A few days ago, my husband and I had just arrived home from a trip to the supermarket. As we unloaded the car, my husband (obviously carrying an unfeasibly large number of bags so the car could be unloaded in one trip – so manly) asked me an odd question: “Can you hear bees?” Ridiculous, I thought. Why would there be bees? But, about to dismiss the idea, I listened, and there was a low, resonating humming coming from the direction of the oak tree. Leaving my husband to stagger (sorry, stride manfully) in with the bags, I padded off through the lawn/meadow (explanation of this garden phenomenon here) to investigate. The noise was definitely coming from the tree, and as I watched I began to pick out individual bees. Once I’d spotted one I couldn’t stop, and soon the whole oak tree seemed like it was moving when you weren’t looking. Dozens and dozens of bees, moving from leaf to leaf feeding on the honeydew produced by the aphids that feed on the leaves (which is fine by me – the more they eat, the less drops on my car).
I failed utterly to discover what species of bee they were, as they never stayed still and were too far away to photograph. I did contemplate climbing the tree to find out, but I am accident-prone at the best of times, and climbing an old, sticky oak tree full of bees seemed like asking for trouble. What I did find whilst trying to identify the bees was a woodpigeon’s nest in one of the lower branches.
Not exactly a rare bird, but I am still happy to have found another species that nests in my garden. I can add it to the tally of blackbirds, blue tits and dunnocks that have nested here this year. We also currently have starlings nesting in the guttering. I can’t see the nest, but I can hear them. They are right above my office window, and every now and then as I type, I see a bird flick past out of the corner of my eye, and a frenzied squeaking starts up as the chicks compete for food.
None of these birds are uncommon, but the fact that they choose not just to feed in our garden, but to nest there as well, hopefully means we are doing something right. We are of course extremely lucky in having a lovely big oak tree, which supports a myriad of insect life. And judging by where the birds have nested, it just shows the importance of an untidy garden, and having the occasional big mess of shrubbery and brambles! It will be interesting to see if I can get any more species nesting here as I plant more food plants for birds over the coming years. And in the meantime, I can look forward to seeing the pigeon chicks fledge, and continue in my attempts at bee identification!