The North East Bee Hunt

The Natural History Society of Northumbria are currently promoting The North East Bee Hunt. I like bees, but I don’t know much about them. I especially don’t know anything about identifying them, so I like it when the introduction to the hunt includes the very unthreatening come-on-in of:

Urban or rural, beginner or expert, naturalist or nature lover, everyone can help to increase our knowledge and awareness of bees in the North East.

https://www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk/activities/the-north-east-bee-hunt/

Well that doesn’t sound scary so I signed up, and also set myself up an account on irecord, the website where records and sightings are submitted and checked.

In these Covid-19 locked-down times, there are worse places to be than in your garden squinting at bees through your camera then trying to work out what they are. The Natural History Society provide an identification guide of the five key species that they’re interesting, although I also found the BTO guide useful too, especially as I found I had a Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) in my hunt.

It’s a good feeling submitting a record. It’s an even better feeling when your ‘likely’ identification is approved with a big green tick.

I saw two species yesterday, and I think I’d probably recognise them again in an identity parade. Not the individuals, obviously, but the species I think I’d manage.

There were about half a dozen or so bumblebees buzzing around on the willow flowers, about 4 or 5 metres above my head. Zooming in on the photos I had tree bumblebees and buff-tailed bumblebees.

Bombus hypnorum (Tree bumblebee)
Bombus hypnorum (tree bumblebee)

I thought they were all tree bumblebees at first, but after submitting the record it was pointed out to me that I also had buff-tailed bumblebees.

Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed Bumblebee)
Bombus terrestris (Buff-tailed bumblebee)

Findster Duo – First Impressions

Cats are a worry. On the one hand we want to let them come and go as they please so they can go out, play, chase mice, climb trees, and be cats. The trouble is, they go out, play, chase mice, climb trees, and get into all sorts of scrapes. Being cats.

The real worry is not seeing them for days on end though. Brothers Willow and Mr Mittens like the summer. In the summertime, when the weather is fine, they go and talk to the students, pretending to be unloved and unfed. It’s only by putting webcams on their feeding bowls and bed that we realised they still lived with us.

On a recent holiday we left the cats at home with a homesitter as normal. But on four separate days we had phone calls from Chapel Heights, from alarmed students who’d found Willow mooching around their flats. As the crow flies Chapel Heights is only a few hundred metres from our house, but it’s near a busy dual carriageway and Willow doesn’t have any road sense.

I’ve tried a tech approach. Tile works ok. But its range is short and its use is limited. So now I’m trying another tech approach.

You’d think there’d be tons of tech for monitoring your pets. And there is, but it’s still a maturing market and there’s a long way to go. Trackers for dogs seem a lot more common than those for cats, which makes a lot of sense. The devices are still quite bulky and cats a quite small.

Half an hour ago I attached a Findster Duo to Willow’s collar. It’s light, but bulky, but he seems ok with it. I took it off its supplied strap and threaded Willows collar onto it directly. Let’s see how it goes.

 

 

Dogfights over Marsden Rock

Watching the Kittiwakes at Marsden Rock. Still lots of nest-building going on. Or is it maintenance? Lots of birds sitting on nests. It was very entertaining watching the mid-air acrobatics as the birds ‘negotiate’ over nesting material ownership. They reminded me of aircraft dogfights.

Most of the Kittiwakes I’ve seen have been from the Level 4 viewing terrace at BALTIC so it was interesting to see so many different viewing angles. The distinctive black legs of the Kittiwake are clearly visible.

Bring out your dead

For a few days I had a motion-sensitive webcam on the blue tit nestbox. It was a neat set-up but the usual problems of false-postives were too much of a headache to solve. Apart from dappled sunlight shadows being sensed as motion the tree itself would sway gently in the wind, as can be seen in the video clip below.

While fast-forwarding through chunks of nothing-happeningness I stumbled across this rather grim segment. I’m assuming that it’s a parent bird clearing out a dead chick. One of its own. It did occur to me it might be predation by another adult blue-tit but I’m not sure if Blue Tits do that.

Here’s a still taken at the time the adult takes out the dead chick. That was Saturday (three days ago). I’ve not noticed much, if any activity since then so perhaps it’s a failed nest.