We spent some time in the garden at school on the afternoon making sure everything was growing as it should be! We repotted the tomatoes which are doing brilliant well. This time outdoors for children is really valuable and gives a great understanding of where food comes from. Growing your own food is extremely rewarding and children appreciate it even more.
I’m growing chillies at home at the moment and I noticed the first chilli coming through this morning! I was super excited and I’m looking forward to using it in my cooking. Everyone can grow something, no matter the limited space you have and it’s definitely worth it, you can’t beat the taste and freshness of home grown too – home grown salad leaves cannot be bettered!
The weather was due to turn this afternoon, so we decided to head out to a local patch this morning. Loch Torr is a local Forestry Commission site with a diverse range of habitats, including a small freshwater loch, we often cover the tracks within the forest and have had a great variety of sightings. Today though, we chose to walk along the lower shore of the loch on nearby farmland to check some good spots for reptiles and amphibians – did pretty well.
We had common lizard and slowworm on the reptile side of things. No adders today, although we’ve had some great sightings this year so far. We also noticed plenty of wildflowers on the walk, including the first bog asphodel of the year, fragrant and heath spotted orchid, heath bedstraw, birds-foot trefoil, heath milkwort and slender St John’s wort.
We then found three individual common toads hidden away in cool, quiet places. Toads are great – always had a soft spot for them, their pupil is fascinating! Incredibly they are known to live for a very long time, captive toads have even reached the age of 50! We also spotted a common frog, showing their behavioural differences clearly – the toads were relatively calm and reluctant to move (maybe they know they taste bad), whilst the frog was off in a very large hop to find better shelter. We submit all our reptile and amphibian sightings to Record Pool, even the “common” species!
Today at school we spent the afternoon completing another Wildlife Action Award activity. We went out in the rain to snap photos of the wildflowers in the school garden to later ID. We found lots around the edges of the garden (the areas the council aren’t so against) and checked some flowers out up close with hand lenses. We found foxgloves, self-heal, red campion, tutsan, cuckoo flower, stickyjacks, daisies, bramble, flag iris and more. The children looked up information and the gaelic names for the species before drawing and labelling some of their favourites. We chatted about Charles Darwin and ensured our curiosity was up to his standards whilst enjoying the sound of lapwing and skylark overhead. It’s important that children appreciate our native wildflowers and learn some of their names, after many common species names were removed from the English dictionary!
I took part in Moth Night 2016 by putting my trap out on Saturday night. Sunday morning was spent sorting the catch and identifying the moths. I had my first ever peach blossom, which was lovely and instantly recognisable. I also had my first buff tip of the year – what an incredible species, super camouflage! Moth Night was focusing on hawkmoth species this year, I had one poplar hawkmoth in the trap on Sunday, always a great one to see. I’ve not yet caught any other hawkmoth species here on Mull in my garden, fingers crossed for elephant hawkmoth someday!
We have a patch of garden that isn’t managed or mown and the flowers are looking great right now. The daisies and buttercups are everywhere, proving brilliant food for insects and birds. They also look stunning – much nicer than a tightly mown green lawn! It feels great under bare feet too, bringing back lovely childhood memories of barefoot days.
At Ulva Primary we spent the afternoon in out in the school grounds, preparing some planters for our vegetables and flowers. The children have grown tomatoes, courgettes, leeks and some flowers from seed this year and they’re all ready to be relocated in the garden. Whilst clearing the planters the kids found plenty of wildlife and aren’t afraid to touch and feel, often bringing me the creature to identify, before safely returning it to the wild.
One planter is no longer accessible to us – ants have moved in. What look to be yellow meadow ants have created their colony in the pot. We happily left them in peace and moved on. The children also found butterfly caterpillars and enjoyed watching a race between two garden snails. All the while our blue tit parents whizzed in and out of their nest box and the swallows overhead chattered.
We also found a moth pupa and are keeping a close eye on it to see which species emerges. The pupa itself had us all engrossed as it wriggled in defence. Hopefully, the moth emerges in the next few weeks before the schools are on holiday, so soon for Scottish children!
Last night I put out my moth trap and spent this morning battling midges to ID them all. At the moment I’m trying to trap once a week if time and weather allow and all of the records are sent to the local moth recorder (and then Butterfly Conservation), contributing to knowledge of moths in the area – surprisingly on Mull very few people moth trap and so the group is under recorded.
Below is my species list for last nights trap, although I have two moths I am yet to identify. I also had a caddis fly in their, but I’ve no idea which species yet – apparently we have around 200 to choose from!
Somehow, a poplar hawkmoth made it from the trap to the bookshelf without me spotting it, so it spent all day tucked away among books and a violin till I just happened to spot it!
The Clouded buff and the Peacock moths were new for me, which is always interesting. Moth trapping is a brilliant way learn and connect to new species. I’m never fail to be surprised at the incredible colours and detail.
Get involved with Moth Night 2016 next weekend (9th-11th June). Head along to an organised event or put out your own moth trap. The focus is on hawk moths this time, so see how many large beauties you can marvel at.
Today I joined Ewan of Nature Scotland on a wildlife and photography workshop, along with a lovely family and we had a brilliant day on the isle. I really enjoy macro photography and immersed myself among the smaller species we find – you can never fail to find something interesting once you start looking closely.
I have a soft spot for creatures with shells, including limpets, hermit crabs and snails. Unfortunately for me, we don’t seem to see the number of garden snails I did as a kid but I was in my element today at Aros Castle – snails everywhere! They’re a great animal to connect with; every child should feel the movement of a snail on their hand and feel thrilled when it sneaks out its stalked eyes.
We should also be amazed at our incredible plant life. Did you know we have our very own carnivorous plant species? The thought conjures images of tropical rain forests but go no further! Behold, the stunning detail and evolution we can see in round-leaved sundew. This tiny bog loving plant is covered in attractive sticky glues and acids – any enticed insect won’t be leaving any time soon. These extra meals supplement the plant’s nutrients, added help when growing in nutrient poor areas.
We don’t just have the one carnivorous species though. Butterwort is another species found in boggy habitats, often right next to sundew. This insectivorous plant secretes a sticky fluid, attracting and snaring insects into it’s leaves.
This evening I wandered into the garden with my camera to enjoy the incredible variety of wildflowers on my doorstep. Bugle, yellow pimpernel, water avens, yellow archangel, red campion, bluebells, tormentil and birdsfoot-trefoil are all looking stunning right now, to name just a few. Wild strawberries, germander speedwell, buttercups and daisies are all to be spotted, creating a riot of colour.
We are so inclined to keep our gardens mown and tidy but the stunning array of wildflowers along with the insect and birdlife they attract should be much more welcome. To my eye, the natural growth of nature looks much more appealing than a tightly mown lawn. Recently I’ve noticed bullfinches and siskins feeding on the flower heads among the grasses – they wouldn’t be there if we’d cut all of their food away – no such thing as a weed! Lock the mower away and let the plants go wild!
WildChild Scotland will be joining in the fun with 30 Days Wild. Starting tomorrow I’ll be making extra time to spend outside, connecting to nature along with thousands of others across the country. 30 Days Wild is a Wildlife Trusts project and is a brilliant way to bring people and wildlife together every day.
Over the weekend I had plenty of wild encounters with nature, but one of the great moments was marvelling at a Large Red Damselfly. Experiences with nature like this really remind us how amazing it is – just look at the detail and colours. We’re extremely privileged to have stunning wildlife like this on our doorstep. Head outside to enjoy it, especially at this time of year when things are bursting into life and action.