Thursday, 30 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 30 – Celebrating with flowers

Today is the last day of #30DaysWild for June 2016. I’m celebrating it and a month of daily blog posts in a way I celebrate many events – with a plant purchase. My garden is full of memories when I look around it. A plant choice for pollinators ties in nicely with this month long challenge too.

This blogging event I definitely won’t forget in a hurry. It has been a time challenge that's for sure. It's been fun and interesting too. The impact of a block five of the same plant in a small border, viewed from my gardenwatch window, will be a great reminder. I'm looking forward to seeing and photographing many bees and butterflies feed on this plant :-)

Monarda ‘Cranberry Lace’ I came across in a local garden centre today. I have always fancied growing a Monarda after seeing it in a Piet Oudolf garden (in huge swathes) many years ago. What drew me to this variety was the deep pink flowers, aromatic foliage and that it was only 12” high and had a spread of 16”. The suggestion that it had some resistance to mildew was a plus point too :-)

Monarda ‘Cranberry Lace’ bought 30th June 2016.

With this Monarda plant, I’d also like to thank everyone who has followed my daily posts this month, especially Lisa at Greenbow in Indiana, USA and Sue at Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments in Yorkshire, UK for leaving comments so generously. I have really appreciated the time everyone has taken to visit with or without comments. Daily posts on a news feed must have been wearing you all down - I hope not too much :-)

Throughout this blog marathon, it has been late evenings when I’ve decided what to write about. Most nights I have gone all the way to a couple of minutes to midnight, as I have tonight, often with a note saying photos or text still coming. I then updated in the wee small hours! I could have had the summary below all ready to go but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end this series until I spotted the Monarda today – then I knew. It was the obvious way to do it when I thought about :-)

Monarda ‘Cranberry Lace’ by the potting shed for planting over the weekend :-)

Thanks again, to everyone who has visited this month. You need read no further, have a rest – you’ve earned it! The summary below is for more for myself and anyone stumbling by. It’s also for other bloggers who may look in and haven’t seen this series. Now… what will I post about in July?


Summary of posts for #30DaysWild during the month of June:

Week 1 began with an intro to the #30DaysWild Challenge and general update on garden visitors. Hedgehogs were visiting, seven Coal tit chicks were being fed in the camera nest box and the wildlife pond was busy with birds bathing. The weather was warm and dry.

Chat moved on to birdbaths needing cleaned and topped up, distracting Starlings away from the Coal tit nest, collecting material for a bug hotel, a Sunday morning bird count and video of the Coal tit chicks and checking on tadpole development & Large Red Damselflies that were spotted mating and laying eggs in the wildlife pond. Week 1 concluded with a wild flower, Foxes and Cubs.

Week 2 began with chat on growing more fragrant flowers in the garden. There was an update on the Coal tit chicks nearing fledging, a brief review of the pond plants and a short garden wander with a torch. Then it was back to a nest box watch pre fledging day and the wildlife pond with night photos and possible damselfly eggs. Week 2 concluded with the bonus of self-sown seedlings :-)

Mature trees began Week 3, then a discussion on change of use on the bug hotel build. A more serious chat followed on neonics and bee friendly plants. Next up was a new visitor to the wildlife pond, a Blue-tailed Damselfly, the addition of a bird feeder seed tray and the answer to the feeder port drop mystery. A Bat survey and a night gardenwatch concluded week 3.

Week 4 was here before I knew it! Looking through my blog archive I can see at a glance that the wildlife pond has featured a lot. Planting to shelter froglets emerging from the wildlife pond (many weeks away yet) began the last week of June. It looks like July is shaping up to be an equally busy month with the wildlife pond.

Next, a night video capture of bats flying reflected in the wildlife pond was a bonus. Then it was the wildlife pond plant list, handy to have in one blog, a hedgehog creeping up behind me, garden images and insects by the pond and an update of images of the tadpoles. Nearing the end now, a bat photo capture and the successful storage of apples for feeding winter birds - still being used for Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Starlings in June!

Finally, putting up a bee hotel preceded this post and the plant purchases (for pollinators) made today celebrating completing 30 daily posts in support of the Wildlife Trust's 30 Days Wild campaign :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 29 – Putting up a bee hotel

Doing no good to bees whatsoever, was the pretty bee hotel sitting on a shelf in my potting shed. I have to admit I liked seeing it there, this birthday gift from a very dear friend. It made me think of her.

However, this has been the month of June when The Wildlife Trusts having been encouraging everyone to do something wild for nature. It’s time the bees got their new residence here, especially as there their numbers are increasing in the garden just now. Yesterday it went up!

Not being completely sure where I wanted to put my bee hotel I used a heavy duty cable tie through the screw bracket (at the back) to test out a location. I went high as bees are seen going over this structure between my front and back garden. Is it a suitable location? It might just be ;-)

The Bee Hotel tonight, I forgot to take day images during my potting shed tidy.
I'm wondering if visitors have arrived already - the third row from the bottom?

Perhaps it was lucky I was using a flash tonight.
What do you think – are there two guests staying tonight?

This is often the way when taking photos. Once you upload and crop them you see something you never noticed at the time of taking . I’m off back outside to see if I can get a different photo angle (yes, I know it’s after midnight, but I’m curious now). I’ll be back in a mo…

That was tricky, with slippery rocks and uneven ground below.
(I never thought about taking photos when I attached the bee hotel so high.)
I’m thinking now I can confirm one guest tonight - gosh that was quick!

Update July 1st : Since posting this, the images of the canes in my bee hotel looking less fresh have been bothering me. I made a few internet searches to see if this was a problem. I guess it’s obvious that all garden wildlife properties require annual maintenance.

We do clean nest boxes at the end of the year to remove parasites from an old nest so it makes sense that a bee hotel should get checked too. I’m now going to take mine down and see if I can replace a few canes. I found a blog by George Pilkington at Nurturing Nature very informative. There’s a brief insert below.

Bamboo tubes are tough, waterproof, cheap and cheerful and should be changed annualy. They are easily replaced and with experience, time spent cutting, sorting re lengths, width etc., can be made to work very well and allows for management of bee cocoons. Inserting paper rolls inside is fiddly and any gaps can allow wasps to enter, bamboo diameters can be variable. Many shop bought ones have nodes halfway down making them smaller or even blocked by a node at the entrance! Many of these are simply too wide and again act like wind tunnels. The brittle sharp edges have not been clean cut and are not very friendly to bee wings! Any cracks or splits would be exploited by parasitic wasps.
Blog info by George Pilkington at Nurturing Nature, April 2015

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 28 - Apples, a moth and a bat

Last October, just before Halloween when the shops were selling them cheaply, I bought 20 bags of small apples. Not all at the same time, I began with ten. Dunking for apples then? No, not at all, I had quite a different plan which was equally fun.

Using a plastic, crate style storage box, my practical plan was to see if I could successfully store these apples in my potting shed throughout winter. I layered them using thick packaging paper received in parcel boxes. The apples were quite hard so I was hopeful this could work.

Attracting flocks of Waxwings, Fieldfares or Redwings during a possible hard winter was the fun plan. I had a fantastic supply of fruit ready and waiting to attract these special winter visitors. What a spectacle that could be in the garden. When it snowed, for once, I wished it would lie longer ;-)

Today, eight months on, some apples are still reasonably intact. Can you believe that? Yes, they’ve gone a bit soft but that was what I wanted to happen all along. We didn’t get the harsh winter, didn’t hear or see waxwings etc but my experiment still worked and I’ll be doing the same again this year now - that's my #30DaysWild pledge :-)

Blackbirds, Song thrushes and Starlings enjoyed the potting shed fruit bounty but they were not alone. Can you guess who else did too? Two more clues from the potting shed - shelled black sunflower hearts in a container without a lid and shredded paper on the floor. Yes, you’re right – mice!

There’s plenty of alternative accommodation and food for mice outdoors. I can only guess I’ve left the potting shed door open and spilt seed on the floor has brought them in. I can’t imagine there’s a hole in my shed but will check that out to make sure. I’m now on the look-out for a humane trap. Sorry mouse folks, you’ve been served an eviction notice!

The potting shed got a tidy tonight in preparation for the potting up of young sweet pepper plants gifted for Father’s Day (OH enjoyed growing a chilli plant in the greenhouse last year so this is something different to try). It was during this tidy that signs of mice were seen. While the gardener was away, the mice were definitely playing!

The hedgehog feeding station has also attracted mice so I know they’ll be ok outside. Earlier, after OH potted up his sweet peppers (with my supervision) I carried a scoopful of my hedgehog food mix out. Occasionally there is a dinner waiting on service.

Tonight was one of these nights and my scoop met with resistance as I gently touched the hedgehog waiting in the corner. Not being able to see inside, I tipped the food gently to its side and left. A short while later this hedgehog dinner was heard munching away :-)

On the way back to the potting shed, a moth was spotted. It was a damp night with light rain and I didn’t expect to see any in flight. In the absence of many butterfly sightings in the garden throughout June, I had turned my attention to trying to get Moth photos instead. With just three nights to go, I was delighted to get one in. This had been one of the #30DaysWild challenges I had set myself. The other was getting a bat in flight.

Tonight I stood, hidden under my pergola, with my instant camera guessing times to press the button as bats used a favoured route. I have done this on a few other occasions in June. I really didn’t think I had caught anything but looked through the images anyway – despite being very close to midnight for getting images uploaded. Well, what a shock – I actually got one! You can see it in the centre of the image below. That’s two #30DaysWild ticks tonight :-)

Another shock for #30DaysWild is that I have almost completed daily wildlife blogs for the whole month of June! Back on the 1st of June, I was thinking this was a challenge too far perhaps. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I liked the idea. I was also interested in seeing what real time daily blogs in June would turn up and it is great to have this garden record now :-)

Two days/late nights to go…

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Monday, 27 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 27 – Tadpole update

No back legs are visible on the frog tadpoles tonight. This was an optimistic check-in as they are changing their swimming behaviour. They are now seen very close to the bottom, stationary a lot of the time but when they move it is fast, almost like they are running along.

The pond water is currently clear enough for the tadpoles to be seen but there's enough cover with plants and large pebbles to keep them safe too. The pebbles are working very well by our observations.

By my estimations the 10 week point, when the back legs are due to appear, will be on Saturday. We will be checking them daily from now on. They have certainly got the whole family gardenwatching :-)

At night especially, the tadpoles are seen congregating in groups.

Tadpoles resting on top of the pebbles make them easier to photograph.
Great to see the spaces between pebbles used for resting/hiding too.

A number of damselfly nymphs were seen tonight, a beetle is seen hiding too.

Pond skaters are seen more clearly when they rest on plant leaves.

Following these tadpoles has been such fun, seeing so many damselfly nymphs tonight was great too. They were also seen in groups and once again, resting on pebbles allowed an attempt at a photo. They are absolutely tiny, the photo above was cropped.

It would be just brilliant to take images from below the water. I’d love to do that. It would be fascinating to see all the wildlife that is living in the pond and from the viewpoint they see too. I’d love to share that here. For now, I’ll do my best with my zoom lens from above :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 26 – Insects love water

National Insect Week took me out to the garden with a camera last night. Someone crept up on me and the focus shifted :-) It was a non-gardening practical job that took me outdoors this morning, nothing whatsoever to do with nature or insects.

Noisy garden visitors were heard the minute I opened my back door and my focus quickly shifted to taking photos. It’s fair to say, this happens a lot! Sound familiar?

Young fledgling Blue tits were seen begging parents for food,
using the feeder loop perch the parent didn’t need to fly very far.

Last night, moths were a no show on the cotoneaster blossom, this morning
it was quite literally a buzz with many bees feeding.

Last night I focused on watching white flowers for insects, this morning
a hoverfly was feeding on a new wild flower arrival for 2016 - Oxeye daisy

I’m loving the increasing planting of Astrantia and so are the insects.
Delicate bobbing movement of these flowers add so much to the garden too :-)

A long shot of the border shows a plethora of foliage and ground cover for
newly emerged froglets, many more flowers will open for insects too :-)

Pond side was the destination for my practical job this morning, it also shows
the power of editing & cropping photos. The rectangle reflection on the right is a towel hanging. A base pole for a rotary clothes line is discretely in the grass :-)

Practical job completed, insects caught my eye moving over the water.
Uploading photos revealed three backswimmers as well as the hoverfly.
It is often said that water is like a magnet to insects - it definitely is!

Water Lily 'Marliacea Chromatella', picked for it’s beautiful marbled leaves
and its medium size, hoverflies and other insects are attracted to it too.

The next practical job was breakfast. Where better a place to have it
than sitting on the Arbour behind the pond? Ignoring the hanging washing,
my focus went to the beauty of a simple flower reflecting in water.

The final, garden related, practical job planned for the day is building a new garden bench. It’s been painted to match the arbour and is ready and waiting to be assembled. It’s to be raining later in the afternoon so sounds like a good time to do it. I'll enjoy using this bench to watch insects and birds in another part of the garden. I've something else in mind for it too ;-)

If you’ve had garden plans for the weekend, I hope you’ve had the weather and time to get them done. Today’s the last day of the National Insect Week for 2016, if you've been taking part with any events, I hope you’ve had fun :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 25 - "It's behind you!”

Pantomime location: gravel path beside wildlife pond, Day 25. The main character (garden blogger) is standing below a flowering wisteria watching for moths and other insects to photograph. She patiently waits but alas no insect activity is seen.

The star character (hedgehog) returns to the location previously spotted earlier in the evening. It is enticed back by a handful mix of dried mealworms, sultanas, sunflower hearts and crushed unsalted peanuts put out on the path and grass edge of the pond.

The main character is completely oblivious to the star character’s presence for a second time. The pantomime audience shouts: "It's behind you!”

A munching noise alerts the main character to turn round. Standing on a gravel path she cannot move her feet as the noise will scare the star character away. She stands very still.

It’s a special moment for the main character, standing so close to this endangered species. Watching the star character for real is so much better than live on the feeding station IR camera, indoors at the PC. The main character is transfixed.

A quiet move of the tripod allows the main character to take a handful of photos. Using a zoom lens the flash doesn’t bother the star character who carries on feeding. The main character takes her hands away from the camera and just enjoys the moment.

The voice of a background character (daughter indoors) is heard calling for the main character via a house window. “There’s a hedgehog on the path!” she quietly exclaims. The main character walks on the gravel path to meet the background character… the star character goes back out into the night… the end.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Friday, 24 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 24 – Wildlife pond plant list

Strictly speaking this isn’t a ‘doing something for wildlife, Day 24’ but more of a ‘one I prepared earlier’. However, this is something I’ve done for the wildlife currently living in my pond so that makes it completely relevant to now.

October 2013 saw the liner go down for a new wildlife pond. The water was left to settle and planting began in April 2014 with small plants bought online. I would have preferred to have bought more pond plants locally but they weren’t available. Opening the boxes of posted plants was very exciting! This was my first proper water garden :-)

Oct 2013, windy day, pond covered with net to catch leaves when partially filled.

The planting approach taken for this pond was much the same as any other garden border. I was looking for a mix of leaf shape and size plus the same with flowers too. As well as attracting new wildlife in the water, the hope was that flowers would attract a wider range of butterfly species too.

The cuckoo flower was planted especially to attract the Orange tip butterfly. Although I never saw it visit when it was in flower, I got a glimpse of a male back on May 23rd which was great! I was gardening without a camera at the time so no photo records yet.

Apr 2014, first pond plant delivery from Puddleplants.

Native plants were my first focus and that is where buying online really helped me in my selections. Not being a buyer of plants online, I didn’t know what quality of plants I’d get. I was very impressed with the plants and service of Puddleplants and would recommend them to anyone with a new pond to plant up. Their website has good photos and info which is helpful for a newbie water gardener :-)

Below is the full list of plant species I have introduced into my pond. Not all were purchased online and not all are native. The water Hyacinth was a surprise find at a favourite small nursery, I brought quite a few last summer to help cover the surface. I knew these wouldn’t be hardy but they looked great – quite prehistoric.

Barred Horsetail (Equisetum japonica/um)
Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum)
Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)
Common cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium)
Cuckoo Flower/Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis)
Curly waterweed (Elodea crispa)
Duckweed (Lemna minuta)
Fairy Fern (Azolla filicoides)
Forget me not blue (Myosotis scorpoides)
Frogbit (Hydrocharis)
Hornwort (Ceratophyllum Dermersum)
Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula)
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)
Penny Royal (Mentha pulegium)
• Rushes: Corkscrew Rush (Juncus effusus 'Spiralis')
• Rushes: Flowering Rush (Butomus umbellatus)
• Rushes: Slender Tufted-sedge (Carex acuta)
• Rushes: Soft Rush (Juncus effuses)
Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis)
Water Hawthorn/Broad pondweed (Aponogeton distachyos)
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia craspies)
Water Lily 'Marliacea Chromatella' (Nymphaea - Medium)
Water Lily ‘Perry’s Baby Red’ (Nymphaea - Medium)
Water Lily 'Pygmaea Alba' (Nymphaea - Dwarf)
Water lily 'Shady Lady' (Nymphaea - Miniature Pink)
Water soldier (Stratiotes Aloides)
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris Pseudacorus)
Yellow Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus)

Yes, this is a long list and I’m aware that some thinning out (floating oxygenators) and repotting (pond baskets) will be required in the future. Again, that’s no different to any other garden border. I'm always thinning/dividing and moving plants around :-)

Oct 2015, non-hardy water hyacinth looking worse for wear at end of season.
Scum over water surface – finally discovered caused by Woodpigeon bathing!

Garden forums often have questions about numbers and varieties of plants needed for the sizes of their new ponds. I can’t tell if I’ve got the right varieties or numbers or not, but I can say this year, we have a very clear pond so something must be working. It's looking pretty natural too which I'm thrilled about :-)

My pond size is 4.5m long x 3.2m wide, it is shallow on two sides and is no more than 60cm deep in the centre. There’s now a healthy centre planting (1.3m x 1m) of water lilies, curly waterweed, water hawthorn, water crowfoot and forget-me-not blue. Whirlgig beetles are seen bobbing their way through these plants regularly – a safe place for our current tadpoles perhaps too.

Some gardener’s will keep labels, notebook/phone lists of plants in their gardens. I do a mix of all. However, I do like to keep a note of plants that have ‘been and gone’ too just in case they return in the future.

From the list above, I hope to see the water soldier, cotton grass, frogbit and the flowering rush return – lost due to hardiness and birds pecking for the mud at nesting time. The fairy fern was removed when I realised it had the potential of taking over. The invasive duckweed (introduced from my small rockpool pond) was also removed – small bits still hide though ;-)

Jun 2016, success, what the planting has all been about – attracting wildlife.
Large Red Damselflies, female laying eggs on leaves of forget-me-not blue :-)

A wealth of wildlife are currently playing hide and seek in the plants of my pond. I believed the balance would eventually come. I think the rest of the family believe now too as they are being seen standing at the grass edge, looking down, watching all the life that is thriving in this small pool of water. That’s another successful outcome :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day23 - Bat reflections

Completely unexpected was the successful capture of bats in flight last night – albeit in an unconventional way. It wasn’t the plan. Bats are way too fast to even attempt to follow, far less focus on especially with a basic video camera.

The plan had been to leave a video camera recording over the pond surface to see if visiting bats will come in that low. They would probably have been a blur if they did, but they didn’t. It was a garden watching experiment and I’ve enjoyed many of these over my blogging years.

A mix of outside artificial light and the last daylight in the sky produced reflections of the flights of at least two bats in the water. Given light conditions and upload compression this is more of a garden record but I’m delighted with it as it also shows life buzzing about the pond even at night. It’s a relaxing clip instead of a wordy blog post too :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 22 – Shelter for froglets

Preparing for a positive outcome in the wildlife pond, that some tadpoles escape being eaten by Damselfly nymphs and make it to froglet stage, tonight’s gardening job was extra plant cover for their emergence from the water.

A Gunnera plant (commonly known as giant rhubarb) wouldn’t be the first plant to spring to mind for this purpose. However, I didn’t just plant one Gunnera on the edge of my small wildlife pond tonight – I planted two!

The giant Gunnera manicata can grow to 2.5m (8ft) tall by 4m (13ft) wide or more, although the one I’ve had, for a number of years now, has been very well behaved behind my front fence. Pond side, it was two miniature Gunneras I planted tonight.

Gunnera magellanica will make a great edge of creeping ground cover. Its round, almost glossy leaves are a dainty 2cm (1”) and it only makes a height of 15cm (6”) – a perfect froglet height!

As a gardener, I’m looking forward to seeing this new gunnera in flower but am aware that a creeping habit might mean it needs kept in check. It's hardiness in my garden may be in question too so I'll consider giving it winter protection. It's always interesting to see how an unfamiliar plant behaves, isn't it?

The grass line view for emerging froglets towards the miniature Gunneras

The sloping stone will make it easy for the froglets to get out of the water.

If the froglets go in the other direction they will find a terracotta house waiting. Plantings of bergenia, grasses and heuchera will provide more cover too.

Telima was lifted between the grasses tonight and replaced with Heuchera
which will give a higher canopy of cover along the gravel path which the froglets
will need to cross to get to the nearby border of well established plant cover.

Fingers tightly crossed that these little guys survive and get to explore life
outside the pond and come back as adults to visit us next Spring :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 21 – Scottish Bat Survey

A BBC News item caught my eye on my phone this morning – “Volunteers sought for Scottish bat survey”. Now, that’s something I haven’t done this year - sit on my arbour seat and watch bats fly around the garden as the sun sets. Note to self – a plan for tonight!

Volunteers are being sought for a Scotland-wide survey of bats.

The Bat Conservation Trust is asking people to note sightings at sunset and before sunrise in an effort to gauge the health of bat populations.

The surveys involve spending an hour looking and listening for bats and entering the results online.

Anne Youngman, Scottish officer for the trust, suggested volunteers could incorporate their surveys into a "romantic sunset saunter".

The UK is home to 18 species, including brown long-eared, common pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats.
BBC News, 21 June 2016.

Bats have been seen flying along the length of our hedge over many, many years. They turn tight at the bottom corner and that’s where I tried to get photos tonight. No luck though. They were too fast, no surprises there, and the light went low too. Bats first appeared tonight at 10:20pm. These long bright days may be turning back now, but there’s still time to get out and make the most of them yet :-)

I suspect the bats visiting my garden are Pipistrelles, but I don’t know that for sure. Some are quite small (I’m guessing young ‘uns). They get very, very close to my arbour seat. I can’t deny I felt a little uncomfortable tonight as they got rather close to my head as I stood beside my tripod.

The sights and sounds from the garden tonight included songs from a Dunnock and Blackbirds. Woodpigeons clapped their wings as they flew over (three) and Swifts screeched (group of ten) as they circled the sky above me. Before the bats came out something caught my eye and I got up with my camera.

At 10pm a large bumble bee was seen feeding on a globemaster allium flower

Returning to arbour for bat count, water lily flower buds were spotted.

Thankfully this large snail was feeding on an already decaying leaf.

Uploading night photos, I came across another bee visitor from this morning.

I nearly forgot I had breakfast with a Greenfinch this morning :-)

The Greenfinch was being watched by a Goldfinch juvenile too :-)
When the Greenfinch left it went down to the feeder tray mentioned previously.
The timing for this tray going up has has worked out really well then :-)

Pottering around my garden at sunset can have bats skirting over my head too. Ha-ha... I wonder if that is something that appeals to you? Alternatively, you could always sit indoors by a window to count bats as you would birds for the RSPB Bird Count :-)

Tonight I counted two bats, although there was a ‘maybe’ three. They are so very quick in the air. There was plenty other wildlife to catch my attention while I waited. I absolutely recommend siting outside and soaking up the atmosphere in the garden before sunset. Dawn is probably good too - although I’ve never done that yet! Have you? Do enjoy your evening garden, be it pottering or wildlife watching :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Monday, 20 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 20 - Feeder port drop solved

Inspector Clouseau I’m not. I didn’t even know a crime was even being committed at my 12-port bird feeder. Perhaps ‘a crime’ is a bit strong - an act of vandalism is more accurate. Accidental damage would be the plea from the suspect.

Evidence of a feeder port and a perching loop has been recovered from the lawn area and garden border below this giant seed feeder on more than one occasion. The garden owner was the prime suspect here, not fitting it together correctly after refilling with seed.

Port and perch were stored in potting shed for cleaning and re fitting – an easy twist to secure again. The gardener at work on Saturday discovered a second port and perch on the ground, before the most recently dropped one was refitted. Was there a problem with this feeder design?

Starlings, clumsily feeding and knocking the perches was possible, but the garden owner was still top of the list. However, breakfast by the window this morning revealed incriminating evidence of a master at work. Let’s look at this morning's photographic evidence…

Goldfinch demonstrates how to use the perching loop.
Note the slightly twisted angle of the loop opposite and the one below.
If the loop goes all the way to a vertical position it releases the feeding port.

The master of the feeder at work - a Magpie.
Note how one foot holds on to the middle port and the other the bottom one.
It’s very easy to see how it is twisting that middle perching loop as it lands.

Safely landed, let’s take a look at what we have here – sunflower hearts, yum!

Steady, hold steady – these perching loops are a very useful safety feature.

Did someone accuse me of vandalism? Honestly judge, not guilty!

The Jackdaw jury acknowledge no crime was committed and call for a
peanut break. The garden owner concurs and refreshes her breakfast tea.

The Magpie strikes an innocent pose for the garden owner prior to landing
on the feeder port. Perhaps it wanted to reveal his feeder technique today.

Finally, on a slightly serious note, looking through reviews of this feeder for descriptions of the terms used to describe the port parts, I discovered a couple of things I’d like to pass on. I should make it very clear, I have never seen this with my feeder, but it seems when the feeder is low, there have been occasions where small birds stretching to get at seed have been trapped inside. The one mentioned was released but did have superficial wing damage. I should add, I’ve heard of this on other makes of smaller feeders too.

One review I can agree with is on seed going damp and mouldy, especially during times of prolonged rain when birds aren’t feeding in large numbers. However, again, I have found that issue with all my feeders, but the waste on this larger feeder is greater. I purchased this particular giant seed feeder over a prolonged cold spell during winter months a few years ago. It served its purpose very well indeed, especially through snow periods when my garden saw many, many hungry birds. I don’t usually use it over summer months but as parent birds are arriving with their newly fledged young at the moment I have it up. Next month, it will be cleaned and returned to my potting shed ready for winter. Winter? We won't think of that now. Enjoy your garden when you can :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 19 – Bird feeder seed tray

Today’s ‘do something for wildlife’ was a very quick and easy job. It will reduce the spilling of bird seed (mess and waste) and smaller birds will appreciate the extra space for landing, perching and feeding. Less trampling of plants below the feeder will be great too :-)

Being Father’s Day here in the UK, it was a family day and no gardenwatching until late evening. The feeders had been busy in our absence. When refilling them, I remembered I had purchased a small tray that screws into the base of my seed feeders and it was still in the packet.

Tray fitted, I enjoyed a peaceful hour at the end of a busy day watching for birds using it. None came, but it was after 8pm on a dark wet evening. A female Blackbird, a Dunnock, a female House Sparrow and two Woodpigeons were the only visitors I could see and they were feeding on the ground.

It was on our last visit to see the Ospreys at SWT Loch of the Lowes (live cam on nest) that I spotted this smaller size of feeder tray. I liked that size! One of my favourite birds to see there was using it too – the Yellowhammer.

On this occasion, seeing as he was with us and he gifted me a new zoom lens for my birthday, I handed my camera over to my husband and suggested he tried it out. As well as a great female Mallard duck capture, he took images of the feeder tray that had caught my eye. Seeing as it’s Father’s Day, his photo captures are the ones I am posting tonight :-)

Having previously used one of these trays, I found two things I’d like to pass on. The first is that overtightening of the butterfly screw (supplied with the tray) can break the threads. I’ve done that.

Woodpigeons hogging the feeder is the other! Yep, once they discover they can land on the larger tray, the smaller birds can’t get a look in! The feeder becomes like a swing at a children’s playground when two make it on board - back and forth it goes as they demolish and scatter seed.

Time will tell if a Woodpigeon can land on the smaller tray (I will report back). I really hope they don’t. They’ve got plenty of other feeding areas they can manage. In past winters, with heavy snow, I found many species of birds feeding at the same time using the tray. I’d like to see if the same will happen with a smaller tray in the summer months :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

#30DaysWild Day 18 – New pond visitor

Warm sunshine brought us out into the garden to catch up on a few jobs today. It also had us by the wildlife pond edge looking closely for our tadpoles as few were being seen. A quick movement along the stems of the corkscrew rush caught our attention and it was a quick dash for the camera when we spotted a damselfly with a bit of blue on it.

By the time I returned, the damselfly had landed on the pond basket edge. Taking a closer look through the camera lens I could see this wasn’t one I had seen before – it wasn’t the Common Blue Damselfly . After taking a few photos I returned indoors for my reference book and discovered we were looking at a Blue-tailed Damselfly – a garden first :-)

Expecting a second Damselfly to come along soon I waited around. I watched, took photos and watched some more. No mating wheel was seen with this damselfly. The pretty white flower of the water of the water crowfoot caught my eye, a hoverfly landed on one of the Bergenia leaves at my feet allowing me to get a close-up photo.

Leaving the Damselfly, all alone, on a pond edge rock that was out of the sun, I returned to gardening jobs. I was lifting a large clump of tulip bulbs and planting up the space with new plants. Much weeding was required during this process and there was the inevitable moving of plants over from other areas. It's how I garden :-)

I returned to the pond a few times and the damselfly was still alone on the same rock. If it had been here earlier in the day we wouldn’t have spotted it at all. It really does go to show that even if we don’t see it, wildlife is all around in our gardens - especially if there is water.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2016.