Saturday, 20 June 2009

I'm back - but where to start? Pond Life in May

I did take some nature notes whilst I was "away", so I will write them up as they occurred. Today is jottings about the wildlife pond from the last week of May.

Broad-bodied chasers - male

And below, the female

Blue damselfly below

Another baking hot day. Too hot for me, especially as I wasn't up particularly early and so lost the hours when I often garden pre-breakfast. One of the earliest tadpoles in the wildlife pond has back legs, front legs, a distinctly froggy shape and will soon lose his tail. Several others have sprouted back legs. I couldn't help but think how strange that must feel, to be a little barrel blob with a tail and to suddenly grow extra bits. I wonder how much they have to compensate with their tail when they are swimming once they have legs? Or how about swimming along with a glorious tail one day, and then it begins to wither and drops off! In our main pond, I saw a grown-up bronzey-coloured frog, one of several who I believe live around the "island" that was once a tub of marginal plants that have now colonized through their container and taken over that corner of the pond. Both ponds were heaving with damselflies - red, blue and a ruddy-brown. I was amazed when I looked closely to see that the red ones have shining ruby-red eyes, and when I got a blue to stay still long enough, they have electric blue eyes to match their body, with a black stripe above them a bit like a mask. The browny ones have browny eyes. One sex has the bright colouring (male one presumes), whilst the other sex is darker and their quieter clours mirror the display of the other, with only thin bands of bright colour. When they mate, I presume it is the male! - places the tip of its body behind the female's head, and I believe the sperm sac is passed to the female in this manner. They often stay joined like this when they fly around and then the female can be seen dipping her ovipositor into the pond to lay eggs against the vegetation. The male is - of necessity - in a polt upright position when this happens and to be honest, looks a proper prat! Sometimes you see them totally joined up (this is called the "copulation wheel") and I saw one couple like this today resting on vegetation, although they can apparently fly like this. They all (Dragonflies and Damselflies) belong to the family of Odonata, but their Latin names don't exactly trip off the tongue - the Blue Damselfly is Enallagma cyathigerum and the Large Red Damselfly is Pyrrohosoma nymphula. We'll stick to red or blue damselflies then . . .

Whilst honey bees are not common in my garden this year, their place has more than been taken by the little buff tailed bumble bee, Bombus lucorum, but there is also a much larger buff tailed bumble bee - I wonder if this could be the cuckoo bee, Psithyrus barbutellus. She lays her eggs in the nest of the bumblebee Bombus hortorum.

Here is an excellent link to a bumble bee site, and if my brain wasn't quite so scrambled, I would put more notes from it on here, but you will have to look for yourself as I slept very badly last night!

Now I have the internet back, I will check out the ramblings above and correct/improve upon them. My little books on the subject don't have much detail and only the very commonest species.


  1. I'm not good on bees but have a great many of some sort in my garden at the moment, all shapes, sizes and colours. The damsel flies are so beautiful aren't they? The electric blue ones especially, when they catch the sunlight they are quite breathtaking.

  2. Have loads of bees this year i have to keep a little rock pool net in the consevatory to set them free. Not seen a dragonfly at all yet though.