Batty for Bats

Seven years ago David and I began work on creating a wildlife yarden. We focused on attracting as much wildlife to an inner city walled yard as we could.

garden

Yarden

Bird feeders were the first and easiest addition to the yarden and during late summer/early autumn the feeders are usually awash with different coloured wings and bird calls. From chattering charms of goldfinches and the happy chirruping of sparrows to boisterous gangs of starlings. The odd blue tit is seen nervously snatching away a sunflower heart as well as two delicate greenfinches who’ve visited among with the goldfinches. All this activity has caught the eye of several sparrowhawks whose presence in the yarden is a wondrous sight to behold.

About three years ago we put in a wash bowl pond. It’s in a sheltered spot so we don’t have dragonflies or damsels visiting but we did have a little frog for a short while.

Over the years we have planted shrubs and herbs which flower at different times of the year to attract insects. We even have the odd sapling tree, with a hawthorn being my pride and joy!

Trying to increase the insect population means that other predators will hopefully move in. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I discovered that a bat frequents the area!

I know nothing about bats so here’s a few facts on them:

  • There are 18 species of UK bat, with 17 breeding here
  • They all eat insects and are a natural pest control for e.g. mosquitoes
  • A pipistrelle can eat up to 3000 insects a night
  • They use echolocation to find food
  • They are indicators of biodiversity
  • They pollinate and spread seeds
  • Like the dormouse and hedgehog they hibernate
  • The mating season is from September and females give birth to one pup around June in maternity roosts
  • Cats and birds of prey are their main predators
  • They are the only mammal that can fly

I wonder what type of bat is visiting? It could be the most common bat in the UK, called a common pipistrelle. I’d need a bat detector to discover the identity of our new visitor, perhaps I’ll add one to my birthday/Christmas wish list. :p

Have you got bats visiting your garden? What is your favourite bat?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

A Small Miracle

Mid May I ordered five painted lady caterpillars from Insect Lore, hoping to have them by the end of this years 30 Days Wild. They were dispatched min June and I waited anxiously for them to arrive. The first week passed with no caterpillars, then a second week passed. 30 Days Wild ended with no caterpillars in sight. I complained to Insect Lore customer services and they said that post in my area had been extra slow, but that they would kindly dispatch some more caterpillars.

butterfly2After a full three weeks since the caterpillars were dispatched, they finally arrived!

I was a little weary of opening the packaging, frightened of what to find! Would I find dead caterpillars? On opening the package and taking out the pot where the caterpillars feast on some unidentified brown goo. I found a mess! Among the excess food source, caterpillar poo and fras (a fine web caterpillars weave when they feel threatened) I discovered five chrysalises. Not hopeful they were alive I extracted them from their filth and placed the chrysalises inside the mesh habitat I kept from last years batch and left them.

A week later while David was in the study working from home, he called me in saying that one chrysalis was alive. It had been vibrating. I was overjoyed! At least one was alive!

Some half an hour later David called me in again and said I had a butterfly! It had burst out of its chrysalis and we watched as it pumped up its wings. It was a wondrous sight to see. I hadn’t had much hope for these beautiful souls.

Several hours later I discovered that another chrysalis had burst and a new butterfly had emerged. I had two butterflies!

I still had three chrysalises and two were quite small so I had little hope for them. But come the next morning we found that all chrysalises had emptied and I had five painted lady butterflies! What a miracle! After spending three weeks in a dark box, sitting in a Royal Mail post room, they had overcome the odds to become beautiful butterflies!

Last weekend I released them.

Four flew away, however one wanted to stay an extra day. So after watching the butterfly sit lethargically in the garden, David and I popped him back into the habitat with sugar water and flowers and planned on releasing him the next day.

The butterfly seemed much livelier on the second release day and enjoyed the flowers on the salvia. We left him enjoying the flowers and on returning to the garden, he was nowhere to be seen. I hope he managed to fly off and begin his adult life.

What a wonderful story of life fighting against the odds!

But my caterpillar story for this year isn’t over yet as on the day before I released the butterflies from the first batch, the new set of caterpillars arrived. Only a week late! On opening this package I am happy to report five caterpillars looking a little stunned. It took them a while to begin moving but in the few days since their arrival they doubled in size.

Since then they have already become chrysalises.

So I had caterpillars for a few days at least. I wonder if they will all develop into painted lady butterflies? I’ll let you know!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: This week (22nd to 28th June) is National Insect Week, a biannual initiative organised by the Royal Entomological Society, encouraging people of all ages to learn more about insects. Insects are a diverse and ecologically important group of animals. There are over 24,000 species of insect in the UK.

So for today’s 30 Days Wild, below is a gallery showing the variety of the insect world.

What is your favourite insect?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2020 – Day Four.

download (1)Day 4: I began my 30 Days Wild adventures in 2015. Since then I have learned a new appreciation for arachnids, helped countless exhausted bees and learned a few more bird songs. Continuing on from the past two years of 30 Days Wild, Thursday’s will be know as Throw Back Thursday’s! Preparing for this post, I realised that the calendar for 2020 is the same as 2015. On the fourth day of June 2015 I planted wildflower seeds.

In 2016 I marvelled at the flowers on maris bard potatoes. 2017 saw me pick flowers and grasses for a nature table. I got up close and personal in 2018 with a cellar spider and in 2019 I watched as my painted lady caterpillars grew and grew and grew!

So for 2020’s Throw Back Thursday I will create another nature table.

nature table1

Nature Table

All my finds are from a local park. On display are many types of grasses, elder and cow parsley flowers, a fallen sycamore leaf and seed (helicopter), daisies, clover, poplar tree seeds, (that look like cotton wool) and even a pigeon feather. A nature table that depicts early summer.

Have you created a nature table?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Mud and Sphagnum!

This Sunday, David and I finally planned a Lake District adventure! It was nice to be back to our days of exploring. 2019 has thrown us a few curve balls but hopefully illnesses and job woes are all behind us!

Our destination this Sunday morning was the western shores of Thirlmere. We arrived at the Dobgill pay and display car park at 8.30am after an early rise. Whilst enjoying unprecedented weather this summer bank holiday weekend, the decision to visit the quieter Thirlmere was beneficial as we only saw a handful of people on our walk towards the picturesque Harrop Tarn.

The walk through woodland was steep but not exhaustingly so, we spotted many types of fungi bathed in sunshine.

The tarn itself has only one shingle beach with access to the water. We aimed for this beach but had to squelch through moss and bog to get there!

Thankfully no one else was swimming when we arrived but a group had set up a wild camp in the conifer trees beyond. Mindful of people at close proximity I quickly stripped to my swimming costume and donned my neoprene shoes and gloves. I entered the water quickly as the sloping shingle shore was steep and shifted under foot. I spent a leisurely 15 minutes swimming back and forth with butterflies fluttering over head and the Helvellyn massif stretching impressively to the west. The water was around 16°C but was rather murky. It was only later that we discovered that I shared the swim with little silver fish.

Back on land I struggled into another swimsuit, a second swim was planned! However I recalled that on arrival at the car park I’d exclaimed, ‘I’ve forgotten the sunscreen!’ David and I were going to bake as the sun was already high in the sky and burning hot!

We retraced our steps through bogland towards a forest path and then struggled through a muddy, stone littered track towards the open fell of Watendlath. The second tarn of the day was going to be Blea. There are three Blea Tarns in the Lake District: Landgale, Watendlath and Eskdale, only the Eskdale Blea Tarn to do!

Watendlath’s Blea Tarn is nestled below Coldbarrow Fell at 1500ft. It was a tiring marshy trek over sphagnum moss to get to the tarn and then with no path to the shore or easy access to the water, we had to knock down vegetation and sink into pits of mud and water to get any closer. We picnicked with the view of the tarn and Low Saddle before I gritted my teeth and waded into the wind chopped waters. I was not enamoured with this Blea Tarn. At present the Langdale’s Blea is winning. Watendlath’s Blea had a feel of Small Water for me. I waded out into shallow waters. Too shallow really to swim in. Then there was the blue green algae fluorescing further ahead and fronds of vegetation wrapping around my wrists. Tired and frustrated, I turned tail and returned to shore.

Once dry, we decided to walk back to the car park, which saw us embark on another hour of trudging through marshland. We dodged hungry bumblebees, and avoided ticks as we made our descent towards the car. An inferno awaited us as we opened the car doors, heat flooded out! We returned home tired, sunburned but content that we had spent five hours walking and swimming in the lake district fells. I am looking forward to our next adventure.

How did you spend your summer bank holiday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Roundup!

30 days wildI thought I would write a roundup of my 2019, 30 Days Wild.

Blogging everyday is a challenge in itself but when illness puts pay to plans it makes the challenge all that more difficult! Well it did for me! I had to cancel a weekend break to the Lakes and also a badger hide encounter. However, hopefully I will be able to re-book both in the near future?!

Before 30 Days Wild had even begun my story was featured on the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trusts’ page. I was surprised to see they used my picture of swimming in Rydal Water as their feature! You can read my story here.

Saturday’s in June were meant to be RSPB reserve visits but David and I only managed to visit one site and that was Leighton Moss to meet with their moths.

I did manage to schedule some blog posts and enjoyed researching about red squirrels and dragonflies.

Gaia was an impromptu visit but an impressive addition to my 30 Days Wild. I also focused on the moon with some facts about our beautiful satellite.

There were two highlights of the month. One was of course watching my five painted lady caterpillars (from Insect Lore), become chrysalids and then beautiful adult butterflies! I would definitely do that experience again!

The other highlight was the bee experience at The Bee Centre. It really made me wish I had a bigger garden so I could get a hive. I would love to become a bee keeper, and I think David would too.

Looking back, perhaps my 2019, 30 Days Wild really wasn’t that bad at all!

Would I blog again everyday for 30 Days in June? Probably. I do like how the challenge makes you focus on the small things as well as the large.

Have you enjoyed my journey through this years 30 Days Wild? What did you like and what didn’t you like?

Thanks for reading, and for one last time, stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-two.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: Today, David and I, (with Riley in tow), drove to Warrington’s Moore Nature Reserve, situated between the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. This 200 acre site boasts miles of woodland paths, meadows and wetlands. We walked 3.5 miles around the reserve but could have stayed longer. We saw speckled wood butterflies, a great crested grebe and damselflies.

Have you visited this nature reserve? Which is your favourite reserve?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-one.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_21Day 21: Happy Litha or Summer Solstice!

2019’s longest day, saw the UK welcome 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight. However, after all this celebration of light, the shorter days and darker nights begin from here. Today the weather for the NW of England has been fair and warm. Perfect weather to release my painted lady butterflies.

I was sad to see my butterflies fly but knew I had given them the best start in life.

painted lady butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

After coming home from work David and I headed out to a sun drenched yarden. The chirrup of sparrows and the cooing of pigeons sounded in the air. Once I had opened the habitat one butterfly, (I would like to think it was my little caterpillar who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup), flew straight up into the air! The other four butterflies needed a little more coaxing. I noticed one feeding on the watermelon I had given them before he/she took to the wing.

All five butterflies safely flew away. I hope they enjoy the sunshine on this solstice and manage to breed and begin the cycle again.

It has been a wonderful experience. I was amazed at how quickly I grew attached to the caterpillars and then saddened when they became chrysalids, but soon celebrated the emergence of them as butterflies. Nature is truly miraculous!

Would I do it all again? Probably, though I stressed about feeding the butterflies and when I couldn’t release them. But the positive experience more than out weighed the worries.

Have you been inspired to give the experience a go? If so, you can read more about butterfly gardens from Insect Lore.

Thanks for following my caterpillars to butterflies,

Stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_20Day 20: For today’s Throw Back Thursday I will be returning to the theme of planting for wildlife as I did in 2015. 2016 saw me celebrate the summer solstice. In 2017 I showcased bees and in 2018 I walked alpacas.

Planting for wildlife can be so rewarding. My little yarden is five years old and has some wonderful plants for birds and insects.

Such as ivy, polemonium, crocus, salvia, hellebore, red campion, passion flower and delilah.

What flowers do you grow for pollinators and birds?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Nineteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_19Day 19: Today I am returning to my painted ladies chrysalids. Monday evening, coming home from work, we found one painted lady butterfly clinging to the mesh of the habitat. I was overjoyed to find it was the little caterpillar I had been worrying about, who hadn’t made it to the top of the cup to chrysalise. I left him/her to harden its wings and expel red meconium which is the left over part of the caterpillar.

An hour later, our first butterfly was joined by another!

Tuesday morning, we awoke to three painted lady butterflies. I chopped up some orange and apple and made nectar (sugar/water) and left them at the bottom of the habitat, hoping the butterflies would find them.

On arriving home from work Tuesday evening David and I found all five had emerged from their chrysalises. I was ecstatic, yet slightly concerned. I had five new lives in my hands.

I shall be releasing them soon, so they can continue their life cycle. I also read that painted lady butterflies are migratory and can travel 2,500 miles to North Africa.

What’s your favourite butterfly?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x