Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Garden frenzy

Springwatch is on over the next couple of weeks. I have never been its greatest fan, but this year my excuse for not watching is that there is just too much live action going on every evening to keep me out and about experiencing live wildlife drama - without the slightest need to see other people's stuff on the gogglebox.

The action that is captivating me is largely going on in our garden, which has come on in leaps and bounds as a wildlife haven, even over the last year. The 'big' pond is the natural centre of attention and now that it is two years old it is looking amazing, Each evening at the moment is seeing a few more Emperor dragonflies coming out; tonight there are another two. One was already drying out its wings and straightening its wings when I went out to look, while another nymph was making the long climb up a few blades of Lesser Reedmace to find its position for metamorphosis.

The other day I noticed that once they find a position the nymphs wiggle their abdomens around a lot. I put this down to the itch to get on with shedding that brown skin. But after watching the one this evening it looks more like they are using the abdomen-flex to feel around them to see if the chosen spot will have enough room to accommodate the size of the adult's body, particularly the wings. It tried a few perched out for size until it settled on its chosen site.

Meanwhile as the light fades, the surface of the pond becomes carpeted in dozens of small white moths flitting around. And seemingly waiting for them are several adult frogs (the ponds still has loads of tadpoles and some minuscule froglets have started emerging). I watched one frog excitedly grabbing at a falling Dog Rose petal, apparently mistaking it for a moth. It is strange how infrequently you ever see frogs eating, isn't it?

The highlight of this evening's live garden watch was going on at our largest log pile, though, which sits at the edge of the pond. It is made of big chunks of Silver Birch and kindly donated by our neighbours who were otherwise going to make a bonfire with the logs. I heard a buzzing coming from the pile and lookin up saw a Lesser Stag Beetle. Then I noticed there were several - I counted at least 11 and all looking rather amorous.

I watched one pair doing an odd dance: the smaller one (?female) was walking slowly forward and the larger following with its abdomen tip nearly touching the other's, so 'she' walked forward and 'he' walked backwards wherever she went.

Previously, I have only seen single Lesser Stag Beetles, so it was excellent to see a gathering and even the odd bit of flight action. They lay their long-living grubs in dead wood, so it is pleasing that our pile seems favoured. Thank goodness this wasn't burnt.

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