The blue, the bronze and the hairy

We have been on somewhat of a quest this year to transform our little urban yard into a plot beneficial to wildlife. Planting a range of native and ornamental plants, constructing a tiny pond, adding a bee box, and creating a small meadow area in a raised bed, we had hoped that wildlife would be quick to colonise this new habitat…

A few months in and our efforts to document our garden visitors, big and small, have yielded a number of interesting and significant sightings. Moreover, the challenge of creating something positive for nature and recording its use has really helped keep me sane throughout this turbulent time. A win, win if ever there was one.

Here’s a quick rundown of three exciting finds…


The blue…

Venturing out into the yard, coffee in hand, and intent on inspecting our tulips before they melt away to mush, yesterday we were graced by a rather superb garden visitor: a Holly Blue butterfly.

Though growing more abundant each year as they expand their range in the North East, these dazzling blue butterflies remain far from a part of daily life here. Found near holly and ivy (the species larval foodplants of which we have neither in the yard) it came as somewhat surprised to find this particular winged sapphire perched atop our stumpy, potted Buddleja – evidently warming up following a particularly chilly night.

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A rather lovely Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

The bronze…

Last year,  we were lucky to note a number of small, shiny bees visiting the garden. Most often encountered around smaller flowers – including our tomatoes – a few grainy photographs and some advice from local experts pointed towards these being Bronze Furrow Bee, Halictus tumulorum. Fast forward a year and our metallic visitors are back and this time, thankfully, they stayed still long enough for a verified identification.

Looking at the NBN Atlas distribution map for this species, records in the North East appear thin on the ground. Whether this is due to scarcity or simply a lack of people with the time to pursue the speedy blighters, I am unsure. Regardless, this would appear to be an interesting record.

The bees continue to visit the garden most days and make for enjoyable viewing as they mill about between planters. Their small size and fly-like appearance worlds away from what I would traditionally have envisaged when hearing the word ‘bee’.

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Bronze Furrow Bee (Halictus tumulorum)

The hairy…

Now, this is an exciting one. For a few weeks now, we have been seeing a number of small, brown yet intricately marked ‘jumping spiders’ in the garden. Similar in shape to the more familiar Zebra Jumping Spider, these went unidentified until (fortuitously) one ventured into the house – found attempting to snaffle the plentiful fungus gnats emerging from our windowsill chilies.

Now, I confess, I know nothing about spiders but thankfully, some people do, thus a specimen was sent off to North East’s county record for spiders, Richard Wilison. Fast forward a few days and the spiders’ identity was revealed as a mature male Hypositticus pubescens.

What makes this record interesting is that there are only previous six records of this species in my area, all dating between 1911 & 1931. That makes our little spider the first record for North East England for around 90 years.

It really is amazing what an open window and a burgeoning pest problem can turn up…

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Hypositticus pubescens – quite cute, for a spider…

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