Day 4: A rubbish spider

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_04Sorry, that should read “rubbish” AND a “spider”. I used to think all spiders were rubbish (actually I used to run a mile from any that got within 3ft of me) but I’ve grown to love them just a little bit over the last few years when I’ve had the chance to watch and photograph them.

But let’s start with the rubbish. At the bottom of the garden I have a gate that leads onto a small playing field. It’s not very exciting, just some football posts and a small kiddies playground, but it’s a nifty shortcut to the Co-op beyond. On a mercy mission to buy milk yesterday I was horrified by the amount of rubbish everywhere, and I mean everywhere.

You couldn’t walk from one side of the field to the other without treading on a sweet wrapper, coke tin, beer tin, biscuit wrapper or crisp packet. It had been bugging me since yesterday… why do people do it? So on my tea-break this morning I found a black bin bag and a pair of old gardening gloves and went litter picking! Half and hour later – fairly clean field and quite a bit of rubbish!

Ta dah!

Ta dah!

So what about the spider? Well, it was a tiny jumping spider I happened to spot when I came back from my Wombling.

I think it was the bright blue aphid it was eating that caught my eye first – but there’s nothing like spending 10 mins watching a tiny creature to help you forget your woes.

At least this one did today – so thank you Mr Spider… and sorry I called you rubbish!

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Day 3: Running, owls and butterflies

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_03Day three of the Wildlife Trusts #30DaysWild Challenge and it started with a wild run on what I’ve just found out is “national running day” (didn’t know there was such a thing!).

Since I started running a couple of years ago I’ve always hated running on pavements and around the local housing estates (where’s the fun in that?) plus my ageing knees don’t much like the hard surfaces. So, it’s always a pleasure to run “off piste” on the tracks and footpaths around the edge of our ever growing urban extension.

To the woods, to the woods!

To the woods, to the woods!

Saying that I’m incredibly lucky to have lowland heath, woods and meadows on my doorstep (and if I pound out a few extra miles there’s even beaches, water meadows and rolling downland a skip and a jump away).

Today was just a short round-the-block run – with the added interest of seeing roe deer, woodpeckers and maybe even my favourite owl. He didn’t disappoint. As I ran under his oak tree he flew up onto a higher branch and grumpily stared at me. You can’t beat starting the day with a grumpy little owl staring at you!

Grumpy little owl

Grumpy little owl

To be honest I thought that would be it as far as wildlife for the day, as I settled into a pile of work in front of the computer, but at about 11am I got a very welcome email from my wildlife-loving friend John, asking if I fancied going for a walk around a new Dorset Wildlife Trust meadow nature reserve for an hour at lunchtime. Well, it would have been rude not to!

Common blue - a male I think

Common blue – a male I think

Great to see a couple of butterfly species, along with solitary bees, bumbles, beetles, moths and starlings nesting in a telegraph pole. At last the sun seems to have made a welcome return!

Definitely not a bad way to spend an hour on day three of #30DaysWild.

Small copper

Small copper

Day 2: Bumble in trouble

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_02We’ve all read the newspaper headlines saying bumblebees are in trouble and their numbers are declining, well today, in a small and insignificant way, I was able to help one as part of my #30DaysWild Challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “my wild life” today, and realised that the wildlife REALLY important to me is the stuff in my garden and on my patch. That sounds incredibly insular, but I just can’t get away from the fact that it’s true.  OK, yes, I care deeply about the future of wildlife and wild habitats in the UK (and throughout the world for that matter), but what matters to me most, and what affects me every single day, is the wildlife in my garden.

A Holly blue hanging onto the Green Alkanet for dear life!

A Holly blue hanging onto the Green Alkanet for dear life!

I wandered out there this afternoon to sit by the pond. It’s something I do most days in the summer, just for 10 mins (sometimes longer) especially when the sun comes out – as it did late this afternoon.

A Girdled mining bee hiding in a buttercup

A Girdled mining bee hiding in a buttercup

Having rained pretty much non-stop all day, the dry spell was greeted by hundreds of bees descending onto the flowery flowerbeds. However, the one thing that hadn’t stopped was the wind. Giant gusts were still blowing me, the garden chairs, the plants and the bees around like we were in some kind of enormous spin-dryer.

A Buff tailed bumblebee coming into land

A Buff tailed bumblebee coming into land

I coped, even the garden chairs and the plants were OK, but one particular bumble was really struggling.

One bumblebee was struggling

One bumblebee was struggling

Desperate for food and up against a fierce wind, it couldn’t even fly from flower to flower, and was becoming weaker and weaker as I watched. So I helped.

It made it to another flower

It made it to another flower

I held a flower close, and it clambered on to it and fed.

... and another

… and another

Having finished feeding from that one, I offered it another, and another, until it seemed at last to get its mojo back and with a buzz, it could fly again.

Sunshine, winter otters and nosey badgers

What a brilliant Sunday. It started cold but sunny, so I made my mind up to go in search of otters on our local river. I’d forgotten that the river would be so swollen (after a whole day of rain yesterday), but luckily I had my welllies and managed to slosh my way through the floods, admiring the redwings that were sunbathing at the tops of the trees.

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It wasn’t long before I bumped into my friend Stuart (doing a bit of otter watching too) so we went off in search together along the river bank. We soon heard the tell-tale high pitched, repeated squeak of an otter cub, and sure enough, on the opposite bank there they were – Mum and youngster.

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It’s always a treat to see them out of the water, and I even managed a tiny bit of video footage in the water, as the cub tried to keep up with Mum, squeaking all the way, then met up and dived together. Sorry… I couldn’t help saying “lovely” at the end 🙂

It was also a bumper day (or night) for badgers. Although badgers don’t hibernate, they do sometimes have nights in the winter when they don’t visit the garden. However, last night wasn’t one of them – far from it! Between 1pm to 5pm they must have been having a blimin party out there as I videoed them on the trail camera no less than twenty-two times. It seems like the youngsters were out in force (maybe sent out by Mum to fill their bellies before the frosts arrived) as these particular badgers were very cheeky and inquisitive – as this footage shows. I’ve never looked up a badgers nostrils before!

They are also incredibly determined and strong. I only ever put a handful of sunflower hearts under some bricks (to encourage them to work a bit for their tiny treat, and to stop the foxes from eating it), but when this badger arrived at 2.42am most of the seeds had already been eaten by his relatives. That didn’t stop him, oh no, not a single stone was left unturned, or unpushed!

Dreaming of Dorset Otters

I’d love to report that I’ve been out watching otters, but the truth is I’ve been stuck inside this week working – so to cheer myself up I’m posting a beautiful video of Dorset otters by Hugh Miles. I was there when some of this was shot, so it brings back very happy memories.

If you’d like to see more by Hugh, you can click through to his website for his latest series “Catching the Impossible” Well worth buying/watching (even if you don’t like fishing) for the wonderful wildlife footage and underwater sequences.

Roll on spring!

Every jackdaw could be George

Every time a jackdaw lands in the garden, or on the roof next door, I wonder if it’s George. Standing at the window I know this jackdaw can see me. He runs up the tiles and stands on the gable for a second looking my way, then slowly he takes to the sky and is gone. Did he wink before he went? or was that just my imagination?

Today the jackdaw is my #WGW365

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The breath of a badger

The badger came last night. Nothing unusual in that, one tends to come most nights (I can’t help smiling every morning when I see that they have been, and get nervous when they miss a night), but this badger is quite distinctive. He’s got little ears. In fact, compared to some of the badgers who wander through the garden, he’s quite little all over. A cub from last year? I wonder.

The other thing (that makes me think he might be young) is he is very inquisitive. Usually the badgers are a bit nervous of the camera when I haven’t put it out for a while, but not this one. He marched straight up to it and had a good sniff and snort. So much so that you can see clouds of his misty breath. He then decided it wasn’t pointing in the right direction and promptly moved it to spy on my front door! Badgers revenge?