I decided to complete my RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
first thing on Saturday morning as the weather wasn’t looking good for
today at all. I got up early and started my watch at 8am (yes I was one of the
people bird watching from the kitchen window in my PJ’s!).
I was pleased to see two more species than last
year, but numbers do seem to be down from three years ago. I am assuming it is
the mild weather which is keeping them away?
There had been woodpigeons and the occasional
long-tailed tits showing; but not yesterday! It seems to be the theme that a
lot of people have been finding; the birds know it is Birdwatch weekend
and have gone into hiding! There has been a sparrow hawk in the garden in
recent days which could also be a contributing factor as to why there are fewer
I didn’t take any photos of the birds this year as it was just too dark and gloomy 🙁
Today is the last day of 30 Days Wild. I have enjoyed sharing my nature finds with you but at the same time this year I have found it hard to keep up to date with writing my blogs; hence some being added a little late! (sorry!) The benefit of writing a blog about each day of 30 Days Wild is I also learn from researching information to share with you. Some of the blogs aren’t as in depth as I would have liked but time hasn’t always permitted me to write as much as I would have liked but never the less many nuggets of information have been gleaned each day 🙂
Today I went into the garden to see if the common frog was at the pond. He wasn’t there but what I did notice while I was perched on one of the garden stepping stones was some eggs and some of what I knew were shieldbug nymphs.
I looked around the plant a little more and found another set of eggs and even more shieldbug nymphs.
Once back inside and looking closely at the photographs I identified them as hairy shieldbug early instar nymphs. I can see why they are called hairy; in the photograph below where the light is catching it just right, one of the lightest coloured nymps looks particularly hairy!
Hairy shieldbugs over winter as adults and emerge in spring and the new generation of shieldbugs are complete from August onwards. If you want to find some of these interesting characters they can be mainly found on plants in the roasaceae family.
Earlier in the year I wrote about the plants I was going to sow for the insects in the garden; one of them was borage. Borage is a herb of non UK decent and native to the Middle East. It’s leaves can be used for tea and its flowers for decorating salads, I however have planted them solely for the bees (and other pollinators who wish to visit them!) 🙂
I sowed some of my seeds in March hoping I would get a ready supply of flowers throughout the summer; flowering generally occurs in June and July. I had read the plants can grow to 2 feet or more and because I don’t have a lot of bed space in the garden I have planted them in large pots. This also means I have been able spread them throughout the garden so the bees can travel through the area collecting nectar as they go.
I have been watching the borage ever since it started to flower and the bees have loved it. I have recorded 3 species of pollinator visiting them since June 20th, though I am sure I would see more if I watched all day 🙂
I will definitely be sowing more for next year 🙂 I have read online that one person planted some borage in September and it over wintered well so this year I am going to collect seeds from my plants and do the same, hoping they survive and I will have flowers in April as well! If you have borage in your garden they do self-sow, so you may need to keep an eye on the number of plants year on year if you have a small space! although the bees will love you more, the more plants you can support 🙂
This afternoon I took a couple of hours off of work and headed to Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Lower Moor Farm. It was a quiet afternoon. There were few birds flying (apart from a grey heron) and the only birds I saw on the water were a family of mute swans.
I guessed it was just too warm for our avian friends to be putting too much energy into moving around so my attention was drawn to looking at the flowers in bloom. There were so many to look at; some I know and some which are new to me, like the grass vetchling.
But of course if you are looking at the flowers you can’t but help look at the insects too 🙂
I was sat at work working my way through the ever expanding to do list when one of my office mates came up to me ‘you like birds, there are some swallows nesting above a door way. Thought you might like to know’. So of course I headed out to have a look. I was quite surprised to find them nesting above an active door; their nest was above a light and below a concrete porch so it was very well protected. If my colleague hadn’t seen one of the parents flying into the nest we would never had known it was there. They have obviously found it to be a very good nest as there are five young not far from fledging.
I was very cautious about taking a photo. At work the longest lens I have is 200mm! I waited for both of the parents to be well away from the nest before getting a little closer, grabbing a very quick photo, before fleeing back to the cover of a nearby tree before the parents returned. I stood and watched them feeding for a minute or two before heading back to my desk.
Nb. This photo is heavily cropped as I didn’t want to get too close and disturb them.
Last year there were lots of common nettles (urtica dioica) in the field just next to the fence for the house. I didn’t really pay that much attention to them but as my interest in botany and entomology has developed due partly to last years’ 30 Days Wild I have been paying a lot more attention.
Common nettle, also known as stinging nettle is the one which we all would have met at some point in our lives, the one we all learnt from a young age; the one that hurts! This year I have encouraged the nettles to grow by insuring the area they occupied last year has been left undisturbed. They grow from seed from the previous years’ distribution but also over winter as rhizomes of the previous years’ plants. As a food plant for the caterpillars of the small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies I thought it was important to have a patch growing in the field which I can monitor. Although common nettles are widespread many people remove them from their gardens as they are seen as a weed and of no purpose – I hope as more information about plants and planting for wildlife become better known, people will embrace the common nettle.
This evening I spent some time in the field investigating the nettles to see if I could find any of the 40+ kinds of insect that it supports. In total I found 11 insects and suspect there were a lot more hiding deeper in the nettle patch.
Today I saw my first painted lady butterfly. I’ll be honest in the fact that at first thought it was a small tortoiseshell but quickly realised it wasn’t. It looked really worn but was enjoying the lavender it was feeding on. I hadn’t realised how far they travel to get to the UK and mainland Europe; all the way from North Africa, the Middle East and central Asia! No wonder it looks a little worn!
There has been a collection of pigeons and doves visiting the garden for some time. They used to sit on the neighbours roof and wait for the ground feeders to be filled late afternoon before coming to feed. The neighbours took objection to them and would make noise to scare them off. They have since decided that because the food is in our garden it is acceptable to sit on our roof instead. They are quite friendly now and will sit on the roof or washing line as we walk by. They still don’t like the neighbours when they are making noise!
Once they have had their fill of food it is a sign for the woodpigeons to come over and finish off any scraps.
Again I spent my evening in the garden planting out some more of the seedlings. I was predominantly working in the raised beds trying to fit in more of the wildflowers I have to put out. I noticed a few 7-spot ladybird larvae on a rose bush and then a small bug on a daisy type plant (I have no idea what the plant actually is as it just turned up in the garden!). The small bug was a common froghopper; but of a different colouring to what I have been used to seeing. It was black of the body and beige/yellow of its head. It sat quite happily to have its photo taken 🙂
For Day 19 I was taking advantage of the good weather and planted out some of my seedlings. I was hoping I would discover something interesting in the garden for 30 Days Wild. What I wasn’t expecting to find was a tiny fungi attached to one of the newspaper pots containing a zinnia!
I had no idea what the fungi was but put it on Twitter as my interesting find for the day. I wasn’t expecting so many people to like it! Thank you everyone 🙂 Pete (@dnannerbetep) replied to say he thinks it is a Little Japanese Umbrella, Parasola plicatillis. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to fungi.