Saturday 9 January 2016

Did you hear the one about the red robin, the orange wireworm, the yellow centipede and the frustrated fumbling photographer?


I am a humble hard working robin

I am usually too engrossed to notice the robin that always seems to be there with me in the garden. He pays a great deal of attention to whatever I am doing. I deduce that he is hoping I will disturb something delectable and juicy. His bad luck is that I don’t dig.
When I was preparing the post about slugs that will follow tomorrow I thought I would recruit his help to provide me with a nice picture of him eating a slug.

This is just a short story of how he failed to cooperate but did provide me with pleasure and amusement and a small anecdote that illustrates a point I made in a previous post.

My speed with a camera might be described as lethargic, even sluggish.

Not today pictures of birds of the quality that Cathi passes  over. Never-the-less I cannot resist telling you about my ornithological friend. The trouble is he just keeps moving. The first I see him is under my nose. Perhaps to pass the time of day? He quickly hops away. Under the potting bench or perhaps to perch on a pot?  At any sign of a camera he is away and hides in a hole in the hedge. As soon as I go back to gardening he is back watching and stealing a morsel!

You won’t catch me

Put that camera down!

Last week I knocked out a large pot of compost that had grown one of my tomatoes. To my delight amongst the exposed soil crumbs was a wireworm and a very wriggly yellow centipede. A very hungry predator. 


Where is my manna?
The fascinating coincidence was that this scene illustrated a very common gardening delusion. Many gardeners do not actually recognise a true wireworm but almost universally, the UK over, think that the yellow centipede is a wireworm.

a beneficial predator
It coils like a cobra It's a beneficial predator
I am quick, you won’t catch me

Lunch grub 
The robin was there to bear witness. I managed to get out of focus pictures of the wireworm and the centipede. It would be great to include my new friend in a picture too. They were all correctly aligned.....

The little ***** hopped forward towards me... 
cheeky chappie I mean....
devoured  the wireworm in one gulp and flitted away. 

What a fantastic picture! 

Missed it! And the quick witted centipede buried itself never to be seen again.

I wonder if Cathi has any nice pictures....?
I wonder if my pictures are of the same robin …?

Note for tomorrow’s post, Both robins and centipedes eat slugs

Don’t mix up beneficial centipedes with harmful millipedes


  1. I always feel so sorry for the poor little centipede when it's a case of mistaken identity. I guess to most people he is more wiry than an actual wireworm. I seem to remember doing a similar post at one time. Something like when is a wireworm not a wireworm. It doesn't help when sometimes they are found in holes in potatoes, no doubt they have either eaten the culprit that has made the hole ha ha I've just found a nice quiet resting place. It's a case of wrong place wrong time.
    Blackbirds eat slugs to and it is fascinating to see them wiping the slime off them before they swallow. My sister once watched the hedgehog peeling a slug like a banana. Yuck! By the way have you got a burst facility on your camera? I guess I know what the answer will be. :-)

    1. Getting the blame seems to be the story of my life Sue!
      It might be that I do have a burst facility and just not discovered it! :-) My problem is getting the camera out quick enough!
      I moved some bricks this morning and my robin was back but so was a blackbird that chased my little friend away

    2. But you are not small, fast and wriggly and end up being stamped on!
      You didn't let me down with the camera reply!

  2. I empathise! This morning I was watching a Robin and a Wren disputing territory in the flower-pots just outside my door, and I thought "That would make a good photo". But of course even before I could get my camera they had moved on...

    1. Thank you Mark. Empathy is sometimes in short supply.
      My robin was there again a few minutes ago. He kept his distance from me. I think there are privacy issues!

  3. I don't even try to take pictures of birds. Before you get on to slugs, perhaps you would be able to tell me what happen to snails in my garden. I often find shells unbroken with no snail in them. The snails seem to die mostly in winter. Is it a disease, a predator? I never noticed it in my old garden. Of course I do not mind at all. I am pleased, but I am curious. Have you ever heard that they have diseases? When I go get the compost next year, I will find batches of them, all shells empty, all in perfect shape.

    1. I double checked that snails do not shed their shells as they grow Alain
      There are many predators of snails and no doubt many parasites and diseases. The shells will be natural deaths. Most predators have means of extracting the tasty snail from its shell. I expect they dislike shell as much as we do when cracked shell gets in with our boiled egg!
      Some birds get into a shell by cracking them by dropping them from a height on a hard surface.
      I recently experienced a lot of empty water-snail shells when I had a clean out of my pond

  4. One theory for why robins follow humans is that we are a pig substitute :-)


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