Day 12: For today’s 30 Days Wild from The Wildlife Trusts’ I am going to go pond dipping in my little pond to see if there is any life among its waters.
In 2016 David and I created a washing up bowl pond to encourage aquatic wildlife to the yarden. With limited space this was the best solution. We planted the bowl in some soil with plants around, and bought an oxygenating plant, then left the pond to its devices.
Over the years we have had mosquito, hoverfly larvae and even a little frog! Here’s what I found living in our pond in 2021.
The pond dipping experience was a little disappointing actually. I fear my pond is getting slightly stagnant and the oxygenating plant isn’t doing its job very well! All I found was tiny little critters swimming around, I think they were water fleas.
Water flees or Daphnia are small aquatic crustaceans. They are filter feeders and can benefit ponds by eating organic matter. So maybe their presence in our pond is a positive after all.
With the weather warming up this week (and the days finally getting longer), I took the opportunity to have a wander around the yarden to see how the plants had fared over the cold winter. Sadly my fuschia isn’t looking it’s best, but hopefully it will pull through, as it’s a great autumn flower.
Throughout winter the herb rosemary has flowered it’s delicate blue flowers and I noticed its colour was joined by flashes of purple and yellow from the crocus and the green leaves of perfumed hyacinths, which I thought had been overshadowed by an azalea. I even spotted the leafy promise of bluebells that will hopefully flower in April/May. I’ve two hellebores, one I thought was being swamped by a dwarf rhododendron and cotoneaster, but I noticed it’s purple and white flowers bending in the breeze. There are also an abundance of buds on the star magnolia and camellia.
The pond also seems to have braved the frosts and the oxygenating plant within, is still vibrant. Hopefully we will have lots of aquatic life enjoying our tiny pond this year.
Calls from the visiting birds has also changed in recent weeks. The goldfinches have moved on from the winter chatter to their now playful chirp and waggle of their tails in the hope of attracting a mate.
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.
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.
Goldfinches Picture by David Evans
Starling Picture by David Evans
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!
Red Mason Bee
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Large White Butterfly
Swallow Tailed Moth
Red Tailed Bumblebee
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?
Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.
The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.
Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.
Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.
Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.
I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.
My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.
Common Blue Butterfly
Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.
Six-spot Burnet Moth
During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!
On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.
Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!
Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers
Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.
Broad Bodied Chaser
Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.
Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom
As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.
What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!
Day 11: For today’s Close Up Monday, the species in question is the tiny but mighty tadpole.
In our minuscule wildlife pond we have at least two tadpoles. It has been thrilling to see them develop. At present they have grown their limbs and will soon emerge from the pond. Let’s look more closely into their life-cycle.
A female frog or toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs known as frogspawn. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the cycle and hatch from around 1-3 weeks. They eat vegetation and have adapted jaws to do this.
Tadpole with legs
The tadpoles in our yarden have been undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. Unlike the butterfly, who goes into a crystals to morph, the tadpole changes before our very eyes.
Lungs develop, gills vanish, and limbs grow. I thought one of our tadpoles looked pretty mean! You can see its limbs clearly in the picture. Over time the tail is absorbed and the frog/toad becomes terrestrial.
Lifecyle of Frog/Toad
Frogs and toads are Anuran which means tail-less. Their skin is permeable to water meaning that if a frog is thirsty they just have to jump into water, while toads just need to find a muddy spot in which to absorb moisture through their stomachs. Frogs and toads are carnivorous and eat mosquitoes, files, snails and other invertebrates. Frogs reach maturity at three years old whereas toads at four. Frogs can live up to eight years and toads 12 years. I found most of my information from the Woodland Trust website, here. and Arkansas Frogs and Toads.
Sadly, it’s the end of June and the finale of The Wildlife Trust’s30 Days Wild! Though it has been a challenge this year, I have enjoyed stretching myself to experience nature through different activities.
Initiatives like this makes you more appreciative of nature. Whether listening to birdsong, smelling a fragrance or IDing a tree or plant. It gives colour to our lives.
Day Twenty-nine: Thursday.
As I’m writing this my skin feels so itchy. It’s psychological. I decided today to have a look at the washing-up bucket pond we set up last year. In the space of a year, the rockery plants have grown, and we had to change the oxygenating plant as the mare’s tails died. I’ve never pond dipped before so I didn’t know what to expect. The pond is not very big so I just used a glass to scoop up some of the water. I beheld hundreds of strange floating, twisting insects. In hindsight I should have took a video but a blurry picture will have to suffice.
After some research I was shocked to find that the little critters are all mosquito larvae. Images of malaria breeding insects came to mind. I read that there are approx. 30 species of mosquito in the UK. Only females drink blood as they need the protein in blood to create their eggs. In warmer climes they are the biggest killer of humans. Makes you thankful the UK is often cool!
They are often the first to colonize a new pond and other pond life and birds eat these insects. So I’m wondering, is it a good thing for these insects to be a part of my wildlife yarden? What do you think? Perhaps I need to get another oxygenating plant to help clean the water some more? Some advice would be most appreciated.
Day Thirty: Friday.
For the final day of 30 Days Wild I decided to open a bottle of the elderflower champagne and toast to the wild!
As I have never tasted elderflowers I didn’t know what to expect. The bottle kindly didn’t pop, and what was decanted into champagne flutes was a fizzy, light coloured liquid that had a hint of zest and a floral bouquet. It reminded me of grapefruit. David said the drink was refreshing but my mum said it was an acquired taste. I enjoyed it, but don’t think I could drink a lot of it.
Have you made elderflower champagne? What was your experience?
My third year of participating in 30 Days Wild has been a memorable one. From blissfully hot summer days to endless days of rainfall. My favourite highlights included, making elderflower champagne, beach combing on Crosby Beach, strawberry picking on the Wirral and visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve.
At Crosby Beach
The path – Lunt Meadows
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing over the course of the month?
Looking ahead: there are still many activities to keep wild well into the summer months and into autumn and winter too. Taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, which begins 14th July to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch come January. There is no excuse for us to not stay wild!
What future activities are you looking forward to participating in?
Sharon from the wonderful Sunshine and Celandines suggested the topic for today’s post. I already do a yearly video compilation (watch out for that in the new year), but I thought I would post 12 pictures (or video) that give an impression of the year 2016!
So here goes!
The year began with a little trip to North Wales. On a cold, drizzly day David and I visitedRhosydd Slate Quarryat Cwmorthin. The weather made the scenery even more atmospheric! Who knows how many ghosts wander the rugged, unforgiving slate scattered landscape?
Rhosydd Slate Quarry, Cwmorthin
On another of David’s days off work, we visited the Lake District and took a leisurely stroll along Derwentwater. Little did we know, we would visit the shores of Derwentwater several times in 2016! I had discovered a new hobby!
With spring just around the corner, March was all about the yarden! I busied myself with planting free packets of seeds that I’d requested from Grow Wild, a Kew Gardens initiative!
The much anticipated Hans Zimmerconcert in Birmingham came and went in a blink of an eye! A good time was had by all that night! Hans himself introduced film classics such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Inception and The Dark Knight trilogy.
In May, David and I returned to the shores of Derwentwater. This time I bravely stripped to my swim suit and slipped over rocky stones to embark on my first ever wild swim! It would be the beginning of many swims undertaken in 2016 in scenery that is nothing but inspiring!
For the second year running I took part in The Wildlife Trusts, 30 Days Wild. This year I packed even more wild into June. We built a pond, harvested our first crop of maris bard potatoes, grew borage for bees, and I even went without technology for a day!
Maris Bard Potatoes
In July, David and I took a day trip to Sheffield to see their herd of colourful elephants.
The year wasn’t all fun days out and wild swimming! There was lots of hard work to be done on the house. With detritus clogging up the space under the hallway and sagging/rotten beams found under the dinning room, the long summer days were filled with the sawing of wood and hours of reconstruction.
Dining room floor
At BrownsLiverpool, I partook in my first, but very rich afternoon tea. The red velvet cake was delicious but the whole afternoon was a sugar overload!
Afternoon Tea, Browns, Liverpool
Autumn became centre stage in all its colourful glory as I participated in Wild October! I watched a garden spider spin its web, relived childhood by kicking fallen leaves, turned 40 and holidayed in the Lake District.
The iconic Weeping Window from the Tower of London poppies came to Caernarfon Castle, just in time for Armistice. The poppies are touring the UK, thanks to 14-18 Now, and are a fitting memorial to the fallen.
The Weeping Window at Caernarfon Castle
December is all about Christmas and spending time with family. My little 3ft Christmas tree, adorned with birds and polar bears always goes up on the 1st. Artie once again had an Advent calendar to count the days to Christmas, and this year I managed to get a Christmas wreath for the front door!
So there you have it, my 2016 in pictures!
For some this year has been a harsh year, but for David and I there have been more happy times than sad. Indeed we have made many wonderful memories out of new experiences this year.
I wish you all good health and happiness for 2017! Let’s make it a year to remember!
The Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild 2016 dawned on a cloudy Wednesday, a hump day! I must admit it was difficult to find my ‘get up and go!’ However the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. It shone down hotly, as I slowly eased into this June by doing the usual pottering about the yarden (yard/garden)!
I participated in 30 Days Wild last year and thoroughly felt enlivened just by noticing the nature and wildlife around me.
I do try to help the wildlife in my area. It started off by putting out feeders for the birds. Then it progressed to planting for bees, butterflies and other insects. And this year David and I have built a small pond in the hope of bringing even more wildlife to the urban back yarden.
Day One: Wednesday.
Like last year I will blog about my 30 Days Wild in weekly installments. Thanks to Annie Irene from Trails&Tails who wrote about the many bloggers featured on The Wildlife Trusts, My Wild Life website. It is always good to read what other’s are getting up to this June, so if you are interested like I was, then follow the link and get reading!
One of the positives about reading other people’s experiences of the ‘wild’ is that you learn something new almost daily. Today, I learnt that a ‘weed’ I have ashamedly been pulling up out of the yarden (oops), is called Herb Robert or geranium robertianum. This wild flower is apparently edible and has many therapeutic properties.
Day Two: Thursday.
Today, David had a day off work. I suggested we go to a park in search of wildlife. We decided on visiting Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. We seem to make an annual pilgrimage here, but really should visit more often. It has lakes and woodland walks. It also features the restored Moon Wall and Pagodas that featured in the Garden Festival of the 1980’s!
On our leisurely walk, there were coots with chicks on the lake. Alongside the paths David and I spotted orchids and oxeye daises, and in the woodland we saw several butterflies, one was a Speckled Wood.
Speckled Wood Butterfly
We had a picnic alongside a stream, where under a strong beaming sun we sat listening to birdsong. I’ve identified (using British Garden Birds) the song of a chaffinch and maybe a wren, but is there a third song? Can you tell?
Day Three: Friday.
If you are struggling to find something ‘wild’ to do in June, then why not download the 30 Days Wild app for 101 random acts of wildness? I did and the first act suggested was something blue. So here is a picture of one of David’s rockery plants, lithodora ‘heavenly blue.’
Lithodora ‘heavenly blue’
Day Four: Saturday.
This March we planted some seed maris bard potatoes in the hope of growing our first vegetables. Today I noticed that the first flower has opened. I read that it will be soon be time to harvest these earlies! Isn’t the flower very strange looking? Well I thought so!
Day Five: Sunday.
Today was World Environment Day. Nicky on her blog Too Lazy to Weed, highlighted that it was also The National Garden Bioblitz weekend! So we spent the whole day in the yarden. I busied myself with counting the flora and fauna that we have in our small space. My fellow ‘spotter’ Artie was watching the bees and butterflies for a very different reason!!!
I counted about 60 plants. Of that number we have two trees and many shrubs, alpines and perennials. I used the Pl@ntNet app to ID some annuals and I was surprised at the results! One of the wildflower seedlings has roundish leaves so I used the app and found out it is a nasturtium!
Of the many insects that visited the yarden, a number of them were bees. Those identified were: common carder bees, a dark variant of the tree bumblebee, mason bees and white-tailed bumblebees. Thanks to UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook page for help with ID-ing the bees. My skills are still not great! Below are five useful facts on each bee.
Common Carder Bee on Lithodora Blue
Tree Bumblebee (dark)
Common Carder Bee:
Found widely in the UK.
On the wing from March to November.
Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.
Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
The males are sting-less.
One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
Uses mud to close their brood cells.
Are non aggressive.
Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.
Is another group of social bees.
Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
On the wing from March to November.
David, Artie and I were also given a spectacular mating dance from two, small white butterflies. It was truly uplifting to see the two flutter delicately about on a hot summers day!
Day Six: Monday.
I don’t know if it is due to tiredness or the heat but I have been feeling kind of tired and low today. So it was going to be a lazy kind of day. After the midday heat had passed, Artie and I headed out into the yarden to sit quietly. I took out my library copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged, (a tale of ‘wild’ swimming around the UK), and relaxed while the yarden hummed with bees. I am finding the book hard reading. I simply can’t get into it! I usually like history but the historical passages in the narrative just bore me. I will persevere though!
Day Seven: Tuesday.
I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry.) You may have guessed that I can go on a bit while writing the blog, so you’d think a three lined poem would be easy for me! Wrong! I have been racking my brain trying to get syllables to come together. Below is my best attempt. What are your thoughts? Have you tried writing a Haiku?
Bees, buzz, drunk on nectar (5)
Flowers’ scent, enticingly (7)
Pollen baskets, full (5)
Summary: The problem with this years 30 Days Wild is that I have wanted to do everything all at once! And that is not plausible. I have felt like a daemon possessed! Panicking if I don’t do something to the extent I want. For the second week, I think I need to ‘chill’ a bit more and enjoy nature instead of forcing it!
I hope you will come with me on this next week of discovery?!
I’ve begun compiling this week’s Sunday Sevens (devised by Threads and bobbins) early. It’s Thursday and I am eagerly dipping into my loaned library copy of Kate Rew’s Wild Swim. I am particularly interested in the section featuring lakes and tarns. I am looking for suggestions on where to do my next swim. My first being in Derwentwater on Sunday!
Wild Swim by Kate Rew
Monday saw David having a day off work. So we headed to our local park, Sefton Park to walk the family dog Riley. I think by the look on his face, Riley enjoyed himself!
This week has been National Vegetarian Week, which has been all about ‘celebrating the stories and the traditions behind the food we eat.’ David joked that it is vegetarian week in our house all of the time! Of the dishes I have made this week, this Italian flavoured Quiona and Bean Soup was healthy and surprisingly filling.
Quinoa and Bean Soup
Ingredients (serves 2):
1 bay leaf
1 can of beans, rinsed, I used Pinto, but you can use any
1/2 white onion, chopped
1/2 pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped,
1 chilli, chopped
1 tbsp oregano, fresh, chopped
1 can of tomatoes and juice
500 ml of vegetable stock (I used one stock cube)
50g of quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onions, pepper and chilli and sauté until barely tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans and garlic and stir for 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, and vegetable stock.
Add the quinoa, oregano and bay leaf. Cover and simmer until quinoa is cooked, 12 to 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf and serve.
Earlier in the week mum showed me the ‘wild’ flowers that had seeded themselves in the alleyway behind our houses. Among them was a yellow poppy, which I later researched and found out was a Welsh Poppy. Also the yarden seems to be blooming, even if the weather has been grimy this week. Everything has suddenly become green and lush. The maris bard potatoes are huge and I’ve discovered that the clematis David’s mum had given us, has flowered!
This Saturday has been a busy one! After the weekly shop, David and I headed to Harefield Water Gardens, a family run business in Widnes. We visited in a ‘monsoon!’ At least we tested out our new waterproof coats! Harefield Water Gardens have a farm shop and cafe where you can look out towards their herd of alpacas. Unfortunately they were all huddled together by their barn when we visited. We manged to purchase some pond plants and then headed towards Dobbies to get some alpines.
In the past week, we (or should I more truthfully say David), have been constructing a small pond in an area of the yarden that had once been a rockery but the plants had all died and was looking a bit sorry for itself. I suggested creating a small pond. We followed the tips on the RSPB site, used a washing up bowl and placed soil around it. We are both proud of the new instillation and hope that the plants survive and maybe one day small insects will make it their home. What do you think?
It looks like Sunday is going to be a lazy, rainy kind of day. I’m watching David play on his PS4 while planning the evenings dinner and dreaming of warmer, sunnier weather!