30 Days Wild – Day 30

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_30So it’s Day 30 and the final day of the 30 Days Wild Challenge. It’s been a fantastic month, with a wide variety of activities. I’ll probably do a bit of a review of it all in a couple of days, but for the time being, here is the final blog post of the challenge. Day 30 started for us with a kebab in the early hours of the morning – pretty wild for us to be out that late these days and we saw all sorts of “wildlife” staggering the street, but I won’t go into that here!

After the slight excesses of last night we’ve been having a quiet time for the final day of 30 Days Wild. We went out to the Bridge of Feugh on Deeside near Banchory in Aberdeenshire. This is a beautiful place where, at the right time of the year, you can see the salmon leaping as they head upstream for their spawning. Of course we were there at the wrong time of the year, so no salmon jumping, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

View

View 2

Chris had a go at taking arty style photos where you use a long exposure to blur the water. The result was pretty good for a first attempt.

View 5

The whole of Deeside is a stunning area, it was just a shame we didn’t have longer to explore today.

View 3

View 4

The Feugh is only a small river but the power of the water rushing over the rocks was incredible. The sound felt like it was all around us as we stood on the bridge watching the water – very hypnotic. The brief clip hopefully gives some idea of the sound of the rapids.

 

So that’s our last wild activity for 30 Days Wild. We may not have been very wild ourselves today, but it felt like we were out in the Scottish wild by the river. It seemed a fitting end to the month. It may be officially the end of 30 Days Wild, but we’ll definitely be trying to include as much “wildness” as we can from now on – which I guess was the whole idea – result!

This is a bit of an addendum to my original Day 30 of 30 Days Wild post, as after I’d written the original piece, we drove over to Chris’s brother’s and spotted some quintessential Scottish Wildlife. The Red Deer were actually farmed animals, but they were so beautiful and the stags so impressive, we couldn’t resist taking photos.

Red Deer family

Red Deer family 3

Red deer family 2

We then saw a pair of pheasants – the male of course resplendent next to his slightly dowdier female.

Pheasants

But the most amazing sight was this genuinely wild female Roe Deer (actually seen early morning the next day), grazing in the field next door. She stayed there for 5 minutes or so until she spotted Chris and his camera and bolted for the woods. A truly beautiful creature and wonderful for her to be the last thing we saw on our Scottish holiday and also the final thing for 30 Days Wild – absolutely the perfect ending!

Roe Deer

Roe Deer 2

 

Willowherb 30 WEEDS

The final weed for 30 Lazy Garden Weeds is this Willow Herb – I think it’s the Broad Leaved one. I’ve gone through the 30 weeds in no particular order, so it’s not like I’ve saved the Willow Herb to last deliberately. This one is more delicate than some of its showier cousins like the Rose Bay Willow Herb, but I prefer its subtlety. All the 30 weed species I’ve featured here have a place in our garden. They all provide something –  ground cover, shelter and hiding places, nesting material, colour and beauty, seeds for birds, food for insects –  even food for us in the case of the brambles. The more diverse the weed flora, the more diverse the rest of the wildlife. Seems like a Win-Win to me!

30 Days Wild – Day 15

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_15Day 15 of 30 Days Wild and we’re half way through already! Today was a first for me – a Moth Breakfast! Fortunately the only thing that was actually consumed was a very nice Pain au Chocolat, but the moth demonstration was also excellent. Herefordshire Wildlife Trust had organised the moth breakfast and had put moth traps out the night before to give us a taste of what can be found on a typical night. By typical night it turns out that meant a bit of a wet one, but there were still plenty of moths to look at. I think about 12 of us turned up and were privileged to get the benefit of two moth aficionados for a couple of hours.

The breakfast was held at Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s Headquarters on the edge of Hereford next to Lugg Meadows. A gorgeous old building (second oldest in Hereford apparently) in a beautiful setting.

WT House

TrapThe contents of various moth traps were examined avoiding the rain under a bright orange gazebo – hence the slight orange hue to some of my photos! Our two experts talked us through the moths and were really helpful answering all our questions. I’d really recommend going to one of these events if you want to get a taster of what moth trapping is all about. The photo below shows the abundance of moths found just on the tea towel that was used to cover the trap – let alone those that were actually inside it. Just about visible are Elephant Hawkmoth, Peppered Moth, Heart and Dart and Small Magpies.

Moth Selection

Other highlights were this gorgeous shiny Burnished Brass (my photo doesn’t do his glossy sheen justice – I blame the orange reflection from the awning!!)

Burnished Brass

Also this stunning Leopard Moth (top), Buff Tip and Blood Vein (bottom).

Leopard Moth

Buff Tip

Blood Vein

The undoubted headliners though had to be the Hawkmoths – in particular for me the Poplar Hawkmoths, as I haven’t managed to trap any of those in the garden yet this year.

Poplar Moth

There were several other species in the traps that I’ve never seen at all and I could feel moth envy taking over. Ghost Moths, Dog’s Tooth, Oak Hook Tip – I can but dream of catching these in the garden!

Once we’d finished oohing and ahhing over the moths, I decided to go for a walk. The Trust sits at the edge of Lugg Meadows – ancient meadows that date back to the time of Domesday. It would have seemed rude not to have a walk around while I was there. They are rich in plantlife – I love the way the plantlife is so rich it is partly obscuring the  Plantlife information board!

Lugg meadow sign

Lugg Meadows are famous for their Snake’s Head Fritillaries. Of course I was too late in the year to see those, but there was plenty else to admire. As with yesterday’s walk along the River Severn at Upton, today I was tormented by House Martin’s swooping past me hunting for insects. Once again they were so close and yet so far in terms of getting a decent photograph – believe it or not the dark blob in the middle of the photo below is the closest I got to capturing a pic of one!

Meadow

The River Lugg itself is for me a reminder of childhood. I grew up in Bodenham close to the Lugg and remember sunny days spent mucking about in the water down by the church. I’ve had a soft spot for the Lugg ever since – the River Severn is all very magnificent and grand, but the lazy Lugg suits me better.

Lugg

The trees along this section of the river show a clear flood line marking where the muddy water must have reached during the last floods. It is several feet above the current river level, showing how much this normally placid water must swell during flood conditions.

Trees with flood mark

The river banks were aflutter with Banded Demoiselles, so of course I couldn’t resist taking yet more photos – they are just so photogenic, I wish my skills did them justice.

Banded Demoiselle

While walking back I spotted a few snails that I’d never seen before. I think they are Amber Snails – assuming they are, these snails are common in damp meadows – which these certainly were today.

Snail

And finally as I got back to the Trust HQ I spotted these pretty little fungi growing in a pile of wood cuttings. They were pale and ethereal, glistening in the rain. No idea what species they were, but they looked like they were out of some kind of imaginary fairy kingdom.

Fungi

Thank you to the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust for a really great morning. It’s got me all fired up for more moth hunting and for a trip back to Lugg Meadows next year to see the Snake’s Head Fritillaries.

 

Petty Spurge 30 WEEDS

And to finish off as always the latest weed from my garden for 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – this time the Petty Spurge. These little green flowers pop up all over the garden, but particularly for some reason on our drive (I call it a drive, but you can barely squeeze a car onto it!) I presume the Petty bit is so called because it is small rather than petty minded. I like the unusual formation of the flowers – a sort of deconstructed flower arrangement!

30 Days Wild – Day 14

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_14Embrace the rain! I decided that was my motto for today – Day 14 of 30 Days Wild. I got soaked at work about 3 times and the clouds were looking ominous over the Malvern Hills as I set off for home. So I decided rather than avoid it, I would just go for a walk in the rain. I can’t remember when I last did that (not sure I ever have)? Of course I’ve been for walks and got caught in downpours, but that’s not the same as deliberately setting out to walk in the rain. It was quite liberating in a way, knowing you are going to get wet, so no point trying to avoid it.

Having decided on a watery walk, I figured I might as well take the wet and wild theme a step further and walk along the river. Since I work on the edge of Upton on Severn this wasn’t a difficult thing to achieve. It wasn’t a long walk, but I really did enjoy it. Even in the rain there was plenty to enjoy and take photographs of – spoiler alert – there is some serious cuteness at the end of this blog!

View downstream

The rain was pretty much non-stop as I walked – not torrential, but definitely constant. I loved watching the rain falling on the river and the tiny concentric circles emanating from each droplet. It was quite hypnotic and had there been somewhere to sit without getting a wet bum, I could have watched for ages.

Rain on the river 2

The first wildlife I saw was a swan the other side of the river, pulling leaves off the overhanging bushes. It was a bit far away to get a decent photo, but at least it is recognisable as a swan!

Swan

I hadn’t really expected to see much in the way of insect life today, but this bee had found this patch of foxgloves and was as busy as ever. Whether he was really after the nectar or just using the foxgloves as walk in umbrellas though I don’t know.

Bee in foxglove

There were lots of House Martins swooping low over the river, presumably catching insects over the water. They were virtually impossible to photograph as they were just too quick. The best I managed is a (very) brief glimpse of them in this video flying past a duck that was progressing more sedately down the river.

 

A wagtail kept me company on the walk, tail bobbing up and down as it searched for insects (or possibly for food dropped by the riverside pub customers!) Shame that in the only half decent photo I got of him, he was standing on what looks like astro-turf rather than somewhere more scenic!

Wagtail

But of course it was the ducks that were really the stars of my watery walk. There were a few cruising up and down the river – I love the bow wave that has formed around this one as he paddles serenely up stream.

Duck & bow wave

Quite a few though were just sitting on the bank – although it was supposedly “nice weather for ducks” today, they didn’t actually look that happy about it.

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Female duck

I think these were all Mallards – they may be common ducks, but the colours on the males in particular are absolutely stunning.

Male duck close up

I was just starting to head back to the car, when a group of people peering over the edge of the river wall waved me over. Baby ducklings – what can I say, but serious cuteness overload! There were 5 in total, paddling about with their Mum. I could easily have loaded dozens of photos of them here, but have restricted myself to just the two.

Baby duck

Baby duck 2

I couldn’t resist trying to video them as well. They may only be small, but they’ve clearly got the hang already of rummaging about in the weeds for food.

 

I’d guessed that I’d probably see ducks today in the rain; but to find ducklings was better than I could have hoped for – the perfect end to my walk.

Ivy 30 weedsAnd finally the latest weed in my 30 Lazy Garden weeds is Ivy. Beautiful glossy leaves, covering up our ugly fence – evergreen, so brightening up the area all year round. Ivy is particularly good for insects, providing not only cover and homes, but the flowers provide much needed nectar when there’s little else around. Moths of course absolutely love Ivy – so for that reason alone it would get my vote!

30 Days Wild – Day 8

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_08Day 8 and I’m still ploughing my way through the IDs from the weekend’s bioblitz – maybe shouldn’t have taken quite so many photos! But it’s all good and discovering some new species for the garden list. It being Wednesday though, I dragged myself from the computer and headed over to take my Dad out for our weekly pub lunch – no hardship there!

Dad by riverAs it was a lovely hot day we decided to head to one of our favourite pubs The Riverside at Aymestrey in North Herefordshire – the pub is by the river Lugg and you can sit outside right next to it for your lunch. Today they had Herefordshire snails on the menu, so I went for those (with a big pile of chips of course!), while Dad went for some smoked salmon.

It is a fantastic spot and we go there quite often in the summer to watch the dragonflies, butterflies and once a kingfisher that darted down the river under the bridge and away. Sadly today all you get is a photo of the bridge!

River

The little river has fish and lots of insects, which in turn attract plenty of birds. Today we saw nuthatches and yellow wagtails, plus lots of sparrows chirping non-stop. Today’s real prize was the Beautiful Demoiselles. Having chased them around for ages on Sunday at Knapp & Papermill reserve, here they were landing within feet of me, while I tucked happily into my snails. Not only that but there were mating pairs (the Demoiselles, not my snails!)

Beautiful Demoiselles Aymestrey

Feeling full and happy after lunch, I took Dad home, then decided to stretch my legs to work off those snails! I headed to Bodenham Lakes, which are about a mile from where I grew up, but once again I’m ashamed to say this is somewhere I’d never visited. Funny how you often don’t visit the things that are on your own doorstep! That’s one of the great things I’m finding about 30 Days Wild, that it’s getting me to do some of these things – finally!

Lake

Bodenham Lakes are actually old gravel pits that have been flooded and are now managed by Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. They are apparently very good for bird spotting and even have otters – not that I saw any of those today. I did though hear my first cuckoo not only of the year, but probably the first one I’d heard for about 30 years! I then managed to find the bird hide which has splendid views, in this case of the Canada Geese.

Geese

The meadows by the lake were full of flowers including these beautiful Common Spotted Orchids and the whole place was buzzing with bees, most notably these Red Tailed Bumblebees.

Orchid

Red tailed Bumblebee

But the stars for me today of Bodenham Lakes were the damselflies and demoiselles. They were everywhere! It felt like I could hardly take a step without disturbing them – I kept seeing flashes of blue all around me. As at Aymestrey there were even mating pairs. I thought all of these below were Common Blue Damselflies, but I’ve already found out from the very helpful people on iSpot that the bottom ones are Blue-tailed Damselflies instead!

Common Blue Damselfly

Mating Damselflies 2

Mating Damselflies 1

Not only damselflies, but I also saw Banded Demoiselles (thereby completing the set of Demoiselles in one day – I think there are only 2 species – Beautiful and Banded). Didn’t manage to get a brilliant photo – I need to drag Chris back to Bodenham with his steadier hand for photography, but hopefully it is at least recognisable.

Banded Demoiselle

There weren’t that many butterflies around today, although I did see another Painted Lady, some speckled woods, what can only be described as a “brown one” and some Common Blues. The Common Blues were flighty as ever, but I did pursue one long enough to get this just about identifiable shot.

Common Blue Butterfly

So all in all a particularly good day today. I shall definitely be heading back to Bodenham Lakes soon and also no doubt back to the pub too!

 

Ladys MantleAnd finally as always the latest weed in my 30 Lazy Weeds from our garden – Lady’s Mantle. I like the subtlety of this gentle looking plant. I love the soft wavy pleated leaves, especially the way they catch droplets of water like this. They provide lots of ground cover and are quite happy in the shade as well as in sunnier spots, so suit pretty much any garden. Time to give room to less showy plants like Lady’s Mantle!