Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nature Notes: My Bees

My bees live in a top bar hive I built myself and I'm practising natural beekeeping, interfering as little as possible with the hive, letting them swarm should they do so (if that happenen next year, I am going to keep the swarm) and letting the bees build combs on their own, without frames. The hive is covered by the top bars, each wide enough for a single comb, it's open at the bottom during most of the year and it allows me to work with the hive while disturbing the bees as little as possible. The stilts keep it at a very comfortable height.

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and here's the whole swarm, two days after moving in - when I got them, I could handle them with bare hands. Bees in a swarm are amazingly docile and it was a great experience, although I was really nervous that they would fly off or sting. I need not have worried.
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The next photos were taken three weeks ago when I wanted to harvest honey and found out that they didn’t have nearly enough to get them over the winter, let alone any to spare. The year was a bad one for honey all around and many beekeepers had the same problem. You can see how nicely they built the combs along the top bars if you look closely and how the small crack between each bar is sealed of with propolis, bee glue.

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I don’t mind about getting no honey, I just hope they will make it. They are getting sugar water now so they can build up their reserves. The comb lying on the bottom, that was my fault. It still has brood in it, so I leave it there until its empty, then I’ll take it out. You can see in the next photo that the honey combs are empty and really light in colour, compared to the reddish yellow of the brood comb.

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In the three weeks since I took those photos, they have built more honey combs and have started filling them with honey made from the sugar water I give them. The swarm is named Ygramul. I am amazed every time I look at the hive, all those tiny animals working together, neatly building their home. Just look at those honeycombs, it’s just so perfect.

More Nature Notes posts at Rambling Woods

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nature Notes: Balcony

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My balcony this year has a lot of herbs. This is lavender

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and here's some kind of salve (Salvia spec.), not the kind you can eat though. But the bumblebees love the flowers and those of the lavender.
I also grow salve (Salvia officinalis)for cooking or tea and spearmint for tea and insects enjoy their flowers very much as well. If you want to do something for solitary bees and wasps (who do not sting!), then build an insect hotel - a bunch of hollow twigs from an elder bush, dried and hung up somewhere is enough to attract many species.

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spearmint, not yet in bloom

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Here's my pitcher plant that I thought I had killed after I let the pot dry out during the winter. But it came back anyway. I also grow raspberries this year, but they'll probably not bear fruit until next year.

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and here's the squirrel that comes around to pick up the walnuts I leave out for it. Its winter fur is much thicker, the tail is bushier and it will grow tufts of fur on its ears when it gets cold again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Nature Notes: Chinese Crocodile Lizard

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Chinese Crocodile Lizards (Shinisaurus crocodilurus) are native to a few small parts of China and Vietnam. They absolutely love water and spend much of their time in the water or in vegetation close to water. They feed on insects and other invertebrates and hunt for prey both in the water and on land.

There are less than 1000 individuals left in the wild (about 800 in 2008).

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Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle over at Rambling Woods

Photos were taken at Leipzig Zoo.

Source:
Wikipedia, German and English

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nature Notes: Maned Wolf

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A Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), native to South America where it lives in open grasslands where the long legs come in very handy. It's a loner for most of the year and even if a pair owns a territory together, they rarely meet outside of the mating season. Maned wolfs feed on small mammals and birds,but will also take fruit. They hunt a lot like cats, sneaking up to their prey and then catching it with a quick jump.

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Photos were taken at Zoo Leipzig.

Source: Wikipedia, German and English

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I'd Rather b Birdin: Northern Gannet

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A Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus), a large seabird with a wingspan of up to 180cm. They live in Europe and some colonies are in Canada, the largest in Newfoundland with 60.000 pairs. But around 65% of the world's population live in Great Britain. They nest on islands and cliffs where their chicks are protected from land predators. Here is a video of two courting birds. Imagine 59.998 more birds doing the same...bird colonies are anything but quiet places.

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Northern Gannets feed on small fish and will divebomb into the water when they have found a shoal of fish. Watch how they fold their wings backwards just before hitting the water, to make their body more streamlined.
Each pair raises one, very rarely two chicks, each year and it takes five years for the juveniles to become ready to breed. Until then they wear a dark plumage.

More birds at I'd Rather B Birdin
Photos were taken at Wilhelma, Stuttgart

Sources:
Internet Bird collection
Wikipedia
Arkive

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nature Notes: Valley of Fire

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Valley of Fire was a spontaneous stop on our trip and a great choice because there is so much to see there and because it's a beautiful place. The campground is right in the middle of that awesome landscape and there's a lot do see without having to drive anywhere.

Like the petroglyphs:
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The biggest collection at Atlatl Rock is under a rock overhang and protected by glass, but there are many more if you only look for them.

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This is the White Domes trail where quite a few movies have been shot, The Professionals for example or Star Trek: Generations.

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With a bit of imagination, there are faces and creatures everywhere. Like this snarling cat:
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or this guy, with his hair flying in the wind
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and we named this one Munch's Rock:
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Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Nature Notes: Mesa Verde - the small stuff part 2


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these were abundant along the trail

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as were these

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a rock wren (Salpinctes obsoletus)

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a wasp, munching on a caterpillar

and two animals I was particularly excited to see: a Western Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
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it was basking right on the path, but it fled quickly when we came along, rattling loudly all the time.

and a Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla sp.) - I had heard of them, but never seen them. They are not ants, but solitary wasps. The female is wingless and after mating, she will search for a bumblebee nest to lay her eggs in. They camouflage very effectively as ants and have an extremely painful sting which has earned them the name of cow killer.
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Most of the photos in the last two Nature Notes posts were taken during a single two hour walk along the trail ... it pays to take things slow and to keep an eye on the ground. It takes a while to learn to spot animals form the corner of your eye, but once you learned the trick, you'll be amazed at what you see.

Nature Notes is hosted by Michelle at Rambling Woods