Thursday, 25 April 2013

Wildflower Wednesday: my April garden

It was almost midnight last night (here in Scotland) when I uploaded the photos below to join others celebrating wildflowers. So I missed the boat for Wednesday perhaps, but I did stop my garden potting shed re-org when there was enough light to wander round my garden to see if I actually had any wildflowers in flower and was thrilled to see I did and more than I thought :-)

Hidden deep in a planting of the ornamental grass Carex morrowii 'Fishers Form' I spotted Fritillaria meleagris (snake’s head fritillary) that I forgot was there when I moved some plants around. Ooops... glad it survived! I love this flower and didn’t realise it was a wild flower (although rare) until last tonight. Following the Kew link below I found the geography and distribution of this plant interesting:

“Snake’s head fritillary occurs in the wild from Great Britain and central Russia south to the southern Alps, western Balkans and the Altai Mountains. This species has become naturalised in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Baltic region. It favours damp, sometimes winter-flooded, neutral grasslands, usually those traditionally managed for hay with some grazing.”
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

My earliest flower memories are of collecting them from the wild in posies to take home to my Mum although I should probably add that I really loved to see them carpeting the ground especially in woodlands and in the gravel along riversides. I understood that was illegal to pick wildlflowers now and on searching found this from the FAQ at Plantlife (a charity that is speaking up for the nation’s wild plants working to protect them and build understanding of the important role they play in everyone’s lives):

“Is it illegal to pick common wildflowers in the countryside?

It is not normally an offence to pick the ‘Four Fs’ – fruit, foliage, fungi or flowers – if the plants are growing wild and it is for your personal use and not for sale. Many rare or endangered plants – such as adder’s tongue and lady’s slipper orchid - are protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, so picking these is against the law (although, being rare and endangered, you’re unlikely to happen across them by accident!)

Picking a flower is one thing. Uprooting it entirely is another. The law strictly prohibits removing a plant from the wild and you could risk arrest for doing so.

Make sure also that the flowers you are picking are in a wild location and not on council or otherwise protected land. Any flowers growing in, for example, council parks, town or village displays, roundabouts or roadside verges are off limits as are those in nature reserves and community gardens. “
Plantlife FAQ

Flowering in my small urban garden on Wednesday, 24th April 2013 were Wild Primroses (grown from seed) Cowslip (bought recently, still in pot waiting to be planted). What pretty yellow flowers they both are.

The dainty white flowers of Wood Anemone were stretching for sunshine under a dwarf Rhododendron and the delicate, soft lilac Cuckoo flowers (Lady’s Smock) made my heart sing behind my garden gate.

Meanwhile on the bottom shelf of my small greenhouse tiny seedlings of red and white clover are starting to emerge. No sign of the birdsfoot trefoil ones yet or the self-heal but the use by dates may be gone on these ones. I’m growing these plants for around my new wildlife pond (awaiting liner going down some warm day). Now that I can walk into my shed again I'll get proper labels in my seed trays ;-)

Apologies need to go to Gail at clay and limestone (Wildflower Gardening in Middle Tennessee) for allowing a hedgehog to gatecrash my first post joining her in celebrating wildlflowers on the fourth Wednesday of the month. When you view the 12 second video clip below you'll understand why I couldn't not include that sweet face with shiny button nose...

To see other wildflower blogs posts for this month head over to Gail’s post and browse the links there. I like the idea of this one and will try to join in next time with some flowers from outside my garden. This sounds like fun and I’ll enjoy getting to know the names of these verge side plants that catch my eye when driving or walking.

For new visitors to my blog and anyone who saw/missed my last post with images from my hedgehog feeding station, the IR camera in there has audio too! Those who are familiar with hedgehog visitors in the garden or out on evening strolls might guess what’s coming next.

On Tuesday evening, just like many other evenings, I had been busy on my PC and at the same time watching a hedgehog feeding and drinking via my night cam on the top right corner of my screen. This hedgehog then left as per usual, then a familiar noise was heard – the noise of a male hedgehog courting a female! This is a noisy affair where the male can circle the female for up to 2 hours and then she may just walk away on him.

I’ve no way of knowing if this mating attempt was successful or not, but when I quietly went round the side of my house (in slippers, carrying video camera and a torch) with outside lights on, one hedgehog was walking into my feeding station. I turned around and the other was rolled in a ball (perhaps trying to avoid the other) with its little nose peeking out. It didn’t seem scared by me (it would have ran at speed or pulled tighter into a ball. This hedgehog rolled over and wandered away and I caught this sweet piece of video…

Hedgehog unfurling, video 0:12 with gentle background music, try 720p HD quality.

Wishing you sweet moments of wildlife over the weekend and many sightings of wildflowers :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2013.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Hedgehogs visiting garden again :-)

Yay… Hedgehog Manor (recycled guinea pig hutch embedded in garden border) is open to diners once again! Sunflower hearts were on offer during the snowy spell in late March, just in case any hungry hedgehogs newly emerged from hibernation were out and about. There was also a dish of water available as they would also be thirsty.

Last year, with warmer temps than usual, it was March 2nd when I spotted our first two hedgehog visitors to the garden one evening as I walked to my shed. Quite a contrast to this year. It was on the cold, snow covered ground of March 27th, that our 1st Hedgehog spotted for 2013 came in to Hedgehog Manor. I was forunate to be watching live at the time...

By April 3rd this hedgehog was regularly dining on the buffet choices of crushed unsalted peanuts, sultanas and dried mealworms with the sunflower hearts - offered in a wire ground feeder tray and directly on the paving stone base in Hedgehog Manor.

One night I put out some grated cheese (white ball in image below) and it did seem interested in this too. However, as I know a passing cat might find (and eat) the grated cheese, after throwing it to the back of the feeding station the cheese stuck together and that was probably less appetising.

Regular feeding of birds and wildlife in gardens is the key to see them return, and in the case of the birds and wildlife, they don’t waste energy and time coming to gardens for no reward - especially in winter months or during the nesting period. Of course, it is very easy to be to slow in filling up feeders when stuff away from the garden distracts you – especially during evenings and at weekends.

As regular visiting hedgehogs mix up their dining times (probably due to finding new food sources en route) and new hedgehogs discover the feeding station, the buffet at Hedgehog Manor can run low on some of the food selection – namely the very popular dried mealworms! Having spotted this on switching on my PC and viewing the dining area live one evening, I could see the hedgehog diner could go away hungry and unimpressed with this eating establishment and not return.

I quickly and quietly nipped out to my shed, filled a cup of mealworms and walked over to outside the feeding station where I gently tipped the mealworms just inside the open fronted hutch. I used the low light on my phone to see where the hedgehog was and it rolled into a ball and stayed still - as they do in fear of danger.

I knew this hedgehog would stay like that a little while and watched with interest inside at my PC monitor to see it open up, turn round and find the mealworms beside it and then eat for some considerable time. It stopped for a drink of fresh water before continuing to eat more and then another final drink and it was out into the night once again. The ground was still hard at this time and I knew finding food would be tricky so I was delighted to be able to help this endangered wild animal (here in the UK) to build up energy after its hibernation.

Observing that the 2013 hedgehogs, dining in Hedgehog Manor, appear to be uninterested in the food in the wire ground feeding dish (with a low wide opening especially for them) I decided to remove it. Interestingly, in previous years many hedgehogs ignored the food on the ground and went straight to the dish. They definitely are creatures of habit and return to areas they first discover food or water.

The food is fine on the ground in Hedgehog Manor, there's also more room now should two hedgehogs knock into each other inside (as we have seen before) and it should stay dry – unless of course I spill water when adding fresh to the dish! I should add here that visiting hedgehogs also get used to where the water dish is and after moving it one night the hedgehog walked right past it and missed out on getting a drink – I moved it back to the original location for the next night.

Just as my eye picks up different flying patterns and behaviour of new species of birds approaching my bird feeding area (an unconscious thing now), my eye also picks up different patterns and sizes of hedgehog diners in exactly the same way.

As the infrared of the camera shows in black & white (or more accurately greyscale) it’s easy to see dark or light markings and I was able to confirm on April 16th that at least two individuals were visiting my garden. Note the black mark on the back of the hedgehog below, it’s also smaller than the ones above (each compilation shows the same visitor).

Pretty special as they are, it should be said that Hedgehogs don’t get to ‘hog’ this evening eating establishment completely. Also seen visiting at night is the wood mouse, with its tail catching my eye as it leaves at speed.

Slugs, snails, and spiders of all sizes can also be seen slowly crawling around (up and down walls too) during the warmer months - not alsways fun to watch it has to be said, but fascinating non the less. I always wonder if I'll ever see a hedgehog dining on one of the slugs - not sure if I'd keep on watching then. Oh I should add, weirdly perhaps, but the slugs seem to be attracted to the sunflower hearts.

During daylight hours, many birds run inside Hedgehog Manor after discovering this secret stash - some taking food away quickly others happy enough to eat a while. Blackbirds, Dunnocks, the Robin, Chaffinches, Starlings, Woodpigeons and a Pied Wagtail have all ventured inside. As you can see in the image below the Grey Squirrel has also been dining - although it wasn’t entirely comfortable dining inside and tended to favour take-away! No surprises there then ;-)

Ease of access makes birds confident enough to venture to the food in Hedgehog Manor. A path-side location helps too. However, the one downside of the open front is that leaves and rubbish (blown into the garden after strong winds) can make inside pretty messy and the food gets hidden as do the dangers to hedgehogs (see link above).

Last year's blog visitors will remember the hedgehog (named Bagman) that got its snout stuck in a crisp packet tucked in a corner that was out of sight to the camera. As the front is the only access I have and I don't want to add a doorway, I can live with some extra housework.

As well as sweeping, regular dish washing is required too (rinsing mostly) so the water is more appealing to diners. I tend to fill up the dish shown above (a large glazed, ceramic plant saucer that is heavy enough not to get tipped up) from my water butt so the hedgehogs get nice rain water when we have it. No surprises perhaps (living in Scotland), but my water butt has never run dry so far! For those without a water butt, tap water can be used too.

Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so I should probably add this reminder and warning again. Never put out a dish of milk for hedgehogs as it will make them ill. Oh… but take a look at how they love a good long drink of water – below you can see just a short, end clip of one big hedgehog drinking session ;-)

Of course, when all the housework is done and the buffet is out, there is no guarantee Hedgehogs will come to dine. It’s a waiting game when you don’t use motion detector software – but I love the live watching so I’m happy to be patient keeping an eye on the corner of my PC screen as I do other stuff.

So, there is nothing to watch on the Hedgehog Manor Channel – well except for the odd mouse running away with a peanut! Switching channels and we can go to Nestbox TV where the Blue tit Rooster below was inspecting the floor after we had been Spring cleaning its bird droppings which had built up since Autumn last year. It settled down shortly after.

I couldn’t guess if this nestbox will be used this year. A bird (Blue tit) may be roosting but it could be a male as I suspect we had last year as no nesting was seen then. To double our chances, when doing the housework we did some house alterations. We replaced the entrance panel to one with a larger hole so that Great tits could get in - if a pair should be interested.

So, if Nestbox TV has nothing to watch then things are getting uninteresting on the gardenwatching front? Oh no, no, no – once again my garden has surprised me with a new bird species arriving at the feeders! What excitement over the weekend - I’m loving seeing this one and my cameras have been collecting images to share :-)

On Saturday two females were spotted first, then a male and they have been regulars at the feeders ever since. This is a bird I never thought I’d ever see in my garden, so much so that I didn’t even have it on my wish list! The big question now is – can anyone guess who our newest bird diners are?

After being delighted at seeing three ‘small’ small tortoiseshell butterflies (together) sunning themselves on rocks in my front garden last Friday, my weekend gardenwatching and camera capturing had been planned out. I was hoping for butterfly photos. Oh… but don’t you just love it when a plan doesn’t come together and something even better comes along?

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2013.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

GBBD: Welcome back!

This morning saw early morning sunshine and flower colour for GBBD – it’s been a while! With a good planting of crocus now opening, a warm welcome back awaits newly emerged bees too. Today’s 1st 2013 Bumble bee was getting a tad messy as it dived in to feed on the Crocus pollen. Seeing it feed in my garden makes me even more aware of how much we as gardeners can help with their declining numbers.

Welcome back to blog visitors too! It seems forever since my last posting and even longer since I’ve been blogging at my usual late evening time slot. Just as with catching up on overdue jobs in the garden now that snow and cold has gone (although heavy rain now expected) I’ve a bit of catching up with Blogging too. I’ll not chat on this time, I just wanted to say hello to everyone and spread some early morning sunshine…

Joining the Narcissi and Crocus in flower on the 15th April 2013, was a newly planted Aubretia, The Christmas rose Hellebore, the Snowdrop’s cousin – a Snowflake with its wonderful yellow spots, a pink heather (planted for bees but yet to see feeding here) and Orientalis Hellebores in different stages of flower (some already going to seed).

In the shady spot behind the garden gate the Orientalis Hellebore’s are behind in flower from the others with lots just opening and many still in bud. I’m delighted with the good sized planting here and this staggers the food supply for bees and other insects too. Today, I noticed this area had Cuckoo flowers with buds and the first flowers opening from Brunnera Jack Frost. Soon the ferns will be unfurling here too. The 2013 gardening year is getting into gear!

To see what’s flowering in other parts of the world today, pop over to Carol at May Dreams Gardens and browse the links in her post. Carol hosts Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day every 15th of the month if you’d like to join in. I don’t take part every month but on seeing the early morning sunshine this morning - I just had to get out with my camera! My last image comes back to early morning sunshine on heather and a drumstick primula that has self seeded in the mossy rock around my small pond.

Enjoy your garden, its newly emerging flowers, insects, foliage and wildlife… oh yes… and a warm welcome back to Hedgehogs! Yay… their winter hibernation is over and they are out garden visiting again. More on that next time ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2013.