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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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.

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.

 

 

 

Nursery web spider

I have spent most of last week absolutely fascinated by a nursery web spider that I found in the garden. She had made whats called a nursery tent in one of my heather shrubs and every day I went out to see her and try and learn more about her.

Nursery web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) are named for their habit of lashing leaves together as a shelter for newly hatched spiderlings, which they watch over until they finally leave their nursery tent.

They are up to 15mm long and have a narrow body ranging from grey to brown in colour. There is a pale stripe just behind the head, and the sides of the abdomen are also pale coloured. The top of the abdomen also features a leaf shaped marking.

They are commonly seen between May and July and like to sunbathe by typically hold their front two pairs of legs together pointing forwards. They are great hunters and feed on flies and other small insects but instead of making a web they use quick sprinting and strength to overpower their prey.

During mating the female spider will unfortunately sometimes attempt to eat the male after mating. To reduce the risk of this happening, the male gives the female a fly/insect as a gift wrapped up in silk thread.  Sometimes however this gift is fake to fool the female but she is able to detect it and the male may not live to tell the tale.

The female carries her eggs in a ball shaped sack that she carries around in her fangs.  Just before the babies hatch she builds a silk nursery tent and puts the egg sack inside for protection. They will hatch out of the sack and into the tent. She will then watch over her spiderlings until their first moult.

I was so fascinated by the amount of parental care she gave.  She never left the spiderlings side and guarded it with her life. I was even more amazed when it started to rain and I noticed that she had put up a waterproof canopy over her nursery tent for extra protection. Those spiderlings were well looked after and kept cosy, safe and dry all week.

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Today the last last spiderling has left the tent and the mum has gone too. I’m sad to see them go but happy they are all roaming free around the garden; and am glad I was able to watch and learn more about her.