Wildflower hour-Himalayan Balsam

A while back the environment agency were heavily cutting back along one of the drainage ditches near us. I’d wondered at the time, then realised this weekend. Watching gardeners world there was a feature on Himalayan Balsam. This non native species of flower became popular for its pretty flowers in gardens. However its seed pops and spreads quickly. This has led to it growing wild where it drowns out native species. The gardeners world feature discussed how rust is being introduced in sites across the country. This won’t kill it, but will limit the growth.

Made it to the mere for a quick walk around in the sun with Alice.

This swan had picked up some additional decoration.

The birds pay no attention to crossing that line.

And went for some headshots of the mallards.

Bay Badger

The last few days we’ve been visiting my in laws to be at Robin Hoods Bay. On the journey there we got stuck in Scarborough with the rain. Over a couple of minutes the weather changed from a dry day to the roads becoming rivers up to car doors. We found ourselves stuck in the middle of a crossroad of streets closed off. So we took shelter in a pub for lunch while it eased off and drained a bit. On the way out of Scarborough we passed a few cars still submerged, but we made it through unscathed. A little scary at times. So we arrived at the bay a little later than intended.

Amy’s dad had asked about trying the trail cam in their garden. They knew they had badgers visiting at night, but wanted to see where they have been going. We captured a quick burst of the badger coming in and checking the camera and then disappearing on its way.

Amy’s dad thinks the badger comes in from one side of the garden and goes across, so I’ve left the trail camera with him to try a few more locations. I found some badger poo and dead rodents down on the cliff edge and a trail into the undergrowth that suggests a home, so we’ll see if he finds out more.

The view from the bay.

I’ll be writing up some more of our bay escapades over the next few days as far too much for one blog.

Folklore Thursday

In Japanese folklore badgers often shapeshift into promiscuous women.

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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust-North Cave Wetlands

Today Amy was off for a day at the races, so I decided to take Alice for an adventure further afield. We’ve worked our way through a good area of our more pram accessible local bridleways and public footpaths. So we headed out to one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves at North Cave. The last time I went to the wetlands was just before Alice was born March/April time. It was an amazing time to visit for the birds as there were a lot of nesting birds including sea birds and migrants. The reserve is being developed further with large areas set to be turned into different habitats. This was just getting started when I last visited.

The site was originally a quarry that has since had areas dug, some filled with topsoil to make the islands and lakes.

Currently the main centre is a large lake. From the photo you can see the islands are providing a whole host of birds homes. The area has been managed to provide a mixture of shallow and deep lakes giving a wide range of birds suitable habitats.

The shallower lakes and reeds offering a number of waders homes.

The number of species of wildlife is immense. For me to go through all of what I saw would provide a months worth of blogs. I would have my head buried in field guides to a point where my partner would be pulling her hair out in desperation at losing her partner. So I’m just going to flag a few key species I either liked or was happy with the photographs I had taken.

I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. I didn’t think the birders would appreciate her giggling and running around the hides. The paths are designed with either tree lines or embankments to stop visitors disturbing the birds, particularly important in the breeding season. So as we gave the hides a miss I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. That said I still saw plenty.

Swans and lapwings. You have to love the lapwings crest, like a quiff gone wrong.

What I think is a pochard. I’m working on my knowledge of waders, so I don’t just have to say duck for everything vaguely similar.

What I think were house martins, from the tails and as they were stopping in the trees.

A few coots on the edge of the lake.

While I may not have seen as many birds as if we’d gone in the hides insect pickings were high. The shallow lakes and pools provide perfect habitats for dragonflies and damselflies.

The vast majority of the dragonflies I photographed are common darters. I did see a few different varieties I think I saw hawkers, but still building a knowledge of dragonflies.

I saw a number of damselflies in a number of different colours.

The variety of butterflies was astounding. Next year for the butterfly count I may need to visit North Cave. I also added one more species to this years sightings and saw flashes of what might have been different species.

The small tortoiseshell.

A mixture of whites. Butterfly Conservation have a good ID guide to distinguishing between the main cabbage whites.

Meadow brown butterfly.

A peacock.

A speckled wood

And my new sighting of the common blue. A rather stunning shade of blue particularly the furry thorax.

There was plenty to see low down as well with this rather striking cinnabar moth caterpillar.

The accessible areas are worth a visit, butt one of the amazing aspects of North Cave is that it still has massive areas being developed. New lakes are being excavated in two new zones.

While the areas don’t look like much now from photographs the areas will hopefully provide homes potentially for lots more species. Of high interest to me are the marsh harriers and stoats. By offering slightly different wetlands in each area the reserve is going to be an amazing space, providing for a massive variety of species. With 38.98 hectares it’s going to be a lovely large area. I hope a visitor centre is planned in to the new areas.

Alice wanted to go each bench as we went round, insisting on pulling her self up. On some she sat and watched the lakes, others she wanted to be straight off.

She quite enjoyed the hide at the end of the road as it had a large glass window for her to look out of, but I think the path back to the car was actually her favourite area. She had to be in the pram around the lakes perimeter, so she was happy to get out for a run. She did enjoy investigating the stones on the path, but did part with them before we left.

North Cave Wetlands are a superb testament to the wonderful work the Wildlife Trust do. Through there planning they have created an area that is supporting such an amazing wealth of life. Careful management of a disused quarry has created a site that on its own justifies my membership fees. Well worth a visit.

http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/north-cave-wetlands-nature-reserve

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Hedgehog Home Survey

Just a quick mention that the Hedgehog Preservation Society are starting a new survey to help combat declining hedgehog numbers. The survey is asking about different hedgehog homes people put out, whether you feed any of the mammals and birds in your garden and about other potential homes in your garden. It only takes a few minutes to complete if you have a chance to do it. The survey runs to October, so plenty of time.

https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/housingcensus/https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/help-hedgehogs/housingcensus/

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I’ve discussed helping hedgehogs before, but it’s worth repeating.

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My homes have yet to be used for hibernation, but I only put them in last year. I do get plenty of hedgehog visitors though. I also discovered we get hedgehogs visiting at school, so set up a home there as well. So fingers crossed may get some hibernating this year.

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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?

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30 days of wild: day 19-meditate in the wild

Today was another scorching hot day, so took the chance to eat dinner outside at work in the shade of the trees. It was a pleasant temperature with the breeze rustling through the leaves. It’s good to have a break in the day, a moment of calm when dealing with 80 children through the morning.

I then completed the wild act meditate outside. This years 30 days has linked the benefits of nature loving to mental health. Taking a chance to go out and have a breather did me wonders before going to sit in a stuffy meeting.

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The meeting was just over the road from school. On the way I admired the wild planting outside one of the health centres. It’s good to see a decent 30 metre stretch put over to these in the middle of a built up city area. Between this and the trees in our school ground we do quite well for wildlife.

 

30 days wild 2017: day 8-2 minute beach clean

Today has been a busy day for social media with the UK election. So after putting Alice to bed I headed down to our polling station on the sea front at the Floral Hall. Whichever way you lean politically I hope you had you right say by placing your vote. As it is World Oceans Day I decided I would do a quick stroll along the sea front. I couldn’t make it to an ocean, so the North Sea was my substitute.

_DSC1142Not wanting to waste an opportunity for another wild act I came prepared with litter picker and bin bag to do a 2 minute beach clean. The concept of the beach clean is simple. After a series of storms beaches were left scattered with rubbish. Beach cleans were organised to remove it. Just two minutes gives you time to pick up a remarkable amount of rubbish. If this rubbish isn’t removed it can cause an horrendous amount of damage to marine life. But safety first. Don’t forget to use a litter picker and gloves if handling rubbish. The website offers more safety tips.

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All I did was walk from one set of steps down to the next. Some of the rubbish was literally a few metres from bins. They will of passed the bin to get off the beach where they’ve thrown it. I found polystyrene, a can of cider, plastic wrappers and tin foil left from someone’s picnic.

But for just a quick stroll I cleared a good chunk of rubbish, filled a bin bag and can feel happy with myself for helping on World Ocean Day. The official website are working on an app to share your waste, literally a rubbish idea pardon the pun. Although I’m sure it will actually be quite interesting to see people’s finds.

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Walking home I noticed the clouds were looking particularly attractive. House martins were swooping in large numbers over the road and I felt a great sense of calm from my little nature excursion.

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