2017 – A Year in Insects

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.

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.

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.

comma

Comma butterfly

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.

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.

Here’s hoping there’ll be more visitors in 2018!

Have a very happy new year!

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #17

This weeks Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from our home, as David and I have embarked on a major ‘project’. The fortification of the beams that hold up the floors in the dining room, hall and living room. Phase one: so far, as I write this post, very tired and dusty, we have managed to work four days just on the dining room. David is ever the optimist, but I am a bit more realistic. Things never go according to plan, not in a 100+ year old house.

Day one was all about taking the boards up and assessing what work needed doing. Day two was spent in DIY shops, too much time for my liking if you ask me! Work proceeded in fits and starts on day three! Day four we managed, (or more truthfully David) to finish work on the two sagging beams and replaced the floor boards.

Phase two: we have now moved our attention to the floor between the kitchen and the dining room. On taking up the boards David found that the job was bigger than we had hoped! It never seems to end!

You wouldn’t have guessed it but I began the week feeling much more chirpier. I baked an apple pie from the harvest of bramley apples we were given. I still have lots of apples left so when work on the house is done (ha ha), I will make an attempt at making miniature pies.

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In between work, David and I have been catching some fresh air in the yarden. While I enjoyed the flowers, David played at being the bird whisperer. Firstly we found a pigeon, (Blake I named him), sitting scared in a corner of the yarden. David picked him up, and we saw what looked like puncture wounds on his wing. We tried to nurse him but he passed away a few days later.

All week, David has been trying to catch one pigeon that has been seen with string around its foot. On Friday David managed to catch, Hoppy as she’s affectionately named. He gained her trust by hand feeding her and then captured her in a box! (Probably lost her trust then!) She is now resident in our guest room. How long she will stay is anyone’s guess. The thread that is wrapped around her foot has been covered with skin so David has been teasing the fibers daily in the hope of loosening some. Only time will tell.

I on the other hand caught sight of a large white butterfly resting on my buddleia, and my Grow Wild seeds have grown to become plants that have started flowering.

I’ll end on that colourful note.

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!