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.

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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Focus on greenfinch

I have fallen behind with my focus on blogs. My aim for 30 days is to improve my knowledge of common species I see. However with work and Alice ill this has fallen to the side. However the last few days I have had new visitors to the garden I would like to research.

Over the last few days I have seen a couple of greenfinches in the back garden. I would see these in my last house on the front garden feeder. Since moving though, I haven’t seen them much in the new garden. Until the last few days when I’ve spotted them more regularly.

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Grenfinches are common garden visitors, although they haven’t been for me. They are originally woodland birds and still are in Europe, but in the U.K. they have adapted well to gardens. They nest in conifers and dense shrubs using sticks and grass. Their clutches are usually 2 or 3 eggs and are white to beige. Their little beaks are adapted for eating seeds. They love blacksunflower seeds. They can be found throwing seed mix around to pick out the black sunflower seeds. I’ve witnessed this at my last house and then had the other seeds rooting under the feeder as a result.

Living in the north they will desert me in Winter to go to the warmer south. It’s grim up north for a little bird like the greenfinch. Their numbers had declined throughout the 70s and 80s before starting to rise in the 90s. Unfortunately they have suffered from parasites more recently reducing the numbers back down.

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To help greenfinches make sure you keep feeders stocked through Winter. Changes in farming practises such as Autumn sowing has affected their numbers. Cleaning your bird feeders also helps reduce the spread of disease.

Focus on blackbirds

Having written a Haiku about blackbirds for day 9 they seem like a good choice for today’s focus. Blackbirds are one of the UKs commonest garden birds. In my last garden, in a more urban environment, blackbirds and pigeons were pretty much my only visitors initially. They are the bird I associate most with gardens, although they are happy in all habitats across the UK except the highest peaks.

Turdus merula, one of the few Latin names I remember is badly named really. The majority of blackbirds are not black. For a start females are brown. Then fledglings are also brown with a brown beak. As they reach maturity males turn black and the beak yellow. The change can act as a trigger for more aggressive behaviour towards them from other male blackbirds as they fight over territory.

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Their mellow song is rather beautiful and one of the easier birds songs to recognise. From hearing the song you can often then locate them. As I’ve observed blackbirds I’ve come to recognise several regulars through their white patches. Albinoism is common in blackbirds. They each have their own distinct likeable personalities.

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Blackbirds like a diet of worms, so favour ground feeders, but will eat from hanging feeders. Any time I’ve been digging in the garden the blackbirds will turn up. Population had declined from the 70s, possibly due to loss of hedgerows, but more recently their numbers have risen putting them out of the amber list and back on green. If you want to help blackbirds like open nest boxes. During dry weather worms stay hidden away, so don’t forget to help out and feed the birds.

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30 days wild 2017: Day 10-Back in time

Today started off with some digital acts of wild. I caught up on springwatch and gardener’s world. Alice was not too bothered for Springwatch, but wanted to sit with me for gardener’s world.

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Then did the wild act to share wild news. BBC earth shared the news that bees are not only at risk from pesticides, but also fungicides that were thought safe for bees. The more people aware of this news the better, so please share.

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After Alice’s nap and lunch we headed out for, not one, but two vintage events. First a vintage fair inside at the Floral Hall. Then out to the Hornsea Museum for a vintage tea party.

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Hornsea Museum is in the centre of town. The museum was originally the Burn’s family farm in the 18th century until 1978 when it became a museum of Hornsea life. It has an old school room, relics from the farm, Hornsea pottery and clay industry (clay bricks were once made in the area), model railway and war relics. This may not sound all that exciting, but they put on nice events regularly including craft sessions for children. The courtyard is very pleasant with a nice variety of planting.

Alice wanted to be out using her new walking skills straight away.

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Today was a vintage tea party. Lots of people were dressed up and tea, cake and sandwiches were available. So I ticked off enjoying a cuppa outside with the sound of birds around the courtyard. Sparrows on the roof and blackbirds on the trees.

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They have a miniature beach hut set up currently as an ice cream shop. Alice loved this and spent most of her time going back and forth choosing new ice creams.

The house martins were busy overhead dashing back and forth.

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Interestingly they have local apple trees grown from seed in the courtyard including details about the variety.

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The planting is pretty good for wildlife with cuckoo spit on the fennel and a variety of bees amongst the flowers.

We listened to a few golden oldies from the singers before heading off.

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As Alice had enjoyed the ice cream shop so much we ended up buying her the kitchen toy from the shop. It was a bargain though for a mini wooden kitchen including pans for a tenner. On the way back we stopped in at one of Amy’s sisters. Then went back by the seafront. We were going to have fish and chips but I forgot we’d spent the cash we had on the kitchen set. Alice was getting tired though by the sea, so we went home. Too much longer out before tea and I think she would of got seriously grumpy. A nice day out back immediately time.

I’ll finish with a quick shout out to how good the new 30 days wild school pack is. It has a handful of ideas of activities for teaching linked to key stages. There is a pack of stickers, a wild teacher badge, and a calendar poster with the 30 days on. There is also a large set of the wild acts cards. These are lovely and could easily be marketed to raise more money for the wildlife trust. I’m sure these sets will be very popular.

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