Wildlife Wednesday – Long tongues down long throats

We’ve spent the summer re-digging the pond on the patio due to a worrying leak, but now it is done. The nine fish are back in it, as are some much reduced baskets of iris, skunk cabbage and marsh marigold. However, even though there is three-way pipe in there for the fish to hide in, everything is worrying clear and exposed and I am waiting for the inevitable arrival of one of these:


Grey heron at Cambridge Botanical Gardens

Oh yes, I wish our pond to look like this, but this was a grey heron that we spotted at Cambridge botanical gardens a couple of weeks ago. They were doing large-scale maintainance there too, removing many of the reeds etc. and I guess that the fish were considerably disturbed by it all and this chap was taking advantage.


Back at home, we’ve been OK so far, but I might get another protective pipe to lessen my concern.

As we ease in September I’ve noticed that the most common bumblebee around now seems to be the common carder bee (Bombus pascuorum). This species is typically seen on flowers later in the year. Bombus pascuorum has a medium length tongue which makes it a good fit for the typically long-throated late summer/autumn flower like thyme, verbena, caryopteris etc. The nectar in these flowers can only be reached by a bumblebee with a medium to long tongue. 


Bombus pascuorum on Caryopteris clandonensis

Have followed the bumblebees from flower to flower to get a good shot I was realised how vicious their tongues really look, but then I read that they possess an extendable tongue sheath. In fact their tongues are delicate and feathery. There are some wonderful photos of Carder bee tongues on this nature blog:  TrogTrogBlog


Buff-tailed bumblebee (bombus terrestris) are also out in force enjoying the long-throated sweetly scented flowers of buddleia and caryopteris …


Caryopteris has a wonderful sweet scent, adding a further attraction to its charm

There is something very attractive about the concentration these bees apply to plunge their tongues down those lovely trumpets to get the nectar.


Buff tailedd bumblebee on verbena bonariensis

Also supping up that sweet nectar and thankfully making a small late season come back are small tortoiseshell butterflies. Here they are on a buddleia next to our pond, but emerging asters and late season purple loosestrife are proving a big draw for them too. In August I hardly saw even one tortoiseshell.


Brimstones, with their brilliantly glowing lime-yellow wings, are also once again looping through the garden. They often settle on the scarlet runner bean flowers, but this one is enjoying a Queen Red Lime zinnia (sounds like a cocktail!)


Water is always a draw to wildlife and it has got to the stage in the year where young fledglings are becoming quite independent and adult in behaviour, except that they are more fearless. I was able to approach the drilled rock fountain, all the way across the patio with this young robin watching me. He continued to bathe throughout. You can see that his red breast colouring is just beginning to appear.


In fact the bubbling rock water feature is the most successful addition that we have made to the garden. Initially it was only visited by larger birds who drank from it, but these days it is alive with small birds, drinking and bathing and larking around. I only had my pocket camera with me yesterday, when I noticed a new bird enjoying it. This is it, on the fountain (there are also two fledgling greenfinches on the ground to the right):


I tried to zoom in to get a good look, but the camera isn’t up to it. Digital zoom just gives a very noisy picture. It is clearly a warbler of some kind, but I can’t tell if it is a garden warbler or chiffchaff. If you have an opinion on this I’d be pleased to hear it.


September is already showing signs of the seasons turning. I don’t know how much longer we will be able to watch the swallows swirling around the gardens at Wimpole. There are two or three exceptionally tall trees just outside the walled garden that are particularly favoured roosts. The sudden bursts of noise and activity, followed by the slow circling ebb as they return to their perches, will be a big loss to the dynamics of the garden when they begin their long journey back south soon.


My least favourite sign of autumn is already present. I am talking about spiders and their webs. Every morning I find myself walking into a large web that has been spun across the greenhouse doorway and I never seem to remember!


Each day more webs appear, strung up between any tall plants or posts. These are more obvious than the one cross the greenhouse door, because they are occupied. The resident spiders hanging centrally, as though suspended in space. I do love the look of dew/mist on webs, but I could do without having to shake myself down so often.

I am joining with Tina at mygardenersays in sharing some of the wonders of wildlife to be found in our gardens. Her post today is bursting with exotic young birds achieving their dramatic adult colours too.



About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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35 Responses to Wildlife Wednesday – Long tongues down long throats

  1. Can you please tell me where you got or how you made the bubbling rock feature?

    • We have a great stone merchant nearby called Bannold (http://www.bannold.co.uk/). We were able to select a rock (pre-drilled, but they will let you choose any). We bought a water reservoir and pump, dug a hole in the pebble garden to sink the reservoir into the ground, then wired up the pump. The hard bit was moving that rock into place. It was all very egyptian pyramids: lots on rolling on posts and levering.

  2. FlowerAlley says:

    I LOVED this!!! Thank you.

  3. Tina says:

    A great post, Allison! All the photos are lovely, but the buddleia with the three tortoiseshell butterflies takes the cake. I’m so glad that your little birds are enjoying the water feature and I know that many gardeners have success with gurgling rocks and small fountains in bird baths. I placed a small pump with some rocks in a deep bird bath (which the birds have never really used) with the thought that they’d go for the moving water. So far, no takers. I wonder if there’s a trick I’m not following with it?? At any rate, thanks for joining in, yours was a terrific post!

    • Thanks Tina. Our water feature has taken a while to become popular across the board. I think the thing that has made it work so well for the smaller birds is that the hole area on top (where the water comes out) is shaped like a small shallow bowl before cascading down and that means that the birds can bathe there easily too.

  4. What a beautiful post. Your photographs are AWEsome. I really enjoyed learning about the different species of bee. Well done.

  5. Debra says:

    I really enjoyed reading this and admire your photos. I’ve never heard of a bubbling rock before but I really like the idea. Might try it even. I sometimes think for every bee there is a flower or maybe it goes the other way around. The American bumblebee has started its flight around here and when I looked up which flowers it prefers they were almost without exception a gentle pink or lavender in colour which pretty much describes the wild flowers blooming at this moment. Sorry you don;t like the spiders. I love how GIGANTIC their webs are this time of year.

    • You are right about the match between bees and flowers! Have you read the book called ‘Sting in the tale’ by Dave Goulson, which talks about this? It isn’t so much the spiders I don’t like as the feeling of sticky web all over my face.

  6. Great post, and a timely reminder I really need to beef up my skills in identifying bumble bees and warblers!

    • Thanks.I don’t think that I’ll ever be confident IDing warblers, they are so alike and terribly elusive. Now that I know they are coming into the garden though I will keep my SLR out and hope for a better shot.

      • It’s partly practice – I used to be better with warblers than I am now. We had a blackcap nesting in the garden this year – one warbler I can ID! Very quick though – couldn’t get a decent photo.

  7. Eliza Waters says:

    I’m envious of your swallows. We only had a few this summer and now they are gone. I did hear a whippoorwill in the woods two nights ago, clearly one just passing through, but it was a thrill nonetheless.
    So do you do the spider web dance, too? 😉 It seems I’ve been passing through some ultra-sticky ones lately!

    • Do your whippoorwills migrate? Apparently, with better forestry management in the UK, the number of nightjars here have stablised and are even increasing. I’d love to hear one. What I am falling asleep to most nights is the sound of owls.

      • Eliza Waters says:

        Yes, they do migrate as our snow gets deep and there are few insects to feed upon. They apparently winter in S. America.
        When I look up nightjars on the net, the US map is full, listed as a species of ‘least concern,’ but I haven’t seen or heard them around here, not since the 70s.
        There was a flock of at least 60-70 that went over a couple nights ago that was so delightful to watch. I wish we had them all summer, but they apparently head further north to breed.
        Hearing owls is a nice for sleeping – soothing in their way. At 3 am, there was a barred owl very close to the house (I’m an insomniac) which called for about 5 minutes before moving off. I usually hear them on the ridges around my little valley. Their call is, ‘Who, who, who-cooks-for-you?’ and my favorite, loudly, ‘WHO-WAH!’

  8. diversifolius says:

    Beautiful pictures and I’m impressed with the bumblebee ID – I can never tell them apart!

  9. dunelight says:

    Flamboyant welcome wreaths on our door invite guests, even the 8 legged kind. Sometimes I carry one away with me. I do not like it.

  10. Such a beautifully illustrated and interesting post, thank you Alison. Astonishing images of bees tongues via the link, just marvellous.

  11. Sue says:

    Wonderful photos. I love the pretty tortoiseshell butterflies and the close up shots of the bees are great.

  12. pbmgarden says:

    You have lots of interesting visitors to the garden. The tortoiseshell butterflies have such pretty color and markings. No wonder the young robin was unwilling to leave as you approached–that rock water feature is wonderful.

  13. Vinny Idol says:

    The resolution on your pics is incredible. The fauna look like theyre enjoying themselves. And all of the flowers look luscious. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Fabulous pictures! I love the brimstone butterflies on the Buddleia and the wonderful Bumblebees.

  15. Pingback: Wildlife Observations – Small Things | Frogend dweller's Blog

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