Species lists updated

Hi all,

I’ve updated the species lists at last.  I think I’ve now scoured the premises for everything I can find.  There will still be a few poor unfortunates who make it into my bug pot like the stunning Lilac Beauty (see below).

Apeira syringaria in the pot last night.

I’m planning on setting a moth trap next month, although I need to figure out how it’s done. I have some ex-colleagues who set them left, right and centre. They get up (set a moth trap) have breakfast (set a moth trap) brush teeth……..etc.  Can’t be too difficult. I’ve also not collected any slugs.  I’ll perhaps have to have a slug evening.  Anyone like to join me?

Anyway, the current species list stand at 88 plants and fungi, 70 invertebrates and 39 birds and mammals.


The garden is wet and I am rusty

John has fixed up my beast of a compound microscope, (it makes me fancy him more when he does manly things like that, sorry puke).  I call it the micromacrobeast (the microscope….) Ooh, the excitement, I can chop up lichen fruits (apothecia) and look for spore sacks (asci) and spores (spores!).

I’m bloody rusty at the slicing technique though.  You have to slice sections through the apothecium, which is less than a mm wide.  If you wet the specimen your razor blade get stuck to it, if you keep it dry it pings off never to be seen again.

I did get to see some exciting spores in the end but not until I’d dealt with all of the pigeons.  I say all of the pigeons, well two pigeons. Two sharply descending pigeons is a major event in a life like mine.  The first one dropped and hit the kerb, it was dead.  It was a racing pigeon so I took it to Terry across the road.  He said the pigeon was from Nottingham and he’d call the owner.  He also told me it had been attacked by a Sparrowhawk.  It had a nasty wound on it’s neck.  Apparently they grab them by the neck in mid-flight.  No sooner had I sat down in front of the micromacrobeast (a microscope remember..) when I hear next doors chickens in a hullabaloo, see lots of floating feathers and yet another descending pigeon.  It was alive and hiding under the car.  We captured it and took it to Terry (he does actually keep pigeons I don’t just dump them on a poor unsuspecting neighbour).  This time it was one of his.  It is getting stitches in it’s neck and a warm cup of chamomile tea.

Anyway, I’ve identified a few lichens and a moss today and found a good population of rushes growing in our soaking lawn.  The celandines are doing well too, unsurprisingly.  I’ll leave you with a family snapshot:

Mwwahaa! No health and safety rules in the labavan. I’ve been drinking tea and eating yogurts.


A weasel A weasel!!!!

I am soooo excited.  This is only the second time I’ve ever seen one and there it was carrying a mouse across our veg patch only a couple of metres from the living room window.

People say that the main difference between stoats and weasels is that stoats have a black tip to the tail.  While that’s true, the most striking difference was the size.  The weasel was properly diddy. We get a lot of stoats here so I’ve got used to them, in fact, I saw one today behind the caravan.  It was being chased off by next door’s chickens.  No eggs for you today Mr stoaty stoat.


RIP little friend

We get Nuthatches in our garden every day.  We absolutely love them, it’s a privilege to have such handsome visitors.  We are really lucky to have such huge quantities of lovely garden birds to enhance our lives.  We live on an A-road so nobody’s got cats.  What a difference that seems to make.

But yesterday, Isabel and I heard a thud and discovered that one of our little Nuthatch friends had flown into the kitchen window.  It must have been killed instantly as when I picked it up it was still in a mid-flight pose.

We are so sad.  John was particularly sentimental, he even showed it to another Nuthatch(not sure why), they are very tame so you can get quite close.

Anyway, John’s ordered some bird silhouettes that you’re supposed to stick to your windows.  In truth this is the third such casualty this year, we lost two Great tit fledglings in the summer.  Our Robin also came a cropper, it got blown into the wall in the Autumn gales.  Poor things.  Are we doing more harm than good?  Any ideas on how we can stop this happening would be greatly appreciated.

(Not a single bad Viv joke it this post, sorry)

How to neglect a blog

It’s easy, have two kids and not enough sleep.

I have been sleeping better.  The solution was easy, don’t go to bed until you feel like you’re going to die.  Then you sleep like a stone.  Funnily I feel much better doing this than going to bed early to try and catch up.

So here I am, now with a bit more time (as I’m not allowed to go to bed early).  I’ve had a botany day today, the time was used only semi-productively as I’m a bit rusty.  I had a go at identifying trees without leaves, but as there are few trees at 3 Chapel Terrace and I’ve already identified them, I have committed an act of treachery.


I adventured into the field behind the house.  I’ve had a go at winter tree identification before, when I lived in Musselburgh.  I went out with the best of intentions with my AIDGAP guide to broadleaved trees and shrubs in winter.  I then discovered a flaw in the plan!  The guide relies solely on twigs and buds and I couldn’t reach any of the bl**dy things.

This time I aimed for trees with reachable twigs and ‘hey presto!’ this guide is suddenly a nifty piece of kit.  The leaf buds and scars started to look pretty distinctive.  Check out the sinister looking leaf buds on an ash tree:

Ash bud of doom (Fraxinus excelsior)

In the howling winds and driving rain I actually found myself slightly (OK, quite a bit) freaked out by these evil looking baby leaves.  What is wrong with me?  The branches were waving at me like sinister claws aiming to capture me and turn me into a tree, or maybe eat me or perhaps it was just planning to fall on me.  I nicked a twig off the ground underneath and ran away in to the middle of the field where it couldn’t get me.

I’ll be keeping an eye on that one in future, I can see it from Izzy’s bedroom window. I might keep checking it to make sure it doesn’t get any closer!



From Mirid Bug to Leafhopper in one easy step

Today we had a little family gathering for Izzy’s birthday.  She is 2 next Friday.  My sister came along with her 3 children.  We let the older two loose with bug pots.  Amber managed to catch a bumblebee, brave Amber, but later I took them up to see the Ragwort behind the labavan.

Finlay, super enthusiastic as ever, caught a strange looking creature.  It had quite a blunt head.  John thought it looked like a cricket and Jane was looking up leafhoppers.  It was fairly lively at first but seemed to die quite quickly.  Strange.

It got put on the side for later.  After, yes after, the clearing up was done, I had a look.  I was pretty sure Jane was on the right lines with the Leafhoppers but couldn’t quite match it up to anything so got my stronger lenses out.

AH!  It all makes sense now.  This creature has no head.  Finlay must have decapitated it with the bug pot lid.  Amazingly I still managed to identify it.  It was a Mirid Bug (Stenodema laevigata).   These are abundant in long grass of all kinds.  I have to say I’ve never noticed one before.  Its camouflage is impeccable.

Stenodema laevigata (Complete with head)


The Common Ragwort controversy

Today has been botany day number three.  I need to change the name as I didn’t identify many plants, well five (and a very exciting Jelly lichen).  It was sunny and the summer (what summer?) will soon be over so I thought I’d look for mini beasts.

Around the back of the labavan is a small strip of land we leave to nature.  Here lives the most popular plant in the garden, a Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea).  It was absolutely teeming with Hover flies, Bees, Beetles, Bugs and other mini beasts.  I don’t know how many times I went behind the back of the labavan with the bug pot but it will have confused some of the neighbours, if they were watching.  Every time I looked there was something different. I stopped and had my tea after 13 species.  If you added up all the time I was actually looking at the Ragwort is was probably only about 20 minutes.

Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)

Most of you will know how controversial Ragwort is.  OK it does cause genuine harm to horses and cattle if it gets in their hay.  However, I feel it’s the Badger of the plant world.  Let’s not get hysterical please.  It is a native plant with many invertebrate species totally dependant on it.  The Buglife website sums it up well.

In total 3 Chapel Terrace now has 64 plant and fungi species, 44 mini beasts and 35 birds and mammals recorded.  That’s 143 living types of thing.  MASSIVE!

I’ve had a lot of fun today and John killed a record number of Lesser House Flies while he was looking after the kids ( I made him do the hoovering!)



The Lesser House Fly

Yes I’d like many less (fewer) of you please.

Lesser House Fly (Fannia canicularis). The little s**t.

It’s nice to identify things that seem rare and exotic but even better to get the common stuff that’s driving you mad.  These are the pissy little flies that swarm around the living room light when it’s not even on.  Apparently this is a territorial patrol only conducted by the males.  John is tall and his head collides with them.  He goes ballistic with the fly swat like a deranged mad-man on speed.  Sometimes he even has baby Ted strapped to him while he passionately pursues his killing spree.

As these guys breed in and regularly visit dung (there’s lots of pastoral fields around here) John is doing a splendid and well justified job.  The identification of this species seemed pretty easy.  The specimens were, of course, all stone dead which helped.  My two insect books described their behaviour as follows:

‘Male flies incessantly around lights and other objects indoors’


‘Abundant in houses where males circle relentlessly around lights and other objects.’


(P.S.  The species list has been updated)



A Roving eye, already!


Phwarr! Wouldn’t mind a bit of that.

Ah, newly wedded to my garden project I’ve been eyeing up this tasty bit of wasteland opposite the doctors.  I feel ashamed, should I be lusting after other patches of ground already?  It is full of the first flushes of wild flower diversity often found in newly cleared ground.  To me it is absolutely beautiful.  I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself nipping in for a quick gander (if I get the chance!)

Fine Weather for…..Snails

The other night I was supposed to be doing the clearing up while John put Izzy to bed.  I popped over the road to post some letters, it was pouring it down.

On the way to the post box…..ooh a cool snail, I’m having that.

On the way back from the post box….ooh another cool snail, might as well have that one as well.

I appeared back in the kitchen and wondered what to do with my two new friends.  When John came down no clearing up had been done and I had two snails in an old takeaway tub.  One of them was a bit feisty.  That was annoying on two counts:

Firstly, it kept trying to escape. ‘What don’t you like being in an old Jalfrezi tub with some floppy lettuce out of my fridge?!’

Secondly, it kept wriggling way out of it’s shell when I was trying to figure out whether it had got an umbilicus (a funny little hole some snails have at the back of their shells).  ‘Get in your shell snail! Aren’t you supposed to be frightened of me?!’

That one I think was a juvenile Cepaea hortensis.  Ah a teenager, that explains it!

The other one was much more compliant and was one of the exciting limestone specialists you get around here.  It appeared to be Candidula intersecta.  

I imagine that suddenly finding yourself in a strange place being prodded and having bright lights directed at you can be compared to an alien abduction.

Sorry I didn’t take photos of the real snails (got carried away and forgot about the blog).  I hope Barry and Barbara will do.

Cheerio for now.

P.S.  The FSC AIDGAP guide to ‘Land Snails in the British Isles’ is excellent.