This afternoon, for the first time in a week or more, the sky is overcast. It’s so grey over to the east that you could believe that we might get a rain shower; we don’t, but these still, sultry conditions are perfect for the brown ants that have a colony under our patio to release their winged queens and males. Hundreds of them are lined up ready to take off over the lawn as the ground crew, the colony’s workers, scurry about excitedly.
It seems that some of the queens don’t go far on their nuptial flights. A few hours later, as I’m watering a small patch of the lawn that I’ve reseeded, I spot three or four of them running around and, when one of them finds a likely cavity, it heads straight down; the start of a new colony, if all goes well.
The queen ants are so much larger and plumper than the workers, with glistening abdomens, so that when I first see them I think that they’re some kind of ground beetle. They’ve already discarded their wings, which are used solely for the nuptial flight.
2.30 p.m., 22°C
FLIES, INCLUDING one bluebottle and three glossily metallic greenbottles, are attracted to the slimy stain on this fragment of sandstone in the bottom corner of the garden. The Song Thrush has been using it as an anvil, leaving fragments of the shells of at least three Brown-lipped Snails and one Garden Snail. I think that the plain ochre yellow snail in the middle is a colour variation of the Brown-lipped Snail.
You might think that the colour would provide suitable camouflage in this corner of the garden but it evidently wasn’t enough for it to escape the attentions of the Song Thrush.
Soon after I’d started drawing this stump, a Bank Vole appeared, pausing under the stump before disappearing beneath it. Later I had a glimpse of its white front paws (do voles have ‘paws’?) beneath the adjoining log pile. Bank Voles have chestnut fur and a longer tail than that of the greyer Field Vole, which is also known as the Short-tailed Vole.
I’ve stacked the stump and sawn-up branches here as a habitat pile, so I’m pleased to see the vole using it.
But I have removed another habitat that it had been using; voles (or perhaps Wood Mice) had excavated a small network of tunnels beneath a clump of the Flag Iris that we removed from the pond. That has now gone on the compost heap.
There’s more than usual ant activity on the patio by the kitchen window this afternoon. It’s a still, warm settled day and it’s been chosen as the time for ant colonies in the area to release their winged queens and smaller winged males on a nuptial flight. Barbara said that on her walk home from work at 5 p.m. there were lots of them about, some of them landing on her as she walked down Quarry Hill.