There are now around a dozen male hairy-footed flower bees in the garden, and competition between them is getting fierce. Yesterday I saw the first female of the year, though sadly I spotted her at the exact moment when she decided she'd had enough attention and exited the pulmonaria patch at speed, closely pursued by three males. Today I didn't see a female, but I did get a tantalising view of my first bee-fly of the year, only to lose it again, thanks to a plumpie, before I could capture the record shot. No sudden movements, I thought to myself as I edged towards it... sloooowly raised the camera... found the bee-fly... just about got focus - and WHAM! - a male hairy-foot pounced on it and put it to flight. At this point the air around me turned blue, naturally, but I was reasonably confident the fly would return, if I was patient enough.....
The fly did not return. Sigh...
When they're not jumping on females, bee-flies, or (in the absence of anything more interesting) each other, the male plumpies are now competing for food, from the few flowers that are currently open whose nectar they like. Their first choice is always pulmonaria, though they'll also visit primroses, wallflowers and aubretia, when pushed. With so many of them feeding, the pulmonaria gets cleaned out on a regular basis, at which point they all tend to disappear for a while until the flowers can replenish their supply. But some individuals are more skilled and determined than others, and this little chap spent quite a while this afternoon working around groups of closed buds, and carefully inserting his awesome proboscis between the furled petals. It looks as though these buds have been frosted, and the flowers may not open at all, but there was clearly still nectar in the bases, because he spent so long in this position I had time to get very close to him, and take around a score of photos.
Apart from some time stalking invertebrates and gardening, I spent most of the day singing Haydn's "Nelson" Mass and Mozart's Solemn Vespers, because this evening was the fourth-last rehearsal before our concert on 1st April.
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