Six on Saturday-8.8.20

We made it out to visit a garden this week. I did consider featuring our trip to Wassand Hall for this weeks six but there was far more than six so this has featured as a post on its own. The garden is going through the transition to late summer. The poppies have come out and a few annuals so that I can put a few more dahlias in the ground. The verbena and gladioli is almost ready to flower. The air has been filled with insects with the heat of the week. The house martins are still shrieking overhead. So much to enjoy in the garden and too hot to do much more than some light deadheading until the evenings.

1. Hebe

I culled all the hebes in the front garden last year as they had all become too leggy and they weren’t flowering much anymore. This smaller one survived in the back garden. It is not quite hardy enough though. The leaves get damaged each year so it gets a cut back in spring and spends much of the year recovering. It does, however, have pretty very vibrant pink flowers that the bees and butterflies seem to like.

The passionflower is trying to grow through it so I keep needing to unwrap tendrils and put it back on the fence.

2. New Butterflies

I’ve been grumbling the last few weeks about the lack of butterflies. I’ve not had a lot of my regular visitors but I read an interesting article saying that several species are possibly hibernating earlier. Having grumbled I have then had two species which I haven’t sighted in the garden before.

First a gatekeeper. These are fairly common locally but I haven’t seen in the garden. The caterpillars feed on grasses so an area of long grass is useful for attracting them in. After lockdown easing the locals and town council have gone a bit mad on the grass mowing cutting back areas that are often left longer. I’m wondering if this has displaced some of these butterflies.

The second newcomer was a brown argus I think. When the wings are closed they are very similar to common blue butterflies but I’m pretty certain this was brown when it opened its wings. Both of the newcomers settled on the marigolds so they are earning their keep. I still think numbers are down in the garden despite the newcomers. numbers of whites are up with the caterpillars eating my sprouts and nasturtiums but other species numbers are down.

3. Dragonflies

I featured these last week but I wanted to feature them again as I’ve managed some more detailed photos.

I have seen bigger numbers this week. There have sometimes been as many as 4 in at once. They seem to like settling on the honeysuckle. They eat small flying insects. I think this spot offers them a vantage point where they can rest and observe the garden for hunting.

4. Passionflower

The passionflower is now dominating one fence. I featured the flowers earlier in the season. Each day a couple of new flowers open keeping the bees happy.

The early flowers mean it has managed to form fruit for the first time. They might even have time to ripen this year.

5. Achillea millefolium-Yarrow

In my efforts to help the butterflies I am looking at adding a few more nectar sources for them. Yarrow is recommended as a good option. Tesco had a number at the point of death for a £1. I think this one can be salvaged. If nothing else I can collect seeds.

The second is a healthy one. This is Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Grapefruit’. It is filling out the pot nicely and the pink stands out nicely. This is part of the tutti-fruiti series that have been bred to be compact. So they seem like a good option for a pot to attract some butterflies on the patio. They need good drainage. My garden is clay. I have improved it over the last few years but I think these will still do better in a pot than in my ground. They are drought tolerant which is becoming more of a consideration each year.

6. Dahlia-Black Jack

I had originally wanted this dahlia last year and I ordered ir from Sarah Raven as part of a trio of short dahlias. However, she had supply issues and I was refunded. I ordered this year from Farmer Gracy and it was delivered this year with no issues. It’s a smallish dahlia with lovely dark maroon ruffles. I think it was worth the extra years wait.

If you’ve enjoyed my post and fancy taking part or reading more check out the participant guide. I’ve got a bit of potting on to do today and may start off a few more seeds now the mini-greenhouse is emptying out. I’m gradually clearing the patio and garden ready for the return of the builders. I hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 9.5.20

Well, we started the week with lots of glorious rain refreshing the garden no end. Then back to glorious sunshine mid-week before dropping in temperature again. We’ve had a good bit of time in the garden though. I’ve dug out lots of self-seeders for plant sales and divided a few perennials. The garden is getting to a nice point of filling up and I’m selecting what remains.

1. Radish-cherry belle

We harvested our first crop form the raised bed. Still, a few more of these that have some more growing to go and a second variety coming through. I’ve planted a few of the little gem lettuces and the broad beans have gone in. Alice has been enjoying eating these over the week knowing she helped grow them.

2. Red Riding Hood tulips

These were Alice’s choice. They are dotted around the border. They are normally a pretty reliable choice but have been a bit weak this year. But never mind I’ve had plenty of other spectacular tulips over the last month.

3. Azalea japonica-Agadir

The Azalea is going through its first proper year of flowering. There are a mass number of flowers and they are lovely but the foliage is a bit sparse. Not quite the tightly clipped Japanese ‘Kokarikomi’ I had in mind. So after these have flowered I’m going to be looking to try to prune it. The advice from Jake Hobson in his book Niwaki was to treat like box and start by pruning little and often. So I’ll start with pruning some of the dead growth back hard and pruning the rest back behind the flowers.

4. Clematis Montana

Last week my neighbours Montana featured. My own Montana is on the opposite fence. It isn’t as showy a flower. These are smaller, more delicate flowers. I forget the variety but it is doing well, interlinking with the climbing rose nicely.

And I’m going to sneak last weeks Montana back in. This time as a silhouette by the light of the moon.

5. Brick spires

Last week I’d shown my seagull defense spires. I’ve managed to find enough bricks to fill each of the spires most of the way up. I could do with one or two more for each to fill them completely. I’ve then added some rope between to block the seagulls and act as if it’s a handrail. Looking at the positioning of the plants the hydrangea limelight could probably do with moving slightly so that it is in the middle of the space between the two-stepping stone paths but that can be left till it’s dormant. So far it seems to be working as no more plants have been dug out.

6. Lilac

The lilac has got a great spread of flowers this year. Every so often I contemplate removing it as it takes up a lot of space but when it’s in flower it is tremendous. While it might not have the most exciting foliage or nices growth for the rest of the year it does seem to be tolerant of our sea breezes at least.

The garden is starting to look really nice now, if I do say so myself, with lots of foliage looking lush and many plants coming into flower. I’m attending a Zoom lecture online with Fergus Garrett from Great Dixter on layered planting through the season. Thoroughly looking forward to this as I’d never normally be able to make it to one of his lectures. I hope you are all getting plenty of pleasure from your gardens this year. Stay safe and don’t forget to check the propagator’s blog to see more six on Saturday posts in the comments.

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Armchair Naturalist-Peacock butterfly

I am carrying on with my series of armchair naturalist blogs, a series looking at enjoying the wildlife in my garden in collaboration with Haith’s. Today, I am looking at a current source of joy the return of the butterflies. With the weather heating up and the sun coming out more I’ve seen the first few butterflies in the garden over the last week. So far visiting I’ve had brimstones, red admirals and today’s star the peacock. There is something magical about seeing butterflies fluttering in. Their erratic flight and the exotic flash of colour always lifts the heart. The peacock featured today was feeding one small pot filled with Muscari on the patio. Even a small pot can attract many beauties.

Butterflies are always a pleasure to have butterflies in the garden and this one stopped for a long time feeding on the Muscari. Butterflies feed through their proboscis. The proboscis is located below the eyes and antennae and curls up when not in use. When they start to feed it uncurls a bit like a chameleons tongue and they suck through it. It’s rather a strange sight and if you’ve never paid attention I suggest you lookout for it. The photo below shows it extended into the tubular flowers of the Muscari.

Providing for butterflies

If you are interested in attracting butterflies you can set up a butterfly banquet. A plate filled with overripe fruit is loved by many butterflies with red admirals a common visitor. I find bananas and grapes work well. These banquets attract lots of visitors, particularly, if left out in autumn as there are often fewer flowers the butterflies can feed on.

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If you are looking to attract in butterflies through flowers buddleias are very popular, although they can become beasts. A few smaller varieties have been bred that can be managed within pots. Lavenders draw many butterflies in although they don’t like my clay soil so I keep mine in pots so I can give them a sandier compost mix. Oregano is nectar-rich. Verbena bonariensis is very good for giving late-season flower interest as well as continuing to provide for butterflies. Nasturtiums will bring in swarms of cabbage whites as their caterpillars love eating the leaves. Your leaves end up looking the worse for wear but nasturtiums are so easy to grow that I’m willing to accept the loss in exchange for the butterflies visiting. Most open flowers such as the ox-eye daisies and my bishop’s children dahlias have proved popular. Most flowers forming umbels see many visitors as well.

If you want to provide habitats for butterflies you can buy butterfly homes for them. These provide a space for butterflies that overwinter as butterflies rather than as caterpillars or migrating. I’ve only ever had one used the shed roof has always been a more popular spot.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help butterflies Butterfly Conservation has many useful articles. Returning to todays sighting here is the peacock butterfly feeding on the Muscari. The footage is a little shakey as I didn’t want to disturb it too much fetching a tripod but you can see the proboscis at work.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little sighting today and are finding some comfort in these strange time through your gardens.

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Bugtopia Hornsea

Today I’ve had Alice to myself while Amy went to teach revision classes so we headed off on the bus to Freeport. I did the obligatory hour or so at soft play, also known as hell on Earth, bouncing off some of her energy before heading to Bugtopia. Bugtopia was the actual reason I wanted to go to Freeport. It’s been open a while now but I didn’t feel Alice was old enough to enjoy it that much.

Bugtopia is a heated trail room filled with animals, mini beasts and birds. The jungle trail is a heated room filled with a mini stream and jungle stream. It is currently small but I believe there are plans for expansion. Despite the size, it is rammed with life. Butterflies, moths and insects can be found resting on stones and leaves. Terrapins and turtles fill the water pools. Then there are a number of birds flying in the space and a parrot kept within a caged area. Entry is £6 for adults, £5 for children but you can come and go through the day. So you can plan for having a wander through, having lunch or doing some shopping, then go back in. A season pass would be nice for us as we live so close but didn’t see that as an option.

Through the day there are talks to go back to if you want to get your money’s worth.

  • 11am- Incredible Inverts
  • 12pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 1pm- Parrot Show
  • 2pm- Incredible inverts
  • 3pm- Reptile Encounter
  • 4pm- Parrot Show

On entry, the first sighting was a familiar one, an Atlas moth. During a previous 30 days wild a fellow teacher bought Atlas moth cocoons without realising how big these beauties are. They are probably about the size of my hand. They are short-lived as moths existing in this stage to mate.

Another familiar sight to teachers, the Giant African Land snail. My head has tried to palm some of these of on me. While Alice was excited to see these Amy doesn’t want me to have one.

Alice loves a water feature whenever we go to the garden centre and all bridges are exciting places to trip trap across looking for trolls. So she loved walking over the little streams and was delighted to spot the terrapins.

Butterflies and birds fluttered high and low.

One of her favourite discoveries was the snake. I was surprised she liked this so much but she told me it was like the one on the Gruffalo’s child and that made more sense. She returned back to this cabinet a good couple of times to say hello.

A turtle and another Atlas Moth.

We left for lunch and returned to see parrot training. It was interesting to hear about how they are building up the skills and teaching it to fly and work to earn a reward as it was born in captivity. My camera was still adjusting to the high humidity in the room so apologies for the steamed over photos.

Not the most flattering picture of the staff I’m afraid but the parrot is stunning.

Alice had a closer look around.

We went in and out a number of times over the day. She chose a rubbery crocodile as a souvenir which she lost on the way out. After a minute strop, we located it again. Disaster averted. Alice was a bit scared of the butterflies flying close to her head which prompted us to leave but she did talk happily about what she’d seen on the way back so she’d obviously enjoyed it. When we got home she wanted her animal box out and dug out the butterflies telling me the blue one was like one she’d seen.

Overall it was a good first visit. While it is small the fact that you can go in and out and return for workshops means you can get longer than it initially appears on entry. I think as her attention goes up she’d probably stand and watch a number of the animals for quite long periods. It’s filled a day of the holiday nicely and I reckon she’ll be talking about what we saw for a while to come.

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Six on a Saturday-21.7.18

As a teacher I have now broken off for the Summer holiday. A chance to get out and enjoy the garden and get it back into order.

1. Cineraria

The cineraria is now in flower. I mainly grow this for the contrast of the silver foliage. It’s an evergreen so gives interest through the year. When it flowers it tends to spread out pretty untidily over the lawn, but the insects seem to like the small flowers.

2. Hollyhocks

The hollyhocks have finally flowered. The hot dry weather seems to have been perfect for them. The first to flower are a patch that self seeded from last years. These are the more traditional hollyhocks, but have some hollyhock carnival varieties still to flower.

3. Ophiopogon-black mondo

I have a few patches of black mondo growing in pots. It is starting to spread and hopefully can be divided at some point. While often referred to as black grass it isn’t actually a grass. Currently it is in flower with its small delicate white flowers stretching out from the leaves.

4. Verbena

I grow verbena bonariensis from seed this year and planted out a few weeks back. Last year this was still flowering in many gardens late on in Summer when a lot of other flowers were fading. The first flowers are opening. The dense spikes are ideal for butterflies. I’ve already seen the small whites coming onto these.

5. Borage

Down near the bench I allow a patch of borage to seed. Its star shaped flowers are loved by bees. It can become an untidy miss, but it keeps flowering for a good period and the bees love it. The flowers are edible and can be used as decoration on cakes or salads.

6. Succulent

For one of my end of year presents at work I got a succulent. Possibly some variety of aloe, but not really my area of expertise. I’ve brought it home for the holiday, then take it back in. I’ve been trying to add some more plants to the classroom for the kids to look after. I’ve also selected a number for the ability to improve air quality as my classroom can feel a bit stuffy. Then the positive effects of having greenery are well known.

So that’s my six for this week. The garden is full of life with the insects spoiled for choice. Enjoy your weekends. I will now be enjoying my break and getting the garden back in order after a couple of busy weeks of neglect.

The last butterfly of the year

Butterfly Conservation asked the question, “who will spot the last butterfly of 2017?” It sounds like the title for an apocalyptic horror movie and seeing this tweet I thought I was unlikely to see anything of note. I wasn’t heading out to any reserves or any special walks. Then today preparing my outdoor classroom I discovered a beauty overwintering in one of our school sheds.

This beauty of a peacock butterfly is hiding in our school shed along with a group of ladybirds avoiding the chill frosts outside. A pleasant surprise on a wet, damp morning.

The children were excited to see the ladybirds. We left the butterfly alone. I don’t want to disturb it with 70 children, but the ladybirds high up on the roof seemed safe to show. Peacocks being rather dowdy with their wings closed, there wouldn’t be much to see. It’s nice to show the children that even our shed serves a purpose in helping our wildlife.

A walk in the park

Yesterday I made it out for a walk in the park after several days in school working in a windowless room on my Early Years School Evaluation Form. This form is the schools judgement of how well we believe we’re doing. This is then presented to ofsted when we get the inspection phone call. So I was quite happy to be outside despite a bit of drizzle.

The hedges along the park were a ladybird hot spot last year, but so far I had not seen many. Yesterday they had returned in force with lots of signs along the whole of the hedge.

Amongst the trees we found a decorated rock. Decorating rocks, then leaving them hidden places has been a craze this Summer. When you find them you photograph them a tag on facebook/twitter. I have mixed feelings about this activity. I like that it gets children out. But living by the seaside I’ve seen people taking buckets of rocks away. There is a legal side to this that many of them shouldn’t be taking the quantity they are as well as dismantling a habitat. But this probably deserves a whole blog on itself. People have always taken rocks and seashells as souvenirs from beaches, but the quantity people are taking is a concern.

Amongst the long grass area a robin perched on branch serenading.

Conkers are now falling. It looked like they’ve already been scavenged through, but I did find a few to take into school for my discovery area.

Now it’s time to get back to writing my school action plan and evaluation form. A bit nicer though working from home with a view of the garden. Red admirals and sparrows are back and forth across the garden currently.

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No fair

This weekend my twitter feed was filled with the wonderful happenings at bird fair. However there was no bird fair for me, but still plenty of birding action.

While out for a walk with Alice I finally got close enough to photograph one of the pied wagtails that hop all along the grassland verges on the seafront.

The rooks were being equally obliging for photos. The seafront corvids are often a bit skittish, but they can’t have been feeling too threatened on Sunday as they were happy for us to get fairly close.

I was set for photographing the sparrows in the rose bushes when a large flash went past my face. I just managed to snap a photo of what I think is a sparrowhawk before it disappeared into the distance. While not a great photo, I was happy to have had good enough reflexes and getting the focus to manage a photo that showed what it was.

Along the seafront there was a cormorant perching out on one of the posts. While neither this or the sparrowhawk are amazing photos I was happy to capture them. I see sparrowhawks regularly, especially on the way to work, but haven’t managed to photograph one yet. The cormorants I see flying over head most days, but rarely see them settled down on the ground. Neither are going to win me bird photographer of the year but I’m still happy to have captured the images. The winners of bird photographer of the the year were announced this weekend at birdfair. Some stunning images, well worth a browse. There is a lovely looking book available. We’re cutting back our books to make space for Alice’s belongings, so I will just be enjoying the images online.

As well as the birds there was lots of activity from the insects. The small tortoiseshells seemed to be enjoying the dry grass cuttings.

A fantastic fuzzy caterpillar made a quick dash across the path.

I spotted some camomile for wildflower hour growing out of a crack in the pavement.

Alice got out for a walk along the grass, but insisted on carrying her Meg and Mog book with her. She’s become quite attached to this one recently.

So happy to of photographed a few birds I’ve not managed yet. I’ll carry on working on improving my photos. I may eventually manage a decent focussed shot from the front of one of the sparrowhawks, but it’s a start.

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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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The road goes ever onwards

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

J.R.R Tolkein-The hobbit

Sunday saw Alice and myself escaping out the house to escape paint stripper fumes. Amy has been working hard stripping paint off the stair bannister. We’ve tried to avoid Alice being around it. We headed off along one of the footpaths through the new housing estate that brings us out into the countryside. The crops were being harvested today. A great amount of dust and wheat shreds were in the air.

The side of the path has a number of the largest buddleia bushes. The peacocks who were absent a few weeks ago are now swarming all over it.

From here we explored a bridleway I’ve not ventured down yet. It runs alongside one of the caravan parks and is quite well kept in comparison to other around.

A number of speckled woods departed as we came along.

The bridleway took us out back along the coastal edge. The path took us down past a boat club. Along the path are a number of objects diving crews have brought ashore.

We stopped the pram to let a ground beetle cross our path. It seemed to be in more of a rush than us.

The sun was out bright and the sea was looking spectacular.

Flamborough Cliffs looking good today.

We walked as far as the pram would safely go before returning back along the coast path back to town. On the way saw a distant rabbit hopping back into the hedges as it saw us.

Alice had a run around on the grass along the coast edge before heading for the park. She was in a very sociable mood today chasing other families shouting hiya and waving bye as people went past.

Alice discovered a stick. She’s starting to realise why this is one of the most popular toys of all time. She engaged in some mark making on the path, running and waving it around and bashing other sticks. An excellent toy available in a range of sizes and limited colours. She carried it most of the way home before dropping it as we got back to our street.

We fitted in a quick go on the swings before leaving the park. She’s becoming a bit of a thrill seeker enjoying going higher and higher.

As a teacher I get these long periods of time off for the Summer and it’s lovely being able to spend time like this with Alice. She’s really starting to develop rapidly now. Her understanding is improving daily and her desire to communicate and interact. She loves getting out and has started fetching her shoes and going to the door to show her preference. We’re lucky that we have so many wonderful places to explore around us. I hope everyone had as pleasant Sundays as me and Alice.

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