Monday, October 22, 2018

Abernyte Nature Watch


After the winter
After the winter we had, we were getting fairly desperate for signs of spring in Abernyte, and so the arrival of Frogspawn in Alison’s pond at Ballindean on 12th March must have been a welcome sight.

About a month later, on 7th April, I saw my first Butterfly of the year, a Peacock, in our garden in Abernyte. It looked in fine fettle after the winter, and there were quite a few buff-tailed bumblebees and honeybees (as a result of the new bee keepers in Abernyte) out visiting spring bulb flowers. Gordon saw the Orange Tip butterfly on 18th May.

At the top of the village, on 3rd March, Steph spotted a male yellowhammer coming into her garden during the snowy weather. These are birds that like the open countryside but will often come in for seed under extreme conditions when food is hard to find. During the spring and summer they often like to sit on power lines singing their joyful “little-bit-of-butter-and-no- cheese” song as you walk along the road underneath. There was also a redpoll seen feeding by Elizabeth at Tulloch Ard.

When Steph saw the yellowhammer, it seemed we returned to the depths of winter with a good depth (at least 8") of snow and deep 3-4 feet drifts along both the Church and Kinnaird roads.

On Saturday 17th February we heard Oystercatchers, always a sign of approaching spring. But after the snow they probably de-camped back to the coast to look for food.

Spring Migrants arrive
Jane and Trefor heard a Chiff-chaff, always the first of the Spring migrant warblers, in their garden on the 7th or 8th of April and on 12th April there was one singing loudly in our garden in Abernyte. The weather was still distinctly parky. We were informed by Nicholas that there was already a Sand Martin at Lunan Bay on Tuesday 10th April.

The Swallows were not far behind as five swallows were seen on 14th April on the wires near Teen Ranch. Linda spotted the return of House Martins to East Newton Cottage on the same day.

Swallows were tardy in getting to Abernyte, we did not hear of any until 25th April although they had been around on the Carse for a while. Our impression is that the number of Swallows returning this year has been worryingly low, and they may have met some stormy weather south of the Sahara.

Good news is that there were several hearings of Cuckoo. Fiona at Guardswell was listening to one on 21st May, and there were several reports from Tracey, Sharon and Laura from near Littleton, Ballo, Ballairdie, and Ledcrieff.

A New Kind of Bee
Have you seen a bumblebee with a ginger thorax, black middle and bright white tail? If so you have seen the Tree Bumblebee. This is a bumblebee that is heading North and it seems to be now quite well established in our area. Its spread has been amazingly fast.

First seen in the UK near Southampton in 2001 (where it seems to have arrived under its own steam) it is has colonised much of Scotland and also Iceland. We have even seen it in our garden in Abernyte where in June they were pollinating a rose and more recently visiting lavender and marjoram flowers. It has also been spotted by Diana at Hillhouse.

We first became aware of it in our area in Perth last year, when we saw a small worker Tree Bumblebee close to the Perth Lade. However if you see a queen they are quite large. Later when Barry was checking a nest box in the garden he was stung by a rapidly moving bumblebee which hadn’t appreciated him disturbing its home.
It transpired that there was a colony of them in one of his nest boxes. Nest boxes and holes into roof space are classic nesting spots chosen by the Tree Bumblebee. Although they are normally docile like other bumbles, they do not like vibration.

BWARS (Bee, Wasp and Ant Recording Society) are monitoring the spread of this very attractive species. If you see one you can help them by logging your sighting on: http://www.bwars.com/submit-bombus-hypnorum-sighting . If you take a photograph, that can help to confirm the identification.

Barn Owls and Tree Sparrows
The Barn Owls have been later in laying their eggs this year, possibly a result of the cold Spring. If the birds are in poor condition in the Spring, then they will need to feed for a while before producing eggs. There have however been at least a couple of successful broods in the area, albeit, later than usual. Once again corpses of Barn Owls, have been picked up on the A90.

Because they hunt low, quartering the ground as they listen for voles, mice and shrews, they are vulnerable to being hit by cars. Luckily the owls in Abernyte are relatively safe from the dual carriageway.

The chirpy little Tree Sparrows are also nesting late this year, but once started they can have as many as 3 broods. Many of them fledge from what Barry calls the Tree Sparrow Factory near Inchcoonsans Some of them are on their third brood now.

The summer can’t last long enough for me, but as days draw in - (oh no!) - make the most of the sunshine to look out for wildlife in your garden. It is always worth checking to see what is sitting on your flowers.

Recently there have been vast numbers of Hoverflies appearing. They seem particularly keen on the yellow tansy and the Agapanthus in our garden. Some of these are worth looking at to see their beautiful colouration. Some of them are harmless mimics of the yellow and black striped wasp.

Good wildlife watching in autumn 2018

thistle