Excitement in the wildlife garden

Wildlife gardening has become somewhat of an obsession of late as we attempt to make our urban ‘yarden’ as appealing as possible to all forms of life, from flies to visiting birds. Hand in hand with this, we have increased the time spent monitoring our little plot, with positive results. Already this year, we have recorded 68 species in our yard!

Now, 68 species may not seem overly impressive, at least when compared to the sky-high numbers achieved by other naturalists in the news recently. For us, however, its a wonderful starting point and provides ample inspiration to soldier on and keep counting! The diversity of life sharing our space now, following a few positive tweaks, contrasting sharply with what came before. The odd bluebottle, magpie and garden snail replaced by a veritable hotchpotch of wild delights.

Here are a few new visitors observed and enjoyed over the past few weeks…

Fork-tailed Flower Bee

Spurred on by some pollinator-friendly planting, bees have continued to flock to our little assemblage of pots and plants. So far, we have recorded twelve species here with two interesting additions coming in the last fortnight. The first of these an entirely new species for me.

Fluffy, dumpy looking yet wonderfully agile, the Fork-tailed Flower Bee looks (at least to the eyes of this inexperienced hymenopterist) somewhat like a cross between a bumblebee and one of the smaller, solitary bees. Seemingly scarcely recorded in my area, it came as somewhat of a surprise to catch sight of a male bee zipping about the flower bed one morning.

Boasting a distinct yellow face, these energetic bees are a delight to behold and, fast forward a few days, are becoming increasingly frequent in our yard. The aforementioned visitor quickly flowered by 4-5 more seemingly fixated on plants of Lamiaceae (nettle) family. I must plant more mint…

An in-depth fact sheet for this species can be found on the BWARS website and is well worth a look.

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Fork-tailed Flower Bee (Anthophora furcata)

Patchwork Leafcutter Bee

Just like the former bee, this garden visitor provided a welcome surprise. Roughly the size of a honey bee and boasting a striking clementine underside to it’s abdomen (the females at least), numbers of this delightful bee have built steadily over recent weeks.

Known to favour roses for their leaf-cutting antics, I live in hope that we may soon notice distinct, circular holes in our two garden plants. A few tatty looking leaves a small price to pay for hosting these intriguing little bees.

Perhaps they may even stick around to use our bee box? Fingers crossed.

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Patchwork Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile centuncularis)

Pied Hoverfly

Having recently acquired the incredibly detailed and accessible Wild Guide’s guide to Britain’s hoverflies, I’m slowly getting to grips with this tricky group, and greatly enjoying the hours of frustration as I find myself forced to scrutinise near-invisible wing-loops and ever so slight differences in patterning.

Thankfully, not all hoverflies are a pain to identify and a few days past we were lucky to catch sight of a large, monochrome individual in the yard. A quick skim through the aforementioned publication and the critter was revealed as a Pied Hoverfly, a distinctive migrant from mainland Europe.

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Pied Hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri)

Leafminers

For weeks now we have been noticing the distinct tunnels of leafminers on a range of garden plants, from ligularia to Silver Ragwort. While these remain a mystery, for now, a brief stint in the greenhouse revealed two potential culprits temporarily trapped inside.

Now, if I am a novice when it comes to hoverflies, I know absolutely nothing about flies that do not hover. Browsing a few online resources, however, I have made a tentative attempt that identifying the minute beasties in question. The result? Tephritis formosa, a species known to feed on sow thistles, and Trypeta Zoe, a colourful little fly known to favour plants in the Asteraceae family. I am by no means confident in these identifications but it is good fun to step outside your comfort zone now and again.

Trypeta Zoe and Tephritis formosa, possibly!

Chaffinch

Now, I suspect few will share in my excitement over the humble Chaffinch but, having fed birds in our garden for almost three years, this is the first time this species has paid a visit. Recurring visits by a male bird each morning for the last few days providing a welcome touch of the ‘exotic’ among the more regular House Sparrows and Goldfinches.

As I write this, the bird in question is singing from the TV antennae atop my neighbour’s house following a brief stint pecking at his reflection in the bay window this morning. His continued presence making me very happy indeed.

One of the great things about wildlife recording at home is definitely that the commonplace can equally as exciting as the rare.

A handsome garden visitor…

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