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.

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. 

30 days wild: day 18-dawn chorus and planting for wildlife

Today was an early start with Alice waking at half 3 and not going back down. So I heard the dawn chorus. Now the dawn chorus is normally regarded one of natures wonders. But today it was more a cacophony of chaos. Living by the sea the seagulls started as the opening act followed by jackdaws and pigeons.

It wasn’t for an hour or so until I started to hear more melodic tunes from the songbirds. But I did get through the gardeners world 50th anniversary. I’m glad Monty presents now and not Titsmarsh. He’s not my cup of tea. Then managed a few Springwatch unsprung episodes.

I worked on school work through the morning, then got out in the garden late afternoon. It was too hot earlier, but by the time I got out it had cooled off. I did some weeding. Cleared a bit of space around a fuscia and Hebe that were being drowned out by camomile. I’ve reported a few plants on the patio and had a general tidy. Then added a few more pots for wildlife with poached egg plant and night scented stock. Less inviting for wildlife I set up a planter with alpines Amy likes. Alice had her paddling pool out, but wasn’t bothered about going in. But feeling how cold it was I don’t blame her. She did have a dig in the earth though and pretended to water the plants with her watering can.

We both ticked off the wild act of feeling the grass between our toes. It was too hot for shoes and socks most of the day.

The insect life was spectacular today. With the sun out bees and dragonflies were out in abundance. I still don’t seem to have much that appeals to butterflies. So need to work on that.

 

Garden update

The garden is looking nice at the moment. A few issues with smaller plants behind bigger plants, but can look at that for next year.

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The rose campion has flowered. It will have little bursts of small pink flowers through Summer.

The foxgloves have finally come out. A bit behind others in the surrounded gardens. But better late than never. The hollyhock next to is also set to flower.

The roses are doing well.

 


The sweet peas in the hanging baskets are flowering nicely.

 


I have put more food out to attract in the finches.

 


There has been a good variety of birds in the last few days, so my efforts aren’t being wasted.

 

 

The wildlflowers in the border are bringing in the bees. The poppies in particular are seeing lots of visits.

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The garden centre had a lot of dehydrated lavender selling for the 99p. With a few days watering it’s already looking better. I think I’ll aim to nurse it back this year then add to the front garden next year. I have one patch already and it’s smelling great walking in.

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While a few things are dominating this year and my height order in the borders is a bit of a mess the wildlife coming in is much more varied than last year. So I feel my hard work over the last year, much of it started during last years 30 days, is starting to pay off. The garden is gradually becoming a better habitat for more species.

30 days of wild: day 17-rainbow hunt

Today I decided to go with an act I didn’t do last year; the rainbow hunt. I thought it was too much of a hassle, but today through my garden, walking to the Floral Hall, the beach and the park I have kept my eyes peeled for colours.

Richard (red and pink).

Of (orange).

York (yellow)

Gave (green).

Battle (blue).

In vain (indigo and violet).

I hope you like my kaleidoscope of colours. Alice’s had a nice potter in the park along the way. The rainbow hunt was a nice activity. Next year when I’ve got more planted I might try it in school.

 

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Focus on goldfinches

Yesterday morning I spotted these beauties in and out of the garden. They seem to like the bushes behind the house and the which ivy. I’ve spotted them a few times, but they’ve been too quick for photos.

The goldfinch is quite distinctive with the red face and strip of gold along their backs. They can be found in the UK all year round, although some do migrate as far ad Spain. They are more common in Southern England, so a pleasant sight up North.

Their beaks are long adapted to getting seeds out of thistles and teasles. They will also eat insects. They are traditionally farmland birds, but have been becoming more common in farmland. Nyjer and sunflower seeds have enticed them out of farmland. They have suffered from disease in the last decade. So cleaning feeders can help.

So to entice in leave sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds in Winter especially. Growing teasel can attract goldfinch in. I planted some earlier in the year but they haven’t taken off. I’ve got some more seed as affording to the pack it’s not too late to grow. 

Focus on long tailed tit

Yesterday was the turn of a new visitor, the greenfinch, to be focused on. Today is another new visitor. What I believe is a long tailed tit, although they look more bedraggled than the field guide examples.

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I’ve been seeing a pair coming in to hop about in the thicket of small trees and bushes at the bottom of the garden. Apparently they flock in large numbers of up to 20. I haven’t seen this yet, but I don’t know if that’s connected to breeding.  They are in and out of a large tree a few doors down a lot. I’ve been looking out for a nest. The nest should be ball shaped made of twigs, feathers, spiders webs, moss and lichens. But they normally make them in bushes, so it may just be that their in and out of the tree as it’s a convenient vantage point.

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They feed mainly on insects, larvae and spiders. The bark on my borders is rich in spiders, so they’re hopefully getting a good feast. They can’t handle larger seeds, but can eat peanut fragments. Suet products high in energy are good for them. Winter is particularly harsh on small birds who lose their body heat more quickly than larger birds and animals. They roost in large numbers to conserve heat in Winter, so I’ll need to keep my eye out for more.

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