The Way I See Things



When I first went out into the garden this morning, I was the only thing moving apart from the ever-present squirrels: there was not an invertebrate to be seen anywhere. This was more disappointing than surprising though, given that the wind is still coming from the north-east, and it feels more like November than April. It was several minutes before I heard the first tell-tale buzzing of an approaching bee, and as it was too low-pitched for a plumpie, I bet myself a new lens that it would turn out to be a common carder - which to my smug satisfaction, turned out to be correct.

Bombus pascuorum is one of the UK's most common bumblebees, and apart from Bombus terrestris, which now seems to be active throughout the year in warmer parts of the country, it has the longest flight period. In my experience it's also the most hard-working - from March or April through to October, unless the weather is positively Biblical, common carders will be out foraging for their colonies. Their nests are usually built at or above ground level, in old rodent burrows or tussocks of grass, but their can-do attitude extends to being unfussy about either housing or diet, which probably explains their success.

Common carders move erratically and fast, especially when fresh like this female, and they can be hard to track even in good light, so getting photos of them in today's gloom was a very hit-and miss affair. I've chosen this somewhat blurry shot above a more static portrait because it shows the way they throw themselves off a flower from which they've finished feeding. I watched two different individuals perform the same manoeuvre several times, and shot on burst to try to capture the moment, but the exposure triangle was not my friend today, and this was the best I managed.

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