Still there are no frosts and the weather continues unseasonally mild with plenty of flowers for the few insects still about. Yesterday when I was out I had a look around the overgrown jungle that was once a pristine veg patch and saw a couple of bumble bees buzzing around feeding on the borage! There were also dung flies on the plants too but as I had to use my zoom to try to get pics as I can't really get into this jungle to get close to the plants, I only had distant blurs of them. I also noticed the usual sunny winter day critters about, wolf spiders which come up on the wall of the duck shed to sun themselves, and Fire Bugs which also like south facing sunny surfaces.
This bumble bee is covered in mites - I cropped this shot so that you can just about see them. These are the kind that hitch a ride from one bumble bee nest to another feeding on the detritus in the nest. As far as I understand they are not actually harmful to the bee, i.e. they are not blood sucking mites, but they can weigh them down, making flying and feeding harder for them. This is called commensal symbiosis and this page about bumble bees explains more about the different kinds of symbiosis, the word meaning "interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both", whilst commensalism means "an association between two organisms in which one benefits and the other derives neither benefit nor harm". Having looked at many parasites and hitchikers through my macro lens I find this kind of thing very interesting.
|Hitchhiking mites and so cool to see those pollen sacs - |
amazing that they can get filled in Decmber!
|The other bumble bee who I don't think has any mites.|
|Surprise! Purple Sprouting Broccoli already. Only on one plant though.|
|Yeah OK, look it's good for the wildlife......l|
Here's a crop of the same shot showing in the centre and just off to the left some self seeded brassicas - originally I thought they were all PSB but some are actually kale. What is interesting is that the self seeded kale is not purple like the parent plant, but does have purple stems. And it isn't so curly. Anyhow I've been pulling them up and the chickens have been going crazy eating them! If there was a way to (1) herd them in, and (2) fence off the brassicas that I don't want them to eat, I'd let them in here to help clear the plot. Trouble is Blondie got in here one day and all she did was scratch up the paths. Maybe it was too overgrown even for the chooks? Hmmm!
|Spot the self seeded brassicas.|
|Borage again in another of my overgrown plots.|
The recent rain has brought forth some fungi, although most are very small and I have to watch my step! I'm glad to see the coral fungus appearing under the pine trees again - I only noticed them for the first time last year. The photos of them are further down.
|Tiny fungus, there are lots like this and yes, |
I did get very wet knees taking these 'shroom shots!
This was interesting for the gall on the oak leaf - the donut like thing is a Silk Button Gall and is caused by wasps (Neuroterus numismalis) laying eggs in the buds in spring. There are usually a number of these galls on one leaf and this species has two generations, whose eggs cause two different kinds of gall on the leaves - a better explanation is found on Nature Spot here. I found it interesting the first time I found out what it was, as I remember 'oak apples' (another kind of gall caused by another wasp) from when I was a kid, but didn't know, nor probably cared, what caused them.
|A solitary Silk Button Gall on an oak leaf.|
|Top right is unknown fungus on fallen dead wood, probably oak, |
and the rest are Coral Fungus.
There have been a couple of new visitors to the bird feeders so I've managed some quick, grab the camera and shoot, shots. These are all taken through filthy double glazing so I'm quite pleased with them.
|The first time Goldfinches have deigned to visit our peanut feeder!|
|And then a second one came along, sharing the peanuts with a Blue Tit.|
|Goldfinches and Blue Tits.|
|We haven't had a Marsh Tit visit for quite a few |
years so it's nice to see one back again.
|Nuthatches are back again too.|
|To be honest we probably see more birds in winter - |
top left is an annoyed Blue Tit, top right a Great Tit,
bottom left a Song Thrush, and bottom right a male Blackbird.
|A cute Blue Tit, again taken through dirty double glazing!|
I don't really want to mention that C word because this year I couldn't care less, probably even less than I did last year when I was suffering radiotherapy burns. I'm not sending C cards this year either; if people who know about my health problems want to know how I'm doing they can either search for my blog or email me. There are a few people who I am not in touch with except for at C time who don't know the situation, so I will send a couple of email greetings with my not exciting or interesting news, and one that'll involve a snail mail letter, but I'll do it all in good time, when it suits me. I feel a bit guilty for these people as I know what it's like when you don't hear from someone, then wonder if something happened to them (particuarly if they are elderly).
It's not just my depression/lethargy which is making me want to forget this time of year (which I hate anyway), it's all the deaths and illnesses that have befallen our family and friends this year - more than I have mentioned on this blog - which make both of us not give a toss about a superficial commercial load of rubbish. Bah humbug to you all. :-)
P.S. I might make some mince pies though!
P.P.S. Thank you to those who have sent cards, I do appreciate it. xx