I saw a small bee going into a hole in the ground (just big enough for it to enter so assume it was its nest).. It was about 1cm long (estimate 9-12 mm) and seemed all black, except for a thorax covered in plush-like hair. The hair was a pretty kind of straw colour. The abdomen looked quite rounded at the end.
I was unable to get a picture, but wonder if anyone has an idea of its species. I didn't see any other holes or bees of the same kind nearby.
Thanks for the suggestion. Its whole body, except the thorax, looked black to me, especially the end of the abdomen which was shiny and rounded. In your picture the abdomen is hairy. And the hair on the thorax was quite short and not so red as in the picture. It seemed yellowish beige or a warm mustard colour, not red. It looked as if it had a little waistcoat on - more like plush than fur.
I shouold have mentioned that the hole was in bare soil partly in the shadow of a blackcurrant bush..
I looked up mining bees and it says here: http://www.gardensafari.net/english/mining_bees.htm that they are very difficult to identify! Maybe we should just call it "Andrena sp" and leave it at that. Some pics of A varians looked a bit like the one I saw, but there are several others that could also be the one..
Try Andrena cineraria - this should be common at this time of year.
Thanks, that looks a bit more like, except it says there are two bands of ash grey hair, and the hair on mine was a pretty yellowish beige. The hair seemed over the thorax only, but maybe I missed the other band because it was so small. Looking at some of the other pictures on the site it could have been a few other species as well. Are there colour variations in A. cineraria?
Anyway we seem to have narrowed it down to genus. I must keep my eyes open for other bees like that.