Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

Twitter profile

Burton Constable

Today we headed for one of the local country houses, Burton Constable, for what was advertised as a food fair. However it was more of a craft fair than a food fair. Not having brought any food with us we ended up with an odd dinner of pie and cupcakes. The cupcakes ended up a bit of a mess after being bumped along in the pram. The pie however was from Hull Pie, so was top nosh.

We took our random lunch out on the woodland walk round the field of sheep away from the hall.

We found a bench to sit on. Alice’s eagle eyes spotted a moth under the bench. While I’m ok at identifying butterflies my lepidoptorist skills don’t stretch to identifying small brown and white moths. I will need to look through the field guide.

The weather changed rapidly to windy and raining, but none of this deterred Alice.

Back in the stables we saw the Burton Constable Whale. This 58 1/2 foot long sperm whale was washed up on the Holderness Shore in 1825. Sir Thomas Aston Clifford Constable had claim to it at the time, so it became property of the estate. A local Hull surgeon took an interest and dissected and wrote a study of it. A second study by Thomas Beale was read by Herman Melville who would go on to write the classic Moby Dick.

at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale…Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his long cavities – spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan – and swing all day upon his lower jaw. Locks are to be put upon some of his trap doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side. Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.

And that seems like a good tie in to mention that it is National Marine Week. A time to draw attention to the need to protect marine life such as the whale. I’m going to aim to get out to do another beach clean during the week.

Within my garden this morning I finally managed to get a photo of one of the marvellous dragonflies that have been in and out. They’ve been in and out lots recently, but rarely stay still for photographing. The size and colours of these fantastic insects are amazing. I’m glad to find them starting to come in the garden more.

Bees in need

This week is bees needs week. The week is organised by DEFRA and a number of charities. It aims to raise awareness of the role of bees and other pollinators. Today I’ll discuss the aims of the week and a few things you can do to help and share some of my bee photos from the last year.

Bees are vital to gardeners to pollinate many flowers as well as significant to farmers to pollinate crops.

The week is pushing five simple acts.

1: Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees. Having planted in more variety of shrubs, perennials and annuals this year I can see the difference in the number of bees in the garden. Amongst the bees favorites ate the foxgloves and the lavender. Bee and butterfly flower mixes are easy to buy these days. Once sown many will grow easily and self seed allowing the benefit continue. I grow some in my borders, but also in pots for easy management.


2: Let your garden grow wild.

There are a number of parts to this. Leaving grass in winter. Leaving pernial plants uncut gives hibernation shelters. Leaving a few wildflowers like dandelions of thistles gives pollinators there early source of pollen in the Spring. Nettles and brambles are important for many species to lay eggs on. Behind my garden there is a narrow path where nettles and brambles grow. I trim it back as little as possible, so I can still get the wheelbarrow down. This area is particularly good for moths between the thick ivy and nettles.

3: Cut grass less often. Most people don’t need an excuse to leave their lawns. But leaving grass to grow provides a number of species of butterfly good egg spots for caterpillars. Leaving grass after September gives bees nesting sites. With Alice I don’t really want the whole lawn long so I just have areas on the edge I leave to grow longer.

 photo _DSC0448_zpsicxgyiac.jpg

 photo _DSC0267_zpsogwrvqon.jpg

4: Avoid disturbing nests. Many bees build underground nests in old mammal holes. Trees, walls and dead wood can also be nest sites. So again its about trying to leave them alone over Winter. Bee hotels can be bought or made for many solitary bees that nest above ground. While I haven’t had much luck with bees in mine they are filling with other life.


5: Think about whether to use pesticides. Many pesticides harm bees. Check labels and think carefully before buying. If you do use them try to avoid spraying flowering plants.

The wildlife trust had put out more information sheets here. Nothing very strenuous there, but will give you enjoyment of these vital, wonderful creatures.

 photo _DSC0009_zps57zuiumb.jpg

Big Butterfly Count

Yesterday saw the start of the Big Butterfly Count. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation to monitor butterfly numbers. Many species of butterfly have suffered over the last decade. But if we don’t put figures to the declines protection won’t be put in place.
Within my garden I will probably only see a handful of species. I see plenty of varieties of whites. However they don’t stop for photos much. The red admirals are more obliging.

Butterfly

Ringlets are common on my walks.

 photo _DSC0290_zpsljthce87.jpg

Speckled woods I see in my garden and out and about.

_DSC0093

Small tortoiseshells are a less frequent visitor to my garden, but common enough in my area.

small tortoiseshell

Then occasionally I’ll see a peacock.

_DSC0195

On the Big Butterfly Count website there is an ID sheet to download to help support identification. I’ve printed and laminated an A3 one to go outside in my outdoor classroom near the bug hotel to encourage the children to keep their eyes out.
Sightings can be submitted on the website here. My garden has a few more butterfly attracting plants than last year, so we’ll see if I spot anything new this year.

Invite a tree for tea

The woodland trust invite a tree for tea pack is back again. I used it last year with my class to learn about trees. The pack last year had a nice little ID guide, some games, treasure hunt. The pack this year again looks good. The premise is basic; trees are vital to us. But they are under threat, so the tree party is celebrating the value of trees, while raising money and awareness for the Woodland Trust.

_DSC0303

 

30 days wild: day 16-den day

Today has been Save the Children den day. We took part at school as my first stay and play as EYFS coordinator. Before the kids came in we got out the kit. We had lots of tarps and curtains. We got the crates out and tables out.

We have dividers designed for splitting areas inside up. We assemble these into frames for the children to use as a starting point for dens.

 

We covered the picnic table with a tarp and set up a pop up tent for the lazier children.

 

One of the other teachers had come up with the idea of having knot examples.

IMG_1105

We just aimed to provide enough of a starting point for the children to take it and build a den with a degree of independence.

The children and parents were wonderful working nicely together and coming up with lots of different dens.

IMG_1132

Using the room dividers worked well as a frame for the dens. The kids were able to use these and pegs to make decent dens with just a small support.

IMG_1128

The parachute made for a big den for lots of children at once.

IMG_1130

The mud kitchen ended up covered.

IMG_1129

This was a pop up football goal put to better use.

IMG_1134

The most solid award goes to a den built by one of the older brothers who came. He was great with the kids and helped build a whole run of dens.

IMG_1131

Both kids, staff and parents have had a great morning. I think a lot of the parents were a bit disappointed to see their dens dismantled at the end of the day. We had some really positive feedback, which is nice to hear. A lot of prep goes into these days, so it was good to see it appreciated. Many of the parents were talking about carrying on with dens at home. This was lovely to hear and hopefully means moreover more children outside.

30 days wild: day 15-cloud watching

Day 15 brings us to half way through 30 days wild. It’s going fast. I started early with a bowl of Jordan’s granola outside on the patio. Jordans, as well as making tasty granola, also support the wildlife trust. They put aside part of their land for wildlife. While enjoying my breakfast I listened to the birdsong. I’ve been trying to improve my recognition by sound. I recognised the blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons and seagulls. There was one I don’t know, but I think it might of been some form of tits. I also engaged in the wild act of cloud gazing. The moon was still visible. The previous act of finding something blue would have been easy today. The clouds today were the nice big fluffy white variety of Andy’s wallpaper in toy story.

 

 

I had lain out a tarp to dry ready for den day tomorrow and found some spectacular wildlife underneath when I moved it. It’s amazing what will settle in dark, warm spots in gardens.

IMG_1082

IMG_1083

IMG_1084

I tried unsuccessfully to capture a photo of the housemartins but only got a seagull.

_DSC1372

In work I started getting things ready for tomorrow’s den day. We have wigwams inside. Then outside we have tarps, parachutes, curtains, pegs, tape, and the portable dividers to use to make our dens. It’s my first stay and play with parents at my new school, so hopefully be fun.