Robert Mill

Apr 062017
 

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) on Chinese Hillside pond, 15 March 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

March 2017 was mostly cool, sometimes distinctly chilly, and some light snow fell in the third week. Towards the end of the month, however, there was an abrupt change to very mild, even warm, spring-like weather with glorious sunshine. What rain fell was mostly at night or concentrated in short spells. Strong winds closed the Garden on more than one occasion. Four further species were added to the Garden’s wildlife list, taking it from 864 to 868. This was despite the principal wildlife recorder (me) taking partial retirement during March and the combination of a heavy teaching workload and reducing my working, and therefore wildlife recording, days from five to three per week.
Birds March was a pretty good month for birds in the Garden, with 40 species recorded. It marked a changeover between winter and summer migrants, with various arrivals and departures. Departures included Redwing, seen in the Garden from 1st–11th but not later; Pink-footed Geese, skeins of which flew northwards over the Garden on their way back to Arctic breeding grounds (12th and 15th), and Black-headed Gulls, which were not seen in the Garden after 9th, no doubt because they had gone to their breeding grounds elsewhere in the Lothians. Arrivals included Lesser Black-backed Gull from 1st, and Chiffchaff from 25th, with four singing by 30th in different parts of the Garden. Whether these were just passing through, or setting up territories, remains to be seen. A Goosander female was on the Pond on 23rd. Kingfishers were present on at least 16 dates (1st–9th inclusive, and seven dates between 19th and 30th); a pair was seen on several dates in the second period with a second female present on one of the dates. A Buzzard was seen by two observers on 6th, and three were seen on 25th, two of them ‘sky dancing’ after chasing off the third bird. Sparrowhawks, particularly a female, were active from 1st–9th and 25th–26th. The complete list of 40 species recorded during March 2017 was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Pink-footed Goose, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) resting on a leaf, Scottish Heath Garden, 1 March 2017. The combination of ginger thorax, black abdomen and white tail is unmistakable. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: In spite of the glorious warm sunshine towards the end of the month, no butterflies appear to have been recorded in the Garden during March, although due to my new work pattern it so happened that I was not there during that good spell of weather. The only moth seen was a Clouded Drab on 15th, although I suspect that if trapping had been done during the warm spell near the month’s end there would have been some good catches of early spring species. Honey Bees were once again out and about on all warmer days. Buff-tailed Bumblebee was seen regularly while there were two records of Tree Bumblebee (1st, 9th), and Early Bumblebee first appeared on 29th. Red-tailed Bumblebee was not recorded in March although one had been seen at the end of February, nor was Common Carder Bee, which might have been expected towards the end of the month, particularly as one of its favourite flowers (lungwort) was by then in full bloom in various parts of the Garden. A Black Ant on 30th was the first ant record of the year. The only hoverfly recorded was once again the drone-fly Eristalis tenax (2nd, 8th, 9th). Other fly records included the bluebottle Calliphora vicina (four dates), Phaonia tuguriorum (9th), Face Fly (Musca autumnalis) on 9th and 30th, and the year’s first Common Cluster-fly (Pollenia rudis) on 15th. Bugs included Forest Shield-bug (five dates in the first half of the month), the flower-bug Anthocoris cf. confusus (9th, a new Garden record) and the leafhopper Empoasca vitis (9th and 29th). Despite diligent searching on warmer days Gorse Shield Bug was not recorded in March but may well have been missed. Horticultural staff recorded several adults and larvae of the rapidly spreading, invasive Rosemary Beetle (Chrysolina americana) on sage and lavender plants between 28th and 30th. This was a new Garden record (maybe not a very welcome one; the Royal Horticultural Society has been informed) but there is a 2009 record of the same beetle species from Inverleith Park and there are other records from the Edinburgh area. Definitely one to keep a look out for, and under control, in your own gardens if you grow herbs such as sage, rosemary, lavender and others in the mint family Lamiaceae. Pine Ladybird was recorded twice (9th and 30th); strangely I have never seen it on pine, always on deciduous trees particularly beech. Barkfly records included Ectopsocus petersi on 1st, Epicaecilius pilipennis on 15th and Mesopsocus immunis on 30th. The springtail Entomobrya nivalis (7th and 23rd) was a new Garden record. Some small spiders and mites that remain unidentified might represent new Garden records; one that has been identified, and is the fourth new Garden record for March, was the so-called whirligig mite, Anystis baccarum on 30th. Finally, a Common Smooth Woodlouse was seen on a wall on 29th.

Drone-fly (Eristalis tenax), 2 March 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

Mar 072017
 

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) at base of tree trunk, 2 February 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

February 2017 swung between chilly spells and periods of much milder weather, although stormy periods were few, except at the month’s end when Storms Doris and Ewan crossed the country. Both had little effect in Edinburgh, however.  The Garden’s wildlife list now stands at 864, an increase of three; two were new records during the month while the third was a correction of a clerical error.

Birds Fewer bird species were recorded in or over-flying the Garden in February than in January but it was still quite a good month with 36 species recorded. Although Waxwings continued to be present in the Lothians they were not noted in the Garden during February. Kingfishers were present on at least seven occasions from 13th onwards; once again, three different birds (two males and a female) were involved. A Grey Wagtail was present on 23rd. Wintering Blackcap and Redwing remained throughout February; at least two of the Blackcaps revealed themselves to be males as they began singing from 3rd onwards from time to time. Feral Pigeons were seen five times, always in very small numbers. Another usually regular visitor that was recorded only rarely during the month was Grey Heron (twice: 12th, 23rd). A Buzzard flew over on 14th and Tawny Owl was heard hooting after dark on three dates  (1st, 7th, 14th). The complete list of 36 species recorded during February 2017 was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Adult Gorse Shield Bug (Piezodorus lituratus), 14 February 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: Honey Bees were seen visiting gorse and Mahonia flowers on all warmer days. On the last day of the month (28th) no fewer than three bumblebee species were seen for the first time in 2017: Buff-tailed, Red-tailed and Tree Bumblebees. February also saw the year’s first hoverfly, the drone-fly Eristalis tenax (14th). Other fly records included the bluebottle Calliphora vicina (2nd, 14th), Phaonia tuguriorum (1st, 2nd, 28th) and the Face Fly (Musca autumnalis) on 8th.  The first Gorse Shield Bug and Birch Catkin Bug of the year were recorded on 14th and 15th respectively while Forest Shield Bug nymphs were seen on birch bark on several dates throughout the month. Pine Ladybird (28th) was again the first 2017 record of that species in the Garden. Once again, the barkflies Ectopsocus briggsii and Ectopsocus petersi were recorded throughout the month and a long-winged state of Epicaecilius pilipennis, first recorded in the Garden as a short-winged state on 16 January, was seen on 22nd; a fourth barkfly species, Mesopsocus immunis, was recorded on 1st. Springtail records included Dicyrtomina saundersi on 8th, Orchesella cincta on 16th and Willowsia platani on 21st – one of February’s two new Garden records. The other new Garden record for February was the snout mite Odontoscirus longirostris, formerly known as Bdellodes longirostris. Two other arachnids (spiders and allies) seen during the month remain unidentified and could represent additional Garden records. A snail species seen in leaf litter at the edge of the rock garden on 16th was most probably a Smooth Glass Snail, which was recorded in the Garden during the 2013 BioBlitz, but the photographs taken are not clear enough to be certain.

A snout mite, Odontoscirus longirostris, on birch bark, 1 February 2017. New Garden record. Photo Robert Mill.

Feb 022017
 

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Chinese Hillside pond, 12 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

The first month of 2017 was mainly rather chilly with plenty of frosts though none terribly severe. Very little rain fell during the month and there was plenty of winter sunshine. RBGE escaped the snow that fell further north in Scotland.  The Garden’s wildlife list rose by three, from 858 to 861, and one of those was a first for Scotland. A further two creatures (a beetle and a mite) are currently unidentified but both, if named, will probably turn out to be additional new Garden records.

Birds January 2017 was another very good month for birds at the Garden, with 43 species being recorded, two fewer than in December 2016. Possibly the month’s ‘star bird’ was a Raven seen flying over the Rock Garden on 27th, the first since 2014. Late December’s Coot and House Sparrow were both present again on 2nd. The Waxwing invasion of Britain continued and these birds visited the Garden twice, on 17th and 18th; on several other occasions they were seen close to the Garden but not within. A small skein of Greylag Geese flew over on 9th. Kingfishers were present on nine different dates, mainly between 6th and 16th with one on 29th; three different birds (two males and a female) were involved. As in December, both Pied Wagtail (2nd, 7th)  and Grey Wagtail (17th) were seen. Wintering birds once again included Blackcap (12th) and a few Redwing throughout the month. Feral Pigeons were seen on two dates (9th and 23rd), ending a four-month spell of absence. The complete list of 43 species recorded during January 2017 was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Waxwing, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Ten-spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata), 16 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: January 2017’s highlight was the first Scottish record of the leafhopper Idiocerus herrichi, found wintering near the Pond on 18th. See the separate Botanics Stories post at http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/23478 for the full story of this discovery. Once again no butterflies, moths, wasps or hoverflies were seen but Honey Bees were active on at least three dates (16th, 17th and 25th), visiting gorse flowers. Forest Shield Bug nymphs were seen on all warmer dates, and Common Flower Bug on 24th and 25th. Flies included Winter Gnats on 16th, the bluebottle Calliphora vicina on 26th and Phaonia tuguriorum also on 26th. As in December, 10-spot Ladybird was recorded (16th). A black beetle-like insect found on Pinus pumila (25th) currently remains unidentified but is almost certainly new to the Garden’s list. Three species of barkfly were found: Ectopsocus briggsii, Ectopsocus petersi and Epicaecilius pilipennis (16th; new Garden record). Epicaecilius pilipennis is a rather uncommon species in the UK but there is a dense cluster of records in the Edinburgh area, no doubt due to the recording efforts of the late Bob Saville, who lived locally and was an international expert on barkflies. Three species of springtail were recorded: Entomobrya albicincta (16th), Entomobrya multifasciata (17th, 23rd) and the globular species Dicyrtomina saundersi (31st), which was January’s final new Garden record. Rounding up January’s invertebrate records was the harvestman Oligolophus hanseni (23rd); an as yet unidentified mite found on birch on 31st will no doubt turn out to be a fifth new Garden record for January if it can be named.

Common Flower Bug (Anthocoris nemorum), 24 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

Jan 192017
 

Idiocerus herrichi on birch trunk, RBGE, 18 January 2017. First Scottish record. Photo Robert Mill.

Yesterday (18 January 2017), just at the end of my daily lunchtime wildlife recording walk round the Garden, I checked the bark of a particular birch tree (Betula pubescens var. glabrata) just north of the Pond, as I often do. It being mid-January, and chillier than the previous couple of days (when lots of Honey Bees had been active on gorse flowers), I was not expecting to find much except perhaps the odd small bark-fly (Psocoptera), which I did.
Imagine my surprise therefore when I noticed a rather larger insect crawling around the trunk. Not having seen anything like it before, I took a set of photographs as it moved around the trunk and then headed gradually upwards towards the canopy.

Looking at my photographs afterwards, I could see that they very closely matched a particular leafhopper species. The problem was, that particular leafhopper species should not have been on birch, but on willow; and it should not have been anywhere near Edinburgh. However, nothing else matched the photographs, so I sent a selection of the better ones off to the Auchenorryncha Recording Scheme for confirmation, or otherwise, of my tentative identification. (The Auchenorrhyncha is the name of the insect group to which leafhoppers, froghoppers, and cicadas all belong; it is one of the major groups within the Hemiptera or true bugs).

Back came two emails today, one from Alan Stewart and the other from Tristan Bantock, two experts on leafhoppers. Both confirmed my suspicions that I had photographed Idiocerus herrichi, and that this was the first Scottish record of this leafhopper species. Alan Stewart said he knew of no records further north than The Wash in eastern England. The host is normally Salix alba (white willow); the nearest willow to the Betula pubescens var. glabrata on which I found the insect is the golden weeping willow, Salix × sepulcralis ‘Chrysocoma’, beside the Pond, which has a form of Salix alba as one of its parents. Mr Stewart said in his email that it might have been blown off the willow. It looked ‘at home’ on the birch trunk though and was well camouflaged against the coating of alga and lichen (see the bottom photo in particular). Diagnostic features of the species are the three black triangles on the scutellum (the area just below the head), with a black horse-shoe shaped mark below them. There are some other British species of Idiocerus, almost all of them found on willows and/or poplars – not birch.

This is not the first new leafhopper species for Scotland that has been discovered in the Garden; in September 2015 I found Eupterycyba jucunda on its host, alder, in a different part of the Garden. Interestingly, if one compares the NBN (National Biodiversity Network) distribution map of that species with the one for Idiocerus herrichi, they are very similar – apart from the Edinburgh records, both species extend to just northwest of The Wash. Why should two different leafhopper species make a similar jump of about 250-300 miles north to Edinburgh in the space of less than 18 months?

So, not just a new Garden record (and the first such of 2017), but a new record for v.c. 83 Midlothian and indeed the whole of Scotland. A very exciting start to wildlife recording at RBGE in 2017! My thanks to Tristan Bantock and  Alan Stewart for confirming the identification so swiftly.

Idiocerus herrichi on birch trunk, RBGE, 18 January 2017. First Scottish record. Photo Robert Mill.

Jan 182017
 

‘Redhead’ (female or immature) Goosander on Pond, 5 December 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

December 2016 swung between cold and mild, with some hard frosts near the beginning and an exceptionally mild Christmas Day. It was again fairly dry for the most part although there were squally conditions just before Christmas and again between Christmas and New Year. Two records were added to the Garden’s wildlife list, taking it from 856 to 858, although one of these was a late identification of something originally seen in August.
Birds December 2016 was a really good month for birds at the Garden, both in overall number of species seen and the number of unusual sightings. No fewer than 45 species were recorded – easily the highest monthly total for the whole year, and in recent years bettered only by January 2011 (46). Britain is experiencing a Waxwing irruption from Scandinavia this winter, and these lovely birds visited the Garden on at least four occasions (19th–21st, and 29th) with up to about 30 being seen. A Dipper was seen on the Rock Garden stream on 22nd. A ‘redhead’ (female or immature) Goosander was on the Pond on 5th while a rather lost-looking Greylag Goose, and also a Coot, were there on 30th. Kingfishers visited both main ponds, but chiefly the Chinese Hillside one, on at least 12 dates spread throughout the month, with both male and female individuals being seen (sometimes both together). Both Grey Wagtail (10th, 12th) and Pied Wagtail (28th) were recorded. Small numbers of Redwing were present throughout the month, including one bird with unusual plumage resembling Dusky Thrush (a very rare visitor to Britain). Wintering Blackcap were recorded on five dates, including a male and a female fighting near the East Gate! For the fourth month in a row Feral Pigeons were absent, but House Sparrow was present on 30th. The complete list of 45 species recorded during December was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot, Curlew, Dipper, Dunnock, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Goosander, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Pink-footed Goose, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Waxwing, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Forest (Red-legged) Shield-bug nymph on birch trunk, 8 December 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: Invertebrate activity in December was more or less confined to small creatures found on the trunks of trees, such as barkflies, springtails and harvestmen. No butterflies, moths, bees and wasps, or hoverflies were seen. The only fly record in December was the late-flying small crane-fly Tipula pagana. However, one other fly, Peplomyza litura, was added to the Garden’s list in December based on a sighting on 23 August that was eventually identified during the month (see separate Botanics Story: http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/23236). Shield-bugs were still out and about, with Forest (aka Red-legged) Shield-bug being seen from 6th–8th, remained active, while the unrelated Birch Catkin Bug and Common Flower Bug were recorded on 12th and 19th respectively, both on birch bark. A 10-spot Ladybird was seen on 1st. The springtail Orchesella cincta was found on 8th and 15th, and four species of barkfly were recorded. As well as the previously recorded Ectopsocus briggsii, Ectopsocus petersi and Graphopsocus cruciatus, they included Valenzuela burmeisteri, found on 8th and the second of December’s two new Garden records (see separate Botanics Story: http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/23238). Finally, three species of harvestman were seen during the month: Leiobunum rotundum (6th and 14th), Oligolophus hanseni (5th) and Oligolophus tridens (16th and 19th).

Cranefly Tipula pagana, on birch trunk, 13 December 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Dec 202016
 

Graphopsocus cruciatus, 22 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Last month I was out on my usual lunchtime wildlife recording walk around RBGE and noticed some small insects on the bark of various species of birch. They were all barkflies (Psocoptera). One was a species I had previously seen, Ectopsocus briggsi. Another had very distinctively marked wings and was subsequently easily identified using the National Barkfly Recording Scheme website (http://www.brc.ac.uk/schemes/barkfly/homepage.htm) as Graphopsocus cruciatus, which was a new Garden record.
It was not until early December, when I was reviewing the photographs I had taken in order to compile the November Garden Wildlife Report for Botanics Stories, that I noticed that not all the barkflies I had thought were Ectopsocus briggsi were the same. Some had two dark marks on each side of each wing: these were E. briggsi. However, others had three marks per side of each wing: these turned out to be another species of Ectopsocus, Ectopsocus petersi. And another new Garden record! Since then I have seen Ectopsocus petersi on several more occasions, probably more often than E. briggsi. The two species can sometimes be seen together on birch trunks.

Psocoptera (barkflies and booklice) are one of the least well recorded insect groups, although one of the leading experts in the group, Bob Saville, lived and worked in the Edinburgh area until his death in 2010 so the Lothians have been particularly well recorded. Bob was responsible for setting up the National Barkfly Recording Scheme website that I consulted to make my identification. He also recorded a nationally scarce barkfly, Trichopsocus brincki, on Pinus strobus within the Royal Botanic Garden in 2007. That remained the only barkfly record for RBGE of which I was aware, until I made my own first barkfly record here in 2015, which was in fact Ectopsocus briggsi. Since then I have found and identified four more species. These are the already-mentioned Ectopsocus petersi and Graphopsocus cruciatus as well as Mesopsocus immunis and, most recently, Valenzuela burmeisteri which is one of December 2016’s new Garden records. I feel sure that plenty more species are awaiting discovery within the Garden. The order is quite a small one – about 100 British species, of which only 68 live outdoors (the barkflies) while the remainder live indoors and are called booklice. The indoor booklice can sometimes be pests. However, the outdoor barkflies are not pests and many of them are very delicate and attractively marked. So, next time you are out and about, why not have a look at your nearest trees – you are almost certain to find at least one barkfly species on them, particularly in late summer. However, some species, such as the six I have mentioned in this Botanics Story, can in my experience be found all year round.

Ectopsocus petersi on birch bark, 19 December 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

 

Two Ectopsocus briggsi on birch bark, 22 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Dec 202016
 

Peplomyza litura on elm leaf, RBGE Rock Garden, 23 August 2016. Photo Robert Mill. Note smoky wings darker towards the rear, and red eyes.

One day in August this year I took several photographs of a rather striking fly that was resting on one of the leaves of the dwarf elm (Ulmus glabra ‘Nana’) in the middle of the Rock Garden. I was unable to identify it at the time, but while browsing the internet in a so far unsuccessful attempt to identify another fly-like insect I had found yesterday, I came across photos that matched the ones I had taken back in August. It turns out that I had photographed Peplomyza litura, a member of the fly family Lauxaniidae. There were no published records of this fly from Scotland until 18 years ago, when Rotheray (1998) published records of adults and larvae he and others had found in various parts of Scotland, including Edinburgh, between 1993 and 1996 as well as old museum specimen records from Scotland, some dating back as far as the first decade of the 20th century. From these he considered that Peplomyza litura was widespread in Scotland, at least between the central belt and Morayshire.
There are still relatively few Scottish records of Peplomyza litura, and it is obviously under-recorded in Scotland. Recent photographs from the Edinburgh area found on the internet include one from the city in 2011 and another from Cramond in 2013. My August 2016 sighting at RBGE is of course a new Garden record.
As can be seen from the accompanying photographs, Peplomyza litura is quite easily identified by the rather smoky-brown wings that are almost black in their rear half. The thorax is also streaked and the eyes are a rather vivid red. All the legs are entirely pale-coloured – there is one other British species of Peplomyza, P. discoidea, which looks very similar to P. litura except that all the legs are partly dark-coloured.

According to Rotheray (1998), Peplomyza litura has a long flight period in Scotland, from mid-June to late September. The larvae typically feed on decaying wood and Rotheray’s adult records were from fallen logs whereas the one I saw was resting on a leaf. Rotheray commented there were also larval records from a rook’s nest and from a leaf mine in a decayed leaf of crab apple.
Keep a look out for this rather distinctive fly next summer.

Reference: Rotheray, G. E. (1998). Peplomyza litura new to Scotland and description of the third stage larva (Diptera, Lauxaniidae). Dipterists Digest ser. 2, 5: 12-15.

Peplomyza litura, RBGE Rock Garden, Edinburgh, 23 August 2016. This photo shows the all-pale legs. Photo Robert Mill.

Dec 062016
 
Three Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) sheltering on a very frosty day, 24 November 2016. The one in the centre is a juvenile. Photo Robert Mill.

Three Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) sheltering on a very frosty day, 24 November 2016. The one at the front is an adult, the other two are juveniles with the one at the back (with some red on the bill base) being slightly older than the middle one. Photo Robert Mill.

November 2016 started very mild, as October had ended, but by the 10th it had turned much colder. The second part of the month was cold and there were some hard frosts. However, overall it was mostly a dry month except for periods of heavy rain between the 10th and 17th. It was also a very sunny month for the time of year. Another three records were added to the Garden’s wildlife list, taking it from 853 to 856.

Mammals Perhaps the strangest addition to the Garden’s list for some time was a House Mouse that was found dead on the road between the south edge of the rock garden and the Garden perimeter around midday on 25th. Presumably it had been dropped by some predator. By the time I got there around an hour later to investigate no trace of it could be found. Thanks to Tom Christian who found it and mentioned it to me.

Birds Thirty-three bird species were recorded in or over the Garden during November. A Kingfisher, or perhaps more than one, visited the Garden on at least ten occasions between 12th and 22nd, the first since the spring. On four dates the bird was definitely a male but on the remaining six it could not be sexed, hence the uncertainty over whether one or two birds were involved. Signs of autumn’s onset included a Curlew flying over (23rd) and the arrival of a few winter thrushes: as well as Mistle Thrush on 4th and small numbers of Redwing on several dates from 5th onwards, there seemed to be more Blackbirds around, particularly males, and some of them may have been continental immigrants. A Blackcap was seen again at the Chinese Hillside on 22nd. Jackdaws seem to be visiting the Garden more frequently and there were two further sightings on 4th and 22nd. However, for the third month in a row no Feral Pigeons were seen. The complete list of 33 species recorded during November was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Curlew, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Tawny Owl, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Graphopsocus cruciatus, a barkfly, on birch bark. New Garden record, 22 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Graphopsocus cruciatus, a barkfly, on birch bark. New Garden record, 22 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: Far fewer plants were in bloom outdoors during November than in October and in consequence invertebrate activity dropped off markedly. No butterflies were seen and the only moth record, other than as leaf mines, was an exceptionally late example of Blastobasis adustella on the back wall of the herbarium building on 23 November. The only sightings of bees were Honey Bee on 1st and Buff-tailed Bumblebee on 4th. No wasps were seen in the Garden during November although a few were still out and about elsewhere. Hoverflies were also entirely absent. Dying and falling leaves meant fewer opportunities to record leaf miners but the mines of nine leaf-mining flies and six leaf-mining moths persisted. However, shield-bugs remained active, with Gorse Shield Bug (5th), Forest (Red-legged) Shield-bug (21st, 22nd), and Parent Bug (5th) all being recorded, as well as Birch Catkin Bug (also on 5th). No ladybirds or other beetles were spotted. Three different species of barkfly were seen on birch bark on 22nd: Ectopsocus briggsi (also recorded on 28th), Ectopsocus petersi (new Garden record) and Graphopsocus cruciatus (new Garden record). More about these barkfly records is being published in a separate post. Two harvestman species were seen: a female Leiobunum rotundum on 21st and an Oligolophus hanseni on 28th. A few galls of four mite species continued to persist on remaining leaves of lime and alder.

Harvestman Leiobunum rotundum, 21 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Harvestman Leiobunum rotundum, 21 November 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Nov 022016
 
Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) on Cosmos, 19 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Banded Hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) on Cosmos, 19 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

October 2016 continued being mild and quiet with mostly easterlies for the first three weeks. The last week saw a change to westerly winds and the arrival of Atlantic weather fronts but they brought little in the way of rain to the city although the last few mornings were foggy or misty around sunrise. Heavy rain fell overnight on the 31st. Two more species were added to the Garden’s wildlife list, taking it from 851 to 853.
Birds Country-wide, October was remarkable for rare migrants, with two species (Siberian Accentor and Eastern Kingbird) being added to the British list. However, by contrast, it was a very dull month for birds here in the Garden with only 30 species being recorded, almost all of them either residents or regular visitors. A Pheasant was seen on 4th, and migrating skeins of Pink-footed Geese flew over on at least 12th and 18th. There was a male Blackcap at the Chinese Hillside on 25th. No winter thrushes or other winter migrants were seen in the Garden but Song Thrush was heard singing twice – for the first time since the spring. For the second month running, Feral Pigeons, for so long a daily feature of the Garden, were conspicuously absent throughout the month, as was Grey Heron. The complete list of 30 species recorded during October was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Pink-footed Goose, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Unusual variant of 2-spot Ladybird, 3 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Unusual variant of 2-spot Ladybird, 3 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: Even though there was plenty of sunshine, not a single butterfly was seen during October, in contrast to previous years when Red Admirals and Peacocks at least have been out and about. This ties in with the national scene this year, which, according to reports in the national press in the past week or two, has been a very poor one for many of our common species. There were no moth trapping sessions but the mines of nine leaf-mining moths were recorded. At least a few Honey Bees remained active till the end of the month but bumble-bee activity gradually tailed off, with only a single Common Carder Bee being seen in the final week (on 31st). Tree Bumblebee was recorded three times (3rd, 4th and 21st); it especially seemed to enjoy visiting the yellow flower-heads of a tall Ligularia species by the Pond. Wasps were also not seen after 19th. No dragonflies were recorded. Hoverflies remained active till the month’s end, with seven species being seen although most records were of Common Banded Hoverfly and the drone-flies Eristalis pertinax and Eristalis tenax. The mines of 20 different species of leaf-mining fly were seen, of which Phytomyza cirsii was one of the month’s two new Garden records. Bug sightings included several of Common Flower Bug as well as Gorse, Hawthorn, Parent and especially Birch Shieldbugs. Two-spot and Seven-spot Ladybirds were each recorded once, on 3rd and 25th respectively. October’s second new Garden record (on 5th) was the mine, on oak leaves, of the beetle Orchestes pilosus. Garden Spider was seen on 5th and the galls of three mite species persisted on the yellowing leaves of lime and alder. Finally, a Common Shiny Woodlouse was seen climbing up the back wall of the Herbarium building on 21st.

Close up of body markings on Birch Shieldbug, 28 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Close up of body markings on Birch Shieldbug, 28 October 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Oct 122016
 
Striped or Footballer Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) on cornflower, 27 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Striped or Footballer Hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) on cornflower, 27 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

September 2016 was mostly a rather balmy, warm dry month with very unseasonably high temperatures (up to 25°C) being recorded on some days. Four species were added to the Garden’s wildlife list, taking it from 847 to 851. More might have been added but I was on holiday for part of the month.
Birds September was yet another quiet month for birds in the Edinburgh Garden. Thirty species were recorded during the month, the same as in August. A Nuthatch was calling in the Chinese Hillside on 7th. Both common wagtail species were recorded: Grey Wagtail twice near the Pond (8th and 30th) and Pied Wagtail once near the North Gate (30th). Pink-footed Geese flew southwards over the Garden at least twice (19th and 28th) – a sign that autumn has arrived. Other migrants included a Swallow on 1st and a Chiffchaff on 30th. The complete list of 30 species recorded during September was: Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Pink-footed Goose, Robin, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Garden Spider (Aranea diademata) and web on gorse, 26 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Garden Spider (Aranea diademata) and web on gorse, 26 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: Despite the warm sunshine butterflies seemed very thin on the ground (or in the air) in September. The only records made were of Small White on two days (6th, 13th) and Red Admiral on one (27th), though some may have been missed due to my absence on holiday. Moth trapping on 7th yielded two new records for the Garden, Pink-barred Sallow and Pine Carpet, as well as Diamond-back, Large Yellow Underwing, Copper Underwing, Light Brown Apple Moth, Dun-bar and Flame Carpet, while the first record of Triangle Plume since 2009 was made on 28th. Wool Carder Bees were present in the first week of the month, with the last ones being seen on 7th. No dragonflies were recorded. Eight hoverfly species were seen in September, the most frequently recorded being Banded Hoverfly and two drone-flies. Gorse, Birch, and Parent shield-bugs were recorded, as well as Birch Catkin Bug (22nd). Pine Ladybird and 7-spot Ladybirds were both seen. The mines of 17 leaf-mining fly and four leaf-mining moth species were found, with the fly Agromyza alnivora (8th) and the moth Phyllonorycter anderidae (5th) being the month’s remaining two new Garden records. The common garden spider Aranea diademata was seen in its web on 26th.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), 27 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), 27 September 2016. Photo Robert Mill.