30 Days Wild: Day 21-The Great British Creature count day 1

Over yesterday and today, it is the Great Yorkshire Creature Count. This has been arranged by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Over 24 hours they are looking for people to watch the wildlife in their areas, snap it and record it. They are using the iNaturalist app. This is a simple to use app that allows you to log wildlife sightings and then they can be added to projects like the Great Yorkshire Creature Count to help different organisations carry out surveys. You can upload photos and it has options to help ID your sightings if you are unsure of what you’ve seen.

Alice helped have a look through the garden and I added them to the App later.

Here a few of our sightings.

A red admiral butterfly. These are gradually coming out in bigger numbers.

The ladybirds are enjoying the aphid filled dahlia.

The poppies bringing in the bumblebees.

We didn’t have much time for spotting yesterday but we have until dinnertime today. It’s a bit wetter so we might have some different sightings. See if we can find some of the many frogs hiding away in the garden currently. When I started in the garden I was keen to bring in a lot of wildlife and it’s good to see how much variety we are attracting in. We are doing something right.

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Six on Saturday: 23.5.20 Hardy Geraniums and alliums

Well, it’s been a busy week for garden media, despite lockdown. The virtual Chelsea flower show has dominated the TV during the week. After giving my opinion earlier in the week the TV coverage has still been pretty dull. But it can’t have been easy to fill the number of hours they had assigned to it. Though, I still feel the 15+ hours of coverage could have been put to better use. 15 hours could give a good introduction to gardening but obviously, it isn’t easy making TV on lockdown. The online content has been much better though with some great slots from designers and growers without the fuss of show gardens. The Virtual Chelsea garden competition was inevitably won by people with stunning gardens, but many times the size of the average garden. But my tweet did make the RHS website.

1. Geranium Renardii

Renardii was one of the early purchases I made for the garden. This one has been a slow spreader. The Margery Fish advice of, “if in doubt, plant a geranium” is sound advice and they are all over my garden. I’ve seen it featured on several other peoples six on Saturday posts and they’ve lamented that it doesn’t flower as well as other hardy geraniums. Mine has a reasonable number but it probably isn’t as filled as other hardy geraniums.

Renardii leaves have an odd warty texture to them. A bit leathery but I rather like the look of them near my silver-leaved lychnis for the contrast.

2. Geranium x oxonianum

This little geranium was one of our wedding presents. It’s taken two seasons to establish well but I now have two plants that are filling out well and they are covered in the tiny veined flowers.

3 Allium karataviense

These were bought from a market stall a few years ago for 40p each. They ebbed and flowed in their vigour. They are a short variety with large ivory flower heads. They are quite a nice variety for pots with their low growing nature. These are dotted along the front of the borders.

4. Allium trifoliatum ‘Caméléon’

These are a Sarah Raven purchase. I bought them at the end of the season cheap. I think they might want to review the product details as by nor stretch of the imagination are these 30-45cm. More like 10-15cm. They are completely lost in the borders. You can see even the smallest forget-me-nots are taller. While very pretty they needed to be in a pot on their own as anything else will cover them. I’m going to try to carefully transplant them to the front garden where I might be able to put them in visible spots.

5. Geranium-Ingwersen’s variety

This was bought at the same time as the Renardii. This is spreading to claim more and more ground. It is a short ground hugger. The flowers aren’t as ornate as the other two featured this week but they flower in abundance. I think it’s probably time to divide some. Maybe place it under the Charles DeMills rose.

6. Allium-Tesco special

These alliums are grown in pots. Tescos has sold them for the last few years. I’ve bought them last minute usually when they’ve been reduced. There are two to a pot. They flower and stay looking good as flower heads for a time afterwards.

Hope you’re enjoying your weekends. Don’t forget to check the other six on Saturday blogs in the founder’s comments. We had a good burst of rain yesterday but this was followed by a day of sun and wind. It’s looking to be a bit colder but still winds around me so back to the watering. But now people are coming to our area for the beach we aren’t walking out as much as it’s getting too busy. Glad we’ve got the garden.

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I’m going to sneak an extra plant in featured a few weeks back as it was such a lovely photo.

Weekends in gardens

On Sunday we headed out to my parents for lunch.

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Alice a nice time in her ladybird tent.

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Alice enjoyed watering the flowers.

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The bees enjoyed the passion flowers.

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Then we went onto Amy’s sisters for her birthday. Lots of red admirals were out and about and a few moths.

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Alice was excited to go on the trampoline. Although her feelings were mixed when on.

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The youngsters altogether.

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In my own garden the butterfly house is seeing visitors. Bananas I put out during 30 days are now attracting red admirals. They like their fruit matured a few weeks. So if you are looking to do the butterfly count leave fruit out now to over ripen.

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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 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.

 

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.

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

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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.

 

 

Start a wildflower meadow

Continuing my RSPB home for nature plan I have set aside an area in the front garden for a wildflower meadow. Wildflowers creates a feast for bees, butterflies and other insects. From that it gives the birds another supply of food. There also very attractive looking.

RSPB link

The patch chosen is a little strip alongside the front path. It had nothing growing of any major use. A couple of dandelions, but no great variety for attracting insect life.

I started by turning over the soil and taking out the couple of dandelions.

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I broke up the soil to make it finer. Wildflower mix will generally find a way to grow, but might as well make it easier to take.

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I added a thin layer of compost from the heap to give the soil a layer of fresh nutrients. The soil in my garden is mainly clay, so the compost will hopefully help the flowers a little further.

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Then scattered a box of wildflower mix, a bag of seeds from the friends of the earth bee pack then a few poppy seeds and other seed packs.

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Lastly walked over to step it in and watered.

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I was concerned that it was too late in the year but watching a gardeners world episode it encouraged setting up an area pretty much any time except late Autumn and early Winter, so we’ll see what happens.

Currently we have not moved into the house so took across one bird feeder from the current house to see what comes in. So far just pigeons, but at this point of the year most birds will find their own food while insects are plentiful. We are by the sea, so slightly concerned that the seagulls will scare away some of my favourite garden birds, but will have to wait and see.

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I’ve potted some lavender. I like lavender as an insect attracting flower and cat repentant (don’t want the birds eaten), but it does badly in clay soil, so I’ll see if it can manage in pots.

I’ve added a insect home and butterfly home ticking off another home for nature activity.

Build a bee B&B

The garden is currently pretty wild, which I’m in favour of, but mainly just for slugs and snails. So I’ve worked on clearing the dandelion forest to claim a flower bed back. A good afternoons work digging and turning over.

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I’ve got some ivy ready to continue adding to the  on the fence. Very important for many moth species, spiders and giving some further cover.

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And a butterfly enjoying the garden.

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The bee cause

It was good to see some positive news from Friends of the Earth after helping support the bee cause throughout the great British Bee Hunt. A bee also provided one of my favourite photos during 30 days of wild.

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From Friends of the Earth:

Dear Joshua

I can’t wait to tell you this: yesterday, following advice from its own pesticide experts, the Government rejected another application to use banned bee-harming pesticides. This is a huge win for our bees.
 
But while our bees can breathe a sigh of relief now, I’m really concerned about what Brexit means for bees and nature in general. 
 
Join the campaign to protect nature – including bees.

The National Farmers’ Union (which already had a similar request to use neonicotinoid pesticides turned down this year) won’t be too happy about this. Nor the two giant pesticide companies who supported the proposal (no prizes for guessing why).
 
Thanks to your support we were able to pull together a stack of evidence to oppose the application and show that bee-friendly methods of farming without neonics are available.

The use of neonics is currently restricted at a European level, but that could all change outside the EU. And that would be catastrophic for bees.
 
Can you help make sure bees are protected from neonics for good?
 
More and more scientific evidence is showing the threat to bee species and other pollinators like butterflies from neonics. As we figure out what Brexit really means for the UK, one thing we can’t do is let the Government lift the ban on neonics – there’s just no reason to do it.
 
Just this week we heard more great news that Dorset County Council will ban neonics from council-owned land. Another win for bees – and evidence of a growing determination that neonics mustn’t be allowed to threaten our green and pleasant land.
 
Together we can create a future that’s better for our bees.
 
Emi & the bees team

On a separate note the hunt for giant Moths has taken off around Hull to celebrate Amy Johnson.

My first find near my school.

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Trying out apps

Spent the last few days playing around with the pl@nt net app. The plant net app works by you taking a photo then it compares with its database to see what matches. It then brings up a list of what organ you have photographed: leaf, flower, fruit, bark, other. So far just tried flowers and leaves. It seems more confident on flowers than leaves. The app was developed in France and designed with wildlfowers in mind rather than ornamental flowers from the product description. Although so far I’ve found it better with garden flowers than wild flowers.

After playing around for a few days it currently doesn’t seem that great at identifying unless you already have a vague idea of what it is already. However the app is reliant on contributions from users. So in theory it should get better as it is used more, so I will persist to see if it improves over time.

Here are a few of my submissions.

It knew the rose campion.

It identified the fuchsia, but it gave quite a few suggestions before the fuchsia came up. I thought this would be an easy one with the distinctive shape and contrasting shades of pink and purple, but it wasn’t the first suggestion.

It wasn’t sure of this, but neither am I.

The poppy it identified as the first result.

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The woodland trust have created a tree id app which I would like to try. However it is only currently available for apple devices. It is due out for android later in the Summer.

One of my favourite apps from the last month is sadly defunct. The Great British Bee app is now inactive. I did however manage what I reckon has been my most detailed bee photo yet.

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