Out and About – Symonds Yat

We had what seemed like a brilliant idea yesterday to head down to Symonds Yat to see the trees there in all their autumn splendour. As usual of course we didn’t really see what we’d aimed to see, but as is so often the case with our wildlife days out, what we did see more than made up for it. For a start the glorious autumn sunshine we’d hoped for had been replaced with a dull grey mist. Secondly the trees down at Symonds Yat must be a bit behind the ones in Malvern, as they’d not really changed colour yet. So what we could see through the mist wasn’t really the autumn spectacle we’d hoped for. Still we headed to Symonds Yat Rock which sits high up overlooking the horseshoe bend in the River Wye.  The trees below may not all have been golden brown but the view was still stunning.



We could see the cliffs where Peregrine Falcons nest and thanks to some very kind people who let us use their telescopic sights, we even saw one of the birds in a hole in the rocks. It was way too far away for us to get a photo – but at least we can say we saw a falcon!


The same helpful couple informed us that the strange noises we could hear were rutting Fallow Deer in the woods below (I’d thought the sound was Wild Boar and was arguing with Chris about it, so  good job we met people who knew what they were talking about!) We didn’t see the deer but were reliably informed by our new-found friends that they do sometimes appear and go down to the river.

We may not have managed to see the deer or get photos of the falcons, but fortunately there was plenty of smaller animals that were much more obliging. Volunteers (possibly our two helpers from above) regularly put out bird food at the viewing point on the rock. This was attracting plenty of smaller birds who were clearly used to the flocks of visitors clicking away with their cameras (actually mainly phones of course, apart from us old fogies with actual cameras!) The highlight was a gorgeous Nuthatch – the closest either of us had ever been to one.



Various members of the Tit family were also making the most of the bird food. Coal Tits, Blue Tits & Great Tits were all completely unfazed by the visitors. Apparently Marsh Tits frequented the area too, but unfortunately not while we were there.





A Chaffinch completed the array of small birds we saw up on the rock.


One final surprise though was a visitor on the ground beneath all the bird seed. The Bank Vole had clearly learnt that there were easy pickings to be had here and was also relatively unbothered by all the people.


We could have spent a lot longer up at the rock, but we’d booked lunch in one of the pubs down by the river in Symonds Yat East, so headed back down. Symonds Yat East is on the Gloucestershire side of the river, while Symonds Yat West is in Herefordshire. You can get a tiny hand-pulled passenger ferry between the two – the lad pulling the ferry across must have biceps of steel, as he never stopped going back and forth all the time we were there!

As we stood watching the river and the canoeists braving the rapids, we spotted the unmistakable flash of a kingfisher. Of course we’d left the camera back in the car while we had lunch, so Chris legged it back to fetch it while I kept my eye on the kingfisher. I saw it dive into the water a couple of times and watched it fly back and forth across the river. Needless to say by the time Chris got back with the camera it had flown upstream and out of sight. We waited a while for it to reappear, but no joy. A lovely flock of Long Tailed Tits flew in though to complete our small bird collection for the day.


So the day may not have provided an autumn spectacle, but we saw a kingfisher, heard some deer, just about saw a falcon, met some nice people, watched a vole and got lots of birdie photos – I’d call that a result!

Miniature Marvels

Over the last few years, I’ve become fascinated (some may say slightly obsessed!) with the diversity of moths we get in our very ordinary garden. For the first few years of moth trapping I concentrated on the macro moths, which as their name suggests, tend to be the larger species. As a beginner, the macro moths were a) easier to identify as they were bigger and b) easier to photograph – also because they were bigger. But this year I started to realise that I was missing out on an awful lot of moths. There are about 800 species of macro moths and probably three times as many micro moths in the UK alone.

So I’ve started trying to identify the micro moths too. At first this felt like an impossible task as many of them are really just so damn small! But once I got into them, I started to appreciate their microscopic beauty. I still find most of them to be incredibly difficult to identify though and have relied heavily on iSpot and experts on Twitter and Facebook to help me. This year to date I’ve recorded 208 species of moth in the garden of which 58 have been micros. The real number of micros present in the garden is probably much higher, but my poor ID and photographic skills have limited the results so far.

I thought it was about time I did a blog post in praise of the miniature marvels that are the micro moths. So here’s a selection of my favourites – ones that I find particularly interesting or beautiful or significant in some other way.

So first up a micro that is probably the most abundant one in our garden, thanks to the presence of our apple tree – the Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana). This is actually an Australian species that was accidentally introduced to the UK and can be a pest in orchards. On one night alone in August I got 78 of these in the moth trap!

Next up another orchard pest species – the Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella). Its caterpillars feed on the apples and can ruin crops. It is such a problem that you can buy codling moth traps which use pheromones to lure the moths to their doom. As our apple tree produces way more fruit than we can eat anyway, we’re not too bothered by the presence of this moth. I’ve included it here, not because of its pest status, but because it is actually quite an attractive moth, with its coppery rear end!


While I’m on pest species, this next one is a Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (Cameraria ohridella). The caterpillars do just what it says on the tin – they mine into the leaves of Horse Chestnut trees. The leaf mines themselves are not fatal to the trees, but they could allow diseases in which would have a greater impact. We don’t have any horse chestnut trees in the garden, nor any close by that I’m aware of; which may be why I only caught one of these this summer. They may not be a welcome addition to the UK fauna, but they are beautiful moths!


Moving away from pests, the next species is one of a strikingly unusual group of moths – the Plume moths. This one is a Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthodactyla). They have modified wings that, when not in use, are folded away into the crossbars of these T shaped moths. They seem to be quite docile moths – this one was happy to sit on my hand to be photographed.


The Twenty-Plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) has similar feathery plumes for wings. Despite its name, it actually has 24 plumes – each of the 4 wing consisting of 6 plumes. They are strongly attracted to lights and we often find these indoors or on the outside of our glass door if we leave the light on.

Twenty plume moth

The next micro may not look very interesting, but it is a Scarce Cosmet (Mompha jurassicella). I got awfully excited about this one earlier in the year, when someone identified it for me and it turned out it was the first record for Malvern. It’s only a few millimetres long meaning it is easily overlooked, so I suspect lots of gardens around here have it too – but not all our neighbours go grovelling about in the grass looking for tiny invertebrates!


The next one I’ve included is a day-flying micro – a Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata). This cheery looking little moth seems to like all our herbs, not just the mint – it is particularly fond of the oregano and in the summer we have lots of them fluttering around the herb bed.


The Diamond-back Moth (Plutella xylostella) is another migrant moth that each summer gets blown over from Europe. This year there were reports in the press of “plagues” of these little moths that were potentially going to “destroy our crops”! As far as I know nothing of the sort happened, but I did get quite a few in the moth trap.

Diamond Back moth

This next moth didn’t look that interesting when I first caught it, it was only when I looked at the photo close up that I could see just how beautifully it was coloured. That’s the problem with such small moths – the naked eye just can’t pick up the detail! It is a Cherry-Bark Moth (Enarmonia formosana).


The Chequered Fruit-Tree Tortrix (Pandemis corylana) I like for its mosaic crazy paving patterning. It’s also got quite a distinctive shape – broad and flat, unlike most of the other moths here.


This is one of the Orchard Ermine group (Yponomeuta sp.) There are several almost identical species of these gorgeous little white moths and they can only be reliably identified if you rear them from caterpillars -which of course I’ve not done!


This little beauty is one of the Caloptilia moths. They are very hard to identify so not sure which of several species it is. But I loved the brassy gold colouration and the way it seems to be standing on tiptoe on its front legs. This was another species whose beauty was only revealed with the camera zoomed right in.


The final micro of this selection is one that is not particularly attractive or distinctive, doesn’t have an interesting life history or pest status, but is stuck with one of the worst common names – the Dingy Dowd (Blastobasis adustella). I think it must be my desire to support the under-dog that makes me root for the poor Dingy Dowd!



Autumn Flower Power

The colours in the garden are gradually changing from the bright floral ones to the more subtle leafy ones. While we can appreciate the change in the dynamics in the garden, it can be a really tough time for the insects that are still around. The leaves may look fabulous, but they don’t provide the nectar and pollen that the bees and other insects need to keep them going. Fortunately as the other flowers fade away, one comes into its own – the strange sputnik-like blooms of ivy.


I am a relative newcomer to the ivy fan club, having not really appreciated their contribution until this year. We’ve had ivy growing along the fence for a long time, but I’d never noticed any flowers. Turns out this wasn’t just my short-sightedness, but the fact that ivy doesn’t flower until it is mature. Young ivy leaves are markedly lobed like the ones below.


On mature stems the leaves lose their lobes and have a more undefined wavy edged shape, like the ones below. The flowers only occur where there are mature stems. So it may be that it is only this year that our ivy has been old enough to flower, rather than me being spectacularly unobservant!


The leaves themselves are of course hugely beneficial habitats for a host of species. Our ivy has lots of the shieldbugs (as above), which are well camouflaged and can hide amongst the foliage. The ivy in our garden is confined to our fence and the ground immediately below it. The ground cover provides refuge for our resident frogs and the occasional toad. In places where the ivy is more extensive, it can apparently be a really good roosting place for bats (my dream house would be a big old one, covered in ivy and home to flocks of bats!!)

Ivy is of huge benefit to autumn insects – when most other flowers have faded, the ivy provides much needed pollen and nectar. One insect has based its whole life cycle on it – the Ivy Bee (below) even times the emergence of the adult bees to coincide with the ivy flowering.


The Ivy Bee may feed specifically in ivy, but lots of other bees make good use of it too. In my quest to photograph the Ivy Bees, I’ve seen lots of other bees making the most of the flowers. A large patch of ivy can be absolutely buzzing with honey bees like the one below.


This queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee was loaded up with pollen and may have been preparing to start a new colony.


Some autumn butterflies will also make use of the ivy to build up energy reserves so they can hibernate over the winter. For weeks now I’ve been seeing other peoples’ photos of Red Admirals feeding on the ivy, but although we’ve had them fluttering around ours, they always seemed to land on the neighbour’s side of the fence, so I couldn’t get a photo! Finally last weekend I spotted this one in the churchyard in Bodenham and after a bit of chasing it settled down and let me take some pics.


Our garden ivy gets a lot of wasps – probably more of them than the bees. They seem to like resting on the leaves in the sunshine, between bouts of feeding on the flowers.



Hoverflies are also abundant on our ivy – here are just a couple – top a brightly coloured Eupeodes sp. and bottom an Eristalis sp.



Many other insects will make use of the ivy too. It is apparently an important source of food for many moths, although I’ve yet to successfully photograph one on ours. At the less glamourous end of the insect spectrum – the flies also enjoy a nice bit of ivy. This was one of the more attractive ones (I’d call it a Green Bottle, but no idea what its proper name is?).


Once the flowering has finished, the ivy produces berries that are a valuable source of food for garden birds. The ivy berries last much better than some other fruit, so can provide food right through the winter, when hawthorn and rowanberries are long gone. Now that I have ivy flowers in the garden, I will hopefully get some berries – with a bit of luck I’ll be able to get some trail cam footage later in the winter of birds eating them!

Some gardeners consider ivy to be a nuisance, but for me the pros far out weigh the cons and now that I’m finally looking at it properly – it really is a beautiful plant!


Awesome Autumn

Feeling the need to get out and about at the weekend before the days got too cold, I headed over to Bodenham in Herefordshire. This is the village I grew up in – there’s something very comforting about an autumnal walk around childhood haunts. The area has beautiful woods, lakes, a small river & a pretty village – all the ingredients for the perfect walk. This post is mainly and unashamedly a celebration of autumnal colours.

I started off in Queenswood Country Park. The trees were just starting to come into their full autumn glory. I’m not good on tree identification, but I really just loved the colours – it doesn’t really matter what the species are.





The leaves of course look great when you see them on a larger scale still on the trees. But they also look good if you focus in on just a few on the ground.


The trees weren’t the only plants turning colour – the ferns were looking splendid too, turning coppery gold in the sunshine.



The woods and hedgerows were bursting with berries and fruit of all colours, which was great to see, although the holly did make me feel like Christmas was on its way!




It may be late in the year, but there were still plenty of insects about. The ferns in the wood had several large hornets buzzing around (no need to panic, they were our normal hornets, not the dreaded Asian hornets). I’ve always rather liked hornets and if you don’t bother them, they don’t bother you!


There were also still a few bees around, like this Common Carder and a large Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen gathering pollen from the ivy.



The village has a lot of ivy and of course I couldn’t resist checking it for Ivy Bees. After chasing a lot of Honey Bees, I finally spotted a single Ivy Bee – good to know that this new British species has reached Bodenham (the record has been duly logged on iRecord for the Ivy Bee mapping project).


The woods of course had lots of birds and squirrels rustling about in the canopy, all making a point of staying out of clear shot of the camera. Fortunately Bodenham Lakes have a bird hide, so I whiled away some time watching a large flock of Canada Geese, splashing about in the shallows.


Autumn is a photographers dream – I wish my photos did it justice. It also makes me wish that I could paint to capture the subtle ochres and tawny russets that epitomise this time of year for me.


Hedgehog Self-Anointing

The hedgehogs have been busy in our garden and I’ve been busy watching them over the last few weeks. I could spend hours watching them – which is fortunate as I’ve ended up with a lot of trail cam footage – mainly of them stuffing their faces with the food I’m putting out. But amongst all the scoffing, there’s been some really interesting behaviour; so here’s another hoggy update.

If you’ve read some of my recent blog posts, you might remember that a few weeks ago  we took custody again of Fred, one of two young hedgehogs we’d rescued from a hot lawn earlier in the summer. Fred had been cared for by Malvern Hedgehog Rescue until he was old enough and big enough to come back to our garden. He seems to have settled in well and appears regularly on the trail cam. He’s now been seen several times doing this to the older, larger hedgehog:

Initially we had no idea what was going on, but thanks to Little Silver Hedgehog (https://littlesilverhedgehog.wordpress.com/) we now know that Fred was probably self-anointing. A bit of googling revealed that this slightly odd behaviour is common in hedgehogs. If they find a smell that they find particularly interesting (not necessarily a pleasant one!) they will lick or chew at the source of the smell and then twist round to lick themselves with frothy saliva. It’s not clear why they do this – perhaps trying to blend in with the smell of their surroundings? If this is the case it seems Fred was finding the smell of the larger hog really interesting and either wanted to smell the same (hedgehoggy equivalent to wanting to smell like a celebrity’s perfume!) or was just trying to fit in with the local hedgehogs?

Whatever the reason, he was very persistent to the point that he really started to annoy the larger hog (who I am now calling Fred Senior). Fred Senior initially starts to curl into a ball, perhaps thinking he’s under attack.

But once he realises it is only a smaller hedgehog he spins round and snaps at poor Fred with an annoyed squeak.

Fred is undeterred though and continues rooting about in the adult’s spines before wriggling about to lick the smell onto his own spines.

Without the trail cam we would never have known about self-anointing, let alone witnessed it in our own garden. Hopefully we’ll get more interesting behaviour from our prickly friends over time.

With autumn fast approaching (technically already here as we’re passed the equinox), we decided to provide a (hopefully) des res for our hoggy friends. We could have built one ourselves, but this is after all a Lazy Garden, so an online purchase did the job instead. New residence features an entrance tunnel, which hopefully the hogs can get in but the cats can’t. Runners beneath the box and ventilation gap in the top allow air to circulate and prevent condensation.


The box has been tucked away in a corner of the garden and following advice from the good people of Twitter, has been provided with straw bedding and a plastic sheet on top to prevent the lid getting cold and wet. I’m also trying to gather up leaves in the garden as they fall to dry out and provide further bedding.

Of course having put the box out, I couldn’t resist setting up the camera to see if it would get any action. I put some food out near the box to tempt them into the corner of the garden. Really chuffed that within the first couple of nights Fred headed into the box to check it out. I don’t expect him to set up residence in it just yet, but it seems a good sign that he’s investigating it.

Fred senior has been making the most of the food and sniffing round the box, but I’ve not actually caught him going in it yet. But I was really pleased last night when a beetle had fallen in the food bowl (beetle was probably not so pleased) and got stuck – Fred senior was munching the regular food when he clearly spots the black beetle and snaps it up. Beetles are apparently a favourite food, so it was great to catch this on camera.

One extra thing I’ve been trying to do was to get some footprints.  I’d seen on other blogs that you can get ink sheets for recording animal footprints – so another internet purchase later and our hogs are immortalised in ink! The pads contain harmless black ink which the animals simply walk through then leave footprints on the attached cards. Of course they don’t just walk neatly where you want them to and most of the prints were either smudged or crisscrossed over each other. But I did get at least the couple of clear prints in the photo below. They’re really quite sweet little footprints. You can just about see a few dots which are the tips of their claws in front of the toe pad prints.


As a final bonus in this mainly hedgehoggy post, a different mammalian video. I tend to leave the trail cam running during the day after a night hog filming (mainly because I don’t have time in the mornings to go out and switch it off). Most of the time I just get clips of grass swaying or pigeons rooting about, but last week I was surprised to find a squirrel! Of course it’s a grey not a red squirrel, but it was still nice to watch.

Ivy Stakeout

As stakeouts go, this may not have been the most action packed and I doubt they’ll make a movie of this one; but the end result for me was all the excitement I needed! We’d been seeing loads of posts on social media about Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae). This species of bee was only discovered in Britain in 2001, when they were spotted in Dorset. Since then they’ve been spreading north and have reached as far as Staffordshire.  They forage pretty much exclusively on ivy flowers, so the adults emerge in time to match the ivy flowering in September.

As usual bee envy set in and we (well mainly I) wanted to see them too. There is a very large stand of ivy down the road from us, so when Chris went for a walk with his camera last weekend, he was under instruction to look out for ivy bees. And much to my delight, he found them! Of course now I knew they were in Malvern, I wanted to spot one in our garden too.  So this is how I came to be staking out the ivy in our garden today. It’s not a huge patch of ivy like the one down the road, but it is flowering, so I sat down to wait.

Since I wasn’t immediately inundated with the desired bees, I spent time observing the other insects. There was a surprising amount around considering it is now technically autumn. This grasshopper may have been missing one back leg, but it was making the most of the sunshine, sitting on top of one of the solar panels for the pond pumps.


There were also a few Green Shieldbug nymphs, of varying stages, meandering about the leaves at my feet, with at least one adult visible but out of photographic range.



I got a bit excited when I spotted something on the ivy flowers, but it turned out to be just a Common Wasp.


One of my favourite hoverflies clearly wanted in on the photo shoot too – this is Helophilus pendulus, which is sometimes known as The Footballer because his stripy thorax is supposed to look a bit like a football shirt!


There were quite a few bees about – such as this rather tatty looking Common Carder (top) and slightly fresher looking Honey Bee (bottom)



I was about to give up for the day, when a single bee landed next to the ivy.  It didn’t hang about long, so I didn’t get the chance for many photos, but at least I got enough to confirm it was an Ivy Bee – my stakeout had paid off!


Although I was very pleased to have got a pic of our Ivy Bee, the photos Chris took last weekend were loads better, not least because they show the bees actually on the ivy! So here are a couple of my favourites.



The Bees, Wasp & Ant Recording Society (BWARS) have got a mapping project going to record the spread of the Ivy Bees, so our sightings both in the garden and down the road have been duly logged. If anyone else spots these distinctive bees, do please record them as well, so that they can build up a better picture of the current distribution. http://www.bwars.com/content/colletes-hederae-mapping-project

Moths Reach Double Century!

When I first started on my mothy learning curve, I never dreamt just how many moths we would get in our garden. The first year I kept a serious count (2014) we hit 127 species, which I thought was amazing. In 2015 we got 155 species and I thought we’d never beat that. This year as we reached the upper 180s, grim determination set in that we’d reach 200. Of course as soon as you set your mind to something like that, everything seems to slow down, but gradually the numbers edged closer to the magic double century. We finally reached number 199 last week with a species I’d been longing to see – the delightfully named Vestal Moth. This is an attractive migrant species, that I’d been envying on other people’s twitter feeds for a while, so I was really chuffed to get one in the garden. Shame it didn’t hang around long enough for a better photo.


Following the excitement of the Vestal, there were then a few nights trapping with nothing new to add to the list. Lots of interesting moths, but nothing to take me to the magic 200. Lunar Underwings were particularly abundant and very varied. Both the examples below are Lunar Underwings, but they look quite different.


Lunar Underwing

Finally last night in flew not only number 200, but numbers 201 and 202! Number 200 was this – a Blair’s Shoulder Knot. Don’t know who the original Mr Blair was (presumably not Tony), but I was very happy to see his moth. Funnily enough it had been a Blair’s Shoulder Knot that took me to my final figure of 127 species back in 2014. A lucky species for our garden perhaps?


No. 201 was a Black Rustic – which actually looks a lot glossier and blacker than this photo suggests.


No. 202 was the autumnal looking Sallow. You can see how easily it would blend in with piles of autumn leaves – as would the Centre Barred Sallow below.



So I’m very happy to have reached 202 species of moth and we’re not even in October yet. Hopefully we’ll get a few more species before the year is out.

Why have we recorded so many more this year? Well I think it’s partly because of the Garden Moth Scheme. Having to make sure I trap at least once a week over the summer months, has clearly paid off in terms of overall species count. I did run the traps quite a lot last year, but there were definitely weeks when it was too wet or windy or I just didn’t feel like getting up at the crack of dawn to check it! Secondly I’ve made more of an effort to identify the micro moths. Previously I’d ignored a lot of them as being too small to identify or even photograph, but I realise now I was missing out on a whole range. Many of the micros are very beautiful when you get close enough to look at them properly (I feel a micro moth post coming soon!)

Of course all this will leave me with a problem for next year. Realistically moth numbers in our garden can’t keep increasing at this rate. I know there are several species that we’ve had previous years that have been no shows this year, but then some that we’ve seen this year maybe won’t appear next. Will I be disappointed if we don’t get more next year? Maybe, but then I could always start compiling a definitive list of all moths species seen in the garden to date since I started trapping. Or of course I could start obsessing about another group – anyone know anything about hoverflies?

In The Pink

This week I managed to combine a visit to Slimbridge Wetland Centre with meeting friends for lunch – a win-win day out in my book! Slimbridge is only an hour’s drive from us and is the most amazing wetland reserve, overflowing with birds both native and from abroad. If you’re into bird watching, it must be one of the top UK sites to visit. In the few hours we were there, we only managed to get round maybe less than half of it (probably due to too much time scoffing sandwiches and yapping in the café!)

I was trying to take photos as we meandered around, but there’s almost too much to take in and I kept forgetting to actually snap away. For some reason, when I got back and looked at the photos, I appear to have got a bit obsessed by flamingos! Nearly half the day’s photos seem to feature them. There are apparently 6 species, although I think I’ve only got 3 here (which vaguely irritates my OCD that having unwittingly got a bit obsessed, I didn’t then photograph them all!)

These first ones are Caribbean Flamingos – the brightest pink ones we saw. The colour always seems unnatural to me, but logically I know that it’s due to their food and that Slimbridge aren’t dying their flamingos for our gratification!


This next one is an Andean Flamingo and possibly my favourite of the ones we saw. The feathers are absolutely stunning. Unfortunately this species is classed as Threatened – mainly by hunting, mining activities and habitat loss.


The next two photos are of Lesser Flamingos. In the upper photo you can see the teeth or serrations along the edge of the beak that it uses to filter the food out of the water. The lower photo I included just because I like the way they sinuously wrap their necks around – it’s hard to tell where one bird ends and the next begins.



Besides flamingos, there were birds everywhere – particularly geese and ducks. Many had clearly learnt that visitors = food, but this Bar-headed Goose was way too dignified for that and just sailed serenely by.


There were lots of quite showy birds, but for some reason I really liked this South Georgian Pintail Duck. Nothing flashy, just quintessentially ducky!


Probably my favourite photo of the day is this seemingly two headed duck! (Ruddy Eider Ducks I think)


We listened to a very interesting talk by one of the WWT volunteers, all about the Great Cranes. Slimbridge has been heavily involved in a project to reintroduce these majestic birds into Britain. It’s hard to believe but these huge birds were once common here until they were hunted to extinction. Fortunately they survived in Europe and thanks to the efforts of the WWT, they have got a toehold back in Britain.


It’s not all birds at the wetland centre though. They have several mammals, including otters, a beaver, voles, shrews and these adorable harvest mice – the only ones who would pose nicely for photographs. Unfortunately they were behind glass, so the images aren’t great, but they were wonderful to watch – such quick inquisitive little creatures.



Final bird of the day though was this Spoon-billed Sandpiper – made entirely of Lego. They were setting up giant Lego animals while we were there for a children’s trail opening this Saturday. The lady who gave us the Crane talk had told us about these little birds (in non-Lego reality they are apparently tiny) and how the WWT is doing such valuable work to try and save them. This was the closest we got to seeing one though!


You don’t have to be into birdwatching to enjoy Slimbridge, although it is obviously a bonus if you are. I’d definitely recommend it as a day out for anyone even remotely interested in wildlife and conservation. For more information go to: http://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/slimbridge/

Hedgehog Comes Home

Happiness is a Hedgehog come Home! Very happy to report that this evening the male hedgehog that we’d rescued from our baking hot lawn a couple of months ago has recovered and been returned to the Too Lazy garden. We picked him up tonight from the Malvern Hedgehog Rescue, where he’d been cared for by the wonderful Viv. Viv had named him Fred (and his sister is Freda).

When we found the babies in July they were too small to survive on their own and at the time we feared that something must have happened to the parents. You can read about their initial rescue on the original blog post here: https://toolazytoweed.uk/2016/07/19/too-hot-for-hedgehogs/

This is what the babies looked like when we found them in July – way too small to be out on their own.


And this is what Fred looks like now, admittedly looking a bit sulky in the cat box we brought him back in tonight.


He is now big and round and weighs a healthy 600g or so, compared to only about 90g when we found him. His sister is still not quite big enough to be released, but even when she is, she will probably go to another garden. Instead we will get a different rescued female back – so that we don’t end up with brother and sister – we don’t want any dodgy soap type plots going on in our garden! Fred has also been microchipped, so that should he decide our garden is not desirable enough (maybe he’ll want a tidier garden?) and is found in trouble elsewhere, Viv at Malvern Hedgehog Rescue will know his history.

We brought him home early evening but had to wait until dusk to release him. I opened the cat basket next to a positive buffet of hoggy food and waited for him to come out. I was so excited with this, I even missed the first half of Great British Bake Off to wait for him to emerge! If I could have got hold of the Born Free music, I would have been tempted to go for it. Half an hour later he emerged, had a bit of a scratch and headed straight for the food. This bodes well for his future! It was too dark for decent photos with the camera, but I did manage to get one with a flash (didn’t want to take many with the flash though and frighten him on his first night back).


Fortunately for once I’d got the trail camera pointed in roughly the right direction, so it picked up Fred’s first forays back out in the wild.

He didn’t hang around for long before he headed off into our abundant weeds. With a bit of luck, Fred will settle back into our neighbourhood. We still have at least one other adult hedgehog using the garden – possibly even one of Fred’s parents. Hopefully there won’t be any family agro between them!

If anyone finds a hedgehog in need of help in Malvern the rescue centre details can be found at http://www.malvernhedgehogrescue.co.uk/ It is run on a completely voluntary basis and relies on donations, so if anyone can help towards her running costs, please donate – either as a direct donation or by donating foods, cleaning materials, help towards vet bills etc.

Mellow Fruitfulness

It may only be September, but it is starting to seriously feel like autumn in the garden now and has been for a few weeks! The nights are drawing in and the garden is starting to mellow into autumn, plant by plant. I’m hoping our resident hedgehogs are doing enough to fatten themselves up for the winter; but judging by the amount of time this one spent at the food bowl the other night, I think he or she at least has got the right idea!



We’re planning on getting a hedgehog nest box this year to help them out a bit further. Hopefully we can find a suitable spot for it under the brambles that are gradually taking over the back end of the garden.  Said brambles have been fruiting for weeks now – lovely fat juicy berries.


The beauty of picking blackberries from your own garden, especially if you garden organically, is that you know there’s nothing untoward been sprayed on them (with the possible exception of the lower ones which may fall foul of neighbourhood cats scent marking!)


I’ve picked some, but there are too many for us really, so I’m hoping the birds will take their fill, although they seem at the moment to prefer the suet bird food provided and are spurning the healthy fruit option!

Our other fruit crop is from our Discovery apple tree, which is an early cropping variety with lovely red sweet apples.


The tree a few weeks ago looked like this – laden with apples that were already starting to drop on our shoddy attempt at a lawn.

Apple tree with apples

Again there were too many apples for the two of us, but fortunately Chris has a cider-making friend who kindly came round and cleared most of them for us. Hopefully we’ll get some of the finished product! So a day’s apple picking and a few weeks later the tree is looking like this – leaves just starting to change colour from green to yellow in places.

Apple tree without apples

Another “crop” from the garden are the artichokes – Globe ones. To be honest they don’t really get harvested as I always leave them until they’re too big and tough. And anyway, I love the purple flowers which the bees go crazy for and they give fantastic structural interest amongst the prevailing weeds!

Artichoke flowers

Small mushrooms are also popping up now in the “lawn” – another autumnal sign. I’ve no idea what species they are or whether they are edible, so they’ll stay where they are amongst the grass.


One final thought – as if the approach of autumn wasn’t daunting enough, some of the apples from the tree have already made their way into this – Christmas is coming!