths are usually white with black speckles covering the wings. These markings make them well camouflaged against lichen covered trees and walls where they rest during the day. A genetic mutation in some moths results in them being melanic (i.e. they have black wings). The black form is not well camouflaged against a lichen covered tree, wall or fence and are, therefore, far more likely to be eaten by predators, such as birds. Under normal environmental conditions fewer of the black type survive to breed and they are, thus, far less common.

During the nineteenth century, following industrialisation, it was noticed in towns and cities that the black form of the moth was becoming more common than the peppered form. The Industrial Revolution and increasing number of coal fires led to the atmosphere becoming increasingly polluted killing off lichen and blackening the tree trunks. The melanic form of the moth was now better camouflaged from predators than the peppered form and thus more likely to survive and breed. As moths are short-lived evolution by natural selection happened quickly.

In the mid twentieth century measures were introduced to control and reduce air pollution and the air in cities and towns became cleaner. Lichens re-colonised tree trunks and walls and the melanic form was now at a disadvantage and more likely to be killed and eaten. The situation now reversed and once again the better camouflaged peppered form of the moth became more abundant in cities.

Unfortunately, the species is now declining and the numbers of Peppered Moths had declined by two thirds between 1968 and 2002 - the reasons for the decline are unknown.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A Few Moths

May continues to be a disappointing month for moths. I did see a Mint Month (Pyrausta aurata) in the garden flying around Red Valerian about a foot away from a mint plant earlier this month. Trapping sessions on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th May produced no moths at all.

This weekend I trapped just a handful of moths.

Friday 22nd May (Min temp 9.0 degrees centigrade)

Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella) x 1 (New for Year)

Shuttle Shaped Dart x 1

Tachystola acroxantha x 2 (New for Year)

Shuttle Shaped Dart - a common and widespread moth. The larvae feed on herbaceous plants such as Dandelion and Dock.

Bee Moth - another common species often found round bee and wasp nests and beehives. The larvae feed on debris and contents of wasp and bee nests.

Tachystola acroxanthat This tiny moth has undergone a rapid range expansion following its accidental introduction on garden plants from Australia. The larvae feed on fallen leaves and leaf litter.

On Sunday, 24th May, I spotted a White-shouldered House Moth in the garage (new for year)

Monday, 25th May (Min temperature 10.3 degrees centigrade)

Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) x 2 (New for Year)

Another common and widespread moth in Britain. Found in all sorts of habitats. Larvae feed on herbaceous plants such as Ribwort Plantain and Fat Hen.

The total number of species for 2015 now stands at 23.

Recently fledged House Sparrows

and Great Tits are being fed around the garden by their parents.

Friday, 22 May 2015


Columbines (or Granny's Bonnets) have never grown well in our back garden but we discovered by accident that they do thrive in the front garden where we grow them in a border interspersed with Cornflowers and Cosmos.

Aquilegia is from the Latin for eagle because the flower base resembles an eagle's claws. The name Columbine comes from the Latin word "columba" which means dove. In the Language of Flowers the red flower symbolises Anxiety and the purple Resolution.

Its also another flower that is very popular with bees.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Bits and Pieces - mainly Flowers

A few flower photos from around the garden -


Thyme is flowering in the wall - bees love this plant. In fact, I've planted several other thyme and marjoram plants in the same wall for this reason.

Red Valerian - much loved by Hummingbird Hawkmoths. Although I've only seen this species in Dorset and Jersey I live in hope one might one day visit the garden.

Fringe Cups (Tellima grandiflora). I first saw this pretty little plant in a wood when I was doing a Plantlife Survey and I hadn't a clue what it was. The person who identified it for me very kindly took a cutting from one of his own plants for me.

We have several red and orange Azaleas - to be honest they are a bit too gaudy for me but the colours are stunning.

Welsh Poppy

I love the colour combination of this primula.

Choisea - mum and dad bought us this shrub and its rather special to me as Dad passed away 18 years ago and mum is currently in a Nursing Home with advanced Alzheimer's. The plant is a reminder of happier times with them.

I am rather chuffed that my Christmas Tree is putting out new growth. I first bought it as one of those miniature Christmas trees about 8 inches high - its now about four feet. I didn't bring it in the porch last Christmas as we usually do because it really didn't look well. But re-potting seems to have worked wonders.

B found this self-seeded Oak in the garden and is nurturing it in a pot. I am not sure if he intends to plant it out one day or whether he is planning on turning it into a bonsai tree!

Ever since I discovered Cosmos a few years ago (bees and hoverflies just adore the flowers) we've grown it from seed and plant it in several borders around the front and back garden.

I am also pleased that the two Echinops plants I bought last year from the Botanical Gardens are really thriving. I am hoping for a lot more flowers this year. Another plant loved by pollinators.

B has weeded and cleared one of the raised beds which has been rather neglected over the years and behind it is the garden where D used to grow flowers when he was little - also now cleared. Am not quite sure yet what we are going to plant but

I did pick up these plants from Morrisons (have to say Morrisons is a good place to pick up cheap shrubs, climbers and perennials - I know they are much smaller than you would get from a Nursery but these days Nurseries seem to want about £7 for just one perennial!|).

The rest of the border will be planted with wildflower seeds (received a free packet recently from Kew Gardens) and today I bought these. As there is a connection with the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust I would think these seeds are free of any neonicotinoid coating!!!

Whilst in Morrisons I picked up another Bee hotel - again these are good value and the one I have already which is identical is used by leaf cutter bees.

I couldn't resist this little ornament - I thought of Amanda when I saw this!! :)


Forgot to mention that the female Blue Tit started incubating yesterday when there were four eggs and this morning she has laid another one. The male is bringing her food in the nest :)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Wildflowers and Update

The wildflower mini meadow is starting to spring into life

Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Salad Burnet (Sanguisorba minor)

Common Sorrel (Runex acetosa)

Ribwort Plantain (Planatago lanceolata)

Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) has self-seeded in one of the borders. Not sure where it came from and I gather its rather invasive but not too bothered as the bees love it :)

Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) is scattered all over the garden.

Garden Update

Blue Tit nest - the female has laid at least one egg. Its very difficult to see exactly how many as she covers them with feathers. She won't start incubating until the clutch is more or less complete and then we should get an idea exactly how many eggs there are.


Not too many around at the moment as its gone so cool but last Monday we had Brimstone, Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Peacock.

Frog tadpoles - all seem to have disappeared. There are loads of Common Newts in the pond who could well be eating them.
Had to rescue an adult Common Frog from a Magpie on Thursday evening. The Magpie was about to peck it to death. Luckily, we intervened and the frog seemed uninjured and we placed it under some shrubs in the border.


Rescued a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva) from the kitchen today. This species makes nests that resemble mini volcanoes out of soil in lawns.

Garden Moths

It has been a really disappointing month so far for moths. All I've trapped since 27th April are Hebrew Character x 1, Shuttle Shaped Dart x 4. A Brimstone Moth was seen fluttering at the garage window one night. Have had several occasions when I have trapped no moths at all. Friday, 15th May I found just one Black Sexton Beetle in the trap and last night this Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis.

During mating the male Nursery Web Spider gives the female a wrapped insect! Presumably as a peace offering and to make sure he himself is not consumed? The female carries her eggs with her in a ball the size of a pea and just before the young hatch she puts them inside a silken tent for protection. The adult spiders catch prey by running and sprinting after small insects.

Sunday, 10 May 2015


I didn't think that this year, for the first time since we put up nestboxes when we moved in over 30 years ago, Blue Tits were going to nest in the garden. There was a lot of activity around 2 of the nestboxes a month or so back but no nest building as such.

This morning B noticed a female going in and out of the Whitebeam nest box so we switched on the camera and to our surprise she had taken in a lot of nesting material. There was certainly none in there when we checked a couple of days ago.

Here's the nestbox with camera in the Whitebeam Tree

and a couple of photos of activity taken from the TV screen. Sorry rubbish photos - light was poor in the room and I was only getting 1/15th of a second plus photos taken from the tv screen are never very good.

It does seem very late to me for a nesting attempt. Of course, it could be due to the cool Spring we have experienced or perhaps one of the pair who were prospecting the box earlier in the year died or was killed. Obviously have no way of knowing if this is even the same pair. Its unlikely to be a second brood as, according to Christopher Perrins in the New Naturalist book on "British Tits", genuine Blue Tit second broods after successfully rearing a first, are very rare in Britain.

I don't have egg laying dates before we had the nestbox camera as I never used to like to open the boxes too much in case they deserted but dates when the first egg was laid since 2010 are as follows :

2010 28th April

2011 25th April

2012 25th April

2013 27th April

2014 14th April

I've used the date eggs were first laid rather than when the nest was built because in past years nest building is never cut and dried as they can spend weeks taking nest material in and out, in and out, before they actually build the nest they will use.

We also have a Blackbird nest close to the house in this climbing hydrangea/clematis. Blackbirds have nested here before and am just hoping its too close to the house for the nesting magpies to find!

There has been an explosion of leaf burst in the last few weeks and the garden is "greening" up nicely.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Meet the Emperor Moth

Here he is in all his glory :)

I can't tell you how excited I feel, having followed the life cycle from egg to caterpillar to pupa to the final emergence!

Emperor Moths belong to the family Saturniidae - which comprises about 1,300 species worldwide, mainly found in the tropics of Central and South America.

The Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia) is the only member of the family found in the British Isles. There is only one generation of this moth a year emerging between April and late May and the adults do not feed. Larval foodplants include heathers, alder buckthorn, hawthorn and bramble and habitat includes heathland, moorland bogs, fens, woodland rides, hedgerows and field margins.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Red Campion

Last year I was given some wildflower seed balls which I planted in pots. Although a lot of plants came up only the forget-me-nots flowered. I've left the pots to see what happens this year and already Red Campion (Silene dioica) is starting to flower.

The campion in pots is well ahead of the campion in the wildflower meadow where only the leaves are showing among Cowslips (Primula veris)

Another Emperor Moth has emerged from its cocoon this afternoon and this one seems perfectly formed and can fly which is a relief after the first one emerged with crumpled wings that never expanded. Hopefully, a photo soon - have taken a couple but they are pretty poor so will try again tomorrow before I take it to be released at a site locally where there is a resident colony.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Bleeding Heart

Bleeding Heart is flowering in the garden - such beautiful flowers :)

Apparently the flower is a symbol of everlasting love