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.
The great spotted woodpeckers are regular visitors to the garden; they can be spotted on the nut feeders or within the branches of the willow tree. They can generally be heard before they are seen! I knew there was a pair that visited the garden and in recent days thought there might also be young by the calls coming from the tree. Today I finally saw them; one of the young landed on the fence and the parent landed to feed them. The nuts are always topped up at the feeders so hopefully I will see them feeding again.
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!
For my birthday last weekend I was gifted a masonbees.co.uk Guardian Scheme for red mason bees. My gift consisted of a bee lodge, nesting tubes and a release box for use next spring. Although it may be the end of the red mason bees nesting season; today I put up the bee lodge ready for any other solitary bees who might like to nest over the coming months.
With the guardian scheme, next spring I will be receive some red mason bee cocoons. All I need to do is put up the release box, add the cocoons and monitor them to see when they hatch and fly away. The males will hatch about a week before the females but it could all take about a month depending on the weather of course! The bee lodge is to be located near the release box so they have somewhere to nest.
All I have to do now is insure I have plenty of flowers in bloom for when they emerge 🙂 If anyone has any suggestions of flowers that are heavy with pollen I’d love to know (I don’t have space for fruit trees but I will be able to supply them with dandelions and buttercups).
Hopefully next summer I will have a garden full of red mason bees and lots of capped tubes!
I like that I will be able to care for and release some of our endangered solitary bees, it is also a responsibility but I think it is one that we should all try and do if we have the resources to do so. They need all the bee-friendly gardens they can find 🙂
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.
As I was leaving for work in the morning I noticed one of the sweet williams in the front garden had started to flower, this led me to notice a deceased dragonfly at the front of the pot. Very odd! I can only assume a bird had dropped it and it had happened to land there. I was on my way to work so only had time to take a photo on my phone but thought I’ll have a better look when I got back later… nope it had gone!
From the squashed flowers in the pot I think another bird may have landed and taken it away. At least it didn’t go to waste and someone has eaten it. It is just a shame I didn’t get to have a closer look before it disappeared.