Lucky escape for the squirrel. Photo: David Turner

May was a very bad month for predation in my garden, with cats catching blackbirds, pigeons, starlings and squirrels. I do get annoyed, but I would never harm a cat; it’s just a natural instinct on their part, and there is very little I can do to stop it.

The beginning of the May was wet and unseasonably cold, averaging 16°C. The weather improved from the middle to the end of the month; it became drier with temperatures reaching as high as 26°C.

Jays, pied wagtail and a greenfinch (rare birds here these days) also appeared at the beginning of the May. I hope this means more regular visits; it would be better still if they brought their young to the garden.

Foxes

Fox vixen and cub. Photo: David Turner

Last month’s article was dominated by my garden’s fox family. Two cubs and the vixen were regular visitors each night and I occasionally recorded the dog fox and two other cubs. The trail cameras recorded terrific images of the cubs playing, eating, bonding and learning how to tunnel. The foxes were also recorded sharing food with our family of hedgehogs; they bonded really well, just like last year.

Hedgehogs. Photo: David Turner

There was a night when the cubs were not seen, and I thought they had moved on to pastures new, but they all returned the next evening and are still in the garden in mid-June.

The foxes created numerous dens during the month about the garden which, I think, was the adults teaching the cubs how to dig. I set up cameras when the dens appeared and all the dens were used, so I never knew from one night to the next where they were living.

Fox cub. Photo: David Turner

I still study, on average, 5000 images each day so I will have a complete record of the cubs growing up.

Low insect numbers

Goldfinches. Photo: David Turner

I was very excited at 8pm on 23 May when I spotted bats and swifts. My excitement was short lived, as we have not seen swifts since that evening, although the bats are still very active.

Swifts are down in numbers this year across the country because of the lack of airborne insects, due to the changeable weather. This could also become a problem for bats, because they too rely on insects each night.

This lack of insects could also be the reason that bird fledglings are low this year, which was mentioned on this seasons BBC Springwatch.

I have witnessed a severe downturn in bird activity in my garden this spring; I actually recorded more birds in the garden during February, which was a very warm month. I don’t even have one nest in the garden this year, and I also didn’t record birds taking away nesting material. There has been some young bird activity in the first week of June, which will be in next month’s report.

Moths levels seem to be on par with previous years; I record six moths per night, on average. I photographed the day-time mint moth on 22 May.

Butterflies, on the other hand, have been almost non-existent and I have only recorded speckled wood, orange tip, holly blue and small whites so far. I hope the weather improves and we get a few more seasonal butterflies emerge during June and July.

I was lucky to spot and photograph a brimstone moth at the beginning of the month. Both the brimstone moth and butterfly are distinctively bright yellow, but the butterfly is slightly bigger than the moth.

I have never seen so many harlequin ladybird larvae as this year; they were in abundance in my wild flower area.

Damselflies appeared once the weather became warmer in the middle of the month. On 30 May, I photographed damselflies mating and laying eggs in my pond. My notes make it clear that damselflies were actually very active in the pond and garden all through the month, and I photographed them on my recently planted wild flower plants.

Frogs!

Frog. Photo: David Turner

Frogs appeared in my pond towards the end of May. Frogs are an absolute puzzle; we were overloaded with frogs until five years ago and then, without warning, they disappeared. This spring, the frogs were clearly mating, but sadly nothing came of it and there has been no sign of spawn.

The upside to this is that I have never had so many damselflies and dragonflies emerge from the pond as I have in the last five years. In fact, all my pond insects are thriving. Dragonflies are my preference; they are beautiful, amazing animals.

Squirrel with a camellia. Photo: David Turner


Links
  1. David Turner on Twitter and the Whitley Pump
  2. The natural and social pictorial history of a house in Whitley
  3. RSPB
  4. UK butterflies
  5. UK moths
  6. Bat Conservation Trust
  7. The Wildlife Trust
  8. British Dragonfly Society
  9. Woodland Trust