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?

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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.

30 days of wild: Day 22-Great British Wildflower Hunt

To see a world in a grain of sand

And heaven in a wild flower

Hold infinity in the palms of your hand

And eternity in an hour.

William Blake

 

Naturalists love a survey and plantlife have launched their effort, The Great British Wildflower Survey. People have less contact with wildlflowers and know less about them. This survey aims to find out numbers in order to make sure they are still there for future generations.

In my area the police are doing census stops. They pull people over at random and ask questions and do a quick check over of the car. As I had gone through two census points and traffic was slow I stopped in a lay by for a minute to do a count of species spotted. I can identify a small handful of wildflowers, so I’m always happy for projects like this that will teach me more.

There was no shortage of cow parsley.

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Then patches of common ragwort.

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A few tufts of common knapweed covered in pollen beetles.

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Patches of herb robert sticking out here and there. This one complete with hoverfly.

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And plenty of white clover, thistles and nettles.

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On my commute I am still enjoying listening to Watership Downs. Nothing too tragic has happened to the main characters, but I feel it’s all about to go downhill for them. Here are some rabbits spotted today. You can just make them out as little dots as I only had my ipad and phone to hand for a photo.

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And a chaffinch that was singing away merrily. Again, sorry for the poor image quality.

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Then back home I’ve seen the goldfinches out lots. They’ve gone from being totally absent to everywhere.

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My results for the Great British Wildlfower Hunt are submitted, so I’ve done my bit for conservation today. Hopefully I’ll pick up the names of a few more species as I go on.

30 days of wild: day 21-bumps in the night

The last few nights I’ve set up the trail camera hoping to see evidence that the hedgehogs are coming back in the garden with no luck. With the extreme heat I’ve been worried that they might suffer from dehydration. I have water left in various locations around the garden for the use of birds, insects, amphibians and mammals to help during these dry periods, but hedgehogs are quite susceptible to dehydration.

I set up the trail camera with a few hours left of light. It saw a few visitors before nightfall.

Then during the night the first visitor wasn’t the hedgehog, but it was mammalian in nature. It was one of the mice that I believe live under the shed and come out for the bird feed. I keep the bird feed in sealed metal buckets to avoid them eating it all directly, but I can’t stop them from going to the feeders. But it is always nice to see any form of mammal surviving in the garden.

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Then later in the night I’m glad to say the hedgehog was spotted by the trail camera. It hasn’t been drained by the heat. I still love that they visit the garden a year on from discovery. Last year during 30 days I discovered hedgehogs and foxes on the school site. In my new garden I’ve got the hedgehogs, but I will admit to missing the fox sightings. Maybe in the future I’ll see more. For now I’ll enjoy my hedgehog footage.

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30 days wild: day 20-tree charter

I started today with my breakfast in the kitchen with the patio doors open. Today was a more pleasant tune than day 18. The goldfinches were singing on the houses opposite and the pigeons sat silent.

While having breakfast I listened to the BBC Natural History podcast. The episode was on adders in Scotland. This was interesting as you generally associate snakes with the warmer climates of the South.

In work I was on outdoor duty this afternoon at school. With the heat I got the kids to give the garden a good water. We also filled the water bath up. With the heat we’re having it’s important to look after the birds and prevent dehydration.

Then this evening added my name to the tree charter. Led by the woodland trust the charter is looking to give protection to trees. The principles are to protect habitats, land for them will future, celebrate the cultural role of trees, encourage a thriving forest industry, better protection for trees and woods, better new developments, understanding the use and benefits of trees, ¬†addressing threats to trees, access of trees to all and strengthening landscapes. All worthy ideas and worth adding a digital signature too. I certainly appreciate the trees around me. WIthout them I wouldn’t see half the species I currently do.

Focus on the Common Blue Damselfly

In my garden I’ve seen a good variety of dragonflies and damselflies. Living near the mere, a large area of water, they are in much larger numbers than my last house in suburban Hull. Now within damselflies there are 9 almost identical blue damselflies in the Collins field guide.

The differences are mainly in the eye colour and the markings on the second section. The Northern Blue for example has a black arrow shaped marking, whereas the common blue has more of an ace of spaces. Having looked carefully at the photos I’ve taken I reckon mine are mainly common blue. They appear to have more of the rounded dot than an arrow.

British dragonflies gives a good ID guide. Apparently one of the most typical British damselfly it is on the wing April to September. The females can be blue or a dull green. They breed forming wheels in the air over water. The eggs are laid just under water on plants. Then the nymphs live in water before climbing out onto plant stems to moult into their eventual form. But then they can be found living in grassland, gardens and woodland.  

So 30 days has again developed my knowledge of another species and looking at the intricacies of a species. Please do write a comment to confirm or correct if my ID is wrong.