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.

 

 

 

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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

A bee hunt

Last year when I took part in the big garden bee count the lavenders were all out in flower but even though the bees absolutely favourite flower isn’t quite out yet, there are still lots of bee friendly flowers for them to get lots of nectar from.

The exquisite scent of the mock orange (Philidelphius) flowers waffs about the garden enticing the bees with it’s scent that smells like pear drop sweets.  

Geraniums, campanula and million bells also entice the bees and other insects.  

Wildflowers such as; red campion, horehound and foxglove are always a big favourite with the bees. Their absolute favourite at the moment is the cotonester bush they pries the little tight flower buds open to reach in and grab the yummy nectar and carder bees have even got their nest right next to it for convenience.

Its lovely to sit and watch the bees busily buzzing about the garden.  I’ve tried to follow them as they dart quickly from flower to flower but it’s so hard to keep up with them; and even harder to capture them on camera.  It’s truly amazing how quickly they move about the flowers.

An hours bee count for today

Common carder bee  19

wool carder bee  1

Shrill carder bee  5

Brown carder bee  5

Red mason bee  1

Willoughby leafcutter bee  3

Red tailed bumble bee  2

Garden bumble bee  1

Buff tailed bumble bee  2

I may do another bee count at the end of June when more flowers are out but to be honest I don’t need much of an excuse to follow bees around the garden.

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.

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.

A morning moth hunting

Its the first day of The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild. This happens each year and for 30 days in June everyone is encouraged to do something inspired by nature.  This could be cloud gazing, walking in the rain, paddling in a stream, or a beach clean.  Head over to The Wildlife Trust website here and scroll down for many more ideas.

Its been a very warm muggy day and thunder storms are due soon, so this morning before it got too hot I sat in the garden eating my breakfast.  It was lovely to sit eating my cereal listening to the beautiful bird song.  The young starlings were busy squabbling on the feeders as usual, the blackbirds were busy plucking unsuspecting insects off the low growing heather; and Robbie the robin was having a refreshing bath by the side of me.

As I sat there looking for inspiration for what to write about for my 30 Days Wild, a beautiful cinnabar moth fluttered quickly past me.  I then decided that today I would write about these creatures and would spend the next hour on a moth hunt .

The next moth I spotted was camouflaged so well I almost walked pasted it.

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It was a Flame Carpet moth (Xanthorhoe designata) resting on a piece of concrete in the shade.  They are common in gardens, hedgerows and woodland and feed on plants like rapeseed and cabbage.

The next moth I saw kept trying to drown in the pond.  I kept rescuing it but it insisted on flying straight back in.  It was a Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba).  I get a lot of these in the garden and they are always found around the honeysuckle.  Beneath is a photo of one that I took from another day.

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Next on my hunt I found a hairy moth larvae shading from the sunlight behind the garden fence.

20180509_151215 This Oak Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) despite its name doesn’t feed on oak.  It’s name comes from the fact its cocoon looks like an acorn.  It likes to eat heathers and other woody plants.

It was getting to the end of the hours moth hunt and I found the next moth by pure accident.  My leg brushed past the lovely bleeding hearts plant at the front of my garden and out clumsily fluttered a large silver moth.

20180531_142055This Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) was beating it wing fast as I think it had recently emerged and was drying it’s wings out.  The moths are often seen in gardens feeding on the nectar from flowers.

My little moth hunt was over as it was starting to get hotter as the sun broke through the clouds.  I did have one final surprise though.

I found the most fascinating larvae.  I could have watched it all day shuffling along the tayberry branch.  Unfortunately I’m not sure what it is so maybe some of my lovely followers could help me with guessing what it is.  Any ideas what this could be?

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I spent a lovely morning in the garden looking for moths, and even in such a small period of time I was amazed what I had found.  I shall have to learn how to make a moth trap at some point and see what other species I can find in the garden.

Its fun to look under leaves and branches as you never know what delights you’ll find.

 

 

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