It’s once again that summer month when everybody is encouraged and excused to take a moment out of their busy days to do something wild – the aptly named 30 Days Wild.
The Wildlife Trust team behind 30 days wild have generated a wealth of ideas and inspirations to help people to connect with nature during June, as well as welcoming the vast array of individual ways which people find themselves.
You can get involved too through the Wildlife Trust’s Facebook Page, Twitter Page or Website. The website has much more info on 30 Days Wild, including the opportunity to sign up, download wallcharts and Random Acts of Wildness Cards (little flashcards which give you hints and inspiration) or to share your adventures on social media.
I’ll be posting my daily wild-fix on this page throughout the month so watch this space!
Day 1: 1st June 2018
It was a day spent in the office writing and thinking about ecology in the abstract, but lunchtime is a time to get out in nature for real!
The Hills and Hollows above Grantham is a cracking little grassland with some calcareous specialist wildflowers which are appearing by the day right now!
I spent a while watching the red-tailed bumblebee workers enjoying the mouse-ear hawkweed with their lemon-yellow dandelion-like flowers.
There was a little nomad bee digging deep as well – these little bees are nest parasites of solitary bees and look like tiny wasps to a casual observer.
One of my favourite meadow flowers had also appeared – salad burnet has both male and female flowers which are very distinctive – the male flowers hang low like catkins whilst the females are the tiny red frilly flowers on the same head.
Other new arrivals included common rockrose with their broad yellow flowers low amongst the sward.
I’ll certainly be back for more to see what else is out and about before #30dayswild is over – bee orchids and southern marsh yet to appear!
Day 2: 2nd June 2018
A day spent in the allotment which, thanks to its location beside a hedge and a river which runs through the village, is a lovely spot to listen to birdsong and watch the world pass through.
However behind the idyllic facade, there is an amphitheater of action on a tiny scale – we watched wolf spiders skittering across the bare soil in hunt of prey, veracious ladybird larvae devouring aphids and nomad bees searching out the nests of ground-nesting mining bees to parasitise.
The most impressive, but gruesome, sight was this spider-hunting wasp which had snipped the legs off its captor and was bravely carrying away a prize bigger than itself!
Another impressive visitor was this ichneumon wasp which hung around a while in the sunshine before heading off.
If you spend some time out and about, nature is always keen to come out and meet you!
Day 3 – 3rd June 2018
We started off in the morning with a few hours down at the allotment again – we’re lucky to have a fair few frogs on the plot, hiding under every leaf it seems and this one hopped out from under the rhubarb. Frogs are fantastic allies in an allotment or garden, having a taste for those creatures which have a taste for your crops!
In the afternoon we went to help out at my parents’ open garden – they are the reason for my love of gardening and growing your own vegetables and their garden is quite a work of art! However so much of the planting and the design is geared towards wildlife with native and pollinator-friendly species, log piles, a frog-filled pond and nest boxes for birds and bees. My role was manning the plant sales – altogether we raised £174 for the Nottinghamshire WIldlife Trust Badger Vaccination Scheme.
Back home to plant out some selfheal seedlings in the lawn (trying to make our lawn a little wilder than the rather neat grass-dominated entity we inherited from the last owners) and then contributing to #wildflowerhour in the evening and seeing what the community had seen this week. A few sample tweets below!
Day 4 – 4th June 2018
Have you noticed a high-pitched buzzing when you walk past wild roses? It sounds a little like a bumblebee has got stuck but in fact they are intentionally deploying their ‘buzz pollinating’ technique. This involves them clasping the anthers between their legs, holding their bodies against them, and using their strong flight muscles to vibratetheir entire body causing the rose to release its pollen. Few pollinators have the size, strength and power to do this and this helps with the specificity of pollination.
I’ve seen this many times but never captured any video so I headed down to Grantham Cemetery to get a video clip of the behaviour. The cemetary was looking stunning – filled with ox-eye daisies and other wildflowers – sadly this was the last time it would be so as by my next visit, the council’s mowing gang had reduced the entire site to clippings.
Day 5 – 5th June 2018
The day started wading through head-height grass and nettles to reach a pond to collect in newt traps set the night before. Amongst the newts were some greater diving beetles – ferocious aquatic predators which hunt the depths!
On my way into the office (and to avoid hitting the schools traffic at 8:30!) I called in at a local calcareous grassland to visit the man orchids once more – these are nearing the most northerly tip of their distribution here in Grantham and are quite a rarity! It’s easy to see how they get thier name…
The calcareous grassland had a few more treats in store as well – abundance of common rock rose and one of my favourite wildflowers – bladder campion.
At lunchtime I took a walk up to the Hills and Hollows and was pleased to find some of these hoverflies – Merodon equestris – foraging on the hogweed. This is known as the narcissus bulb fly, and is a good mimic of bumblebees. However with its big furry rugged shoulders, it reminded me more of a minature hyena, there wassomething of a malevolent presence around this impressive hoverfly!
I also saw my first large skipper of the year – resting amongst the grasses. This species appears before the small and Essex skippers which will be on the wing in the next few weeks.
And finally, just to round off, I finally found the southern marsh orchids in flower on the plateux – I stumbled across this little colony during #30dayswild last year and have been awaiting their return! Still no sign of the bee orchids…
Day 6 – 6th June 2018
A lunchtime walk rewarded me with more hoverflies and butterflies and I was pleased to get some slow motion footage of this hoverfly – the incredibly good bumblebee mimic which is Volucella bombylans var. plumata. This species buzzes, flies, feeds and looks just like a bumblebee but features such as the eyes, the single pair of wings (as opposed to the two in hymenoptera such as bumblebees) and the tongue give it away. This amazing species comes in two varieties – this one is mimicing the black, white and yellow varieties such as white tailed, buff tailed and garden bumblebee, but I have seen them flying alongside another form of the same species which does an equally good job of mimicing a red-tailed bumblebee!
I posted this video on twitter and instagram with a quiz to identify the species – many recognised this as a hoverfly but it certainly tricked a few people!
Day 7 – 7th June 2018
A lunchtime walk up to the Hills and Hollows above Grantham rewarded me with some beautiful butterflies and dayflying moths. We may not have the variety which grace tropical regions, but these three individuals do a good job of showing some of the distinct and attractive species we get in the UK!
Day 8 – 8th June 2018
The day began in the trees where we were climbing using arboricultural techniques to check potential roosting features for bats. We ascend to the features – such as knot holes, woodpecker holes, failed hazard beams and splits – to assess their suitability and to see if anybody is at home! No bats this time but it always feels great to be up in the canopy!
On the way back, I called in at Holwell Quarry – a Leicestershire Wildlife Trust reserve – to have a hunt for bee orchids – allegedly this reserve has the largest population in the county! I didn’t find a single one (still!) but it was good to see all of the common spotted orchids coming into bloom!
Day 9 – 9th June 2018
I put the trail camera out a few days ago, by the river which runs through the village, to see what uses the trail. I had hoped for badgers, but the camera footage still showed a few species including fox, hedgehog and bank vole, along with wood pigeon and blackbird.
Day 10 – 10th June 2018
After finishing off Robin Kimmerer’s excellent exploration of the cultural and ecological significance of mosses – Gathering Moss – it was an afternoon spent in the garden with a few more native and pollinator-friendly species joining the borders. One small but beautiful visitor to the garden was this mint moth – a fan of (surprise surprise!) mints, along with other members of the deadnettle family.
On a trip to Thistleton nursery (highly recommended!), we also called into Cribbs Meadow to see a few of the common spotted orchids, before horseflies chased us away!
In the evening it was time once more to catch up with what the twitter community have been finding in bloom this week – here are a few of my highlights!
Day 11 – 11th June 2018
There has been a significant reduction in the cutting regime in Grantham this year, after the number of ‘amenity cuts’ was reduced from 7 a year to just 2. Whilst there is surely still so much more which could be done to allow our verges to flourish, this reduction has resulted in a plethora of wildflowers within the town which is great news for biodiversity.
I went out at lunchtime to see what i could find, and wrote up a blog post to celebrate the mini strips of habitat which have sprung up from the inert short-mown grasses which we take so much for granted. There are a number of voices who are ‘disgusted’ by the state of the verges in the town and whilst everyone is entitled to their opinion, I wanted to contribute a positive response to the new regime!
A link to the blog post can be found here.
Day 12 – 12th June 2018
The grasses are most definitely in flower right now, as my hayfever attests to, but despite the snuffles, there are some stunning flowers out there!
Grasses can be a tricky group to identify in the middle of the winter, but the flower spikes at this time of year really help to reveal the different species.
Pictured below are two which were looking particuarly stunning first thing as the sun was breaking through – cock’s foot and crested dog’s tail.