I peered under ivy and lifted rocks in the hope of finding some arthropods but all I found was a few frightened spiders.
I did have many flying insects visiting the yarden. Bees featured heavily. I saw my first honeybee of the season and a leaf-cutter bee foraged from flower to flower. A strange looking wasp also ventured into the yarden but didn’t stay for long.
I didn’t see any beetles, nor sight or sound of ants. They all must be hiding.
This post was inspired by reading Grantham Ecology’s post 2017 in Bees. I haven’t seen as many bees this year, so I thought I would post about the other insects I have seen in 2017 too. I hope you enjoy!
I am forever learning about the inhabitants of my yarden. This year I discovered a new insect, it was enjoying the lavender I had planted. It was a spittlebug, or frog hopper, (also known as cuckoo spit). They are identified as garden pests but this little fella didn’t seem to be doing much harm.
Seven Spot Ladybird
I was also excited to see my first seven spotted ladybird this summer. After I saw one I saw a few enjoying the aphids in the yarden.
Golden Ringed Dragonfly
On our travels David and I saw lots of blue damselflies but none were more striking (not to mention huge), than the golden ringed dragonfly.
I do love spotting butterflies but have not been as successful in photographing them. However the beautiful comma butterfly stayed still enough for me to snap a picture.
We did manage to capture the cycle of caterpillar to chrysalis and then to an adult. Unfortunately our large white butterfly didn’t have a long life as it came out of it’s chrysalis with a deformity.
Large white caterpillar
Large white chrysalis
Large White Butterfly
Though bees weren’t in number in my yarden in 2017 there was quite a lot of diversity in species. I photographed eight different species, from early sightings of tree bumblebees to the spectacular hairy-footed flower bee. Honey bee sightings were down this year but the number of common carder bees were up. They were active right up until the end of October! I’ll end this post with a collage of some of the bees that have visited my yarden in 2017.
Still nursing a bit of a hangover from 30 Days Wild. Our forays into nature have continued.
Sunday dawned bright and cheerful. While David got up at 7.30am, I turned over to snooze for longer. However five minutes later David came charging back into the bedroom, ‘we’re going out, he said. We had been debating the previous evening whether to stay at home or visit a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. It all depended on the weather.
‘Shall I get up now?’ I mumbled sleepily. I guessed the weather was favourable.
‘No, later.’ So I snoozed until 8am when I got up for breakfast. We were out of the house by 9am! We drove for an hour to Ormskirk and Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve and spent the next three hours walking along woodland paths and gazing over lakes.
On our bimble we saw many fluttering red admirals and a wonderful comma butterfly. Flashes of blue damselflies darted about and brambles were covered in hundreds of bees and hoverflies. The woodland scented air was filled with the hum of insects and the chatter of birds. Calls from great tits, wood pigeons and dunnocks graced the airwaves.
Thanks to a kind gentleman, we even spied a great crested grebe during a visit to one of the hides. I think David has captured the Grebe beautifully.
Great Crested Grebe
The great crested grebe is a conservation success after being nearly hunted to extinction for its plumage during the 19th Century. The grebe has adapted to the aquatic lifestyle and is cumbersome on land and in the air, preferring to dive under water to escape or hunt. During spring they have an elaborate courtship dance of fluffing their crests and mirroring each others’ head twists.
We walked a total of five miles around the three main paths of Mere Sands Wood, and visited a meadow with selfheal, where small white butterflies flittered over head. It was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.
Small White Butterfly
As the day progressed and the sun burned down the reserve and car park grew busy. There is a £2 charge to park all day with a licence plate recognition camera. There is also a visitor centre with literature and gifts.
Have you ever visited Mere Sands Wood? What is your favourite Wildlife Trusts nature reserve?
Well week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.
With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.
Day Fifteen: Thursday.
Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!
So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!
I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.
The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?
Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.
Day sixteen: Friday.
All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.
The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!
If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.
Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!
Day Eighteen: Sunday.
Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!
Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.
Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?
Day Nineteen: Monday.
Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.
Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.
Bumblebee on Dahlia
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Some pollinator friendly plants are:
Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?
Day Twenty: Tuesday.
I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.
The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
Prefer simple, open flowers.
Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.
Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.
The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.
Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.
Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.
I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.
Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.
Ingredients (makes one small mug):
I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
Strain and drink.
I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.
The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.
What is your favorite herbal drink?
What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?
This week I have been out and about a little bit more than in previous weeks. While going for a coffee with mum, doing some temporary note-taking work and meeting up with a friend for lunch, I kept one eye looking for signs of autumn.
Slowly but surely Liverpool is becoming enveloped by autumnal colours. I took a leisurely walk around the University of Liverpool campus and visited Abercromby Square. Though still looking verdant, the tree tops are slowly turning golden. I also came across a Barbara Hepworth sculpture and one by Hubert Dalwood.
square with two circles – b hepworth
three uprights Hubert Dalwood
Since I have been getting up before the sunrise this week, I have seen some lovely skies.
Honey bee on Salvia
Though the days (and especially the mornings) have that bitter chill to the air, there are still plenty of honey bees visiting the salvia.
On Thursday I met a friend in town. As I was standing waiting for the bus, a robin sat atop a gravestone in the nearby cemetery and sang to me sweetly. I just wish I had taken a photo of him, his presence filled my heart with gladness.
My friend and I took in a visit of the World Museum, which boasts a planetarium among its many assets. This got me thinking of the northern hemisphere’s night sky in autumn.
On a clear night looking north most people can identify the Plough, (Ursa Major), which points to the pole star, Polaris.
Looking south, the square of Pegasus is deemed the main autumn constellation. However, for me, the most autumn constellation is Orion to the east.
October is also the time of year for the Orionids, the remnants of Halley’s Comet. This meteor shower ranges between 16th – 26th of the month, peaking on the 21st.
And finally, I have found some informative resources on the Forestry Commissionwebsite. Follow the link for activity packs, mindfulness poems and an interactive map, showing the changing colours of various forests in the UK.
I’ll end this week with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Autumn Song. Have you been following the changing seasons? What, if anything do you like about this time of year?
1) I don’t think anyone reads what I write, so why bother… and
2) I have started a new position in Knowsley, in a day centre for adults with learning difficulties, strokes and degenerative illnesses. It’s an admin job supporting a blind receptionist (she even has a guide dog!). So my days are now filled with travelling, (almost 3 hours in total daily), and working 3-5 hours a day, filing, taking phone calls, helping with general admin work. It doesn’t seem hard work, not as taxing as the work at the Royal was. The people all seem nice and it’s a job. It may only be 18 hours a week, but it’s better than the dole!
Every day I come home and wander around our small garden/yard. The Phlox that I have recently bought is starting to flower. The Sedum is ‘huge’ and is ready to ‘pop’ at any time and my Salvia is growing again! The Salvia was a prolific grower last year, it had flowers well into October!
The biggest anticipation for me is the blooming of the Passion Flower. The plant has loads of buds on it and some have now turned purple. I keep looking daily to see if one has flowered but it is keeping me waiting! 😀
Passion Flower Bud
The Cat Mint is still choking up the garden and attracting Bees, but different Bees than the first influx of Bumblebees. I think the picture below shows a Honey Bee enjoying the flowers?
There have been new baby birds visiting the feeders too. There have been two baby Blue Tits, (that I could see). Baby Great Tits but I could not see how many, (they make quite a racket begging for food.) There have been up to three baby Sparrows who only come for the food and then once fledged they bugger off! And now the Goldfinch babies with their brown heads are visiting. There must have been about four the other day flying from the feeders with their parents!