30 Days Wild – Day 30

The last of the 30 Days for this year, just 335 wild days to go until 30 Days 2021. It has been the oddest of months, despite a relaxation in lockdown, most people have not been venturing far, although this has been a limitation, it has also opened the eyes of many to what they have within walking distance of home. Perhaps more significant it has highlighted the importance of local informal spaces, we cannot rely on travelling to a greenspace far from home, we need it close at hand. Our wildlife needs this too, a few highly protected nature reserves just will not do we need space for wildlife everywhere. When I say “We” I mean everybody, not just wildlife enthusiasts, all of us feel better and live healthier lives with access to greenspace and especially diverse informal greenspace. Luckily for wildlife this is also exactly what it wants too, far from the needs of wildlife being at odds with the needs of people they are actually aligned, particularly when it comes to mental heath and well being.

Times remain uncertain, for all of us and for our wildlife, will our relationship actually been changed? Will the “New normal” actually be new and importantly better? Let’s hope that in our haste to leave this crisis behind we don’t sprint off looking back at it as we run headlong over the precipice of the next.

We entered the 30 Days in extreme heat and are leaving it with the cool, breezy damp of  the old fashioned English summers of my childhood, that is as they mostly were, rather than as we all remember them. It has been a month of heat and drought, of record moth catches, full of damselflies and beetles, I have seen a good few new species and missed some favourites.

Today’s highlight in the moth trap was a glow worm, a new species for the garden. The males fly, unlike the females, but do not glow, again unlike the females. I do not think they are very strong flyers so I assume it had not come far even though I have never seen glow worm locally when out looking and listening for nightjar.

glow worm

glow worm (male)

I ran two traps at Blashford, moths were rather few but did include a small scallop, unfortunately it had not inflated its wings properly, although it could obviously fly.

small scallop

small scallop

There was also a satin wave, not a rare moth but often they are rather worn, but not this one.

satin wave

satin wave

Anyone who has visited recently will have seen the tremendous growth of plants in Ivy Silt Pond, mostly water soldier, but also lots of others such as bur-reed.

patch of bur reed

patch of bur-reed

There are several species, I am fairly sure this one is unbranched bur-reed.

bur-reed

Unbranched bur-reed (I think)

I will end on a correction, the jewel wasp I posted a few days ago has been re-identified for me as Hedychrum nobile (many thanks to Paul Brock). This species is probably a recent colonist in the UK, it is not quite clear when it arrived, as it remained unidentified for some years. it is clear that it is spreading though from the original sites close to London.

Hedychrum nobile

Hedychrum nobile

I will not stop blogging, although the frequency will undoubtedly reduce. Thank you to everyone who reads, follows and comments. I hope you have had a great 30 Days Wild and done lots of your own wild things and that you keep on doing them.

Wildlife encounters of the furlough kind

I returned to work on Sunday after eight weeks away from Blashford (it is so green now!) and six weeks on furlough along with around 40% of my Trust colleagues, most of whom are still off. Whilst I’m back to help Bob with the reserve tasks he cannot do by himself and engage with visitors on site from a safe distance, following on from the easing of restrictions last week, we are still closed whilst we look at what we can safely offer in the coming weeks and months. We will keep you updated as and when things begin to change!

A Blashford blog will follow shortly, but I thought I would share what I have been getting up to whilst off.

Spending so much time at home meant I was able to discover what wildlife visits my garden, a bit of a distraction whilst I was supposed to still be working, but it was really nice to be there during the day and have more time to appreciate my outside space. My garden is only small, with two patio areas which contain a number of plants in pots and a lawn which has struggled as a lawn and now has a few flowers planted into the patchier bits as I slowly tun it into a much wilder space. I have lived there for a couple of years, and this year the garden really seems to have come to life with birds and insects, which has been really nice to see.

Whilst at home I had blue tits, wood pigeons, dunnocks and blackbirds frequently visiting the garden along with a wren, great tits and a goldfinch. I have a willow bird table and the blackbirds seem to really like this, launching themselves onto it from the hedge and swinging around whilst they fed.

I have two hedges in the garden and this year the blackbirds successfully nested in one (I did a fair amount of cat chasing whilst off, if they have another brood they’re on their own!) which was lovely to watch. I saw four fledglings at the same time, two sunning themselves in one hedge and two in the other and both adults worked really hard to feed them with the male bringing back huge beak fulls, including a garden centipede in the photo below:

Blackbird 2

Male blackbird with a beak full

They fledged last Thursday so I was able to enjoy their company for a few days, with one of the young staying in the garden until Sunday morning. It was very amusing to see it sat swinging on the bird table calling mum for food.

I had written a rather long list of things to do to keep me busy, and one of those things was to dig a pond. Digging a pond was definitely more exciting than decorating the bathroom, re-pointing some dodgy brickwork to hopefully solve a damp issue in the kitchen and damp proofing and repainting the kitchen wall, so it was one of the first things I did and it’s been really nice to see it change over just a few weeks. The less exciting jobs were left until last week when I knew I was returning to work…

The photos below show the garden before and after, then the pond full of mud as the female blackbird decided the moss I had placed round the edge would make really nice nest building material (she had ignored it the entire time it was elsewhere in the garden) and later on with some plant additions (all native) I had been able to order online.

Whilst digging the pond I unearthed the snake millipede below, along with centipedes that were too fast for a photo, and the stones placed around the edge quickly became resting spots for hoverflies:

The blackbirds had been using a bucket of water with some willow sticks in to drink from and bathe in, but they now both use the pond which is really nice to watch. The female didn’t mind me being around at all but the male was a lot more wary of me to begin with and would fly off even if I was watching from the window, but now he is quite happy for me to be out in the garden whilst he’s there feeding.

As well as the birds it was great to see which insects were visiting the flowers and which flowers were growing really well, the ragged robin in particular has seeded so well from one plant in a pot last year I was able to plant it out in different places in the grass.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I live on the edge of Salisbury so on my daily walks I walked my dog from home to either a little stretch of the River Bourne in Laverstock or up to the Laverstock Downs, enjoying the fact there were fewer cars on the road.

These photos were taken in the little patch of woodland down by the river:

I had hoped to see some bluebells on my wanders but sadly all those I did see were garden escapees.

I spent a lot more time up on the Downs as although they were further to walk to, it was much easier to practice social distancing up here than it was down by the river which tended to be busier with people and had a stretch of boardwalk to contend with.

It was a great spot for bird watching and I had some brilliant views of both blackcap and common whitethroat, especially early spring when the whitethroats were displaying and establishing territories.

I managed a total of 47 bird species whilst off, either in my garden, flying over my garden or on my daily walks: blackbird, blue tit, dunnock, wren, great tit, wood pigeon, collared dove, jackdaw, starling, long-tailed tit, yellowhammer, carrion crow, buzzard, pheasant, song thrush, chaffinch, chiffchaff, red kite, blackcap, common whitethroat, swallow, linnet, goldfinch, red-legged partridge, little egret, mallard, shoveler, kingfisher, magpie, skylark, great spotted woodpecker, robin, Canada goose, mute swan, raven, sparrowhawk, rook, bullfinch, house sparrow, Cetti’s warbler, grey heron, moorhen, mistle thrush, swift, house martin, peregrine falcon and mandarin duck. They were quite a good mix!

The Downs were also a great spot for butterflies, with orange tips, brimstones, small tortoiseshells, green-veined whites, small heaths, peacocks and dingy skippers all on the wing. I also found lots of green-veined orchids and other flowers on the chalk grassland.

The most exciting spot though was probably to see glow worm larvae on three separate occasions, so I must go up there over the summer in search of glow worms.

Glow worm larvae

Glow worm larvae

I was very lucky to have my garden to enjoy and also have some lovely spaces within walking distance to explore (it was also quite nice to use my car less!), so I had plenty of nature to keep me company during the pandemic, whilst a list of house and craft projects also kept me busy. I might be heading back up to the Downs at the weekend…