Red Mason Bee

tawny mining bee“Are you there?” I heard Barbara shouting, “Have I got a bee on my back?!”

No bee in sight: “I was ironing the quilt cover and I heard this buzzing, then it stopped . . . and started again.”

When I helped her fold up the quilt cover earlier we heard no buzzing but the bee must have been trapped in there all the time, narrowly escaping being crushed when we folded the cover and miraculously surviving being flattened by the steam iron. It must have found its way in when the cover was hanging on the clothes line.

We carefully turned the cover inside out and I scooped up the bee in a bug box, none the worse for its adventure.

It buzzed around franticly in the bug box so I sketched it as quickly as possible and snapped away, attempting to take a photograph of it (below).

Field Guide to Bees

bee book
Red mason bee in Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland.

bee field guideThis gives me my first opportunity to use my new Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland, by Steven Falk, illustrated by Richard Lewington.

It’s a female red mason bee, Osmia bicornis but from my photographs and very quick sketch, I’d labelled it in my sketchbook as a tawny mining bee. Tawny mining bees make their nests in sandy paths and on bare patches on sunny hillsides but I haven’t seen them in the immediate area however every year I see the mason bees nesting in old walls and cavities in the lime mortar between the bricks in our house wall. We usually have to rescue a few that have found their way into the house.

With apologies for the photography, it was buzzing madly around the bug box.
With apologies for the photography, it was buzzing madly around the bug box.


Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland

Steven Falk, artist, naturalist and photographer.

Rowan Buds

rowan buds
Rowan or mountain ash, Sorbus aucuparia.

Our neighbour Sandra tells us that she’s been enjoying watching our rowan, which she looks out on from her kitchen.

‘It’s beautiful, I’ve been watching it come into bud and it started from nothing just a few weeks ago.’

‘I like it at this stage,’ I tell her, ‘just as its opening up.’

This prompts me to draw the buds because most are already well on their way to unfurling. I notice that there’s a complete package in there: the unfolding leaves are protecting a flower spike.

It’s done well because last autumn we gave it a good trim back. We’d missed doing this in the previous autumn when my mum was in hospital and the tree which is about twelve feet tall was making a break for freedom, sending out vertical shoots to another three or four feet above the crown. We also cut out some of the crossed branches to allow more light and air in amongst the branches.

When I say ‘we’ I’m including Paul the gardener who comes and helps us out occasionally and offers expert advice. Not all of which I take because I aim to be 100% organic: no glyphosate here, thank you, even though it would save us an awful lot of work.

I’ve got a pair of tree lopping shears with a telescopic handle, so I’m taking that as the height to trim it to. I know that it could soon tower if not over the house at least as high as the gutters, so I’ll make sure to give it a light trim again this autumn.

3.55 p.m., 49°F, 9°C.


jessWhat if you could combine the strength of a Staffordshire bull terrier with the speed of a lurcher?

Probably something like Jess, a rescue dog of uncertain parentage. Our friend John describes her as ‘big boned’: ‘When she runs she soon gets tired’.

jessJohn & Jill and Jess once met a dog, a male, who looked very much like Jess. They couldn’t believe that there would be another dog that would express itself by whining – not yapping or barking – like Jess does, but this dog did.

Could this be the start of a new breed, the Big-Boned Whiner? Can’t run far but wants to be part of whatever’s going on.