30 Days Wild 2018

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.

30 Days Wild 2017

It’s the 1st of July and that means that the Wildlife Trust’s annual month-long challenge of #30dayswild is over for another year.

Last year, I wrote a blog every day for #30dayswild but this year I’ve had to settle for a tweet – so this is my retrospective of highlights from June 2017.

I am incredibly lucky to have a job which, along with writing reports and assessments, also gets me out in the wild to undertake surveys. Despite this, here are my top tips for engaging with wildlife on a day to day basis.

#1 Get out every day!

This might seem like an obvious one, but there”s nearly always time to connect with nature if you make the space. If I am in the office for a day, I always get out at lunchtime, rain or shine, for some fresh air and exercise. Sometimes I’ll have a target in mind – visiting the wool carder bees down in the Sensory Garden in town for example. Other times I’ll just wander, but never yet have I returned without encountering something unexpected – whether this is a grasshopper landing on my hand or finding a new orchid colony in the wind and rain. If you’re receptive to the wildlife around you, there will be something to intrigue you! The following photographs are all lunchtime encounters:

#2 Keep your eyes peeled for surprises

When I’m out and about on surveys, we had particular targets in mind. One day we might be surveying for newts, other times we’ll be carrying out habitat surveys or scoping for suitable bat roosting trees. But the opportunity to be out and about provides ample opportunity to witness something new – here are a few from surveys during June:

 

 

 

#3 Spend time in your garden

Spending a day out in the garden at a weekend allows an insight into all the activity and life which occurs every day when I’m out at work. There’s something special about wildlife in your garden – especially if they are attracted by, or using, things which you have provided for them – be this native wildflowers for the bees; the pond for damselflies; or the log pile for woodlouse spiders and frogs.

I am aware that I’m lucky to have a garden and some people do not have this space – but the principle still applies to a local park or even a patch of grassland at the road verge. I always feel a stronger connection with wildlife close to home, which you don’t need a special trip to see.

 

 

#4 Take the time to visit somewhere special

Despite stating that wildlife close to home feels particularly special in #3 above, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the opportunity to explore somewhere new and exciting when you can. The Wildlife Trust manage some incredibly diverse and exciting reserves around the country, and the vast majority are free to explore.

I love the Nature Finder App which the Trust have produced – this maps their reserves and will show you which ones are close to you, along with details of what you might find there. As I travel around a fair bit, there are often opportunities to call by somewhere new and see something unique. When you’re planning a long journey, I would urge you to check it out and find somewhere magical to stop off on the way. Or use it simply to find somewhere new closer to home.

These are all opportunistic stop-offs when I was driving close by in June:

 

 

#5 It doesn’t hurt to have a holiday booked in the middle of #30dayswild!

We had an amazing week away in the Dolomites at the beginning of June and spent the time walking the mountains and valleys and experiencing some amazing flora. If you feel like perusing the photographs, you can read more in my blog post here. Otherwise, here are a few #30dayswild highlights!

 

 

 

 

 

#6 Keep it going!

Why stop at #30dayswild – keep up the habit and enjoy wildlife all year round – you can tweet #365dayswild to share your experiences and don’t forget the Wildlife Trusts who have masterminded this campaign – they do some excellent work preserving some of our most precious sites but they need your support!

  1. Find your local Wildlife Trust here.
  2. Get the Naturefinder app here.
  3. And keep up to date on the latest news from the WIldlife Trusts here!

30 Days Wild – Week 3

For the last month, all through June, I’ve been taking part in #30dayswild. Now that June has come to an end, I am looking back on the activities which kept me feeling connected to nature through the month. The following post summarises Week 3 – feel free to click through the links to read more about any of these activities!

Week 4 summaries will follow!

Day 15 – Wildflowers and Stormy Skies
Another thundery showery day when the temptation is to stay inside. Resist it! Getting out and about and seeing how different the earth is after a good downpour makes an excellent activity for #30d…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 15

Day 16 – Wildflowers and Stormy Skies
Another grey showery day – has nobody informed the weather that it’s supposed to be June? After a dawn bat survey, where the dawn chorus was the only activity I witnessed, I called by a…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 16

Day 17 – Finding new local Orchid colonies
I’ve been tempted into visiting some beautiful sites recently – mostly Wildlife Trust sites from the excellent NatureFinder App. Many of these sites have some exciting species which you…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 17

Day 18 – Damselflies in the Garden Pond
A pond is certainly one of the best ways to encourage wildlife into your garden. I spent a while watching ours today – the constant coming and going of honey bees is one of the most interesti…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 18

Day 19 – Contributing to #Wildflowerhour
I would urge everybody who has an interest in botany to get involved with the #wildflowerhour on a Sunday evening between 8 and 9pm – it’s a great opportunity to share your sightings an…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 19

Day 20 – Cygnets along the Grantham Canal
Sometimes, opportunities to connect with nature are hard to come by – today was a busy day with meetings, lots of office work and a few days of overnight surveys to prepare for when I got hom…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 20

Day 21 – A visit to Shadowbrook Meadows
Plenty of opportunities to connect with nature today – I spent a day out tree climbing inspecting potential features for roosting bats. We didn’t find any bats but a treecreeper nest wi…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 21

30 Days Wild – Week 2

For the last month, all through June, I’ve been taking part in #30dayswild. Now that June has come to an end, I am looking back on the activities which kept me feeling connected to nature through the month. The following post summarises Week 2 – feel free to click through the links to read more about any of these activities!

Weeks 3-4 summaries will follow!

Day 8 – Invertebrates and helleborines

I write this post from the shelter of the car as the rain hammers down outside – fingers crossed it passes in time for tonight’s bat survey! I was lucky enough to spend a good portion o…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 8

Day 9 – Insects on hogweed

Today began with a bat survey, where there was little to be seen in the way of bats activity but plenty of swallows who started chirping away a good 90 minutes before sunrise and taking to the wing…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 9

Day 10 – Wildflowers along the Grantham Canal

I left early this morning to give me chance to walk along the Grantham Canal before work – I love the stretch between Grantham and Harlaxton which runs in a cutting, the habitat shifting from…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 10

Day 11 – Painted Lady Butterfly

We took a walk out around home this afternoon and spotted this very tattered painted lady butterfly feeding on the hogweed flowers. It had lost chunks from its wings and was far from a pristine spe…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 11

Day 12 – Urban Botany

I think one of the single best things about botany is the ability to enjoy it just about anywhere. As Sunday was so overcast and rainy, I decided to head off to the Depot Climbing Centre in Notting…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 12

Day 13 – Orchids

Day 13 of 30 Days Wild is pretty grim and overcast here in the midlands, but don’t let that put you off getting out and about! The rain awakens so many scents from the earth and vegetation th…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 13

Day 14 – Moorhens along the River Wytham

A dawn bat survey started the day, followed by a morning in the office so my attention was starting to flag a little by lunchtime. Luckily, our office is only 5 minutes walk from the River Witham w…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 14

30 Days Wild – Week 1

For the last month, all through June, I’ve been taking part in #30dayswild. Now that June has come to an end, I am looking back on the activities which kept me feeling connected to nature through the month. The following post summarises Week 1 – feel free to click through the links to read more about any of these activities!

Weeks 2-4 summaries will follow!

Day 1 – Bat Survey

I started Day 1 of 30 Days Wild at 2:30am when I set a very early alarm to carry out a bat survey. Despite the murky conditions, the night had been damp but without rain, and the dawn temperature o…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 1

Day 2 – Meeting a Mayfly

The arrival of the mayflies – those famously short-lived river dwellers – is one of the most dramatic events in early summer. Their appearance is of interest to many more species than j…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 2

Day 3 – Common Blue Butterflies
I called in at a Warwickshire Wildlife Trust site on my way home from site survey to see whether the butterfly orchids were yet in flower. I found several spikes where the first flowers were openin…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 3

Day 4 – Wildflowers in the Garden
It is often said that a weed is simply a flower in the wrong place. I would consider that any flower which adds life and colour to a drab lawn has found it’s right place, and so I went out in…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 4

Day 5 – Sunset in a Wildflower Meadow
For Day 5 of 30 Days Wild, I walked out to a local National Nature REserve (NNR) called Muston Meadows to watch the sun go down. As I spend much of the summer doing bat surveys, I do get to see my …

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 5

 Day 6 – Recording a Cuckoo Bee on iRecord
The blue skies and sunshine first thing this morning made a walk around the garden a must-do before heading into work. I spotted a bumblebee on one of the ornamental garden shrubs which looked rath…

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 6

Day 7 – Orange -tip Butterflies along the Viking Way
Taking the time to watch nature, rather than simply notice it and keep on walking, is an immensely rewarding experience. There is much information available on so many species, but sometimes it is …

Source: 30 Days Wild – Day 7