30 days of wild: day 30-woodland stop

Today saw the rain hold off for some of the day. At breakfast I could see more of the birds venturing out again. The housemartins were swooping for bugs. The blue tits were hopping in the trees. Blackbirds were pecking in the wet soil. While I don’t mind being out in rain it brought a greater variety of life out for the last day of this years 30 days.

Today I wasn’t at school as I was attending training on Ofsted inspections. So I got a bit more time with Amy and Alice before heading out. On the way I caught up on the RSPB podcast. This months was discussing project puffin. The RSPB is looking for photos of puffins feeding to track what their eating.

The Ofsted training was a fairly unwild activity taking place in a sterile new build academy. The room we were in fitted the cream song.

In the white room with black curtains. 

It wasn’t the nicest room to spent a day, a featureless white expanse, but the training was useful. I am more prepared for the Ofsted menace. It did however finish early as we had a short dinner and few breaks.

As I was out early I stopped in one of the laybys for a quick pause to take in the wildlife. It is a nice spot I’ve walked properly before, but today just pulled in and took a minute to look round. There are a few picnic tables then a path made from the old railway line.

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The path is surrounded by trees with gaps every so often to see the fields.
 

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The path is lined by wildflowers. It’s remarkable how much life one flower can support. Just a single buttercup out on its own was supporting a wealth of pollen beetles.

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Cow parsley thistles were swarmed with bees and hoverflies and a range of snails around the leaves.

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Red admirals criss crossed the path. I struggled for a photo. They landed on my head, my shoulder and briefly on my hand, but couldn’t get a photo. With a little patience I managed a shot with the wings open and closed.

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Then returning to the car I spotted something amazing. Something from the land that time forgot. A beast at almost three inches. From the field guides I think it’s possible a common hawker. Although looking at I can’t say its something I see commonly. Damselflies I see regularly, but fantastic beasts of this size are not a daily occurrence. 

So thank you 30 days for this last currioisity. If it wasn’t for the 30 days I may not of stopped for a brief pause and seen these wonders. The lessons from 30 days, to continue to enjoy nature, will carry on through the year.

30 days of wild: day 29-bedraggled birds

Rain rain come again another day.
The rain has continued today. The garden had been looking very dry. Even watering morning and evening the hydrangeas were looking the worse for wear. Now the garden looks lush.

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The rain is weighing down many of the meadow flowers.

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It was nice to see many of the birds back in though even if they are bedraggled. Many of the smaller birds are still hiding away. The blackbirds seem to of had a bad time of it.

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The pigeons have been sat along the fence and on next doors conservatory roof picking through and shaking out feathers.

We’ll have to see what the last of the 30 days brings tomorrow, but I reckon may be looking at more wet activities. 

I finished my audio book of Watership Downs on the way home today. I heartily recommend it. Lovely, engaging story.  

30 days of wild: day 28-log pile house

“Where are you going to little brown mouse, 

Come and have tea in my log pile house.”

Today has been a very wet, soggy day. The heavens opened as we set up the outdoor area at school and hasn’t really stopped. We’ve done some powder paint mixing in the puddles, which the kids have enjoyed. The kids have collected rain water in an assortment of pans from the mud kitchen. An awful lot of potions were made.

For nature I built up a small log pile in the garden area in the shade. I’d like more spots for beetles, woodlice, etc. Unfortunately with rain I forgot to take a photo.

I have however found quite a few moths sheltering under the canopy. I’ve been discussing the difference between moths and butterflies with the kids over the last few weeks since we released the butterflies. This moth kindly obliged staying still for me to discuss it with the kids.

So the kids could see the charteristic fur, club antennae and the wings out at the side.

On my journey home my audio book, Watership Downs, is almost finished. Its looking to reach an exciting conclusion in line with the end of the 30 days.

30 days of wild: day 27-badgers

Today I went back to check for ladybirds with my class after yesterday. The kids were happy to see one emerged. I hadn’t just made up this crazy ladybird life cycle story to them.

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We also found several bees as I continue trying to teach a love of bees. There normal response is to try to hit them, which they need to get out of that habit.

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After work I went home and we had something to celebrate. My partner, Amy, has got a new job. It’s just part time, but should fit well when Alice starts school. So we celebrated with a beer. As it is Badger Week there could only be one choice. So raise a glass to new jobs and in recognition of badgers.

Focus on small tortoiseshells

Having covered the more drab speckled wood I decided today I’d research something with a bit more colour: the small tortoiseshell.


These are common garden butterflies, but numbers have taken a bit of a pounding he last few years. One theory explaining why blames a parasitic fly killing the caterpillars. Numbers are lower in the tropical South of England where the parasite does better. Might be grim up North, but better for tortoiseshells. 

The eggs are usually laid in large batches, of 60 to 100 eggs, often on nettles, so leaving a little wilderness for caterpillars will do them a world of good. When the caterpillars emerge from their eggs they form communal webs before spreading over more plants. The nettles form their main food supply.
Interestingly the butterfly can be found almost all year round on the wing if the weather is warm enough. So keep your eyes on the look out all year.

30 days of wild: day 26-sharing

Today has seen me sharing my wildlife passions. The morning has been the culmination of several months of hard work. I changed schools this term and took a promotion to become am EYFS coordinator. We’ve had local authority moderation looming over us. So we’ve had a frantic couple of months collecting evidence and teaching the children to the level we needed. This morning we had the moderation and it went really well. Everyone of our assessments were signed off by the LA. So this lunchtime I spent a bit of times enjoying the children’s company.

On the main playground where the kids go out at dinner there is a wildlife garden. There is a ponds and planters with wildlife attracting species of flowers: lavender, rosemary and nettles.

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The kids currently are worm obsessed. Second in their interests are ladybirds. So at lunch I spent the time finding a ladybird larvae.

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And found a good few pupae. Both larvae and pupae ate probably the invasive harlequin menace, but children have a fascination with naming and understanding these things.

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Teaching natural history and the names of animals, birds and minibeasts has been shown to teach care for the environment. Then from this deeper empathy for other people. A useful lesson for a calm school.

Returning home my passion has rubbed off on my partner. She’s been taking photos while I’m out. This one stands out as pretty good and I like the subject matter too.


This is all part of what 30 days is all about though. Enjoying wildlife for your self is great, but getting more people to enjoy nature gives me an even greater joy. 

Who will you inspire?

Focus on speckled wood

Over the day I’ve had a lot of butterflies in and out the garden. The showier tortoiseshell is rather pretty, but its the speckled woods that has poised for photos multiple time in different positions. 
The speckled wood is a common butterfly, but apparently only has scattered colonies in the North so I’m lucky to see them regularly. It’s never going to be the poster species for butterfly conservation, not being colourful or rare enough. But it is still a delightful sight settling in the garden. They vary in colour across the country with different shades of brown and orange rather than cream or white spots in the South.


The name gives away their main habitat, but they can be found through gardens and hedgerows. They feed on honeydew at the top of trees. Normally they only come down to flowers later in the year. However you can see mine fancied my flowers with the proboscis (butterfly tongue equivalent) lapping up the flower.

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The caterpillars eat grasses including common couch. They can be found through the year. Numbers are currently good as a result of climate change. The butterfly can be seen April through to October.

The wildlife trust has helped with woodland management. A mixture of coppicing, scrub cutting and nonintervention giving the speckled wood the habitats both the caterpillars and butterflies need. 

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30 days of wild; day 25-garden watch and a wild drink

Today I have been sat working in the kitchen with the patio doors open working to check over my classes evidence for Local Authority moderation tomorrow. I decided while doing this I’d keep a tally of visible species. As with the RSPB gardenwatch I’ve only recorded the highest number seen at once.

The work I’ve done trying to make the garden more wildlife friendly over the last year is really showing.

Over a two hour period of putting my head up from my work every so often I’ve seen:

Birds

  • blackbirds 2
  • coal tit 1
  • starlings 6
  • common gull 1
  • sparrows 3
  • pigeon 3
  • jackdaws 3
  • collared dove 1
  • goldfinches 2
  • wren 1
  • long tailed tits 2

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Bees

    • Carder bee
    • White tailed bumblebee
    • red tailed bumblebee
    • carder bee
    • honey bee

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Butterflies

  • Speckled wood
  • Small tortoiseshell
  • Small white

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Now most of these species are fairly common to gardens. However these were spotted between about 10 and 11 in the morning. Not a prime time for birding. I wasn’t watching the whole time, so there is a chance there were other species. What this shows is from last year when I moved in the efforts I’ve made are working. Just a small amount of planting and providing homes and food for various wildlife has improved the biodiversity enormously. If everyone contributes that little bit in their garden it all comes together to allow us to coexist in our gardens alongside some spectacular wildlife.

To relax while checking over books I thought I’d try another wild act making a cup of nettle tea. I collected a mug of nettles from the wilderness behind the garden and boiled with 2 cups of water. Once boiled it loses its sting. Nettle tea apparently has many benefits for skin, health and urinary tracts. I can’t comment on that side yet, but it tasted pleasant enough.

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While collecting nettles I disturbed this rather interesting looking moth. I think it’s a small magpie, but the world of moth identification is a much bigger one than butterflies or birds, so may be wrong.

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30 days of wild: Day 24-Summer babies

The day started with a sighting of a juvenile goldfinch. They are the same as the adults essentially, but without the red face. I took this as a good sign as we were off to a baby shower today.

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The adult shortly followed.

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We had a lovely time at the baby shower. It was the baby shower of one of our friends who is having another girl. So Alice will have another friend to play with. Alice had a good wonder in the lovely garden.

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I managed a good few sightings for the Friends of the Earth Bee Hunt.

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Back at home in our garden I spotted this spectacular wasp mimic hoverfly. It was almost luminescent in its colours. I believe it’s a rather nicely named variety known as the marmalade fly (Episyrphus balteatus). A lovely splash of yellow on what started as a grey day.

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30 days of wild: day 23-water ripples

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?

Ralph Marston

Across the road from work is the Beverley and Barmston drain. There have been lots of ducks recently. The children have been coming into school excited to talk about them. I hadn’t been over to investigate this area since starting my new job.

The drain has a slope of a few metres down to it. The banks are lined with wildflowers: nettles, cowparsley, buttercups, thistles and grasses. The water is pretty static, thus the green algae buildup. The lines through it are the trails of ducks.

It’s a perfect habitat for a whole variety of species. I saw ducks and moorhens nesting on the water. Housemartins swooped over the path coming down from the trees. Various insects flitted around the wilderness that has been allowed to grow a little way along.

Bindweed covers a section with its lovely white blooms. 

Buttercups and clover fill the space around the path low down. Not the most exciting finds, but adds to my species count for the Great British Wildflower Hunt.

The nettles were hosting lots of ladybird pupae. At a guess I’d say harlequin ladybirds. An invasive species, but the main type of ladybird I see these days. The little black and orange curls gripping onto leaves.

I saw one hatched ladybird yet to get its spots. Though that sounds rather like a Rudyard Kipling Just So Story. How the ladybird got its spots. When ladybirds emerge they are generally yellow and then change over their first day.

Then I had one last discovery. A butterfly I wasn’t aware of in the area, the ringlet. While probably not considered a rare find I’ll admit to still being filled with joy to see it settle near me.

Butterfly Conservation describes it as “conservation priority: low”. This discouraging description puts me rather in mind of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxies description of Earth, “harmless”. While it might be common it excited me as I haven’t taken a photo of one before.