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.

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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.

An insect view of flowers

I love to sit and admire all the flowers in my garden and watch how much the insects love them too.  I love their beautiful colours, different textures and exquisite scents.  I sit and watch delicate flower heads nodding in the soft summer breeze and listen to the tall grasses rustling.  A tortoiseshell butterfly flutters upward as I brush past the lavender bushes, whilst bees buzz past me trying to capture the lavenders sweet nectar.  Hoverflies land on the wildflowers whilst trying to hang on as the breeze throws the long flower stems from side to side and tiny pollen beetles nestle securely deep inside the flowers stamen.

Sitting here, I wonder what these flowers look like to insects.  I sat down on the grass and looked closely at a daisy.  The many delicate white petals surrounding the intricate yellow flower head.  One daisy flower in the garden even has a red dot in its centre too.daisy petal

I decided that the only way I could get a closer look was to see what the flowers looked like under a microscope.  Luckily for me, I have a microscope attachment for my phone so I was able to instantly see the delicate structure of the flowers in-situ in the garden.

A yellow viola’s centre looks like its covered in white powder under the microscope.viola petal

A buttercup looks just as shiny and buttery close up and the stamens are large and protruding to entice pollinator in. buttercup petal

I always think hedge woundwort flowers looks like pretty little orchid flowers but they look even more stunning under a microscope.  It’s amazing to see all the tiny hairs on the flowers which makes it look furry close up.  You can see why it entices so many bees to its flower.horshound petal

Finally I took a microscopic photo of a geranium petal.  A close up photo shows the petal looks wrinkled with white hairs in its centre.  Under the microscope though, it looks a wonderful metallic colour full of minute dots.geranium petalI’m glad I took the time to have a closer look at flowers and it’s made me appreciate even more how they attract pollinators.  Next time you are in your garden why not stop and take a closer look at your flowers too, as you maybe surprised at what you find.

 

Gardening

It was a lovely day for doing some gardening.  There was a gentle breeze and the air felt fresh instead of feeling still and muggy like it’s been all week.  I planted some hanging basket with bright colourful flowers, put fresh water in the bird baths, weeded around the soft fruit bushes and copiced hazel.  p5250066.jpg

When I’d finished I sat down under the hobnut tree and had a refreshing cup of tea and well earned chocolate biscuit.  I watched robins and blackbirds hunt around the grass for worms, whilst blue tit and great tit fledglings fluttered clumsily through the tree branches pestering their parents for food.10530952_10204577539542327_2874282285086763644_nBees buzzed around the heavenly scented roses and mock orange flowers, whilst ladybird larvae crawled slowly about shrub leaves.20170606_124911.jpg

Cheeky squirrels nicked nuts from the bird feeder and speckled wood butterflies flutter about the hedge.squirrel1.jpg

I love being in the garden.  Even though there is always lots of work to do, I enjoy gardening as I bring not only pleasure to me but the wildlife appreciate it too.

Sowing wildflowers

A few weeks ago I sowed a variety of wildflower seeds in trays and today I decided to sow some more. 20180518_161144.jpg The little shoots of the first lot of seeds I sowed are already starting to poke through the soil and I can’t wait till they grow a bit bigger so I can then plant them in containers by my front steps.

20180531_141037.jpgThe wildflowers I have sown are:  a variety of poppy seed, chamomile, oxeye daisies, foxgloves, red campion, and mullein. (just to name a few)

I have also sown other flowers such as: night stocks, love-in-a-mist and corn flowers

A number of the plants will also be planted around the garden as well as in a wild garden patch I made.

I dug a wild patch last year and it self seeded this year with red campions, alkanet and foxgloves.20180519_140519.jpg

It doesn’t matter if you sow wild seed in your garden or a garden container, it wont take long for the bees, hoverflies and other insects to find them and they will enjoy them all summer.20170626_180620.jpg

A slimy trail

After all the heavy rain yesterday there were quite a few slugs and snails about the garden this morning.  It’s amazing how many different colours, shapes and sizes there are when you start to truly look at them.

There was even a slime trail across my front step going straight to a pot of marigold flowers.  I’ve never really looked closely at slime before, its just something that I tend to walk past without a second thought.

As it is 30 Days Wild though, I figured that today I would see what slime looked like with my phones macro lens.20180603_134710.jpg

I’m glad I did as it’s actually quite fascinating close up especially when the sun shine down on it creating a rainbow effect like washing up bubbles.20180603_135529.jpg

What is this slime?

It is a kind of mucus that is secreted externally by creatures such as slugs and snails.  Even fresh water and marine gastropods produce it.  This mucus helps them move through their environment creating a protective barrier to prevent injury, and also helps them to stick to surfaces.

20180603_134819.jpgI’m glad I took the time to get a close up view of the slime.  It turned out to be quite pretty.

The Spring garden

I love this time of year as all the vibrant coloured flower start to appear once more in the garden.  There is so much to do in the garden right now.  Everything has shot up with the glorious hot weather we have been having.  The grass needs mowing regularly and everything has needed a good watering each day.  There is weeding to be done, wildflowers seedlings to care for and of course more plants to buy and find spaces for.

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As I walk down the garden making a note of even more things that need doing I see oranges tips and beautiful blue butterflies flutter by me.

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I watch as bees and hoverflies busily buzz around the wildflowers and speckled wood butterflies dance in the sunshine by the nettles that grow at the back of the compost heap.

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The bees favourite plants in my garden right now are: aquilegia, cotoneaster, bleeding heart and the Californian lilac.  There are many more plants almost ready to burst into flower any day soon too such as: lupins, foxgloves, alliums and dwarf azaleas.  There is always something in the garden to keep the bees happy.

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As I sit for a while by the pond I watch frogs hop into the water with a big splash and as the suns rays hit the waters surface I can see tiny water daphnia and the flash of a newts tail.  At the ponds edge I see a spiderling dangle from its thread under a campion flower and a fly sits on a leaf that’s tumbled into the pond and has a quick wash.

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Looking over at the bird feeder I see starling fledglings squabbling around the suet feeder waiting to be fed by their exhausted parents while others splash about in the bird bath to cool off in heat.  Blackbirds hop along the ground in search of grubs and insects to take back to their nest, whilst a tiny gold crest darts by me quickly and is so small it looks like a tiny shadow out of the corner of my eye.

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Its too hot to do any work at the moment so think I’ll just sit here in the shade for a while and just admire the wildlife that seem to love my garden just as much as I do.

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If you want to here all about what the garden was like in early spring then check out my “Wildlife on the doorstep” article in the Cheshire biological records newsletter here or here