Monday, 25 April 2011

Damselflies Making More :)

I spotted this impressive species of damselfly hanging around the pond over the weekend. Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies, but the key difference (aside from size) is that dragonflies hold their wings open (out to each side) at rest, whereas damselflies close their wings along their abdomen (as shown in the above photo).

The identification of this male was straightforward. There are only two red damselflies in the UK, the simply named 'Large Red Damselfly' and the 'Small Red Damselfly'. The small reds are smaller, obviously, and lack the black bands on the abdomen. Their abdomen is pure red.

I had only seen a couple of males hanging around, presumably waiting for a mate. One clearly had success, as I was extremely excited to observe a pair mating on the hedge today.

The female is the one at the bottom, with her abdomen curled up to the right, attaching to the male under his thorax to collect sperm. You can see the difference in colouration between the sexes quite clearly. The female is paler in this case (although not always), and has more black markings on her slightly broader abdomen.

They then proceeded to the pond, where the male remained attached while the female lowered her abdomen as deep as she could into the pond in various places to lay her eggs on the stems and leaves.

The male looks so odd; he just stands there pointing up in the air, waiting for her to finish. Most of the time he is 'standing' on his abdomen, not even holding onto anything.

There are already lots of damselfly nymphs from last spring getting big in the pond. I am so pleased we have another generation waiting to hatch out and grow.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Flies & Frogs

Common Frog (Rana temporaria), originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

The weather was so beautiful yesterday that I had to be in the garden, despite a rotten cough and sore throat. I sat on the grass in the sun and happily watched the pond.

Brindled Hoverflies are already returning to stake their claim (they lay their eggs in the water), early bees stop for a drink and all sorts of little bugs and beetles roam among the plants.

There are still plenty of fly larvae wriggling on the surface as an adult fly emerges, which never ceases to amaze me how ever many times I see it. Damselfly, dragonfly and mayfly larvae are everywhere in the water and daphnia are increasingly abundant. The various plants are growing rapidly now too, so the pond is really starting to look good.

All this cheered me up no end, but none so much as spotting something larger just peeping out of the water on the far side of the pond. I admit, I audibly squeaked with excitement when I realised I was looking at a young frog.

Moments later I spotted a second. They were obviously young, being much smaller than an adult frog, and are almost certainly last year's babies. Very relaxed, they seemed quite happy to let me photograph them.

So now I know that both newts and frogs survived the cold and snowy winter successfully, probably in the log pile that borders the pond. I am thrilled about how successful setting up the pond has been. Full of clear, sweet smelling water and teeming with a huge variety of life, it doesn't look like it has only been there for 9 months. All the time, care and research I used to get it set up properly has obviously paid off!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Pond - April 2nd 2011

The Pond - 2011 - 07, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.

Everything is growing like crazy in the garden, and that certainly includes the pond.

The water forget-me-not is sending up shoots ready to flower and the iris is getting huge! The marsh marigolds are in full bloom, adding a golden glow to the pond edges.

The pond itself is full of life. We have dragonfly larvae, damselfly larvae and mayflies, water lice, loads of pond snails of assorted species and sizes, various beetles, daphnia (water fleas) and a tonne of unidentified larvae and worms.


A Water Louse. They look just like woodlice, but with longer legs.

A selection of Insect larvae from the pond. The large greenish nymph is a damselfly, the two stumpy round-bodied ones are dragonfly nymphs and the smaller three-tailed one at the bottom is a mayfly larva.

Operation Bumblebee Rescue

This magnificent and large Bumblebee crawled out from hibernation one morning a couple of days ago.

It emerged groggily from the log pile looking weak and scruffy, and then carefully positioned itself in the spring sunshine to warm up.

After doing some gardening, I checked on it a few hours later and was a bit worried that it hadn't moved. I took some photos and then settled down by the pond to relax and watch the insects buzzing the water. The bee sat motionless for a long time, but eventually, after some warm up wing buzzes, it launched into the air. Unfortunately it was destined to plummet straight into the pond. I gently fished it out and put it back into the sun to dry.

Sadly, some more hours later it was very, very weak and could barely walk. It made no further attempts to fly so I placed it on a Marsh Marigold flower in the hope it could feed. Mouthparts out and searching, it couldn't find any nectar, and just got covered in pollen for its efforts. I wasn't sure what else to do.

I couldn't bring myself to just leave it to die, so I mixed up some sugar and water in a little pot lid and offered it to the bee. It came alive immediately and drank copiously for almost 10 minutes.

A few minutes and lots of abdomen wiggling later, its buzzed a bit and soared into the air. After making a couple of confident circles of the garden, it flew strongly away, leaving me with a warm fuzzy feeling of having saved a life.

Bee Drinking Sugarwater, originally uploaded by Pipsissiwa.