Autumn gardening

Autumn gardening, for me, mainly seems to be about preparing for the next year.

The Spring bulbs have gone in ready for next year. I had daffodils from last year. They were planted where the bench now sits. These have been redistributed around the border.

I’ve gone with a number of allium varieties. I like alliums for there structural interest and there generally popular with pollinators. Might well be allium overload. We’ll see next year.

Purple sensation says it grows as a cluster up to 80 cm.

Blue drumsticks are a little shorter at 60cm.

Then one giganteum up close to the patio. I’ve planted this with a few drumsticks surrounding. Hopefully have the tall gigantism towering with the blue drumsticks as a lower tier. While a bit pricier it will hopefully come back each year giving a good show.

I’m not a massive fan of tulips, but we saw some lovely varieties when we went to the open gardens. They’ll add a bit of colour before the Summer colours kick in. I’ve gone for tulip alectric; a pretty variety with pink and white petals. I should really wait for tulip planting, so they don’t rot in the ground, but I know I’ve got a lot on with work the next month. But I haven’t had major issues with bulbs rotting in the soil from last year, so hopefully be OK.

 

I’ve neglected the weeding for a few weeks while I’ve got other jobs done, so had a good upheaval. It wasn’t too bad though. Now I’ve got more plant coverage than last year there isn’t as much space for weeds to come up.

In the front the wildflowers that grew these year have died down. I had one patch of lavender growing by the door. I’ve added a second variety at the other end. The stripy leaved plant is a wild plant Lords and ladies. While not something I planted I like the leaves so it can stay for now. As time goes on if the lavender does alright I’ll fill the whole patch. Then it’ll be fairly low maintenance, needing little watering and as it fills the gaps shouldn’t need much weeding. While it may not look very much now it will hopefully develop into a lavender hedge giving lovely scent as you come in the house.

The lavender around the front and back garden has had its hair cut for this year stopping it getting too woody and encouraging a bit more growth next year.

On the patio I’ve filled three pots with some new evergreens giving the patio some foliage and a bit more interest through the winter and into Spring. Two “little leaves” hebes that just have a small spread well suited to starting in a pot.

Then an annual shrub, chamaecynaris pisifera, known as “blue sky”. It will grow a little bigger than the hebes at 50cm. I like the blue tinge to the foliage. Should be good for retaining some seasonal interest through winter.

The birds are starting to return to the feeder. Things can be a bit quiet at the start of Autumn while there is plenty of food to be had naturally, but starting to see a bit more action on the feeders again. This robin was practising its poising ready for the Christmas cards.

The roses are still flowering, although I reckon I might be looking at the last bunch for this year now. Once there done they’ll be needing a trim, then probably a bit further in early Spring. They had quite a harsh cut back this year and did better for it, alongside being fed better.

The leaves on the shrubs and trees are still hanging on in there. Once they drop I’ll be doing the last major Autumn job giving them a

Urban wildlife

The last two days I’ve been out of school on first training. The training has been at the end of Sculcoates Lane in Hull. Surrounded by industrial buildings it seems an unlikely area to hunt wildlife. However I’m reading David Goode’s nature in towns and cities. This book is part of the Collins New Naturalist series. I’m thoroughly enjoying it. i bought it when the book was selling for 99p on kindle and it is certainly proving good value for money so far. Having finished the chapter on graveyards and canals I went to investigate the graveyard across the way on my dinner break.

The graveyard is an overgrown Victorian relic providing a decent woodland habitat. I could hear robins and blackbirds, although I couldn’t see them.

There were some signs of human habitation too.

A little further along the road is the Beverley and Barmston drain. This winds through the city. My school sits further along the drain. While it isn’t the pleasantest habitat on the nose it is providing a rich habitat for waders with many ducks and moorhens enjoying the water.

Much rubbish fills the drain.


Alongside the path was the remains of a rat. Fairly inevitable in a city.

Wandering back to the first aid course I spotted something odd on the other bank. Looking through the cameras lens I was surprised to see it wasn’t rubbish, but a terrapin! Must be unwanted pets released. There were three apparently thriving. I’ve reported it to NSPCA to see what they make of it.

Certainly a few surprises today. It’s amazing the wildlife that can be found within our cities.

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Bay Badger

The last few days we’ve been visiting my in laws to be at Robin Hoods Bay. On the journey there we got stuck in Scarborough with the rain. Over a couple of minutes the weather changed from a dry day to the roads becoming rivers up to car doors. We found ourselves stuck in the middle of a crossroad of streets closed off. So we took shelter in a pub for lunch while it eased off and drained a bit. On the way out of Scarborough we passed a few cars still submerged, but we made it through unscathed. A little scary at times. So we arrived at the bay a little later than intended.

Amy’s dad had asked about trying the trail cam in their garden. They knew they had badgers visiting at night, but wanted to see where they have been going. We captured a quick burst of the badger coming in and checking the camera and then disappearing on its way.

Amy’s dad thinks the badger comes in from one side of the garden and goes across, so I’ve left the trail camera with him to try a few more locations. I found some badger poo and dead rodents down on the cliff edge and a trail into the undergrowth that suggests a home, so we’ll see if he finds out more.

The view from the bay.

I’ll be writing up some more of our bay escapades over the next few days as far too much for one blog.

Folklore Thursday

In Japanese folklore badgers often shapeshift into promiscuous women.

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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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Haiths-Niger Seed Bird Feeder review

Last week I was contacted by Haiths-Bird food specialists asking if I would review one of their products. I agreed and I have been sent their niger seed feeder and a bag of their seed mix to go with it. So with the disclaimer out of the way that I received the product for free lets take a look at the feeder.

The feeder itself is well made. A nice solid metal construction. The top comes off when you lift it up with the handle. The bottom also comes off for you to give the feeder a good clean out, which it is important to do. It’s particularly important if you are in an area bad for bird flu as it helps stop the infection spreading.

The feeder comes with a handy plastic pull out sleeve which you put in to make it easier to fill. Niger seed is small and falls through holes in most feeders as you fill. With this you put the sleeve in, fill with niger seed, then remove the sleeve when it’s at the feeder.

The feeder looks smart on the bird station. It’s a good size, so shouldn’t need filling straight away again. It looks attractive and the metal gives it a look of quality rather than some of the flimsy plastic feeders. Not that the birds will care, but nice for me.

The seed itself is Haiths own mix. It looks good quality. The seeds are the rich dark brown/black colour they should be. If you buy bird seed from a shop you’re meant to avoid niger with too many seeds that have dried out to the lighter brown as they’ve lost their oil rich goodness that will help the birds particularly in winter.

The previous niger feeder I had only had a couple of tiny holes and I was never sure all the birds that enjoy niger seed could get in, especially when damp I think it got clogged, so we’ll see if this with multiple holes is better.

Since hanging the feeder today I’ve seen one juvenile goldfinch investigating, but didn’t eat. Goldfinches are one of the main visitors to niger feeders and you couldn’t really ask for a more charming looking bird. Goldfinches didn’t used to eat from tables, but have become more common in the last decade, which makes for a pleasant sight in the garden. Niger seed is popular with other finches and siskin’s. However I’ve never seen siskin’s in the garden so unlikely they’ll suddenly arrive from a new feeder. So we’ll see how popular this feeder is and I will update as we get visitors. It usually takes a few days for new discoveries on the bird station to start seeing regular visitors.

http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

While this was free for me in exchange for a review if you check the website you’ll see a good range of products. The feed is reasonably priced and cheaper if buying if larger quantities. The delivery was quick and products were well packaged. I would try buying from them when I next require some wildlife supplies for my garden. I have my eye on getting a more traditional wooden bird table.

Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

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Big Butterfly Count

Yesterday saw the start of the Big Butterfly Count. The count is organised by Butterfly Conservation to monitor butterfly numbers. Many species of butterfly have suffered over the last decade. But if we don’t put figures to the declines protection won’t be put in place.
Within my garden I will probably only see a handful of species. I see plenty of varieties of whites. However they don’t stop for photos much. The red admirals are more obliging.

Butterfly

Ringlets are common on my walks.

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Speckled woods I see in my garden and out and about.

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Small tortoiseshells are a less frequent visitor to my garden, but common enough in my area.

small tortoiseshell

Then occasionally I’ll see a peacock.

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On the Big Butterfly Count website there is an ID sheet to download to help support identification. I’ve printed and laminated an A3 one to go outside in my outdoor classroom near the bug hotel to encourage the children to keep their eyes out.
Sightings can be submitted on the website here. My garden has a few more butterfly attracting plants than last year, so we’ll see if I spot anything new this year.