Blossoming Apples

There is a great deal of blossom on the apple tree this year. However, we are expecting some very cold nights with the possiblity of frost which could damage the nascent fruits. It is also bad news for the bees and other insects; along with the creatures that feed on them.

Delicate blossom
Sits prettily on the tree.
The bee makes it fruit.Photo of bumbebee on apple blossom

Spring Things

So, spring seemed to burst into life before being hit by an icy blast again. Here are some of the things that came out in the sunshine. I will start with the dark purple tulips that I planted.Photo of purple tulip

Red tulips.Photo of tulips

Mini tulip.Photo of mini tulip

The comma butterfly posed nicely for me, while an orange tip butterfly thwarted my every effort.

The holly blue came out rather overexposed, but I was just grateful that I got a shot of it.Photo of holly blue butterfly

There were hoverflies, I think this is a Marmalade Hoverfly.

I thought that this was a sort of hoverfly, but it seems it is a sawfly.Photo of sawfly

I think this is a type of solitary bee.

Pretty sure this is an Ashy Mining Bee.Photo of ashy mining beeBee enjoying the last of the flowering currant.

I was rather pleased with this shot of a buff tailed bumblebee in flight. Sometimes I get lucky.buff tailed bumblebeeSome ladybirds were getting friendly with each other. Unfortunately, as they are non-native harlequins, they aren’t friendly to anything else.

Weeds? I don’t seen any weeds, just pretty flowers that feed our pollinators.

And finally, here is the lilac bush taken by flash at night. It gives off the most lovely scent day and night.Photo of lilac bush at night

Being a Fly

Photo of bee-fly on aubretiaWho would want to be a fly?
If you could fly you’d be a bee.
Cried the bee-fly, “Not so! And why?
Just leave us bee-flies be.
We have fat fluffy bodies and one set of wings,
And a very long tongue for sticking in things.”Photo of bee-fly on aubretia

I have blogged about bee-flies before, here. However, to sum up; these are Dark-edged Bee-Flies Bombylius major. If you see some you can record your sightings here.

I had a discussion with a Twitter friend about how they seem to be particularly fond of blue flowers, so of course one decided to be the exception that proves the rule.Photo of bee-fly on lesser celandine

Sometimes they just want to sunbathe on a leaf.


Bumblebees and Flowers

The start of spring has been a pretty dull and wet affair, but it just takes an occasional bit of sunshine to make the flowers bloom and the bees buzz. Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

This red-tailed bumblebee, Bombus lapidarius, was sashaying her shimmering red bum in the sunshine.Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

They are very distinctive and easy to recognise bees. The workers have the same colouring as the queen, black with a red bottom,but are smaller, whereas the males have additional yellow faces and a yellow stripe on their thorax.Photo of red-tailed bumblebeeYou can see how fuzzy she is when she poses nicely for a rim-lit photo.Photo of red-tailed bumblebee

I think the other bumblebee is a queen buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris. Confusingly the males and workers have white bottoms.

As you can see the flowering currant is still flowering.

The daffodils finally bloomed.

Despite the rain they kept their heads held high.Photo of daffodils in rain

The primroses are still going strong.Photo of primrose

The dog violets have been joined by white dog violets.

The grape hyacinths, Muscari, are multiplying.Photo of muscari

The aubrieta is making its presence known.Photo of aubrieta

The broom (which I had mistaken for a type of gorse!) is developing fuzzy flower buds.Photo of broom buds

The lilac continues its unstoppable progress.Photo of lilac

The lesser celandine is littering the lawn.Photo of lesser celandine

The periwinkle is winking out from under the shadows.Photo of periwinkle

The apple is starting to think about blossoming, framed by forsythia.Photo of apple buds

Herb Robert is in the pink.Photo of herb robert

Whatever this is is producing pretty white flowers.Photo of white blossoms

My neighbour’s plant that grows over the top of the fence is also providing me with a free supply of white flowers.Photo of white flowers

I nearly forgot the forget-me-nots.Photo of forget-me-nots

And finally, the tulips that I planted in the autumn have actually grown and are threatening to flower!Photo of tulip

Update: A friend on Twitter has identified my white flowering shrubby thing to be an Amelanchier.


My Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2017

As I mentioned in my post #BigGardenBirdwatch 2017, the world’s biggest wildlife survey took place at the weekend in the UK. You can find out more at the RSPB website.Photo of blue tit

Although we were allowed three days to choose from, the weather Saturday through to Monday was pretty much non-stop rain. This seems to deter a lot of birds from visiting feeders. I was particularly annoyed that the great spotted woodpecker didn’t show up. Other notable absences included long tailed tits, coal tit, dunnock, wren, sparrowhawk, crows and jackdaw; I know they are lurking around somewhere in the garden! Also my chaffinch count was considerably down from a couple of weeks ago.Photo of great spotted woodpecker

However, I was highly delighted by the well timed arrival of an old favourite that I have not seen in the garden for many years; the song thrush. This is another British bird that has suffered greatly from habitat loss due to changes in farming. This shows how important our gardens are for birds. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of it, indeed most of my photos of wet birds on a dark day were terrible!

Illustration of Song Thrush

Song Thrush by en:John Gould, Birds of Great Britain, 1862-73 – Via Wikimedia Commons

The blackbirds put in a good show, as usual.Photo of blackbirds

There was a robin.Photo of robin

Indeed there were two robins.Photo of two robins

One of the woodpigeons bumbled along.Photo of woodpigeon

Yet again Mrs Fancypants-Squirrel tried to get in on the action, but she was fooling no one.Photo of wet squirrel

Later on that night, one of our hedgehogs woke from hibernation for a snack.Photo of hedgehog

Here are my results:

4 sparrows, 2 blue tits, 1 wood pigeon, 2 robins, 1 great tit, 9 blackbirds, 3 collared doves, 2 starlings, 3 chaffinches, 2 black caps, 9 feral/rock pigeons, 2 magpies and a song thrush. The RSPB provided a chart of my top 10.Chart of top 10 bird sightings

And compared it to the national average based on results so far. Chart of national bird watch results



Flower Power

I recently received my free pack of wild flower seeds from the Grow Wild campain in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.Photo of seed packet

The basic idea is to encourage people to grow native wild flowers, which will benefit pollinators such as bees, bumblebees and hoverflies. My England seed kit contains; common knapweed, cornflower, corn chamomile, corn cockle, corn marigold, corn poppy, hedge bedstraw, meadow buttercup, oxeye daisy, red campion, ribwort plantain, viper’s-bugloss and yarrow. I sowed some on a flower bed and the rest were divided up into two containers which I also planted with some bulbs. I have placed the containers under my bee house so hopefully by next spring they will be a riot of colour and swarming with bees.Photo of bee house and plant containers

November Garden Meander

I thought I would take a stroll around the garden first thing this morning to see what was going on in it at the start of November. After being thwarted by squirrels, wrens and a black cap, I managed to snap this blue tit as it darted onto the bird table for some seed.Photo of blue tit

If you want a dependable garden poser, the blackbirds are always obliging. Photo of blackbird

Mrs B. was having a scrat around for any insects lurking under the leaves.Photo of blackbird

Fungi are popping up everywhere.

As you might expect in autumn there are rose hips; different shapes, sizes and colours.

There are also rose flowers coming into bloom.

Raking Leaves

How many back breaking hours do you spend raking leaves from your lawn? STOP! Research shows that leaving leaves on your lawn improves the turf. A good surface of leaf litter also provides a great habitat for invertebrates, which in turn are a good food source for birds and other garden visitors during the winter.Photo of rat shaped leaf pile

If you do rake or sweep up your leaves, don’t throw them out. Leaves make excellent compost or garden mulch. You can also collect them to use as a cosy bed for your garden hedgehogs to sleep in, which was my sole motivation for bothering to rake up these leaves. Yes, the highly imaginative amongst you will have noticed that I’ve raked them into the shape (vaguely) of a rat.Photo of rat shaped leaf pile

Hedgehog Feeding Station

Autumn is the time of year when hedgehogs in the UK are trying to fatten up ready to hibernate through the winter months. We can help them out by supplementing their diet with cat/dog food (not fish flavours), mealworms or food specially made for hedgehogs. Here is how you can feed hedgehogs in your garden, without feeding your neighbours’ cats, using a plastic storage box.Photo of plastic box

I will be using it without the lid and turned upside down. It will need an entrance approximately 5″ or 13cm in diameter. I used a compass cutter to score the plastic.Photo of compass cutter

You can then cut the plastic (a responsible adult will be required for this part) with a craft knife or scissors.

However, I found it much easier to use an electric multi-tool!Photo of electric multi-tool

You will then need to file and then sand those sharp jagged edges.

The inner edge of the hole should be smooth enough for you to be happy to run your own hand around it.Photo of hand through hole in box

To make sure that the hole is the right size, you should be able to just fit a CD/DVD into it.Photo of dvd in hole in box

Put it in your garden where you wish to feed the hedgehogs. Place a brick or two on top to weigh it down. Place the food in a shallow dish at the end farthest away from the entrance hole. The mossy welcome mat is optional. Leave the water dish outside of the feeding station, no animal should be denied a drink of water. Any uneaten food will need to be cleared away in the morning as flies will be able to get in at it.Photo of feeding station in garden

Wait a couple of hours and swell with pride and a sense of achievement when you find a satisfied visitor.Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

Another happy customer.Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

I think he is wondering if he will fit back out through the hole.Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

Of course he does!Photo of hedgehog in feeding station

I put together a short sequence of clips taken by a wildlife camera trap. It shows numerous hedgehogs visiting the feeding station, having a chat, a drink and a scratch. It also shows two of the neighbourhood cats failing to get into the box despite their best efforts. Even a squirrel comes to take a look.  It is less than two minutes long and can be viewed here.

Hedgehog Street have produced a helpful leaflet about helping hedgehogs in our gardens here.

The Root of the Problem

I recently had the fanciful idea of creating a new flower border on the lawn by the fence. After much digging and cutting away of the tangled mass of roots just under the turf, I struck this great hunk of root ball.Photo of root ball

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is!

William Shakespeare: “Hamlet”

Alpine Adventure

First of all I have to say that I know nothing about gardening and am very unskilled. However, as Granny Ratz is finding it difficult to keep on top of things, I am venturing more into her territory.Photo of overgrown trough

Underneath the tangle of ivy and cotoneaster I spotted this trough thing. I do watch “Gardener’s World”, but mostly to ogle the presenter’s lovely dogs. However, some things do filter through and I recognised this as the sort of thing people put alpines in.Photo of uncovered trough

So I hacked my way through to it.Photo of trough and stones

I took off a pile of stones from the top. The earth inside was impacted solid and full of ivy stems.Photo of trough emptied

I eventually cleared it out and was glad to find a load of “crock” (broken terracotta pots) at the bottom to reuse. It helps with drainage apparently. Photo of close up of empty trough

I have no idea if this is correct, but I mixed two thirds peat-free compost with one third horticultural grit. Aha, alert readers will remember my trip to the garden centre in “What a Hoot“.Photo of trough with crock

I found a couple of nice looking stones and some bits of slate, no doubt souvenirs from a trip to an abandoned Welsh slate quarry many years ago. Photo of trough with compost and grit

Budget supermarket Aldi recently had some 6 packs of alpine plants which I duly purchased. I whacked the plants in, amongst the stones and slate, gave them a good watering and then put decorative aggregate (bits of slate) over the top to suppress weeds and keep moisture in.Photo of trough with alpine plants

Anyhoo, I think it looks better than it did! By coincidence one of my blogging friends has also been potting up alpines today. They clearly know what they are doing and have a glorious looking garden, check it out in “What a Scorcher.”