31 October 2014

Summer's End

October 2014 has been very mild in south-east England and the bees have been making the best of the sunshine to bring home stores of nectar and pollen from the ivy and himalayan balsam..

Bees at the end of the Summer

16 October 2014

There's a mouse!

Miss Mouse paid a visit to our compost bin.

The Wood Mouse is one of the UK's most common mammals.  I think she was after the sweet chestnuts that had been swept up from the lawn.
Mouse is welcome to forage in the compost bin, she is not a nuisance there as she would be inside one of my beehives. Mice are secretive little creatures, and they need to be because they are important food for owls, foxes and other wild creatures. Predation from domestic cats is a problem for them too.

More information :

8 October 2014

Grass snake - Natrix natrix

Whatever next? Here is a little snake - a juvenile grass snake, and it's in my bee skep!

My daughter spotted this grass snake in our "Bees and Honey" display tent during the recent Heritage Open Day. It was about 20cms long and could move surprisingly fast. Being concerned the snake might get trampled we gently shooed it into the skep and moved it out of harm's way.

Note: A "skep" is a basket used for catching swarms of bees.

More Information at:
The Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group

12 September 2014

A Tudor Musician

Kings, Queens, Lords and Ladies would once have listened to music being played in the Great Hall at Old Woking Palace, maybe relaxing after a fine meal with oysters and roast boar.
More recently Palace visitors were entertained by musician and heritage professional Jez Smith who played a variety of reproduction Tudor instruments.  Perhaps Queen Elizabeth I heard similar music as she sipped her favourite mead!
Jez's music was really enjoyable and evoked the past in a fascinating way.
Jez Smith, Medieval & Tudor Musician
 More information and photographs at www.playingintime.org.uk

25 August 2014

Rare Longhorn Tanner Beetle - Prionus coriarius - found in Pyrford, Surrey

If one takes the time to look, it is amazing what can be found in an ordinary suburban garden. Mind you, this very large beetle was hard to miss. It is a Longhorn Tanner Beetle  - Prionus coriarius - and it is a scarce (Na, Nationally Notable) UK species.

25 July 2014

Marvellous Wasps

I was high up on a moor, on the rocks of a granite tor on a hot sunny day. The air was clear, sweet and, as I reached the top, filled with a loud hum...

19 June 2014

The Banded Demoiselle - Calopteryx splendens

A splendid insect to watch. They flutter like tiny birds around the water's edge. The brilliant metallic blue males dance, showing off to the glimmering green females. You may not notice them as they rest in the long grass of the water meadows, but they fly up at your approach, truly beautiful.

Banded Demoiselle (male)
"The blessed damozel leaned out
From the gold bar of Heaven;
Her eyes were deeper than the depth
Of waters stilled at even;
She had three lilies in her hand,
And the stars in her hair were seven." Dante Gabriel Rossetti

More information about Dragonflies and Damselflies at the British Dragonfly Society

25 May 2014

Oak Currant Gall - Neuroterus quercusbaccarum - Oak Apple Day

Looks like red currants growing on an Oak Tree? No, it's the Oak Currant Gall, created by Neuroterus quercusbaccarum, a small wasp of the Cynipidae family.

Oak Currant Gall, Woking Palace 12th May 2014

14 May 2014

Woking Palace Weekend, May 2014

It was windy and sometimes rainy at Woking Palace for the May weekend Open Days. This didn't deter the visitors who were able to take a guided tour and learn about the history of the site. The Vault was open, laid out with a Tudor feast lit by candlelight, and finds from the archeological excavations were on show. Surrey Wildlife Trust were also on hand to explain their work.
Visitors were offered a taste of my honey, to talk about bees and we wondered how the honey might have tasted when King Henry VIII visited in days gone by.

Woking Palace Open Day - Honey Tasting

My thanks to the Friends of Woking Palace for letting me be part of this excellent event and for keeping the tents firmly attached to the ground.

17 April 2014

An April Swarm

I was called out to collect a swarm on Maundy Thursday, 17th April, after a spell of lovely sunny days.
Easter Swarm
Photo : Marion Malcher

4 April 2014

Dandelion Time

With their bright golden flowers full of nectar and pollen, Dandelions are a treasure for bees.
Photo by Guérin Nicolas CC

20 February 2014

The Red Kite: Milvus Milvus, Tudor Legislation and the Little Ice Age

Walking down the street in Woking, I looked up and saw a magnificent bird of prey circling over the houses - a Red Kite ( Milvus Milvus ).
Red Kite, Photo by Thomas Kraft  CC BY-SA 2.5

18 January 2014

Wildlife Trusts' Action Plan to restore natural flood defences

River Wey in flood, Old Woking, Jan.2014
More rain on saturated ground and the River Wey rose above it's banks, shown here at Old Woking Palace on 4th January 2014. Are there natural, sustainable solutions for flood control?