30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 15

I saw on Twitter that volunteers are needed to spot insect ‘spittle’; my initial thought was ‘there is loads in the garden, I can do that’.  Last year on June 1st I wrote about cuckoo spit and froghoppers; so carrying on from last year’s blog, today I went out into the garden to take part in the survey. 

The reason for the survey taking place is the UK is on high alert for the Xylella fastidiosa disease which has been found in several locations in the EU.  The disease is moved from plant to plant by plant-sucking insects such as froghoppers.  By people submitting data of where they have seen either cuckoo spit or froghoppers themselves a distribution map of the potential path of the disease can be made.  I think it is important to be clear that the disease isn’t in the UK and the map created from the data will be used to make an action plan if it does ever arrive here.  Please don’t remove any of the cuckoo spit you might find as the nymph growing inside is doing no harm, it will grow into a very cute little bug 🙂

To complete the survey all you need to do is..

Log the amount of time you spend looking for spittle/spittle bugs, take note of how many spittle only / spittle with insect / adult you find on what type of plant and how many square metres you have searched.  It is also important to take a photo of the nymph if you can to submit with your data. 

To be able to see if there is an insect in the spittle you need to tease them out.  I used a bit of grass to slowly move through the spittle; the nymph leaves the spittle enough to be able to have a look at it.  Some would run off down the steam and others would move a little and freeze.

When you enter the data online, each plant species is a separate data entry so make sure you have your data separated out for each plant species.  In total I found..

Plant Spittle only Spittle with insect Adult
Lavender 15 26 0
Penstemon 0 1 0
Rosemary 3 9 0

All of the nymphs found were Meadow Spittlebug (Philaenus spumarius), you can use the ID sheet provided online to help with your identifications. 

When complete make sure you add all your data to the iRecord entry form 🙂

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 14

I got home late this evening so didn’t get into the garden until the light was starting to fade.  I wasn’t sure what I would find, after a little searching I found what I think is a garden spider (Araneus diadematus), it was in the lavender where it had built its web.  It is tiny; only a little bigger than the aphid it was eating. 

Garden spiders are seen between June and November. 

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 10

Today it has been raining, a lot!  As I haven’t been able to get outside to do anything ‘wild’ I have been sat at my computer planning on how to help the wild.  There isn’t a water butt in the patch garden, so this evening I have ordered one!  The house is a little odd in that all of the down pipes are in really awkward locations; the water is going to have to be collected off of the garage roof so the water butt can be located away from major walkways.  This however means I need to repair part of the guttering and clean the rest of it out.  I was looking at it the other day and there is grass growing in it, so I don’t think it is going to be the easiest of tasks.  I want to get it sorted though so I can make the most of collecting rain water and using it in the garden.  Every little bit helps 🙂

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 09

I didn’t have any plans for today’s ‘wild’ activity, it was meant to rain and that hampered my thoughts of what I could do.  I decided to play it safe and just spend some time in the garden.  I know at some point I want to take part in the spittlebug survey so I went to have a look at the lavender to see if there was any about, strangely I didn’t find any but did come across a rosemary beetle. 

There was a lot of buzzing coming from a neighbours garden so I popped round to see if I could find out where it was coming from.  They have a plant on the fence that adjoins our garden which was covered in bees.  There must have been approx. 30-40 bees on the bush at anyone time.  Unfortunately we have no idea what plant it is but it would be great for any garden that wants to attract bees!  

As far as I could tell there were four species of bee; Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) which seemed to be the majority, honey bees which I saw two of, Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) and then Tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum).

Once I was back in my own garden I noticed I had a harlequin ladybird larvae on me, I knew there was blackfly and greenfly on the runner beans so I thought that would be a good place to relocate him.  I didn’t expect him to start eating them straight away.  I have never seen them feeding before 🙂

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 08

This afternoon I searched for ladybirds in the garden.  Last weekend I spotted a couple of ladybird larvae in my Mum’s garden; she has been gardening for years but had never seen them before!  This weekend I decided to see how many she had hiding in the flowers.  After a little searching I found two 7-spots (Coccinella septempunctata) sunning themselves on some leaves…

…and then two 7-spot larvae.  Sadly one of them had passed away but the other was hunting for food.  

As I was watching I noticed some yellow in amongst the leaves, it was a 22-spot ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata).  

Ladybirds or ladybugs (if you are American) are common in our gardens and  can be found throughout the UK. There are 46 species in the UK and the 7-spot is one of the most common.  They feed on a variety of aphid species and can usually be found where there is an influx of their food source; they can consume approx. 5500 in their lifetime! and why ladybirds are called a gardeners friend. The 22-spot on the other hand doesn’t eat aphids it feeds on mildew on a variety of plants, usually umbellifers and low-growing shrubs.

All of my finds have been added to iRecord 🙂

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 06

This morning I left for work a little earlier as I wanted to get to the patch garden with enough time to watch the feeders for a while.  Over the last couple of days both rook and starling fledgling’s have been seen earlier in the morning; I wanted to try and see them.  The rooks still haven’t got used to people being in the garden with them so I positioned myself in an upstairs window and waited…

I didn’t see any of the rooks or starlings but I was treated to the house sparrows fledging.  I haven’t seen them in the garden before so I think they fledged this morning as the parents were still collecting food and heading up to the roof where they had nested yesterday.  There were 4 or 5 balls of fluffy feathers that were bumbling their way through the hazel and white beam tree calling for food. I kept losing them in the leaves as they were continually on the move.  It was good to see them using the trees as cover as the amount of corvids that visit the garden does seem to be steadily increasing now the rooks have fledged! 

As far as I know it is only the jackdaws that are now left to fledge.  I know they are still in the chimney as they can be heard calling from within the house.  The home owners will be glad when they have fledged – who needs an alarm clock when you have jackdaws!

In other fledgling news, while I was at work walking back to the office a small bird caught my eye very close to me in a pine tree.  I stopped and watched until I could see it clearly; a fledgling chaffinch! I continued watching and one of the parents came back to feed them; I wish I had a camera with me, they were only a few feet away!

When I was leaving the car park a male pheasant chased a female to mate with her and bowled over the chick she had next to her!  Thankfully it got back up on its feet and found Mum again and went back to feeding. I need to start taking my camera to work!

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 05

For a few weeks a family of brown rats have been visiting the garden.  They live in the field and pop under the fence to take food from the bird feeder.  I know most people don’t like rats and to be honest this family is expanding.  They haven’t been seen venturing any further than the bird feeding area so I think they are fairly contained on that side of the garden (for now at least). 

A few weeks ago they were quite shy and would hide in the field and peak through the gap under the fence.  

Now they are a little more bold!  I think they realise it is safe to come out when I am in the garden and I can actually get quite close without them running away.  They are weary of the cats who sit in the garden next to the ground feeder ready to pounce on them.  There haven’t been any ‘presents’ left so we don’t think the cats are very effective at catching them!  

I have spent this evening sat at garden table watching them dart about collecting little bits of food and hurrying back out into the field.  I think I have found their burrow entrance and am going to put the trailcam out to see if I can get any footage of them using it.  

Brown rats were introduced to the UK in 1700 and have spread widely due to their ability to adapt to their surroundings and breed at a rapid rate – a female can have approx 60 young a year!  I’m hoping the garden rats don’t have quite that many!   

 

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 04

After a long day at work it was nice to get out into the garden.  When I get to my patch I like to go out into the garden and check on all the plants to make sure they are all okay.  Today I discovered the cat had dug up my borage and used the pot as a toilet! I was not best pleased; there is field behind the fence why can’t he just use that! 

As I was walking around I noticed there were a lot of bees on the few remaining flowers of the aquilegia.  I started to follow one of the bees around the flowers as he flew from one to the next.  I think he is an Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) and believe he is male due to his facial hair :).  Early bumblebee’s have a reddish tail and yellow markings but their colours can vary and in workers their yellow abdominal strip can be reduced.  Why does there have to be so much variation in colour form bee to bee of the same species?! It makes it very difficult for people like me that are new bees! A lot of studying needs to be done to make me more confident in my identifications.   

Early bumblebees are one of the first to emerge and are active from March to June.  They have short tongues and I think that my photograph shows him nectar robbing.  This is when a bee chews a hole in the flower close to the nectar and steals it without touching the reproductive part of the flower, thus not helping pollination.  There were however other bees on the flowers that were taking nectar, providing the pollination that the early bumblebee was not.

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day 02

Not every Sunday, but on most, I do my best to take part in #Wildflowerhour on Twitter.  Wild Flower Hour is a wonderful community of people that are interested in the wild flowers which are in bloom in the UK at the present time.  I have been taking part for about 9 months now and I have learnt so much from everyone that takes part.  If you are interested in our wild flowers please do give them a follow, even if you don’t post any images of your finds to start with you can learn so much by looking at everyone else’s photos.  As I slowly began to get more confident in my identification I also gained confidence to post more images.  Even if you don’t know the name of a flower you have photographed someone will be there to help ID it for you, especially if you include #WildflowerID to your tweet.  I know as more of the yellow flowers come into bloom I will be asking for help as I find some of them so confusing; the difference between Common Ragwort and Hoary Ragwort, nope I still haven’t got my head around that one yet!  

Today on my walk I found…

Fox-and-cubs

Yarrow

Green Alkanet

Hedgerow Crane’s-bill

Black medick

Herb-Robert

Dog rose

Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil

Cleavers

Wood Avens

White Dead-nettle

Bush vetch

Red clover

Common vetch

Dandelion

Oxeye daisy

Rewilding the field!

Okay so the title of this blog is probably a tiny bit misleading… well… at the moment anyway!  As you know I spend a lot of time inspecting what is in the field and the garden next to the field.  I love the view through the garden gate into the ‘secret garden’ of the field beyond.  

As my knowledge has increased I have noticed this year how ecologically barren the field really is.  Yes the field margins look lush and green, but if you look closely there is very little diversity in the plant life.  So I have taken it upon myself to ‘rewild’ it a little.

Now the farmer that rents the field sprays it with what we assume are insecticides and herbicides, from what we can tell he uses direct spraying so hopefully it won’t destroy all of what I am trying to create.  I should add that the owner of the field has given me permission to work on a patch of the field to see how it goes.  The patch I have decided to use is just outside the garden fence.  There are a few of reasons for this A) easy access B) the farmer can’t cut it down before they harvest the crop as the combine can’t cut that close to the corner! and C) it is full of common nettles and cleavers. 

To start work I had to clear a path through the nettles and cleavers to be able to actually get out into the field.

I then began to clear the cleavers doing my best to leave as many nettles and cow parsley as I could; I did discover that although I thought there were lots of nettles, there wasn’t, it really was all cleavers.

Pulling the cleavers up revealed no life underneath them at all, it was just soil.  I did feel bad pulling up the greenery as it looked horrendous leaving bare soil; however I know, if all goes to plan, the results will be better for our pollinators than leaving it as it is. 

A few weeks ago I moved a prickly sow-thistle from the garden and put it out in the field.  I was pleased to see it survived its move and was even in flower, I was more pleased when a bee came along and had a look at it.  It dawned on me that the only obvious flowers in the field were the cow parsley.  I am hoping that as summer progresses I will see more of a variety appear but I don’t hold out a lot of hope. 

I thought I was going to clear a ‘good patch’ of field margin but when it came to it I cleared a little patch!  Partly this decision was down to the fact that everything I was pulling up had to fit in the garden waste bin!  It was already partly full and what I had removed would have filled it three fold!

However the little patch was enough for me to make a start, I planted out some teasels and cornflowers to see how they fared.  I decided five of each would do, as if they didn’t take to their new home I didn’t want to kill lots in one go! 

When I checked on them the next day they looked quite happy 🙂  I do plan on watching the field more closely this year to see what plants naturally occur, then maybe next year I can boost their numbers by growing more from seed!  I may need a bigger greenhouse!

In the next week or so I will be planting out more teasels, cornflowers, oxeye daisy, common fleabane and red campion and maybe even clearing some more space!