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.

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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.

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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.

 

Spiders in the garden

Today I went on a spider hunt in my Cheshire garden.  I have a love/fear relationship with these creatures.  I have a fascination for them and think they are lovely to just sit and watch but if one crawled on to me I’d proper freak out.  I like to sit and admire them from a far and the photos I have taken were on my phone using a selfie stick so I didn’t have to get too close, even still my hand was a bit shaky.

The first spider I came across was basking on a piece of cardboard that I had a seed tray resting on by my door step.  It scurried away quickly when it saw me, showing they are more frightened of us than we are of them.  As I sat there for a bit, it soon came back out to sunbathe. It was a beautiful little wolf spider (pardosa).IMG_20180625_171545_951.jpg

The next spider I saw was a cobweb spider which shot out of her cobweb tunnel as I brushed past a tub of chives that are also at the bottom of my door step.  She shot out with lightening speed but then saw me and hid quickly behind the tub.

As I walked towards he pond I came across a garden cross spider. There are a fair few of these in the garden as well as their little spiderlings.IMG_20180625_171937_494.jpg

Tucked up in the corner of the fence I spotted a false widow spider (steatoda).  It had its front legs tucked up tight against its body making it look smaller than it was.  This one was very shiny and brown in colour but I have also seen a black one in the shed too.  The web is quite messing looking. IMG_20180625_171246_375.jpg

The last spider I came across was a Zebra spider. I see quite a lot of these in the garden.  Normally walking along the walls.  I always think they are quite inquisitive spiders too, as they always turn to have a good look at you when you walk past.

There are no doubt many more spider species in the garden but they like to tuck themselves away.  Unless you go specifically searching for them you probably pass them by without even thinking.  It’s a shame spiders get such a bad press all the time as they are fascinating creatures and eat a lot of garden and home pests for us.

 

 

 

Garden birds

I didn’t write a blog yesterday as I was so busy with gardening, diy and job hunting.  At least I got to still spend some time outdoors though and enjoy the flowers.

Today I had a relaxing day in the garden and watched the birds.  I bought a nyjer seed feeder on Monday and already have a pair of goldfinches visiting it.  I feel so sorry for the wildlife at the moment as everywhere is so dry due to lack of rain.  I always have water dishes and bird baths out for them and they are being well used at the moment.  I have also noticed how tame birds are becoming.  I have had birds a foot away from me and not be bothered by me and some even come to me when they want more suet pellets putting on the feeder tray.sparrows

It’s amazing how many different birds visit a bird table in just half an hour. I even captures some footage of birds on the bird table here.

In just 30 mins I saw blackbirds and a song thrush under the shrubs scratting for grubs and worms and a little gold crest and wren flittering between the branches . On the fat feeder I saw a rook, young squabbling starlings, a magpie and some sparrows.  Blue tit, coal tit and great tit fledglings tweet loudly from the climbing honeysuckle waiting to be fed, sometimes fluttering to the ground clumsily because they’ve missed their perch. 10530952_10204577539542327_2874282285086763644_n

It doesn’t take long for birds to find food and water in the garden and they really need both at the moment, with their growing families to feed and the hot weather causing worms to go deeper into the earth and puddles to dry up.blackbird june16

Even if you can’t put a bird feeder in your garden it’s important to try and put a bowl of water out for them like in a plant pot saucer perhaps.  It will be a great help to the birds as not only can they cool down and have a bath in it but they can have a much needed drink too.fledgling sparrow