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.

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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.

 

Wildflowers -Day 26 of 30 Days Wild

This year I was given free wildflower seeds from Just Bee Drinks, Grow Wild and I also got a packet in my 30 Days Wild pack from The Wildlife Trust.

I decided that a the beginning of June I would put some wildflowers in troughs under my living room window as well as sprinkle them around the garden.
I decided that as some of the seeds were going into 2 troughs, I would sow each seed in plug plant trays.
I didn’t know what type of flowers I was going to get, so it was going to be exciting to see the results. I opened each packet and sprinkled a number of seeds into the trays before sprinkling the rest in various parts of the garden.
I watered the seeds well and now all I had to do was wait.

It was exciting to see the green seedlings shoot from the soil, and start to form their shape. They started to become greener and fill out with more with leaves.

It wasn’t long before the insects started to come and have a look.

Today I planted the plugs out into their troughs and already the bees are taking a look at them so I have even placed a little insect house by the flowers too.

I think these little troughs complement the wildflowers that have been sprinkled around the garden. They are all looking stunningly beautiful in the sunshine and myself, bees and insects are loving them.

 

A big thank you to Grow Wild, Wildlife Trust and Just Bee Drinks for these lovely wildflower seeds.

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.

Enjoying the rain Day 22 of 30 Days Wild

After the intense heat this week we finally got some rain. Some people run for cover but I stepped outside and embraced it’s cooling touch.

The beautiful azure sky changed colour as fluffy clouds appeared almost sticking to each other like magnets. Large pillows of cloud covered the sun and a fresh breeze caressed my warm skin. Then came the pitter-patter of raindrops, slowly and lightly at first, but then increasing with intensity.

I love the smell of rain after a dry spell and the freshness it brings to the air. You can almost see the plants wiggling happily as the rain soaks their roots. I love the way raindrops sit like diamonds on spider webs and rest on flower petals and leaves like blobs of mercury.

The trickles of rain rolled down my skin cooling me down after a week of intense heat. It was nice to feel the rain again and I bet the plants and wildlife enjoyed it too.

The air now feels a little cooler and the plants have had a drink. I don’t feel as cranky or sleepy now the heatwave has gone. I feel fresh and revived thanks to the rain.

Next time it rains, don’t hide indoors. Instead of moaning about it, think of all the benefits it brings.

Rain is part of nature so embrace it.

Wirral Wanderings -Day 21 of 30 Days Wild

First of all let me start by saying:

Merry Litha, Happy Summer Solstice and Gŵyl Ganol yr Haf hapus everyone. What ever you call the longest day I hope you had a fantastic time.

Today was another hot day but at least by the afternoon it turned overcast and we had 5 minutes of thunder and lightening to clear the air a tiny little bit.

For my 30 days Wild challenge today, I went for a stroll around different parts of the Wirral Peninsula.

My first stop this morning was Gordales garden centre. They have a little lake there and it was teaming with wildlife. There was buzzards flying over head cooing, moorhens splashing about in the water and a variety of small birds eating seed on the ground.

My next stop was Burton Manor gardens in the beautiful chocolate box village of Burton, followed by a quick pop into Burton RSPB nature reserve to see the fantastic wildlife there.

My next exploration took me to a little secret place tucked down a quiet lane called Hampston Well, also in Burton. The spring is is thought to have been in use during the Iron Age and Anglo Saxon times.  Sadly it was overgrown and I never got to see much which is a great shame.

As the sun started to rise high in the sky I drove down to Thurstaston beach to soak up the lovely scenery and gaze over at the Welsh hills across the water. (The river Dee estuary)

I then decided to head to the other side of the Wirral Peninsula.  Half way across I drove past the old Hadlow station. The  disused railway line is now called The Wirral Way and is a great place to walk if you wish to see wildlife and history.

On reaching the river Mersey side of Wirral, my first stop is the old Eastham churchyard to say hello to an ancient yew tree who is somewhere between 1,500-2,000 years old.

I then drove a little further, to walk around the old Eastham pleasure grounds. You can still see evidence here of old zoo cages and a bear pit. It is quite sad to think animals were once kept in such awful conditions in Victorian time.

My final stop of the day was to sit by the old 12th Century Eastham Ferry quay. I sat for a while watching ships come in along the river Mersey and gazed over at the Liverpool iconic skyline on the other side of the river.

Wirral is a wonderful place to visit and there is so much more to see…there just isn’t enough time in the day for me. (even if it is the longest day)

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.