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

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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.

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

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.

A bee hunt

Last year when I took part in the big garden bee count the lavenders were all out in flower but even though the bees absolutely favourite flower isn’t quite out yet, there are still lots of bee friendly flowers for them to get lots of nectar from.

The exquisite scent of the mock orange (Philidelphius) flowers waffs about the garden enticing the bees with it’s scent that smells like pear drop sweets.  

Geraniums, campanula and million bells also entice the bees and other insects.  

Wildflowers such as; red campion, horehound and foxglove are always a big favourite with the bees. Their absolute favourite at the moment is the cotonester bush they pries the little tight flower buds open to reach in and grab the yummy nectar and carder bees have even got their nest right next to it for convenience.

Its lovely to sit and watch the bees busily buzzing about the garden.  I’ve tried to follow them as they dart quickly from flower to flower but it’s so hard to keep up with them; and even harder to capture them on camera.  It’s truly amazing how quickly they move about the flowers.

An hours bee count for today

Common carder bee  19

wool carder bee  1

Shrill carder bee  5

Brown carder bee  5

Red mason bee  1

Willoughby leafcutter bee  3

Red tailed bumble bee  2

Garden bumble bee  1

Buff tailed bumble bee  2

I may do another bee count at the end of June when more flowers are out but to be honest I don’t need much of an excuse to follow bees around the garden.

Day 1 of 30 Days Wild

Today is the start of 30 Days Wild were The Wildlife Trust challenge you to do something inspired by nature each day throughout June.  Everyone taking part will be busy bees at the moment I’m sure; taking photos, writing blogs and doing nature based activities.

I can’t believe a whole year has gone by since the last 30 Days Wild.  It only seems like yesterday I was busily planning my months worth of “Random acts of wilderness”.

This year I spent my first “Wild” day at work

…..but don’t sigh….

I work outdoors surrounded by an array of beautiful flowers which attract a variety of wondrous small creatures 🙂

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The wild areas dotted with vibrant red poppies entice hoverflies, butterflies, a variety of bees and other insects

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Caterpillars hide from the mid-day sun and from beady eyed birds ready to carry them away to feed their young family.

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But a silver Y moth and a small copper butterfly look like have had a few near misses

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The ladybirds however, seem to be enjoying the sunshine and are helping keep all those pesky aphids away from the plants.

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Of course, my favourite creatures to watch whilst i’m working amongst the plants are bees.

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I think they bring a ray of sunshine to even the most dreariest of days.

All of these tiny creatures have a big part to play in any garden and I think we must cherish them more.

Hopefully you’ll all have a go at doing something “Wild” this June and show nature just how much you appreciate it.

Counting bees

It was #BeesNeeds week last week and various wildlife organisations encouraged people in Cheshire to spare an hour to go out and count the bees. This was to spread the awareness of bees and how important they are to us and to survey their numbers.

As usual the weather did nothing but rain and rain until finally just as the week ended there was dry weather and a hint of sunshine on the horizon.

I ran out of the door excitedly with my camera, ID chart, notebook and pen. Funnily enough though, I didn’t make it much passed the front door. I have various different types of lavender and they were alive with the sounds of buzzing bees.

I got my camping chair out and sat in front of each lavender bush and started to count.

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In the hour I managed to count a total of 35 bees.

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5 masonry bees

12 garden bumblebees

17 carder bees

1 leafcutter bee

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I hadn’t realised how many different types of bees there were and it was hard to recognise them at first. They were busily buzzing around each flower and it was hard to keep track of them and get a closer look.

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There are apparently 24 species of bumblebee, 225 species of solitary bee and the honey bee in Britain.

Bees are fantastic pollinators but there are also hoverflies, butterflies, moths and other bugs that help to pollinate our flowers and the food that we eat.

So, how can you help the bees and other pollinators?

  • Sow wildflowers or plant flowers that attract pollinators such as foxgloves and lavender. Or, how about leaving those dandelions and clovers in the lawn.
  • Build a bug house. It doesn’t matter whether it is a branch/log with holes drilled in it or a big bug mansion. There will be a bug or bee that will happily live in it.
  • Try to be organic and not use pesticides or other chemicals in your garden.
  • Place a small basin or bird bath near the flowers with fresh water in it. Make sure you put stones inside so that the bees and flies can land safely without fear of falling in the water.
  • Share your sightings with local wildlife recording websites/apps so as to get an idea of the bee/insect population in your area.

Take time out and marvel at these busy little creatures. They do such an important job and we should look after them.