Helping newts -Day 29 of 30 Days Wild

Today was spent looking at underwater video footage from the garden pond. Its fascinating watching little pond creatures especially newts.

We have 2 types of newts in the garden pond and they have been busy laying eggs.

The problem this year was the newts arrived early to the pond given the very mild winter. They started their courtship before any vegetation started to really grow around the pond. The newts here lay their eggs on plants the cascade over the waters edge, so this year I gave them a little helping hand.

I make artificial egg laying strips for them until everywhere greened up around the pond, and this is how I made them.

Materials:

Black bin bag, stones, scissors and string.

Make egg laying strips:

Measure suitable length from the bottom (sealed end) of the bin bag upwards. (this will depend on how deep your pond is) I made mine about 10 inches. Now cut straight across the bag.

Measure across the bottom half way and cut the bag in two.

Next get one half and start to cut strips down towards the sealed end of the bag but stop about 3/4 of the way down.

Do the same with the other half of the bin bag.

Now open up each half. You will have a section in the middle of each which has not been cut in to. Place a stone inside this area and gather the strips up around it.

Now tie string around the  strips to keep the stone in. Do the same with the other and there you have newt egg laying strips.

When you put them in the water the stone helps to weigh them down, all you need to do is maybe help separate the strips a bit when submerged.

What the newts thought of them:

As soon as I put the strips into the pond, the newts were curious and came over to have a look at them. Check my little video out here

The newts like them as they mimic the leaves of submerged plants and they are flexible enough for the newt to place an egg on a strip and fold it over like a little parcel to protect it.

The pond is now full of vegetation cascading over the sides so the newts have many options of places to lay eggs.

Here is a photo of a smooth newt egg folded up on a blade of grass. It is greyish in colour with a clear jelly around it which differs from great crested newt eggs which are white in colour.

Mini beast bioblitz for Day 27 of 30 Days Wild

When I got home from work today it had finally stopped raining so I ran into the garden in search of mini beasts.

I walked around looking closely at each shrub and flower, waiting to catch a glimpse of a bug. I was amazed how many mini beasts I spotted and the closer I looked, the more interesting critters I saw.

There were ladybirds and larvae hiding amongst the leaves and petals of fuschias.

There were caterpillars and moths hiding amongst wood piles and under leaves.

A little ball of garden spiderlings huddled together amongst the lavender stems. Black lace weaver spiders (Amaurobius ferox) scurried across the wall then into their homes, whilst red velvet spider mites (Trombidiidae) moved quickly on the lid of the water butt.

I saw a variety of flies enjoying the wildflowers, fuschias and honeysuckle. A variety of hoverflies hovered above the lavender flowers. Pretty small solider flies called black horned gems (Microchrysa polita) sat on camellia leaves. Whilst other flies sat on daisy flowers, ferns and jasmine leaves.

A stunning metallic coloured rosemary beetle sat on my lavender plant. Cuckoo spit dangled under fuschia leaves and a darkling beetle (Lagria hirta) hid on an old bluebell stem. Flower Bugs – Anthocoris nemorum and Liocoris tripustulatus as well as a variety of other insects (some of which I haven’t found the name for yet) gathered amongst other shrub leaves.  

I thought the prettiest bug of the afternoon was Calocoris stysi. I love it’s yellow and black chequered pattern and I think the yellow marking in the middle looks like a butterfly pattern. It looked very pretty sat on the lavender flower.

My favourite encounter of the afternoon was with a Epistrophe grossulariae hoverfly. It was attracted to my blue water bottle and kept sitting on the lid trying to lick up the ribena juice around the edge. I noticed the hoverfly had licked a lot of it up so I spoke to it and asked if it would like some more. It stayed sat on the top of my bottle unafraid of me, while I opened the lid for it. The hoverfly then carried on drinking from the top of the bottle until it had had enough. It was a magical experience to be just a couple of centimeters away from a hoverfly and it was happy for me to be that close to it.

I’m glad I made the effort to go out in the garden and search for mini beasts. I hope this little blog will inspire you to go out and see what insects are lurking in your garden and appreciate its great biodiversity.

 

Burton Mere -Day 25 of 30 Days Wild

Today for Day 25 of 30 Days Wild I went for a stroll around one of my favourite nature reserve in Wirral, Cheshire. Here is a short blog about what I saw at this beautiful place.

It was so peaceful at the nature reserve. All could be heard was a chorus of bird song from the trees, reeds and on the water. From the twitter of a reed warbler, the melodic song of a robin, the honking of geese to the babbling sound of the egrets. I managed to capture 2 little videos on my phone. (here and here)

As I walk around, I see a naughty grey squirrel trying to steal nuts from the feeder and ducks sitting underneath it catching food the squirrel dropped on the floor.

I saw insects gather around the wildflowers and warm themselves up on wooden benches.

 

 

Common lizards bask on the fence.

Spiders scurry below the decking carrying their eggs sacks and caterpillars emerge from the undergrowth onto the path.

As I sit overlooking the estuary and I could hear the wing beat of 2 mallards as they flew over my head before they landed in the water. I saw beautiful dragonflies dart over the water and water boatman lying on the waters surface. As I walked around the ponds 2 geese honked loudly and flew off past me, and I just managed to capture them on my phone here.

 

RSPB nature reserves are not just about birds. They are a safe haven for all wildlife and I’m so glad I have such a beautiful place near where I live.

New creature encounters -Day 20 of 30 Days Wild

I had 2 exciting encounters today at work. I saw 2 creatures that I have never seen before.

My first encounter was with a ruby tailed wasp, which landed on my hosepipe as I was watering the plants. Annoyingly the moment I moved to take a photo, it flew off. All I can say is, it had absolutely stunning colours. It was only small but it was iridescent turquoise and vibrant pink. It was beautiful to see, I just wish I had been able to take a photo.

My other encounter was with a ghost slug. This was a thin small white slug which suits its name with its ghostly appearance.

I also had a few lovely admiral butterflies fluttering about me today which was magical and I saw a number of bumblebees buzzing about the flowers. I had a number of hoverflies interested in my bright blue water flask (which was lovely to see) and a number of horseflies interested in me.(which wasn’t a nice experience)

To end the day, a young buzzard landed in the tree next to me and a green woodpecker flew overhead rushing to feed its young.

 

 

Tracking creatures Day 19 of 30 Days Wild

Welcome to the 19th day of my 30 Days Wild challenge. I can’t believe I have managed to blog every day. Its certainly been hard work in this heatwave we have been having.

One of the places where I work is a plant nursery which is set upon a sandy hillside.  The great thing about it being sandy is that I quite often come across little prints in the sand especially first thing in the morning before anyone else arrives on site.

I stumble upon fox and badger paw prints. Lots of rabbit foot prints, and some bird ones too. I have also seen smaller mammals and amphibians on site but not found any tracks yet.

Today I saw a little vole, cute bunnies, a smooth newt, a frog, and I even heard a cuckoo.

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I have great fun spotting tracks in the sand and watching the wildlife as I walk around; and try and capture a photo if possible.

Here are some tracks that I spotted today.

Make friends with a slug -Day 15 of 30 Days Wild

Normally when you mention slugs to someone they pull a face and say… Yuck!

Mention slugs to a gardener and they will tell you in no uncertain terms what they actually think of them.

As a general rule we tend to think that slugs do nothing but eat all our young seedlings, pretty flowers and precious plants, but thats not the case.

Did you know that one slug in particular is a gardeners best friend?

Meet the leopard slug.

This rather large (16cms), attractive patterned slug actually helps gardeners.

They don’t eat healthy plants like other slugs do. They actually munch their way through decaying material and fungi, recycling nutrients and fertilising the soil.  Even more amazing is…….. they eat other slugs.

Yes…you heard that correctly. They eat all those other pesky slugs in your garden.

These slugs are normally found in woodlands, parks and gardens where there are old trees and dead fallen wood. Slugs need to keep their bodies damp so that they can breathe so are usually found in dark damp places.

To encourage this helpful garden friendly slug, create a log pile in your garden, as rotting damp wood is a great habitat for them.

Indoors for day 7 of 30 Days Wild

Its going to be a short blog today as I’ve been stuck inside nursing a poorly knee. I tried to still be part of nature though by sitting by an open window and gazing out at the countryside around me.

As I sat there the first bird I heard was a green woodpecker as it flew passed on its way towards the canal. I saw blackbirds busily flying here and there gathering juicy worms for their young.

Over in the field I saw a buzzard circling high and a kestrel hovering looking for a meal. I heard starlings squabbling from within the hedge and a pied wagtail bobbing happily along the fence.

The highlight of the day has to be seeing a flock of great tit fledglings. These little balls of fluff were tweeting and fluttering about the garden and one even landed on my windowsill right in front of me. I didn’t have my camera next to me but it was a lovely moment that will stay in my memory.

My last encounter with nature today before it rained and I closed the window was to some, an unusual one. (Though not for me)

I heard the lion roaring…..A lion roar!?!…. But this is the British countryside I hear you say.

Well, anywhere else and that would be a very odd thing to say, but living by a zoo it’s a common everyday occurence. I do love listening to the lion roar I find it oddly comforting and to me the sound is part of my everyday encounters with nature where I live.