Monday, 1 August 2011

An update

The garden has been full of butterflies recently - red admirals, peacocks, small tortoiseshells, commas, speckled woods, gatekeepers, whites and blues.

Peacock butterfly.

I spoke too soon about there being no dragonflies emerging this year. We've had about 30 hawkers emerge in the last couple of weeks, but it has still been a terrible year for chasers and it's been months since we had any damselflies in the garden. Some of the exuviae are larger than others, but I'm not sure if that's a male/female thing or if more than one species has emerged. Unfortunately the recommended book for identifying UK exuviae (Field Guide to the Larvae and Exuviae of British Dragonflies) is unavailable on either amazon or abe books.

This female southern hawker emerged on Friday morning, but didn't leave her perch until Sunday lunchtime

It was dry and warm the entire time so I'm not sure what took her so long, but at least she made it in the end.

I haven't dipped either of the ponds for several weeks so will have a go this week to see what else I can find.

I found two larvae of the orange ladybird, a new species for Frog End, on the underside of some hawthorn leaves.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Harlequin invasion

I wrote most of this blog a day before the BBC wrote an article on ladybird spottting, but I didn't get a chance to add the photos until now.

We've had a lot of ladybirds in the garden this year. They absolutely adore the tansy Tanacetum vulgare that we have in the wildflower border.

These are different colour variants of the invasive Harlequin ladybird:
H. axyridis succinea:

H. axyridis conspicua and H. axyridis succinea

I can't find a name for the red one below. Since the harlequin is so variable it's probable that there aren't names for all the colour variants, but if anyone knows differently please let me know.

We've also had 2-spots and 7-spots in the garden this year:

Worryingly I'm getting more and more used to seeing Harlequins and the native species are beginning to seem really small when I do see them.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Dragonflies every day

As many of you will know from various family blogs, Ian and I got married yesterday. There will no doubt be posts with photos from the wedding on various blogs, but I couldn't resist putting a couple of wildlife-related photos on here.

As readers will know I am particularly fond of dragonflies and from now on I will be able to look at some every day. After seeing a wedding ring engraved with fish I had the idea to have ours with dragonflies and Smooch Rings very kindly agreed to engrave them for us:

Ian, being a great lover of otters was not to be outdone so he had a cane hand-carved with an otter by the extremely talented Mark Davies:

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A poor year for dragonflies and damselflies

I'm afraid that I've neglected this blog terribly this year, but of late the garden has become full of lots of exciting little critters so I can't keep from posting any longer.

It's been a very poor year so far for dragonflies at Frog End. Although lots of damselflies emerged several weeks ago we haven't seen one for over a month and this female southern hawker is the only dragonfly we've had so far this year

I wonder if the harsh winter killed off a lot of larvae. Certainly the drought earlier in the year would have done - we were very sad to find that one of our favourite nature reserves for odonata - the Old Sludge Beds in Exeter had dried up almost completely by early summer.

I was very pleased that the hawker chose to land on the native flowers in our garden (this one's hemp agrimony) - whilst I do have hundreds and hundreds of southern hawker photos most show them perched on trees or bushes rather than flowers.

Thursday, 24 February 2011


Another warm sunny day in Exeter and the frogs were joined in their spawning by some of the newts, two of which were very close to the surface. I also saw a dragonfly larva close to the surface yesterday - hopefully it wasn't considering emerging in February.

Apologies if you're already getting sick of frog photos, but I can't get enough of them at the moment!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The garden is alive with the sound of croaking

The larger of our two ponds has been wriggling for the last few hours - literally wriggling due to all the frogs. I had been trying to count the number of new clumps of spawn each day, but with over 30 frogs in the pond today I've had to give up. As usual when I tried to get close most of the frogs dived under the surface, but this shot, rather blurred and taken at a distance should give you an idea of what it was like:

The croaking was so loud it could be heard in the kitchen (the pond is at the bottom of the garden, several metres away). I took some videos with my camera to record the sound of croaking, but the images are terribly poor so I switched to a video camera after lunch. Hopefully I'll figure out how to edit a bit of the video and post it here in a few days.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Frogs at Frog End

The clumps of frog spawn in the ponds are growing rapidly in number (totalling over 20 so far) and today I finally managed to sneak a look at the frogs. For some reason frogs at Frog End are incredibly shy and once I'd got closer than 2 metres from the pond they dived under the surface to hide amongst the plants and leaves.

Although there are plenty of crocus and snowdrops flowering in other gardens near here this primula is the only Spring flower to have come out in our garden so far:

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Signs of life

After several months of only the usual birds we finally have some new life in the garden - frog spawn. It's a warm sunny day here in Exeter and the frogs have obviously decided that it's Spring - exactly two weeks earlier than last year. Hopefully they're right.