Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Chinese Hillside pond, 12 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

The first month of 2017 was mainly rather chilly with plenty of frosts though none terribly severe. Very little rain fell during the month and there was plenty of winter sunshine. RBGE escaped the snow that fell further north in Scotland.  The Garden’s wildlife list rose by three, from 858 to 861, and one of those was a first for Scotland. A further two creatures (a beetle and a mite) are currently unidentified but both, if named, will probably turn out to be additional new Garden records.

Birds January 2017 was another very good month for birds at the Garden, with 43 species being recorded, two fewer than in December 2016. Possibly the month’s ‘star bird’ was a Raven seen flying over the Rock Garden on 27th, the first since 2014. Late December’s Coot and House Sparrow were both present again on 2nd. The Waxwing invasion of Britain continued and these birds visited the Garden twice, on 17th and 18th; on several other occasions they were seen close to the Garden but not within. A small skein of Greylag Geese flew over on 9th. Kingfishers were present on nine different dates, mainly between 6th and 16th with one on 29th; three different birds (two males and a female) were involved. As in December, both Pied Wagtail (2nd, 7th)  and Grey Wagtail (17th) were seen. Wintering birds once again included Blackcap (12th) and a few Redwing throughout the month. Feral Pigeons were seen on two dates (9th and 23rd), ending a four-month spell of absence. The complete list of 43 species recorded during January 2017 was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Oystercatcher, Pied Wagtail, Raven, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Waxwing, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Ten-spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata), 16 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.

Insects and other invertebrates: January 2017’s highlight was the first Scottish record of the leafhopper Idiocerus herrichi, found wintering near the Pond on 18th. See the separate Botanics Stories post at for the full story of this discovery. Once again no butterflies, moths, wasps or hoverflies were seen but Honey Bees were active on at least three dates (16th, 17th and 25th), visiting gorse flowers. Forest Shield Bug nymphs were seen on all warmer dates, and Common Flower Bug on 24th and 25th. Flies included Winter Gnats on 16th, the bluebottle Calliphora vicina on 26th and Phaonia tuguriorum also on 26th. As in December, 10-spot Ladybird was recorded (16th). A black beetle-like insect found on Pinus pumila (25th) currently remains unidentified but is almost certainly new to the Garden’s list. Three species of barkfly were found: Ectopsocus briggsii, Ectopsocus petersi and Epicaecilius pilipennis (16th; new Garden record). Epicaecilius pilipennis is a rather uncommon species in the UK but there is a dense cluster of records in the Edinburgh area, no doubt due to the recording efforts of the late Bob Saville, who lived locally and was an international expert on barkflies. Three species of springtail were recorded: Entomobrya albicincta (16th), Entomobrya multifasciata (17th, 23rd) and the globular species Dicyrtomina saundersi (31st), which was January’s final new Garden record. Rounding up January’s invertebrate records was the harvestman Oligolophus hanseni (23rd); an as yet unidentified mite found on birch on 31st will no doubt turn out to be a fifth new Garden record for January if it can be named.

Common Flower Bug (Anthocoris nemorum), 24 January 2017. Photo Robert Mill.