2017 – The Year of the Hedgehog

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to get this written, mainly because 2017 was such an eventful year for us. I started compiling it and couldn’t believe how much we saw and did in one year; but it was lovely going through the old blog posts to refresh my memory.

First of all the successes and failures of last year’s New Year’s Resolutions. I think these definitely come under the “could do better” category, but we did at least try with most of our wildlife ones, which is more than can be said for my Cut Down on the Prosecco plan. So here’s the progress on our 7 resolutions for 2017.

1.  Build new pond. Well I did achieve this, just not in the place I expected to. The plan was to put a new pond in the garden. That didn’t happen, but I did get an allotment (with my sister) and first job we did was put in a small pond. Within months we’d had frogs, newts and dragonflies, so well worth the effort.

 

2. Get footage of the blue tits fledging. Well this didn’t happen, but it wasn’t for want of trying. We put up a new box with integral camera. Things were looking good when we caught a blue tit checking it out almost immediately. Unfortunately they then decided to nest elsewhere this year. You can lead a blue tit to a nest box, but you cannot make it nest!

3. Seeing new species of butterfly – we actually over-achieved on this one! We managed to bag 5 new species: Duke of Burgundy, Wall, Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Grizzled Skipper and Large Blue. This takes us to a grand total of 43 species of British butterfly seen and photographed. Only about 16 to go.

 

4. Try and find ivy bees at more sites. Not only did I not manage to achieve this, I didn’t see a single ivy bee at all. Chris saw a few, but only at sites where we’d seen them before.

5. Start compiling a list of hoverfly species in the garden. I did take quite a lot of hoverfly pictures, (including this lovely Chrysotoxum species) but totally forgot that I was going to start listing them. I could probably retrospectively go back through the photos and list them all – but what are the chances of that happening?

 

6. Do 30 Days Wild again. Thankfully a big YES to this one. I had a fantastic time in June doing 30 Days Wild and was really chuffed to get shortlisted again for the Wildlife Trusts’ Blogger Awards. Not only that but Worcestershire Wildlife Trust were looking for someone to write about it – so I even got a magazine article published!

7. And finally my quest to get a moth tattoo has failed once again. No surprises there.

So on to the other things we got up to last year. 2017 started with the shocking realization that I’d hit 50! To lessen the pain, Chris got us a day at some wildlife photography hides in Worcestershire. We had a fantastic bird-filled day watching kestrels, kingfishers and all sorts of other beautiful birds. Best birthday present ever!

The second big event was getting our allotment. Despite my “too lazy to weed” philosophy, I have always fancied an allotment and my sister and I now finally have one.  We are gardening it organically, feeding the birds, encouraging pollinators and of course we’ve put in our pond. Neighbouring plots even have slow worms, so we’re hoping we can attract a few of those over to ours soon too.

A big change for me in 2017 was that I swapped jobs. I now work 2 days a week at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. We also fostered a hedgehog called Meadow last winter until his release in the spring.  We’ve rescued one poorly one found during the day and one juvenile that was too small to get through the winter and taken them to our local hedgehog carer Viv. Not only that but we had almost nightly visitations from other hedgehogs in the garden and got some great trail camera footage. So all in all 2017 has been my Year of the Hedgehog.

One of the highlights in the summer was a holiday in the beautiful Isles of Scilly. We had a fantastic week there, packed full of wildlife and wonderful scenery. Although we loved it all, probably the best thing was seeing puffins. We’d thought we might have been too late in the season, but luckily they were still there waiting for us.

Not only did we get some great photos, but the one above even won us a mug in the Scilly Isles photo competition. In fact we won 2 mugs, the other being for an old photo of me, my sister and my Dad taken on St Martin’s in 1972. 

Of course we did all our usual things in 2017 – the Big Garden Bird Survey, the Big Butterfly Count, the Garden Bioblitz, Moth night and the annual pilgrimage to see the bluebells on the Malverns. We’ve visited lots of our old favourite haunts, Wyre Forest, Trench & Grafton Wood, Prestbury Hill & Brotheridge Green etc. But we’ve also found some new favourites: Daneway Banks, Upton Warren wetlands, Wenlock Edge and more.

On the home front we have of course continued to let the weeds grow in the garden pretty much unchecked. The postman may soon need a machete to hack his way through the undergrowth to the front door, but it has brought us a wealth of insects and more. I’d thought we’d done well in 2016 when we recorded our 25th species of bee in the garden, but by the end of 2017’s summer we’d hit 31 species.

Moths continued to be my particular obsession throughout 2017. Overall it didn’t seem to be such a good year for moths in the garden – I only recorded 198 species compared to 211 in 2016. This might have been due to trapping effort, as I suffered a couple of stinking colds towards the end of the year and didn’t put the trap out for the last 2 months. Overall though we have now recorded 297 moth species in the garden – not bad for the middle of Malvern! The really exciting news though was that I recorded the first ever Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis) not only for Malvern, but for the whole of Worcestershire. This species is colonising northwards, so it was great to get the first record for our neck of the woods.

The sad news for 2017 was that we had to say goodbye to Bert. He was our elderly gentleman with a big voice (the loudest miaow ever!) and a big character. He spent most of his life outdoors, but came to us for his twilight years. We still miss him terribly.

 

So New Year’s Resolutions for 2018 – we might as well aim for a few then there’s a chance we might succeed with a couple at least!

  • Butterfly species – continue on our quest to see more of the British species – hopefully another 3 this year?
  • Film Blue tits fledging – the box and camera are still all set up, so we just have to hope they deign to nest in it this year.
  • Visit 5 new local nature reserves – we have such fantastic places around here, it will be good to explore some more.
  • Sort out the garden pond.
  • Have a go at a Hoverfly Lagoon – there’s a project looking at how to promote hoverflies in your garden, so it would be nice to contribute to that.
  • Of course that moth tattoo that never seems to get done!

Happy 2018 everyone!

 

 

 

Moth (and Mouse) Night

This weekend is Moth Night (it troubles me every year that Moth Night is actually a weekend!). It was supposed to be a fairly windy night and the various moth groups I follow were abuzz with prospects of exciting migrant moths being blown in from the Continent. One of the themes for this year’s Moth Night was the importance of ivy as an autumn food source. I cleared a path to our patch of ivy, so I could get close up for nocturnal photos and out my moth trap went in hope and anticipation. As anyone who reads my blog, or indeed anyone who has ever tried photographing wildlife knows, things rarely go to plan.

So the moth trap attracted just a measly 10 individuals of 8 species. October is getting near the end of moth season, so I was never going to get hundreds of moths, but I had hoped for a bit more of a selection. There are some lovely colourful autumn moth species, but none of them fancied my moth trap last night. I did get two migrants – both Silver Y moths – seen here with their distinctive y or gamma (hence their latin name Autographa gamma) marks on the wings.

The remaining 8 moths were made up of 2 Common Marbled Carpets, 1 Light Brown Apple Moth, 1 Blair’s Shoulder Knot, 1 Lesser Yellow Underwing, 1 Setaceous Hebrew Character, 1 Black Rustic and 1 Shuttle-shaped Dart. All lovely moths in their own right, but not the most exciting selection.

The ivy was also a complete wash out. Although it was in full flower, I didn’t see a single moth on it. Admittedly I didn’t sit in the bushes staring at it all night, but I did pop out for frequent spot checks. Maybe the light from the moth trap was doing too good a job attracting what few moths there were and keeping them away from the ivy? I’ll keep checking the ivy over the next few nights – it will be too late for Moth Night, but I’d like to get a photo of at least one moth on it. I did check out the ivy this morning and it was buzzing with bees (who had clearly got the memo the moths had missed about it being a good source of food in the autumn!). No sign of any Ivy Bees, but plenty of Honey Bees making the most of it.

One surprise find to finish off Moth Night was this mouse. As I was putting the moth trap away in the garage, I saw movement from the box with the birds’ peanuts in. A mouse had got stuck in there and looked just as surprised as me. A quick photo and he was running free in the garden again, although he may have preferred to stay in the garage with the bird food.

Profusion of Pollinators

It has been a mixed week for us, but one thing that is definitely doing well is the population of pollinators in our garden. I’ve been meaning to do an update on our “Plant a Pot for Pollinators” pot for a while now. I started this post yesterday morning, but it’s taken until this afternoon to finish, as I keep spotting things buzzing round the garden and dash out to take more photos!

When I planted the pot for pollinators back in June, the plants were all small and everything was neat and tidy (the only things in our whole garden that could be described thus). Now, just a month or so later, everything has gone a little bit wild and crazy and to  be honest is fitting in with the rest of the garden much better for it. The flowers are all overflowing the pot, but the main thing is that it is buzzing with life – result! Being organic and unkempt our garden is generally not short of a pollinator or two, but it’s nice having a pot specifically planted with colourful flowers for them. The hoverflies in particular seem to be making good use of the pot. I am very much a beginner when it comes to hoverfly identification and there are an awful lot of species. Fortunately with a helpful guide book and the even more helpful people on the hoverfly Facebook group, I’ve managed to establish that we’ve had at least 6 species visiting the pot over the last week. No doubt there have been more and hopefully I can add to that tally eventually.  But here, in no particular order, are the 6 hoverflies.

First up Britain’s most common hoverfly – Episyrphus balteatus aka the Marmalade Fly. The stripes on its abdomen are supposed to look like the orange shreds in marmalade!

Next up is one of the Syrphus species – difficult to get to species level without a microscope, so I’ll have to stick with the genus.

Another common one next – Eristalis tenax, one of the bumblebee mimics. Their larvae live in water and are commonly known as rat-tailed maggots. 

A much smaller more subtle one next Syritta pipiens – identifiable by the swollen segment on its hind legs.

The next one is colourful but delicate one – Sphaerophoria scripta.

And finally my favourite of this set of 6 – Chrysotoxum festivum. I love the markings on this one – they are known as wasp mimics for obvious reasons.

Of course lots of other things besides hoverflies have been using the pot. I couldn’t resist a photo of this cute little juvenile shieldbug sitting pretty in the middle of the flower.

Not everything is all sweetness and light though – this crab spider may have been tiny but it was definitely lying in wait for any unsuspecting pollinator to come close enough for lunch.

The star prize for visiting my pollinator pot goes to this Common Blue butterfly. We’ve never knowingly had them in the garden before, so I was thrilled that the pot had attracted one. It didn’t hang around –  hence the hastily grabbed photo, but just seeing this one insect alone makes it all worthwhile for me!

While on the subject of butterflies – it is Big Butterfly Count time of year. I’ve been doing counts both in the garden and down at the allotment, plus one at my Dad’s house. There’s still time to do a count if you haven’t already done so. Besides the one-off sighting of the Common Blue, we have also been getting Meadow Browns (in the meadow that’s supposed to be a lawn!) and Gatekeepers, plus the usual Whites, Holly Blues and the occasional Comma or Red Admiral.

Last time I checked the Big Butterfly Count website they’d received over 40,000 counts. Here’s a snapshot of their map for the Malvern area – good to see I’m not the only one who’s been counting around here.

Enthused by the pollinator pot, I went hunting round the garden for other insect attracting plants. We’ve got a fair sized patch of Knapweed which seems to have seeded itself in one corner. The bees were loving it. There were quite a few leaf-cutter bees which was great to see, but almost impossible to photograph. So I gave up and concentrated on bigger bees that were more slower and more obliging.

Aside from the usual bees, butterflies and hoverflies, I found this unusual looking insect. I had no idea even what group it belonged to, but turns out it was a Thick-headed Fly (Sicus ferrugineus). Unfortunately for our bees it parasitizes them, so not such a welcome visitor to the garden.

While stumbling around the garden chasing bees and flies, I came very close to treading on a frog. Fortunately his reflexes were quicker than mine and he hopped out of the way into our feral strawberry plot, but not before I managed to grab a photo.

At the beginning of this post, I said it had been a mixed week for us. The good news was that Too Lazy To Weed has been shortlisted for the 30 Days Wild Blogger Awards 2017. I’ve read quite a lot of the other blogs and there are some great ones out there, so I’m really chuffed that Too Lazy was shortlisted. It’s nice to think that this means there are other people who are interested in the same things that we are. Good luck to all the other nominees – just participating in 30 Days Wild was a win-win thing, so none of us can really lose.

The very sad news for us this week though was that we had to say goodbye to our beautiful old boy Bertie. He was the factory cat at Chris’s work for many years, but came to live with us (his retirement home) two years ago. A great big cat with an even bigger personality and we miss him terribly. xxx

 

Scilly Isles – Tresco

Here’s the second bloggy instalment from our recent trip to the Scilly Isles – this time covering Tresco. Tresco is the second largest of the islands and was just a short boat ride away from where we were staying on St Mary’s. As with all the Scilly Isles, you can’t really move for beautiful beaches and stunning views.

I particularly liked some of the rock formations which looked like they’d come out of a Flintstone movie!

Tresco is perhaps the most touristy of the “off islands”, but within minutes of getting off the boat we were all by ourselves on a butterfly filled lane crossing the island. I’d visited the Scillies as a child with my parents and one of the things I remember most vividly was the abundance of butterflies (of course there were generally many more butterflies around everywhere back then in the 1970s).  So it was a delight to walk down lanes and be surrounded by them again. Meadow Browns were by far the most common species.

We saw lots of Red Admirals all over the Scilly Isles – far more than we ever see in Malvern. This is probably because most of them are migrants that get blown or fly over to Scilly from mainland Europe.

The lanes had plenty of the other common species too like Speckled Woods, Large Whites and Holly Blues.

My favourites though on Tresco were the Small Coppers and Common Blues – both small jewel like butterflies. It was blue butterflies in particular that I remember from childhood, so seeing those here was lovely.

Tresco also supplied us with another new bird species – the stonechat (thanks to Neil for the identification). We saw lots of these little birds and heard even more.

Tresco has a very tropical feel to it, with lush vegetation pretty much everywhere. There were loads of these absolutely massive Echium plants – many of them at least twice as tall as me, although admittedly I am only about 5 foot 1!

Many of the stone walls were covered in large succulent plants, like something off an alien movie. They are Aeonium plants and there were several different varieties around the Scillies.

Tresco seemed to have far more of these bright yellowy orange flowers  (Gazania – thanks Neil!) than the other islands.

Blue (and white) agapanthus were common everywhere; whether in gardens and verges like this,

or seemingly naturalised on open ground.

The areas further from habitation tended to have more natural, as in more British looking flora. Lots of the island was covered in gorgeous purple heather which was teeming with insects.

Bees were abundant everywhere – Tresco and indeed all the Scilly Isles must be bee paradise with all those flowers. Most of the ones I saw looked fairly familiar, but Tresco had a lot of these ones which seemed a bit different. The good people of the Facebook bee group suggested they might be Cliff Mining Bees (Andrena thoracica), although apparently we can’t be sure about this one as it had collected so much pollen it has obscured the vital bits for identification!

Tresco is famous for its tropical Abbey Gardens. Unfortunately we spent so much time dawdling around the island looking at butterflies (and admittedly eating a very good lunch at the Ruin Beach Café) that by the time we got to the Gardens there wasn’t really time to go in. So the entrance below is as close as we got.

Although it would no doubt have been nice to look round the gardens, there was so much tropical plant life all over Tresco that I don’t feel we missed out too much. And it’s always nice to leave something new for the next visit!

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 26 – Our Garden Bees

It’s Day 26 of 30 Days Wild and we have a friend coming to stay, so I somehow had to fit in something wild before the wine started to flow (on a Monday!). I’ve been concentrating quite a bit this month on the butterflies and am always looking at the moths, so decided it was time to have a look at our garden bees again.

I got up early to have a look round the garden before work. First thing I noticed, which really pleased me, was that something has finally been using our bee hotel! One of the canes is clearly blocked up with bits of leaf – so putting 2 and 2 together, I assume we’ve got a leaf cutter bee. It was beautifully sealed up; it looks like some of the leaves had been chewed up to make a paste to stick it all together. Another cane is also being used but has not been sealed up yet.

The other thing I discovered was I’d got up before the bees this morning! Normally when I get up earlier than this for the moths, the garden already seems to be buzzing with bees. Today nothing at all to start with, although it seemed like a perfectly decent day. Eventually a few started to appear on the lavender – first a Common Carder bee and then a couple of honey bees, but it was generally slim pickings this morning.

In view of the paltry selection of bees that I could find during this morning’s spot check, I decided to dig out my complete list for garden bees and review that. At the end of last year, our total for the garden stood at 25 – which I was pretty pleased with. It currently stands at 31, which is obviously even better! Admittedly not all of these have been identified to species, some have only got to genus level, but if it’s a genus we’ve not had before then whatever the species is, it must be a new one, so I’ve counted it. So here are the 6 new ones; they’re not all great photos, because often I only got a glimpse.

The first one is the Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) which I think we did see last year, but somehow it got missed off the previous list. It’s a really pretty brightly coloured little bee.

Next up is Gwynne’s Mining Bee (Andrena bicolor). I find these Andrena bees very difficult to tell apart, but thankfully there are always some very helpful people on Facebook.

The next one I could identify myself – a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva). They are so distinctive with bright ginger fur all over their bodies. I’m sure I saw some last year, but it took until this year to get a photo good enough to confirm.

The next one is a nomad bee, but it can only be identified as one of the Group E species of Nomada, unless you catch one and dissect it, which I don’t want to do.  We do get another Nomada species (N. goodeniana), but since that’s in a different ID group, this must be a different species.

Then we have the Blue Mason Bee (Osmia caerulescens). If I’d managed a decent photo, it would presumably have looked more blue!

And finally our 31st species of bee is some kind of Yellow Faced Bee (Hylaeus sp.). Unfortunately I didn’t manage to photograph the key bit – i.e. his yellow face, so can’t get it down to species. I’ll know next time to get a head shot.

So that’s my bee round up for Day 26. I’m really chuffed we get so many species.  It will get harder and harder though to increase the total, unless I want to go down the line of dissecting them, which I don’t. But maybe if we keep adding more bee friendly plants and more places for them to nest, we can stretch our tally by a few more yet. Fingers crossed.

30 Days Wild – Day 16 – Plant Pots for Pollinators

It’s Day 16 of 30 Days Wild and this evening I’ve been Planting a Pot for Pollinators. This isn’t just me randomly planting up a pot with more flowers, but part of a nationwide scheme to encourage people to do their bit for pollinating bees, hoverflies and butterflies etc.

It’s being organised by the Butterfly Conservation Society – for more information go to: http://www.plantpotsforpollinators.org The aim is simple – to get as many people as possible to plant up at least one pot in their garden with flowers that are good for our insect pollinators.

If you go to their website you can download instructions, but basically all you need is a big pot, some peat-free compost and some flowers. There’s a list of 6 suggestions – calendula, catmint, cosmos, French marigolds, Shasta daisies and dahlias (but only the single flowered varieties as these have pollen that is easy for the bees to get at).  You can of course choose others, provided they are good for pollinators.

Of the 6, I bought, Cosmos (left), French marigolds and a Dahlia – all of which had bees on in the garden centre when I bought them – a good sign! I also supplemented these with some wildflower plants that I’d had sitting waiting to plant on for a while – Verbena bonariensis, Anthemis and Achillea.

 

It only took 5 minutes to fill the pot with compost and stick the 6 plants in. With hindsight I could probably have squeezed a couple more in and I may well do so at the weekend. Even if I don’t buy more, hopefully those that are there will bush out to fill the pot up a bit more. Hopefully the mix of different colours and shapes will attract a variety of pollinating insects.

So here is the (sort of) finished article, nothing fancy, but hopefully the bees will appreciate it. Ideally I would have liked to include some photos of insects actually on the pot, but since I did this after work, it was getting a bit late and there was not much buzzing about. Assuming I get something on them, I will add more photos when I can.

Having planted a pot, the website encourages you to plot your pot on their map. Butterfly Conservation hope to cover the UK in pots for pollinators. So being a good citizen scientist, I plotted my pot on the map. It is reassuring to see that ours isn’t the only one in Worcestershire!

Of course our garden being a weedfilled paradise for insects, you could argue that it didn’t really need another pot of flowers for pollinators. But you can never have too many, so why not? And by participating in a scheme like this, we are hopefully helping to spread the good word.

 

 

30 Days Wild – Day 12 – Lower Smite Farm

It’s Day 12 of 30 Days Wild and I headed to Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s headquarters – Lower Smite Farm. It is, as its name suggests, a working farm  – but  one that is managed with the wildlife in mind in everything that’s done. The Trust have created a nature trail that encompasses a range of habitats and that’s what I followed today.

The trail started in the wildlife garden, which was an absolute delight. There were lots of ideas for wildlife gardening and plenty of information. I loved the little blackboards that were dotted around explaining things, like this one about solitary bee nests.

Not too surprisingly the whole site was a-buzz with bees, both in the garden and in the fields beyond. Every time I see a bee or a butterfly on the bird’s foot trefoil, it makes me think – we really must plant some of that in our own garden!

From the wildlife garden, the trail took me to the Granary; a 300 year old barn that is apparently full of bats.

The building had these wonderful ironmongery lizard and frog on the doors – don’t know if they are original features or later additions, but if I’m ever lucky enough to own an old house, I want a pair of these!

The trail led from the Granary past a pond and wetland area. I thought I got a glimpse of a reed bunting, but it was too fleeting to get a photo.  After the pond the path turned into a field and followed the hedgerow. The margins of the field were full of wildflowers, such as these stunning poppies.

All morning I could hear lots of birds, but most of the time they remained hidden. So I loved finding this tree with a bunch of jackdaws, spaced out perfectly along the branch with a single pigeon lording it above them!

The next pond area had lots of rustling noises coming from the reeds, but presumably I had made too much noise approaching and nothing would show its face.

But as I started to leave the pond, I could hear a strange bird call – almost like a squeaking cough! This little bird turned out to be the source of the strange noise. A bit of googling back home and I think it was a Whitethroat.

Apparently they make this call when they have young – if it was trying to warn me off though, it had the opposite effect as I stopped to find out what it was! As it called it puffed up the white feathers on its throat – maybe also intended to scare me off?

I tried videoing it to record the call, in case I couldn’t identify it when I got back home. The video is not a great success as mainly what you can hear is the wind (will it ever stop blowing this June?), but you can just about see the bird and make out its short staccato call.

Leaving the irate Whitethroat behind, I followed the path into some fields. It was lovely to see lots of Meadow Brown butterflies. As I walked I kept flushing them up from the path, but I never seemed to be able to spot them before they took off and were gone. So the best Meadow Brown photo I managed all day was this poor one taken from an odd angle!

I had more luck with the Large Skippers which were also fairly common today. They looked lovely fresh specimens and were bright orange, with their distinctive hook tipped antennae.

I was also really pleased to see my first Common Blue butterflies of the year, feeding on clover.

One insect which I kept spotting and which I would have loved to get a decent photo of was a Scorpion fly. The key thing about a Scorpion fly is that it has a tail like a scorpion – so guess which bit was hidden by bits of grass in all my photos?

There is a convenient bench at the top of one of the fields where you can sit and look out over the farm across Worcestershire. This photo reminded me of one of my Mum’s paintings – she often used to paint views with flowers in the foreground like this.

Heading down hill back towards the farm, the trail leaflet mentioned that you could see ridge and furrow marks in the field. This indicates that this field was farmed as far back as the middle ages, when ploughing techniques meant the soil built up into these ridges. You can just about make it out in this photo – wonderful to see a part of living history like this.

So that was my morning spent meandering around Lower Smite Farm. It’s another place that is definitely going on my return visit list – preferably on a sunnier day with no wind though (should we ever get such a day again!) I loved the mix of natural history and cultural history that this place has, with its remnants of old farm buildings and fields. Perfect place for the trust’s HQ!

 

30 Days Wild – Day 10 – Down the Lottie

Day 10 of 30 Days Wild and although it’s our wedding anniversary, I’ve spent most of the day down the allotment with my sister instead! We only got the allotment back in March, having e-mailed to be put on what I thought was an 18 month waiting list, only to get a plot 3 days later! Chris wasn’t too keen on the thought of all that weeding, so my sister and I are sharing the allotment instead. I have had to abandon the Too Lazy To Weed policy for the lottie, or all we’d actually grow would be weeds. Sis and I are sticking to our organic, peat free principles though, so ours is hopefully a wildlife friendly plot.

This is what some of the plot looked like when we started. Fairly overgrown with couch grass, bindweed and brambles, but it could have been a lot worse. Some of the empty plots are waist deep in weeds.

It is still very much a work in progress and probably always will be. No sooner have we cleared one patch, than the previous patch needs weeding again. And since we’re not using any weedkillers it is slow going, but worth it. Here’s the same bit a few weeks ago.

We inherited some apple trees, raspberries and currant bushes, all of which we’ve kept for the time being. The first major thing we did was put in a (very) small pond. Even one this size took some digging, which was a bit of a shock to my non-weeding/digging self. This is what the pond looked like just after it was put in.

And this is what it looks like now. The pond plants have established a bit and the water has cleared. We used one of those barley straw logs that clear the water naturally, it would have worked even quicker if a cat hadn’t kept fishing it out! There had been a large water barrel on the plot which had pond snails in, so we transferred those in.

We’ve already seen adult frogs using it – this is one from this morning.

We’ve also got at least one common newt that’s moved in and seems to be pretty much a full time resident now.

We’ve also had pond skaters and lots of midge larvae and a few weeks ago I got really excited when this red damselfly landed next to it.

We’re trying to be as environmentally friendly (and economic) as we can, so are using recycled stuff where possible. The cloches over our sweetcorn are old water bottles and we’ve turned other old bottles into plant pots that are hung on the fence.

This strange looking ring of fur may look like we’ve had some kind of ritual sacrifice, but is actually meant to keep the slugs off our courgettes. It consists of the hair clippings off my sister’s dog Pip – perhaps a bit odd, but we read it somewhere and thought we’d give it a go and it seems to be working.

We’re also trying out companion planting to distract the pests, so we’ve got marigolds amongst the runner beans, mint amongst the carrots and nasturtiums all over the place!

It must all be working because there are loads of bees, butterflies and hoverflies. We’ve put up a bird feeder too, so the sparrows are also doing well. We’ve even had moths – found this Small Magpie moth today trapped in the shed. A bit of chasing round with an old toilet roll and I caught him and released him – my good deed for today.

I do have to watch when I’m down the lottie that I don’t get totally distracted by the wildlife and forget to do the gardening. Today I spent an awful lot of time staking out a foxglove to try and get a photo of the bees going in and out. Unfortunately they’re so damn quick, this was the best I managed.

Finally no allotment would be complete without a resident robin. We have a pair that come down – I live in hope of getting them to trust me enough to take food from my hand, no luck yet.

By gardening organically we’ve accepted that some of our lettuce will get munched by slugs and some of the fruit will be eaten by birds, but there’s still more than enough for our two households.  This was today’s harvest – good to know that it is all pesticide and guilt free!

It is lovely and peaceful down the lottie and both my sister and I find it really relaxing. If I didn’t already know that getting in touch with wildlife and gardening organically was good for the soul, then taking on the allotment would have convinced me. Growing our own produce in a wildlife friendly plot – to me that epitomises the whole ethos of 30 Days Wild – and I couldn’t be happier!