Wildlife Wednesday – Riding the thermals

A lot is happening in the skies this month. The rooks behind our house are established in their nests now and are hanging out in the tree tops, calling loudly across the countryside at seemingly all hours. These shouts are typically to be heard against a background noise of tap, tap, tapping woodpeckers. There are alot of damaged trees after the winter storms and it sounds like they are being requisitioned and renovated to make nurseries.


Rook on the lookout

Occasionally the rook calls becomes frantic and if you look up to check what is happening, it is likely that an aerial battle is going on between the rooks and a bird of prey.  We see kestrels and falcons about, but most often we see a pair of buzzards riding the thermals over the garden or circling in a leisurely spiral above the field behind us. Since the rookery is also just behind our house, we have witnessed a fair few mobbing attempts to drive the buzzards away.


Buzzard mobbing

The picture above is of a buzzard being hounded by five rooks and was taken on a phone, so apologies for the lack of resolution. The buzzard is the bird at the bottom right.

This slightly clearer shot (below) is from a different day and was taken with on a canon compact. The confrontation involved only the two birds seen.


Another thing that has been noticeable over the last month is the large number of yellowhammers, Emberiza citrinella, about. Mostly the birds flit between bushes in the hedgerows, normally skipping ahead of us as we walk along, but in the warm sunshine they like to perch at the top of the trees to trill. The call is so clear and loud that they are easy to spot, even before taking account of their bright yellow plumage. Sadly, the female bird is much duller than the male, but still has distinct yellow tones in the sun.


I found that taking pictures of the males in direct sunlight was nigh on impossible without burning out their chests!


The marking are easier to make out in overcast conditions or, as here, in the shadow of the brambles and shrubs.


While I am highlighting sunny yellow birds seen this month, I am very happy to have finally taken clear picture of a goldcrest (even if it was in someone else’s garden):


The warm weather in March triggered the emergence of hibernating butterflies. One of the first to appear was the Brimstone butterfly. Brimstones have ornately shaped, butter yellow wings which make them ease to spot as they flutter across the garden. At this time of year, they take short pit stops to sip at nectar from flowers like honesty and primroses. Fortunately, we have tons of  the latter.


Brimstone butterfly sampling the primroses. Not bad camouflage either!

Other butterflies have been spotted on recent sunny days too, including commas, tortoiseshell and peacocks, but not in nearly the same quantity.


Comma butterfly on a sunny slope

It has been nice to hear and see bees about the garden again. There have been some massive bumblebees on the wing too.  I’ve spotted mostly buff-tailed bumblebees, but in the last few days red-tailed bumblebees have arrived on the scene too. I sat in the meadow for a while just enjoying watching them. Overhead there were quite a few bee-flies around. I love their hovering shape in the air and their long rigid proboscis, ready to eat at all times.


Bee fly on the wing


A furry bee fly on celandine

While watching the activity on the primroses I spotted a new type of bee (to me at any rate)


I fetched my copy of  ‘Insects’ by Michael Chinery and sat down to identify this furry creature. The most striking thing about it was incredible length of the hairs on the middle legs, almost like the fringe on a cowboy jacket. The second picture, below, shows them more clearly.


So I think that this is a hairy-footed flower bee, Anthrophora plumipes. It is a fairly common bee in the UK apparently and is widespread. It is particularly fond of pulmonaria flowers, but it seems to like primroses too.



Then,  while I was sitting under a plum tree, this honey bee landed on me and proceeded to groom itself, including its tongue as you can see here!

I am ending the post with a picture of  ‘Mouse, the Destroyer’. I’ve lost a lot ot tulips this year to something that leaves short narrow burrows. We’ve seen this mouse in the same vicinity several times, so I am inclined to blame him. On this occasion he seemed slightly lethargic, but he eventally crawled back under his achillea patch.


Mouse the Destoyer

I am linking up with Tina at mygardenersays for her monthly meme encouraging us to look at the wildlife on our doorsteps. Why not take a peek?


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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23 Responses to Wildlife Wednesday – Riding the thermals

  1. Tina says:

    You have a spring-load of critters! Our smaller birds will also chase the raptors in the sky–it’s fun to watch. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any birds harassing buzzards though. Your little yellow birds are pretty, I especially like the goldcrest. The hairylegged bee is appropriately named and those butterflies are always a joy to see. Mouse the Destroyer. Haha. You need some owls or hawks! Thanks for joining in!

    • Owls would be good! I do hear them, but rarely see any. The number of buzzards that we have around here seems to be gradually increasing, so I suspect there will be many more battles.

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    Some great captures here, Allison! I love that a bee landed on you – she knows a safe haven when she sees one!

  3. Cathy says:

    I am so poor at identifying insects/birds. I learn something from you! I found the rooks mobbing the buzzard a bit disturbing. We noticed grey herons mobbing some (very welcome) Great White Egrets on the river bank at the bottom of the garden last year. We’d been so excited to see the pair arrive, but they were swiftly seen off within 2-3 days. Fortunately they do come back occasionally although they don’t hang around like they did last September. What glorious bee pictures! Thanks!

  4. Sue says:

    How cute is that goldcrest!? It almost looks like it’s wearing a new trendy headpiece. 🙂 And how lucky are you to have a bee land on you like that and get some really fantastic pictures!

  5. Brian Skeys says:

    It is great to see buzzards on the thermals. When I was growing up, back in the dark ages, we never saw them. We recently visited a garden near Oxford, I was delighted to see my first Red Kite floating around n the spring sunshine.

    • I think that there has been a definite increase in the larger raptors about over the last twenty years. We used to only see kestrels with the occasional falcon, but this now seems to be a buzzard zone. However, if you travel east or south you start to see kites within a few tens of miles.

  6. Oh, well done indeed, Allison, beautiful photos and spot on for this time of year.

  7. Wonderful pics! Your Yellowhammer reminds me of our Goldfinch, and your Goldcrest reminds me of our Kinglet. I wonder if they are related. I occasionally do find a Comma butterfly in our garden.

  8. Sam says:

    Great photos. The close-ups of bees are super. Grr to bulb-munching mice!

  9. Christina says:

    Well done for the lovely clear image of the gold crest. I know they are tiny so very difficult to capture well.

  10. A delightful array especially the goldcrest. Rooks have been mobbing red kites near me, such a din.

  11. Jen says:

    Gorgeous photos! What camera do you use to take them?

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