A day of surprises

Welcome to day 6 of the 30 Days Wild challenge.  The weather today has been odd. First it started off as a glorious sunny morning, but it wasn’t long before the blue sky turned dark and moody.  It suddenly felt like we had gone back to winter as the heavens opened and down lashed hailstones at high force.  The rest of the day consisted of dark looming clouds and intervals of rain.  Now most people probably run inside where it’s warm and dry but I decided to embrace todays weather and I sat for a bit enjoying the rain cascade over me.  I watched a crane fly take cover under a leaf and an ant scurrying past me to get to a dry safe place.

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Finally the rains pasted and this afternoon I filled up the bird feeder again.  They are going down so quick with so many birds visiting.  No sooner had I filled up the peanut feeder when our regular great spotted woodpecker came down for a feed.  I love watching him on the feeder, he is such a character and never takes any hassle from the starlings that squabble around him.  Today was different though.  I had to rub my eyes at first as I thought I was seeing double.  There before me was not only the male but his young fledgling.  It was such a beautiful sight to see.  The young woodpecker squeaked so loudly to be fed and fluttered it’s wings to get attention. I don’t think I have ever seen a woodpecker fledgling being fed before and it was an amazing thing to watch.

If seeing that wasn’t awesome enough I then had a second surprise.  The postman came to the door delivering a parcel for me.  Apparently my fella had decided to buy me a special gift as he loves reading my blogs as well as looking at all the photos that I take.  Eagerly I unwrapped the cardboard box and there i was…

A Bushnell Natureview Live View wildlife camera.

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I know I have already got a wildlife camera but this one was special.  It has a live viewer with it.  No longer will I have to guess which direction the camera is facing, narrowly missing out on important shots. I will be able to actually see which spot the camera is pointing at for once.

I can’t wait to use it and I’m seriously hoping that I may be able to get some footage of the fledgling woodpecker, so fingers crossed.

The day has been full of surprises and I’m looking forward to seeing what delights tomorrow brings.

 

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A brief glimpse of sunshine

It’s been pouring down with rain all day and a tad bit chilly for this time of year but yesterday there was a glimpse of sunshine.  Even though the sun shone through a break in the cloud for just a short time, it was still long enough for a variety of tiny creatures to take advantage of its warmth.

I saw a hoverfly cleaning itself sat on a celandine leaf by the edge of the pond. IMG_15mwhq.jpg

Speckled wood, orange tip and blue butterflies fluttered about the ivy hedge.

A plume moth had a rest and got some much needed warmth from the wall. IMG_z8izg.jpg

Red mason bees swarmed around one of the small bee hotels.  Males pushing each other away as they rushed to find a female.  I was happy to sit close by and watch these bees for a while as they are not aggressive and now and again one would land on me for a rest.  Once a female had been found he knocked her to the floor where they seemed to mate for quite some considerable time.

You can see a short video I took of the bees here.

There were a  variety of spring bees buzzing about enjoying the blossom and other garden flowers. It just shows how important early wildflowers and spring blossom is to these early emerging bees.

Finally as the sun disappeared behind a cloud and it started to rain, it all went quiet again in the garden. Tiny garden spiderlings that were about to disperse in the sunshine, suddenly decided they would wait for another day and huddled back together for warmth. IMG_-oth2zk.jpg

The tiny creatures I saw moments ago where now tucked up somewhere dry and warm leaving the slugs to enjoy the rain.img_20170601_201853_815.jpg

Tawny mining bee

Tawny mining bees are solitary spring bees covered in dense ginger hair.  You may see these little ginger bees busily flying about your garden or park in springtime.

Just like the happiness I get from seeing my first swallow of the year I also look forward to seeing my first tawny mining bee in spring.  I see them each year in the garden buzzing around the tree blossom and making their nest under the fruit trees.

As flowers on fruit trees such as pears, apples etc… start to appear the males are the first to be seen closely followed by the females.  The male differs slightly as his hair is less dense than the females and he has a tuft of white on his face.  The female is the only one with a stinger but she isn’t aggressive and you would have to go along way to provoke her.

The female prepares the nest which is like a tiny volcano shaped mound of soil with a hole in the middle in the lawn/ flower bed.  She lays her eggs underground and gathers nectar and pollen to place inside for her offspring to eat when they become larvae and the whole cycle begins again.

They are such important pollinators and it’s always a joy to see them buzzing about the garden.

While I was looking on the internet for a bit more information about this lovely little bee, I came across websites that showed you how to get rid of them from your lawn.  Why would you want to do that?!

I don’t want large frilly flower heads with no fragrance and no benefit to pollinators.  I don’t want a manicured bowling green lawn and a garden tidied to the last tiny speck.

I want to step out into a garden and feel at one with nature.  I embrace the moss, dandelions and daisies.  I welcome the tiny holes and tracks left by wildlife as it show how diverse, rich and healthy the garden is.

I do what I can to help my garden pollinators as they do such an important job and they need all the help they can get especially in springtime.

Next time you are out and about keep your eye out for any tiny mounds with a hole at the top, then stop and say hello to the little bees that made them.

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.

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.

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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.