The beauty of life on one tree

Today I came across the news story of spikes being placed on a tree in Oxford. I figured straight away that this was probably done to stop bird poo on cars and after watching it saw I was right. This follows on from the story of Norfolk cliffs and hedges being covered in nets. While the bird poo is a pain, my car gets covered in seagull poo, it seems bizarre to cover the trees natural beauty and prevent wildlife using its natural resource.

Walking through the park today I stopped to admire the life on one tree. The weather was warm today but this tree was literally humming with activity. Blackbirds and sparrow were flying in and out the up story and a few butterflies were hovering around but too high up for photos.

The bees and hoverflies were swarming all over. I couldn’t track the numbers out today.

The ladybirds were out in force.

The understory providing space for more plants to grow.

The shade providing flowers with the conditions they need.

Who wouldn’t want to enjoy this beauty? The amount of life supported on one tree is amazing. Why would we think we can improve on nature? I’ll leave you with a quote from someone smarter than me.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

Albert Einstein

Follow me on Twitter.

30 days of wild: day 27-badgers

Today I went back to check for ladybirds with my class after yesterday. The kids were happy to see one emerged. I hadn’t just made up this crazy ladybird life cycle story to them.

 photo IMG_1356_zpshz4tuzv5.jpg

We also found several bees as I continue trying to teach a love of bees. There normal response is to try to hit them, which they need to get out of that habit.

 photo IMG_1366_zpsohrtbrvi.jpg

After work I went home and we had something to celebrate. My partner, Amy, has got a new job. It’s just part time, but should fit well when Alice starts school. So we celebrated with a beer. As it is Badger Week there could only be one choice. So raise a glass to new jobs and in recognition of badgers.

30 days of wild: day 23-water ripples

When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing – just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?

Ralph Marston

Across the road from work is the Beverley and Barmston drain. There have been lots of ducks recently. The children have been coming into school excited to talk about them. I hadn’t been over to investigate this area since starting my new job.

The drain has a slope of a few metres down to it. The banks are lined with wildflowers: nettles, cowparsley, buttercups, thistles and grasses. The water is pretty static, thus the green algae buildup. The lines through it are the trails of ducks.

It’s a perfect habitat for a whole variety of species. I saw ducks and moorhens nesting on the water. Housemartins swooped over the path coming down from the trees. Various insects flitted around the wilderness that has been allowed to grow a little way along.

Bindweed covers a section with its lovely white blooms. 

Buttercups and clover fill the space around the path low down. Not the most exciting finds, but adds to my species count for the Great British Wildflower Hunt.

The nettles were hosting lots of ladybird pupae. At a guess I’d say harlequin ladybirds. An invasive species, but the main type of ladybird I see these days. The little black and orange curls gripping onto leaves.

I saw one hatched ladybird yet to get its spots. Though that sounds rather like a Rudyard Kipling Just So Story. How the ladybird got its spots. When ladybirds emerge they are generally yellow and then change over their first day.

Then I had one last discovery. A butterfly I wasn’t aware of in the area, the ringlet. While probably not considered a rare find I’ll admit to still being filled with joy to see it settle near me.

Butterfly Conservation describes it as “conservation priority: low”. This discouraging description puts me rather in mind of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxies description of Earth, “harmless”. While it might be common it excited me as I haven’t taken a photo of one before.

Ladybirds and caterpillars

This week we took possession of two sets of 5 caterpillars at school from insect lore. Then split between mine and the end classroom all the 80 children get a chance to see them.

I have in the past seen criticism of using caterpillars and other insects in the classroom. It can be seen as making life something marketable and disposable. Thr RSPCA advice’s using soft toys and plastic animals. But I don’t see that this teaches children respect for life properly. The children develop a sense of wonder seeing the caterpillars change and they are very careful around them. They understand they are not just a toy. Building this respect for all life forms stops them going out on the playground and squashing spiders and snails shells.

What the children get out of this depends on the value you place on it. If you take all the teaching opportunities they provide they are an amazing opportunity.

Outside I have added more photo IDs around the bug hotel. I’ve seen small groups going to investigate through the day. A lot of the girls have enjoyed bee hunting. 

One of the girls spotted a ladybird causing much excitement.

Christmas Diary

Well I hope everyone out there has had lovely Christmas days. Me and Amy have been full of cold, so plans for going to carols Christmas Eve and church Christmas day were dropped. So Christmas Eve we had a quiet afternoon, watched part of Scrooged then tried to give Amy time for a nap.

Then we let Alice have one present to gauge ow long present opening would take.  Not a bad grip on the paper. She has been highly amused by the crinkly paper throughout this first experience of opening presents. She would happily of just sat and rolled in the paper for the day.


Her first present was a lovely Usborne book of garden sounds. It has lots of different touch pads which make different garden sounds. She was amused by the sounds and flaps. The usborne range of nature books for babies is lovely with lots of nice touchy feely sensory parts.


We then lit the candle so Santa knew to come to our house.


Alice seems to of decided Christmas is a serious business.


She slept well giving Santa the chance to deliver over night without interruptions. A brief wake up at 1, then 4, then stayed down until after 7.

She had a nice gradual wake up and then opened presents. Haven’t gone overboard this year as her awareness is low of what is going on. But lots of friends and family have given lovely gifts.

She sat looking through her colour book.



She liked my present of a mug with her face on best though. Which I have to say was a rather nice present.


We worked through breakfast and then headed out to my parents house. Alice had a snooze on the way.





My mum and dad had prepared a suitable feast for the day.


My Parents, sister, bro in law and nephews enjoying their dinner.


After dinner got the nephews out to the skate park. We were going to try their new drone, but needed more charge.


After opening presents with the rest of the family we played pass the sprout, a festive version of pass the parcel.



Then back to the table for pudding.





All in all a nice day with family. I’m grateful to be surrounded by very loving people for Alice to grow up around people who care about her and adore her. Despite mine and Amy’s colds we can go to bed knowing our daughter is loved and for that I’m thankful.

Going back to the original purpose of this blog to share nature updates I will share some of my nature related presents.

I now have a good set of Collins guides to different aspects of British nature, to add to the couple I had already. David Attenborough’s planet Earth II, which I will enjoy watching again and again, then later on making Alice watch.


A guide to ladybirds of the UK.


A bat box to go up outside. We do have a number of bat species in the area, so hopefully get some nesting further down the line.


I am very grateful for all I have. My life is full of joy, I am surrounded by wonderful people and I am happy Alice is growing up with plenty of happiness in her life. I had been feeling lacking in Christmas cheer and a disconnection with the whole affair, but I am glad to of had the day with family. Spirits raised.




Autumn is here, but Summer flowers hanging on.

Yesterday took Alice for a walk along the seafront past Hornsea Floral Hall. The hall has spectacular flower beds and there were a good number of Summer flowers hanging on in there.




Although a few have made the shift to Autumn. The dunnocks were still enjoying playing in the bushes.




Along the hedges were a few more harlequin invaders._dsc0296




And a spectacular web.


My wildflower meadow planted earlier in the year is starting to get going ready for flowering next year.



Ladybird life cycle

On a walk with Alice last weekend we spotted lots more harlequins following on from my last blog.

A few people have commented to me on the strangeness of the pupa, so thought I’d show off the stages of the cycle. The bushes along Hornsea’s park were brimming with ladybirds last weekend over the hedges and nettles.

The ladybird start off as little yellow eggs on leaves with groups of eggs laid together. As part of the beetle order they hatch out as a larvae over the Summer. Sometime known as nymphs in ladybirds. During this stage the beetle does much of it’s feeding and growing.




The nymph then forms a pupa attached normally to the underside of leaves in late July or August.


A now empty pupa.


From the pupa hatches out a ladybird usually around August time. in many varieties of ladybirds they hatch out a lighter colour than they eventually end up and then darken over the first few days.

A newly emerged ladybird.


From there the ladybird will overwinter. Then around May will mate to start the cycle again.

A whole host of ladybird spotted on my walk with Alice last weekend.











Alice seemed happy to be out in the park too.


Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.

Last week I reported finding a number of ladybird pupa on the leaves in my garden. I’ve been keeping an eye on them and yesterday I found several had emerged. 

The empty pupa

As I had suspected from the pupa they have all been harlequin ladybirds. Harlequins come in a variety of forms with spots and colours varying.

Harlequin’s are an invasive species out competing our native species of ladybird. They have a bigger apetite and can eat more aphids in a sitting than most UK native varieties. They also eat eggs of other ladybird species of moths and butterflies. 

Originally an Asian native they were introduced to the US to control aphid numbers. They spread quickly dominating similar species. It is thought they were accidently spread to the UK either transported within produce or blown across from mainland  Europe. Once here in 2004 they spread rapidly.

More info here:

So it always comes with mixed feelings when I sight a harlequin. On the one hand, as a beetle lover, it’s good to see a variety of ladybird do well when many are not. I know they’ll eat many of the aphids in the garden. But on the other they may be doing well at the expense of other insects I like.

If sighted you can report them here so the spread can be monitored.

Some scientists have pushed that invasive species can be positive bringing variety that may be able to survive as mankind destroys our world. The theory had faults but worth considering.

Article here
A few more photos of the harlequins. Whether they are destructive or not they certainly have a beauty.