Spring time at Burton Mere

It’s been a beautiful spring day ​today.  The sun has been shining and there has been a lovely warm breeze so what better way to spend the day than at my favourite RSPB reserve, Burton Mere, Wirral.

As I near the entrance I stop for a moment to admire the carpet of bluebells covering the woodland floor.  It looks absolutely stunning at the moment.  I then stop for a bit in the reception hide to browse the pin badges and look at the sample of RSPB goodies displayed there that can be bought in their online shop.  As I walk around the place it is noisy with the sound of chattering birds.  I hear the delicate chirping of chiffchaffs, the melodic song of a robin and the loud tweeting of a wren.  I’m always blown away by how such a tiny bird such as a wren can make such a huge noise.

Further along I stop to look for lizards basking on the fence but they are not here today though spiders are basking there and scurrying across the path in front of me.  I look up to see two herons flying overhead and I can hear the bubbling sound of egrets from deep within the wild wooded area.

Walking along the decking path I hear the beautiful haunting sound ‘Oo-wee’ of lapwings on the water and the squabbling of seagulls as they chase each other across the sky.  I then start to see butterflies dipping and darting through the grass by the side of me.  Orange tips, peacocks, admirals and brimstones all enjoying the warm spring weather.

Solitary bees buzz around wildflowers and in a little brook I see pond skaters and swarms of midges above the waters surface and so many st marks flies hovering around the reedbeds.

I hear magpies cackling to each other from the trees, warblers singing a delightful tune and the sound of bleeting lambs carried on the wind from the grassy hillfort.

Its always great to visit an RSPB nature reserve.  I find that their reserves recharge my batteries, and reconnect me to the present.  I’ve really enjoyed my day out surrounded by nature and so happy I have such a beautiful nature reserve so close to where I live.

Advertisements

Wild spring flowers

It’s lovely to walk around the garden on a warm sunny spring day looking at the wildflowers popping up from under the trees and hedges.


Celandines carpet the ponds edge, opening their vibrant yellow flowers to the sun.  Delicate pastel blue flowers of forget-me-nots pop up in patches under blossom trees.  Wild garlic hiding at the bottom of the garden by the wildlife log pile, has just burst into pretty white flowers, and the smell of garlic fills the nostrils as I walk past.  Dead nettles clump together in parts of the garden that are untouched and forgotten about.
Violets hug the ground almost hiding their delicate blue flowers under the hedge whilst comfrey stands up right in the sunshine showing off pastel pink flowers.


And lets not forget the dandelions and daisies that scatter the lawn like little rays of sunshine.  I’m not sure why some people don’t like them in their lawn as I think they are happy little flowers and bring much needed nectar and pollen to early pollinators.  I think its lovely to see wildflowers in the garden as they add a sprinkling of magic to the garden and are so beneficial to wildlife.  I certainly don’t want a boring uniform bowling green lawn.  Give me a lawn with patches of moss, clover, dandelions, daisies and fairy mushroom rings any day.

Water in a plant pot

After filling my planters with wildflowers last year I realised that I had one small trough planter left.  I thought of all the beautiful plants I could put in it and was going to go to the local garden centre for more inspiration when I came up with another idea.

I decided that this planter was going to be a tiny pond, but I wasn’t sure how well it would work being only small.  Where would I put it,  should I keep it above ground or sink into the soil and would it attract any wildlife were several questions I asked myself.  I noticed a bare patch in the soil next to my heathers so I decided to dig a hole and sink it in the ground there.  It did look rather odd just plonked into the ground but after the trouble of digging a hole I decided it was staying there regardless.

After weeks of boring old water and nothing else I started to see birds standing on the edge and drinking the water, then I saw how it seemed to be attracting bees and hoverflies.  I then peered into the trough and saw it was teaming with little creatures wriggling about in the water, the most fascinating to watch were the red tailed maggots, (Hoverfly larvae) which I captured on video here

Early autumn last year I then saw a toad walking towards the pond, which was amazing to see.

Now spring is here, this tiny pond looks like it has always been here.  Bluebell leaves cascade over the waters edge and I have seen quite a few newts and baby toads near by too.

It may have started life as a flower planter but I’m so glad I put this little trough in the ground and made it into a pond. I can’t wait to see what wildlife it attract this year.

A rainy gardening day

All the miserable cold rainy weather last week gave me a good excuse to start sowing some seeds.  I cleared the greenhouse and windowsills got out my propagator and seedling trays and opened up my tin of seeds.  I love routing through my tin of seeds wondering which ones to start sowing first.  This year I have bought some specific seeds especially for my garden wildlife.

First to be sown was birds foot trefoil and red clover.  I was amazed how quickly they have both grown this week and it looks like I’ll have to transplant them before the end of the week. These lovely little plants will be grown in any bare patches of soil around the garden and especially near my bug/bee hotels.

I have also sown some agastache and echinops to attracts bees and other beneficial insects too.

Around the lawn and cracks in the pavement I’m going to grow creeping thyme as well as patches of chamomile lawn.  These tiny seeds will be sown straight in the garden when it gets a bit warmer but I’m also starting a few of the seeds off in trays first to give them a better chance especially against the slugs and pigeons.

Finally for the moths and other night time pollinator I have sown some night scented stock.  It so lovely to come out into the garden at dusk and watch as the moths dance about them and my honeysuckle enjoying their heavenly night time scent as much I do. 

If you want more information on the best plants to grow to attract bumblebee then check out the wildlife trust page here.

Of course I still have much more to sow and I have 2 trough planters ready to sow some wildflower seeds in as well.  Hopefully the bees, hoverflies, butterflies moths and other pollinators will benefit greatly from these plants and they will hopefully be a welcome addition to my wildlife garden.

Spring Equinox

After 2 weeks of none stop rain, wind and even some hail, I have finally ventured out in to the garden once more.

That isn’t to say I haven’t been gardening or surrounded by nature.  I have used the recent bad weather to start sowing seeds indoors and I have also been watching the birds on the feeders from my window.

It’s the equinox today and it’s a lovely sunny day at last.  The spring flowers look beautiful, daffodils nod their heads in the gentle breeze and large flowers are starting to bloom on the camellia.  After all this rain and now sunshine, things will quickly start to grow and the garden will seems to grow in the blink of an eye.

It is nice to think that the sun will start to get higher in the sky as the days get longer and days become warmer.

It’s lovely to see new green growth in the hedges once again and tiny buds appearing on the shrubs. All the vibrant coloured flowers such as violas, primulas and daisies enticing the early bees and other pollinator to the garden.  I also saw my first butterfly fluttering about today, a wasp,and  a little green leaf beetle

The bird feeders have been a hive of activity too, with squabbling blue tits and goldfinches.  Rooks have also been in the garden gathering twigs for their nest and they have also realised how to open the top off the nut feeder to take the peanuts out of it easier.  I even notice that empty snail shells scatter the flower borders showing the song thrush has been taking care of the garden pests for me.

It’s been a lovely equinox and hopefully the weather will stay nice for a while so I can get stuck into some serious springtime gardening.

I hope you all had a lovely day too wherever you where and whatever you were doing.

Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice which means, the shortest day of the year. As I woke this morning I noticed how the darkness stayed for longer, like the sun was too sleepy to wake up; but from now on the days will slowly get longer and lighter.
The Winter Solstice also known as Yule (amongst other names) promises the return of light, with hope and promise for the future.  Pagans believe that from Midsummer to Yule the dark Holly King has ruled but now at Yule he is defeated by the light Oak King, who rules from now until Midsummer, where upon the cycle repeats.

This year if you are lucky to have a clear sky you may see the special bright full moon known as a cold moon (or the long nights moon), the day after the solstice. If you are really lucky you may even see the Ursids meteor shower this weekend too.

I was up at first light this morning, busily topping up the bird feeders,

putting out fresh water for the wildlife and making sure there was some delicious apples out for the foxes to eat.

The bird feeders have been a hive of activity all day with starlings squabbling, goldfinches twittering and blue tits chirping; not to mention robins, blackbirds and dunnocks scratting for food under the feeders too.

It has been a very dull cloudy day here in Chester (UK) today and the ground is sodden after heavy rainfall during the night. The garden plant life is sleeping apart from the violas, and cyclamen. The trees are all bare and there is a wet blanket of leaves upon the ground. There are however, pretty fungi in the shaded part of the garden

and beautiful lichen and moss upon the tree branches, plus the ivy looks lovely too at this time of year.

At first glance the outdoors may look dull and boring at this time of year, but its a great chance to truly look at your garden/local park and see the beauty in all the little hidden gems which you may otherwise take for granted.

I hope you all have a merry Yule, Winter Solstice, Alban Arthan, Heuldro’r Gaeaf or whatever you like to call this special day.

I hope you all enjoy your day.

Cheshire Garden Bioblitz

A week last Friday I got the chance of taking part in Chris Packham’s bioblitz in North Wales.  It was a fantastic campaign which showed that nature reserves are not enough for wildlife, and that other areas such as parks etc across Britain are just as important.  It also gave a rough idea of the state of wildlife across the British countryside.

It was amazing to see Chris Packham in the flesh after years of watching him on TV from the Really Wild Show to Springwatch.  He is a lot taller than I was expecting and he had a huge presence about him, and his knowledge and passion for wildlife just shone through him like rays of sunshine.

After a very wet day in Wales, I was inspired to do my own little bioblitz on a small strip of garden about 7ft x 40ft.  It doesn’t sound a very big area to support wildlife but its amazing what I have crammed in there to help them thrive.

20180722_162135

In this tiny bit of land there are 2 little ponds made from plastic containers sunk into the ground.  There is a small log pile, bug house and a piece of upturned carpet on the ground for the newts and other small creatures to hide under.

Here are the results for my tiny Cheshire garden bioblitz of 2 hours:

 

Birds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Greenfinch 1
Blackbird  2
Bluetit 12
Starling  7
Sparrow  4
Dunnock  1
Goldfinch  5
Goldcrest  1
Great Tit  6
Greater Spotted Woodpecker  1
Magpie  1
Longtailed tit  3
Robin  1
Rook  1
Song Thrush  1
Wood Pigeon  1
Collared Doves  2
Sparrow Hawk  1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Bees

bees
Garden Bumble bee  12
Carder Bee  9
Leaf Cutter Bee  1
Mason Bee  2
Hairy Footed Flower Bee  1
Red Tailed Bumble Bee  2

 

Spiders

spiders
Harvestman Spider  1
Wolf Spider  2
Cobweb Spider  1
Candy Striped Spider  1
Zebra Spider  3
Garden Spider  11
False Widow Spider  2

 

Butterflies and Moths 

moths

Humming Bird Moth 1
Tortoiseshell Butterfly  4
Gate Keeper Butterfly  1
Large White Butterfly  3
Small White Butterfly  4
Common Blue Butterfly  1
Large Yellow Underwing Moth  2
Cinnabar Moth  1
Cinnabar Moth Larvae  9
Twenty Plume Moth  1
Elephant Hawk Moth  1
Silver Y Moth  3
Carpet Flame Moth 1

 

Amphibians

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Toad  1
Smooth Newt  1

 

Bugs and Beetles

bugs
7 Spot Ladybird  1
Harlequin Ladybird  1
Rosemary Beetle  1
Darkling Beetle  3
Hairy Shield Bug  1
Pollen Beetle  4
Wasp Beetle  1
Flower Bug Liocoris Tripustulatus  2
Capsus Ater Bug  1
Calocoris Stys Bug  5

 

Flies and other insects

hoverflies

Hoverfly (7 different species)  12
Horsefly  1
Earthworm  3
Wasp  4
Woodlice  11
Leaf Hopper  3
Black Field Ant  1
Spider Mites  12
Millipede  1
Earwig  3
Horsehair Worm  1
Rat Tailed Maggot  5
Wood Wasp  1
Black Horned Gem Fly  1
Common Field Grasshopper  1
Garden Snail  1
Brown Lipped Snail  2

creepy crawlies

 

Mammals

squirrel1
House Mouse  1
Squirrel  1

 

Flew Over Garden

Buzzard  2
Rook 1
Swallows  5
Green Woodpecker  1

 

Well, if you have managed to read down to the bottom I hope you found it an impressive list for such a small area.  I should also say I didn’t go lifting wood and looking under shrubs, nor unfortunately do I have a moth trap, otherwise the count would have been a lot more impressive.  There where also some creepy crawlies that I was just unable to identify so was unable to count them.  I also didn’t get round to noting the fauna, of which there are a variety of mosses, grasses and wildflowers.

I had a fun time doing my own little bioblitz and was amazed how many creatures such a small area contained.  Everyone needs to become more aware about the importance of even the smallest areas for wildlife.  Nature reserves are important for wildlife but so are parks, gardens, waste lands, verges etc..

How about spending just an hour where you live to note the different wildlife you see. You’ll be amazed at what you find even in the smallest of areas. You will also discover when trying to identify them, that there are a lot more species out there than you ever thought.