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Garden wildlife watching during the first fortnight of coronavirus 'lockdown'

Russ writes:

We’re now two weeks into the coronavirus ‘lockdown’, and with wildlife watching in the wider New Forest restricted to a once-a-day exercise slot, I thought it was a good time to blog about some of the garden wildlife that has been keeping us entertained here in Woodlands. For context, my previous blog about our attempts to attract wildlife into the garden can be found here:

The last fortnight has seen settled weather and plenty of sunshine, great for tempting insects and other invertebrates out of hibernation. During the daytime, the flowering Lungwort, Forget-Me-Nots and Rosemary have been buzzing with bees and their imitators, with three species of mining bee, Common Carder Bee (upper pic below), Hairy-footed Flower Bee (lower pic below), and Dark-edged Bee Fly all seen, additional to the regular Honeybees and various bumblebees.

In the pond, the first Pond Skaters arrived on 05 April, presumably having dispersed from nearby pools and ditches that were drying out in the warm weather. And on the sheltered Laurel hedge, Drone Flies, Green Shieldbugs and this smart Honeysuckle Sawfly regularly use the leaves as a platform for sunbathing in fine weather.

On the bird front, it was encouraging to hear migrant Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs arrive, and to see the first Swallows and Sand Martins moving through, while Ravens were recorded daily. A couple of roving Red Kites provided some great photo opportunities, including this bird that passed low over the house directly overhead, and clearly had me in its sights!

However, it was the creatures of the night that stole the show, starting with a migrating Bittern that uttered its distinctive croaking “gow” call as it flew over on the evening of 01 April. The following night it was the turn of Common Scoter, a seaduck that routinely cuts across the English mainland on spring passage to Scandinavia - one flock was heard, a small part of a major movement logged by insomniac birders across the country.

On the ground, searching carefully with a headlight amongst grasses, nettles and flowering plants produced a variety of caterpillars and other invertebrates, with the highlight being several Scarlet Tiger moth caterpillars; this species is rarely encountered as an adult in the New Forest, so it seems likely these larvae are offspring that have successfully overwintered, having originally been deposited last summer by a wandering adult from the nearby Test Valley.

In the moth trap, this Early Thorn was the prettiest moth of the period, but the mint-green, oak-feeding Acleris literana was probably the scarcest. Peacock and Brimstone butterflies were seen with increasing regularity.

With plenty of warm weather forecast for the coming days, it will be interesting to see what else emerges, hatches and arrives!

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