BCW caught one redtail today - it took quite a while and the bees certainly seem to be out later as the days get longer and warmer. She was caught at about 4 o'clock after quite a lot of searching. The nest-searchers were not in the usual place today but have moved a little up the road (closer to our home, which is handy!). Whether this says something about availability of sites, we don't know.
What we are seeing more and more of every day is "fly bees": little bee-like creatures that hover and dart and fly round with their tongues out. They are pretty funny. We didn't really know they existed until we saw one the other day and investigated. It seems they are quite parasitic and spray their eggs on pollen sites so they get picked up by bees and pollinators. Cheeky!
We see them darting about the garden looking to spread their egges - so perhaps it gives us a clue where we should expect to see bees too.
We were going to try a using a tube into the nest today to see if that improved the residency time of the queen. But we were concerned the tube we had was too narrow for BB11 (Redtail) to fit through, so while trying to nest her, we immediately reverted to our usual technique.
BB11 was quite feisty, trying to escape, and took about 15 - 20 minutes to finally make her way into the box. Neither of us like it when this happens, but we feel we have to persist, not just due to the effort in catching the bee, but also because we know we are really doing her a favour and giving her a good nest if only she'd check it out! BB11 stayed about 20 minutes during which there was the now-typical scratching around in the box, then left. She too spiralled up away from the box. I tried to capture it on video not very successfully; we just don't know if this is part of her "landmarking".
So, disappointment that she didn't stay the night but left at about 5pm - which we were surprised by; obviously she felt she could still find somewhere to stay. The box temp (outside) was about 15 degrees at the time.
However, the exciting news was seeing two redtails nest searching on our lawn during the afternoon. Stupidly we didn't have pots ready in time to be able to catch them, but it's so encouraging that they are even coming to our garden. Again, whether this indicates an increase in demand (more bees coming out of hibernation) or a reduction in supply (good sites being taken) we don't know. The frustrating thing, of course, is they did not check out the nestbox at the back, just feet away!
Every day we are thinking carefully about how we can make the box(es) more attractive and thinking like a bee to figure out what to do.So, today we added some dried cut grass to the outside (and a little inside) to make it appear more like an entrance in a grassy bank. Ok, so it's not that realistic at the moment, but I think in the fullness of time we could practically bury the box in a mound of grass and plants that make it very realistic!
Between 4.30pm and 5.30pm we also saw two redtails nest searching in our lavender at the front. Again, a little frustration they did not find the box (although we were part way through our operation with BB11, so it wouldn't have helped) but fantastic news they are getting so close and exploring just a few feet away.
It would be wonderful to think that if we worked hard and created a perfect environment for them, we might get one nesting of its own accord. I had begun to think that we would not see them nest-searching anywhere nearby, after all it's a housing estate and we are right on the road; so I'm incredibly encouraged to see this behaviour. The second of these redtails shot across the road to a neighbour's lawn and spent about 15 mins exploring every square metre of it. Amazing to watch. BCW was poised to try and catch it, but had to avoid drawing attention to herself and in the end it proved impossible, which was a shame. Great to see though.
Meanwhile during the afternoon, I had been busy completing the irrigation system. All the supply pipes are now buried and round the edges of the garden is a pipe we can tap off wherever we put pots. A computerised timer controls the watering cycle. This means there is no limit now to the plants and pots we can buy (and where we can site them) to encourage the bees. Feeling pleased with this :)