30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 1

o0OhgWNNIt’s June, and that time of year again! Time for The Wildlife Trust’s wonderful initiative, 30 Days WildInspiring us all to get that little bit more wild! This is the third year I’ll be participating and I have to admit, I was a little excited for June to arrive. I learned so much during 2016’s 30 Days and enjoyed immensely the camaraderie of the online community. If you’d like to follow fellow participants, then click on My Wild Life Bloggers, and join in the discussion!

Day One: Thursday.

What could I do for the opening to my 30 Days Wild? With it being a long day at work, I decided to participate in Friends of the Earth’s, Great British Bee Count. The count runs from 19th May to 30th June and helps gather data on how healthy (or not) the British Bee population is.

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So once home, and dinner cooked, out I went into our yarden and stood hovering around the plants I know are popular with the bees. I’ve found that bees tend to like blueish coloured flowers. Among these plants are bell flowers, cat mint and chives. In just one small corner I counted five tree bumblebees, in an inner city yarden I find that amazing! There were also sightings of buff tailed bumblebees and I happily saw my first mason bee of the season. The yarden is usually awash with these cute little bees, all knocking each other from the flowers but I’ve noticed numbers seem to be down this year.

Have you participated in the Great British Bee Count? If not, you can download their free and easy to use app here, and start counting. 🙂

Day Two: Friday.

The Wildlife Trust’s encourages Random Act of Wildness. These Random Acts, be it for a few minutes or hours, are designed to add a little bit of nature to our otherwise busy lives. You can find their free downloadable app with 101 inspiring suggestions here. One such Random Act is find a creepy crawly. So after work I looked among the plants and undergrowth of our yarden, actively seeking creepy crawlies. I found two to photograph. One was a seven spot ladybird and the other a scarlet lily beetle. One is deemed a goody by gardeners and the other a baddie! I’ve Googled some interesting facts about both.

Seven Spotted Ladybird:

  • The most common ladybird seen in Europe.
  • Has a lifespan of a year.
  • Can eat up to 5.000 aphids during their life.
  • Secretes a fluid from their legs that is distasteful to predators.

Scarlet Lily Beetle:

  • Is not a native species to Britain but has been colonising since 1939.
  • Often seen on lilies and fritillaries and causes damage to these plants.
  • Overwinters in soil cover.
  • Studies have shown females find plants by scent.

Do you have any more curious facts about either species?

Day Three: Saturday.

Garden-BioBlitz-2017

This weekend was the annual National Garden BioBlitz. I took part in this survey last year. You can read how that went on here. This year I didn’t have as much time available, so I snatched an hour here and there. The aim of the project is to count the plants and animals that have arrived in the yarden ‘of its own accord’. Whereas I counted 54+ species of trees, shrubs, alpines and perennials I had planted. I only counted 21+ of flora and fauna that had arrived in the yarden of their own steam. Among them were:

Flora: bell flowers, foxgloves, poppies, herb robert and the annoying sticky weed!

Fauna: goldfinches, starlings, magpie, bee-fly and a spittle bug.

Out of the 20 species to look out for, our lowly little yarden chalked up 5/20. We were able to tick off, house sparrow, mason bee, tree bumblebee, garden snail and seven spot ladybird.

Did you participate in this survey? What wonders did you find?

Day Four: Sunday.

Last year, I participated in Wild October, an initiative started by 30 Days Wild’s Facebook page. The aim was to enjoy the changing season of Autumn. During the month I gathered fallen leaves and other detritus from a local park and displayed them on a nature table. This year for 30 Days Wild, I decided to do similar but with flowers and grasses I found along a woodland walk in Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. Of Course Riley had to tag along too. 🙂

While researching for this post, I was saddened to read that Festival Gardens has been earmarked for redevelopment, with shops and a ferry terminal in the pipe works. I do hope they don’t build on the already established park. The park as it stands has lovely lakeside paths and woodland walks and was created back in 2011 so the wildlife has had time to establish themselves. Redevelopment would mean a loss of habitat for wildlife and the opportunity for the residents to get closer to nature.

Have you lost a valued place of nature to redevelopment? Let me know your thoughts on this?

Day Five: Monday. 

Everywhere I look there are elders and their flowers growing all over the city. Waving seductively at the sides of roads, gracing parks, and even surprisingly, growing down my road! So I decided I would try my hand at making some elderflower champagne. I don’t know whether it will work as I’ve never done it before, but I thought. ‘I would give it a try’!

There are just so many recipes and videos on YouTube that I didn’t know which one to follow. So I sort of made a conglomeration of a couple!

Ingredients:

  • David and I foraged 10 medium sized elderflower heads.
  • Used 6 litres of water. 1 litre boiled and 5 cold.
  • The zest and juice of two lemons as well as two halves thrown in for good measure.
  • 750g of sugar (I used granulated).
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

Method:

  • After sterilizing a bucket David measured the sugar and dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.
  • While David stirred the sugar solution I trimmed and cut the elderflowers from their stalks, shaking any bugs off.
  • We threw the flowers into the bucket and added the zest and juice of the lemons.
  • Then left in two lemon halves in the mixture.
  • Poured the litre of sugar solution onto the elderflower and lemon and then added 5 litres of cold water.
  • Finally added the white wine vinegar and gave it a good stir.
  • Covered bucket with a tea-towel and left solution to (hopefully) start fermenting.
  • Stir the mixture once everyday until you see bubbles or fungus. Then sieve and bottle up. Be careful to leave gaps in top of bottles and monitor as the natural yeast in the elderflower and the sugar can cause the bottles to explode!

I will keep you all updated on our progress.

Day Six: Tuesday. 

Since it’s been raining for the past two days, I decided to do a little research on the topic. The Met Office offered a helpful info-gram. This video here, is helpful too.

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Five Facts:

  • It rains due to warm moist air cooling and condensing to liquid.
  • The shape of a rain drop is actually like a jelly bean.
  • The average speed of a rain drop is 14 mph.
  • Petrichor is the smell of rain as it hits dry ground.
  • Rain falls from weather fronts (two differing air masses) whereas showers stem from clouds.

Day Seven: Wednesday.

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Saving a buff-tailed bumblebee

With this deluge of rain we are having, means the poor wildlife seem to be having a hard time. The rain makes it harder for birds to forage for seeds and insects for their nestlings and bees become sodden and lethargic. It always seems to be buff-tailed bumblebees we find clinging to flower petals in the hope of finding shelter. Here’s what you can do if you find one.

The RSPB state two tablespoons of granulated sugar to one tablespoon of water. I think that is a little excessive. We only use teaspoons. One teaspoon to half a teaspoon of sugar. Place the sugar water where the bee can sit safely and drink. You will be amazed at how quickly the bee perks up.

Our little bumblebee was also wet and cold so we warmed her by the radiator before releasing her back safely into the yarden.

Have you tried reviving tired bees? How did it work for you?

Summary:

Nature is supposed to be natural, not forced, however this being my third year of participating in 30 Days Wild, I have felt pressurised to do activities which I haven’t done in previous years. Have you felt the same?

I did enjoy foraging for elderflowers and counting the bees. It’s amazing that even a small urban yarden can attract a variety of wildlife.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week one in previous years.

2015: Mint moths and buying homes for nature.

2016: Bee facts and growing maris bard potatoes.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week One

o0OhgWNN

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.

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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.

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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.

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.’

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!

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Day Five: Sunday.

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Naughty Artie!

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:

  1. Found widely in the UK.
  2. On the wing from March to November.
  3. Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
  4. They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
  5. A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.

Tree Bumblebee:

  1. Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
  2. Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
  3. Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
  4. Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
  5. The males are sting-less.

Mason Bee:

  1. One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
  2. Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
  3. Uses mud to close their brood cells.
  4. Are non aggressive.
  5. Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee:

  1. Is another group of social bees.
  2. Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
  3. Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
  4. Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
  5. 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.

20160606_133351I 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?!

Christine x