Wordless Wednesday – Rusty Foxgloves: A new love affair

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Digitalis ferruginea, the Rusty Foxglove – So furry and golden

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More like molten honey, with some sunlight shining through

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They start so discreetly, with their lips tucked in their mouths

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Once open, they are irresistible to woolly carder bees (totally appropriate!). I’ve never seen these bees before, but they are coming in numbers to this plant

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Posted in Bees, Flowers, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Wildlife in June – Flying High

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One of now five buzzards that circle the skies above Haslingfield

One of the main features of the wildlife seen around the garden during June was that it was largely airborne: New generations of birds, bees, beetles, butterflies and dragonflies were on the wing, flying high and purposefully from tree to tree and flower to flower etc. There were so many things flying around at head height that working in the garden was an exercise in keeping mouths closed and eyes ready to shut. To top it all, I’ve even had to stop using my favourite honey-rich shampoo, because it seemed to be a potent bee attractor. I spent an uncomfortable morning in the borders being mobbed (and stung once) by honey bees before I learnt that lesson.

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Small tortoiseshell butterfly on Centranthus ruber

In this heatwave our new wildlife pond has rapidly come into its own, attracting visitors that we wouldn’t have guessed a short while ago. For instance, we have started to see pied wagtails in the garden daily (a first spot).

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The grass round the pool edge has become a favourite hunting ground for an adult pair.

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They are feeding young and collect as many flies and bugs at a time as their beaks will allow.

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It looks like I should be doubly pleased to see them, as they appear to be snapping up a good number of craneflies and gnats.

Another interesting thing is that we are seeing a lot of butterflies gathering at edge of pond. Here are some small whites enjoying the damp soil where grass seed has been sown:

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I’ve also seen skippers and blues doing the same. Apparently this behaviour is called mud-puddling and may be more to do with taking up salts and amino acids rather than just moisture.

It took about four weeks from filling before we saw our first damselflies/dragonflies around the new pond, in spite of there already being plenty visiting the 1mx1m pool on the patio. They appeared as I put in the first marginals, so I guess that the plants provide the necessary perch points and also act as hotspots for the swarms of flies, pond skaters etc. that they eat. I think that these butterfly wings, floating on the surface, are an evidence of successful hunts.

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First, the damselflies arrived, mating in that classic heart-shaped position:

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Mating large red damselflies

They came in their reds and blues:

and greens:

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I think that this is a Beautiful Demoiselle, Male

This shot shows blue pairs laying their eggs in the background, but was taken because I’d never seen a water boatman out of water before. Yes, their legs stick out all of the time it seems! He looks folded like an origami model.

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Then, the big guys arrived and I have to say that when they are patrolling the waters I find it hard to get myself to do anything other than watch them.

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Female Emperor dragonfly

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With ovipositor primed!

and

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A Four-spotted Chaser

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Skimming the surface to lay eggs

… Hundreds of photos later and hours wasted, but aren’t they addictive?

This post links up with Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday meme, albeit a day late. Check out her post to see some of the red, white and blue birds visiting her patch. Other wildlife spotters will be linking through the comments section, so do take a look at those too.

I leave you with a photo of the fun and games at the pool by the rocks amongst the youngsters bathing there last week:

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Posted in birds, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Catching the Rays

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The baby birds are really enjoying the mid-summer sunshine, spreading their wings on the patio to catch the rays

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“Did someone say ‘Heatwave’?”

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“Good job we found this pile of drying wisteria flowers! SO soft”

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“Then we can finish up in the jacuzzi!”

Posted in birds, Wildlife, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

#30DaysWild – Challenge Accepted!

It seems that I’ve not written much on the blog for a while, mainly because it is a tremendously busy time of year in the garden. Any spare moments were filled with sowing/planting and are now, necessarily, filled with watering to keep things going. Tomorrow’s temperatures are forecast to be ~27 degs here, which means ~30+ in the Walled Garden at Wimpole where I am still putting in summer plants. I predict a short day, plus some watering of course!

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Meanwhile, I was alerted that The Wildlife Trust was once again running their #30DaysWild campaign for June, with the aim of getting as many people as possible to engage with nature each day. Over 65,000 people had signed up last time I checked their website. So I am giving that a go too. Originally I was going to blog about it every few days, but you know that didn’t happen! I have managed to keep up so far though and have been recording daily activities on Twitter.

Luckily, ‘Wild’ activities don’t have to be earth-shatteringly challenging or particularly outrageous, just something to get you to connect with the world outside your home, being mindful of nature and wildlife. For instance, one of their suggested activities is to take lunch outside in a park or a garden, or it could be going for a walk in the woods, spotting butterflies, looking for wildflowers in the pavement cracks etc. The Wildlife Trust make suggestions via their blog, website and App. Plus you can check out what other people are doing (and steal their ideas) using the #30DaysWild tag on Twitter.

I’ve tried to make my ‘Wilds’ quite varied and as many as possible outside of my normal gardening/dog-walking activities (although there have been a few days when I’ve taken the easy option).

So here are a few of the things I’ve been up to:

A visit to Thriplow SSSI: famed for its marsh orchids. Sadly, where once there were thousands I found only a dozen or so, but I didn’t get to see much of the second field as I was herded out of there by several large cows! I left as calmly as I could (having read the reassuring note on the entry stile). I hope that the orchids weren’t all on the other side of that field!

Foraging – Wild strawberries, Lime flowers, Dog roses, Lemon Balm and Elderflowers. Then variously making Linden tea, Lemon Balm tisane, floral ice cubes (all firsts) and that classic (but staple) : Elderflower champagne.

An educational visit to Madingley Hall for a guided tour (organised by the Wildlife Trust) with the Head Gardener around the Capability Brown landscape there.

Planting marginals in our new pond. These nearly instantly attracted dragonflies, as they now have somewhere to perch at the edge of the water. So ‘Dragonfly Spotting’ turned into another ‘Wild’ activity, which I was happy to share with my fairly immobile parents when they visited a couple of weeks back.

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Other spotting activities have included: bugs, butterflies, baby birds and parasitic plants (Broomrape).

 

Making a new wing for the bug hotel.

A visit to the ‘Gardens Open’ in Barrington (~15 participants). A lot of the properties have large gardens backing on to the river there, so it was interesting to see how people have transitioned their gardens to meadows with swathes of naturalistic planting.

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Today’s ‘Wild’ was to go to the Scything Festival at Wimpole. The farm/forestry team there have managed to convert the field (arable 20 years ago) leading up to the Folly into one of the the most wildflower rich meadows around. Now they hold a scything competition every year around this time. I admit to only watching all that hard work. It was far too hot for anything else!

Next week I hope to do a bee count, follow up on a local eel bypass project and make some impressed salt dough tiles. I’ll let you know how it goes …

So are you going Wild for June?

If not, there is still a week to go. You know you want to!

Posted in Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Linseed: One of the prettiest crops

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Close-up those flowers are like pieces of the clearest blue sky

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Sadie paddling … sky or sea?

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A sea here

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The flowers are surprisingly sparse when you get near the field

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Beautiful

Posted in Flowers, Sadie, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Peony Power at Wimpole

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A celebration of their silky,

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glamorous,

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blousy,

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delicate,

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frilly,

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pretty little faces

 

Posted in Flowers, Wimpole Hall, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Orchids

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Orchids in the local quarry are only just starting to emerge. The annual count this evening is going to be hard going with so few flowers and spikes showing.

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A very fresh looking twayblade

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This bumblebee found a flower!

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Man orchid, with some of the little men in mid-twist

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One of the most advanced Common Spotted orchid

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Hopefully although there appear to be fewer orchids in the quarry this year, it may look different in two or three weeks time.

Posted in Out and about, Wildflowers, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments