30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-four.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_24Day 24: For the last Close Up Monday of 2019’s 30 Days Wild, I am focusing on dragonflies.

My interest was piqued after reading that these large, colourful insects spend most of their larval stage in water. When they emerge as adults they shed their exoskeleton and are found clinging to nearby foliage for two hours whilst they pump blood into their wings for flight.

There are three stages to the life cycle of a dragonfly: egg, nymph and adult.

life-cycle-of-a-dragonfly-coloring-pageegg: mating occurs whilst flying and afterwards the female will lay her eggs on or near water.

nymph: or larvae is the longest stage of the dragonfly life cycle and can take up to four years. During this time the nymph is aquatic and eats other nymphs.

adult: once the time and conditions are right the nymph will crawl out of the water and shed it’s exoskeleton or exuvia, whilst resting on a plant. On the wing they look for food (they are voracious hunters) and to mate (to begin the cycle again). The lifespan of an adult is two months.

There are 23 species of dragonfly in the UK. Along with damselflies, dragonflies are of the Odonata order, meaning ‘toothed jaws. Both species have four sets of wings. Dragonflies can beat each pair of wings together or separately, and can fly at almost 30mph. They breathe through spiracles in the side of the abdomen. Dragonflies predate on flies, mosquitoes, bees and butterflies. Dragonflies have the largest eyes of the insect world and 80% of their brain is devoted to vision.

It was during the hot summer of 2018 when I saw the most dragonflies.

Have you seen any dragonflies this year? What’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x


Further Reading:

The Wildlife Trusts

The Woodland Trust

British Dragonflies

Animal Corner

YPTE Factsheet

Dragonfly Site

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30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Twenty-three.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today’s blog is all about bees, honeybees. David and I drove to The Bee Centre in the grounds of Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire, for a two hour pre-booked bee experience. After donning our bee suits and taking the obligatory photos, we (of a group of nine) were escorted to the outdoor hives. Kath opened up a hive and explained what was happening in the frames.

Kath used smoke to make the bees (native black bees) more docile, while she inspected the hive. The bees gorge on honey, thinking there’s a fire so that they can take stores with them when they set up a new colony. We witnessed a drone (male) being born and lots of male/female brood cells and also the odd queen cell. It was fascinating to learn so much about life in a hive! Everyone has their own role and worker bees can fly up to three miles for food. The queen lays 2,000 eggs a day and is solely dependent on being cared for by the other bees. A worker bee can live up to six weeks whereas a queen can live to five years.

After meeting the bees we returned to the centre for honey tasting. The centre has an ethical and sustainable view on beekeeping and only extract honey when there is a genuine surplus. Due to this year’s wet June the bees are having a hard time and need our help! You can do this by planting more bee friendly plants, a helpful list can be found here.

Our experience really whetted our appetite for beekeeping and whether a hive would be something our yarden could accommodate?

Have you ever kept bees? Like the idea?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

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

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Eighteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_18Day 18: Though the full moon was yesterday. I thought I would focus a little on our closest satellite today. Our moon is the 6th largest in the solar system and is 4.5 billion years old. Is 384,000km away and rotates at the same rate as it orbits, meaning the same hemisphere faces Earth all the time. It’s thin atmosphere provides no protection from the sun, surface temperatures range from +150°C to -250°C.

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The Moon by David Evans

Are you like me and on a clear night always look to the heavens in search of the moon and what phase it is? Sunlight is reflected off the surface of the moon creating moonlight. Phases are created by our view of the moon as it orbits the Earth, hence why it changes phase every night. It takes the moon 29.5 days to go through it’s eight phases called a lunar month.

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The phases are:

  • New Moon
  • Waxing Crescent
  • First Quarter
  • Waxing Gibbous
  • Full
  • Waning Gibbous
  • Third Quarter
  • Waning Crescent
  • New Moon

The far side of the moon, known as the ‘dark side’ is never visible from the Earth. In January 2019 a Chinese spacecraft Chang’e -4 with rover Yutu-2 is the first man made craft to view this mysterious hemisphere of the moon.

Do you know any fun facts on the moon?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Sixteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_16Day 16: For today’s 30 Days Wild we visited a wildflower meadow at Local Nature Reserve Pickerings Pasture. There were lots of daisies and vipers-bugloss but nothing like the colour scheme when we visited in 2018. I think we need a little bit more sunshine. Perhaps a future visit to this reserve will pay better dividends. For now I’ll leave you with pictures from this year and last.

Do you have a wildflower meadow nearby? What’s your favourite wildflower?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Fifteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_15Day 15: Today’s 30 Days Wild post comes from a quick visit to Port Sunlight River Park, where I went in search of bee orchids.

This small orchid is a wonderful example of a mimic. The flower mimics a female bee (it even smells like one), enticing a male bee to come in to mate; in reality to pollinate the flower. UK bee orchids however are self pollinating but nonetheless they are beautiful. I was overjoyed to finally see and photograph them!

During our short time at Port Sunlight River Park, I watched skylarks flutter overhead. I spied a six spot burnet moth resting on red clover. Willow Warblers sang loudly and wildflowers of viper bugloss, daisies and geraniums buzzed with numerous bumblebees. Even on a grey day there was so much wildlife.

Have you seen a bee orchid? Visited Port Sunlight River Park?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Fourteen.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_14Day 14: For today’s 30 Days Wild, I’m focusing on our glorious gardens.

I sat with a cup of tea this afternoon and gazed out towards my yarden. I watched as bumblebees flew about the flowers dodging birds as they swooped to the feeders. I’ve created a wildlife yarden in a small urban space. I was reminded of the Alan Titchmarsh and Debbie Wiseman album The Glorious Garden featuring music and poetry.

garden

The Yarden through window

So I played the album and spent a relaxing afternoon watching nature go about its business.

How is your garden growing?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x