Bees at the UoL Botanic Garden

One of my favourite local places to go for a stroll is the University of Leicester Botanic Garden.  I have frequently visited the Garden for many years and have lots of fond memories there right back to primary school!  I now work for the University and am happy to be linked to this beautiful natural space.  I am even more happy to know that the Botanic Garden is “home to almost half of the total number of bumblebee species native to Britain”.

Back in June you may have read my Bee post about their decline in the UK which is largely due to changes in agricultural practices, the removal of flowers from the landscape, the loss of habitat and exposure to harmful pesticides.  And although this general decline is occurring in bumblebee species, bee populations in the Botanic Garden are actually thriving!  Bumblebee survey and identification workshops have been held within the Garden over the last few months and the results have revealed that eleven of the twenty-four species of UK bumblebee reside there, seven of which are social bumblebees and four are cuckoo-bumbles.

I actually spotted and photographed many bees and pollinators there this summer too, which you can view on my Instagram account.

P1030948 (2)

© Pollinators at Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden is a lovely place to visit and relax and is one of the most diverse gardens in the region with a herb garden, woodland and herbaceous borders, rock gardens, a water garden, special collections of Skimmia, Aubrieta, and hardy Fuchsia, and a series of glasshouses displaying temperate and tropical plants, alpines and succulents.  Guided tours are offered as well as education and adult learning programmes, workshops and special events such as the LRWT Wild about Gardens Week, which last year was all about bat conservation!  You can even become a Friend of the Garden to promote and support the development of the Garden’s plant collections and amenities.

The Botanic Garden is free to enter, although it does accept donations.  It is open throughout the year, seven days a week (except 25th December, 26th December and 1st January), 10.00am to 4.00pm (5.00pm in British Summer time).

Advertisements

Hedgehog Awareness Week 2017

This week (30th April to 6th May) is Hedgehog Awareness Week, an annual event organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.  Often called the ‘gardener’s friend’, hedgehogs are lovely, harmless creatures, but sadly since the year 2000, “rural hedgehog populations have declined by at least a half and urban populations by up to a third in the same period” across the UK.   #hedgehogweek consequently aims to highlight the problems which are causing this decline and suggest ways in which the public can help.

The declining hedgehog population in both urban and rural habitats where the pressures and changes in the environment are very different is not simple to explain, as there could be many contributing factors.  Hedgehog Street, “a campaign aimed at ensuring the hedgehog, the UK’s only spiny mammal, remains a common and familiar part of British life”, is a fantastic website with information, FAQ’s and tips for helping hedgehogs.

Some simple, instant ways that you can help hedgehogs in your garden are:

  • Ensuring there is hedgehog access in your garden – a 13cm x 13cm gap in boundary fences and walls.
  • Moving piles of rubbish to a new site before burning it.
  • Ensuring netting is kept at a safe height.
  • Checking compost heaps before digging the fork in.
  • Stopping / reducing the amount of pesticides and poisons used.
  • Covering drains or deep holes.
  • Ensuring there is an easy route out of ponds and pools.
  • Piling up some logs in the corner of your garden.
  • Putting out a dish of fresh water in hot weather.
  • Planting nectar-rich plants to encourage insects for hedgehogs to eat.

You can also spread the word about #hedgehogweek by:

  • Holding a fundraising event, such as a cake sale, coffee morning or jumble sale.
  • Displaying information in your work place, school, library, local shop, etc.
  • Writing blog posts about hedgehogs.
  • Following BHPS on Facebook and Twitter and retweeting / liking / sharing information and posts to your page.
  • Taking a selfie with the BHPS #hedgehogweek sign and sending it out via social media using the #hedgehogweek hashtag.

Each year, the week focuses on a different campaign, and this year is the ‘Strimmer Campaign’.  The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has created waterproof stickers to be sent to councils, tool hire companies, grounds maintenance teams etc. to remind them to check areas for hedgehogs before using any machinery.  You can help with this particular campaign by contacting your local council or tool hire shop to ask if they are willing to use the free stickers from BHPS on their machines – if they are, they can then contact BHPS directly on info@britishhedgehogs.org.uk.

2017.indd

What are your plans for Hedgehog Awareness Week?

The Results Are In!

If you remember from My Big Garden Birdwatch Results blog post at the end of January, I took part in the RSPB’s annual birdwatch, and I am sure many of you did too!  The RSPB has been collecting and counting the results from over half a million people over the last couple of months and the results are now available here!

The top 10 birds of 2017:

  1. House sparrow
  2. Starling
  3. Blackbird
  4. Blue tit
  5. Woodpigeon
  6. Goldfinch
  7. Robin
  8. Great tit
  9. Chaffinch
  10. Long tailed tit

Over 8 million birds were counted, with some interesting results.  Goldfinch, blackbird and robin numbers have all increased over the last 10 years.  Waxwing sightings were very high this year (I wish I had seen one) due to “a lack of berries in their native Scandinavia” prompting them to travel to the UK, even as far west as Wales and Ireland!

Along with the increases though, there unfortunately had to be some decreases!  Surprisingly sightings of blue tits, great tits and coal tits were all down by at least 10% on last year’s figures.  Also since the first RSPB Garden Birdwatch in 1979, greenfinch, starling and chaffinch numbers have all dropped too (despite the latter two being in this year’s top 10).

The RSPB is a brilliant charity and by running the Big Garden Birdwatch, they not only encourage people to take an interest in wildlife and give nature a home, but also allow us to know and understand which birds are doing well and which are not.  We can then help, take action, monitor and hopefully make a difference!

My Big Garden Birdwatch Results

So the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is complete!  I hope you all had a wonderful time identifying and counting the birds and wildlife in your gardens or local parks.

This year I completed the survey at my in-laws house who live further out of the city.  Last year, at my childhood home, the birds played a trick on me and decided not to land, meaning I only counted a handful of birds.  I therefore wanted to see whether the location difference would affect my results.  As you may know from my post about the Robin, my own back yard is pretty small and bird-less.  I have a bird feeder and occasionally put out dried meal-worms, but do not want to encourage many birds as both of my neighbours have cats.  Luckily though, my Birdwatch location had several well-used feeders out ready, so it was as simple as pulling up a chair to the window, getting comfy with a cup of tea and waiting for the birds to arrive.  The hour ‘flew’ by and I managed to record twelve birds in total (from the garden and surrounding trees): 1 great tit, 1 robin, 1 blue tit, 4 woodpigeons, 2 house sparrows, 1 female blackbird, 1 collared dove and 1 carrion crow.  Throughout the rest of the day, many more birds landed in the garden including a wren, and the female blackbird returned on several occasions (she is a regular apparently).  A plump squirrel also made an appearance and stayed long enough for me to take a few photographs!

© The lovely robin and squirrel who visited the garden during this year’s Birdwatch.

4, 383, 224 birds have been counted and submitted to the RSPB so far and I am really interested to see the final results from mid-February.  The results will help the RSPB find out what wildlife is thriving and what is in trouble, ultimately leading to “action to put things right”.  The survey started back in 1979 as a small children’s activity, but now has over half a million people taking part each year!  With the 38th year of data now being collated by the RSPB, the insight into UK wildlife is more accurate than ever… and it has already provided some fascinating information, for example between 2006 and 2016, the UK song thrush population decreased by a staggering 98% whereas the UK goldfinch population increased by an impressive 89%.  As of 2014, respondents have also been asked about other wildlife as well a birds in their gardens, so a greater picture is beginning to be painted UK-wide!

Did you take part this year?  If so, what birds and other wildlife did you record?

The Robin

As many of you know, the robin was voted the UK’s national bird last year and has certainly had a place in my heart from a young age.  As children, my sister and I often walked by a large house owned by an elderly man, who without fail would be joined by his loyal robin friend whenever gardening… so of course, we called him the ‘robin-man’.   My mum also collects tasteful robin ornaments, so the little plump, bright-breasted bird is a definite favourite.

Living in a terrace house with a humble garden, birds tend not to visit – there has even been an untouched bird feeder hanging up for over a year.  So as you can imagine, I was overjoyed when a robin wanted my little backyard to be part of it’s territory back in October.   My mind was filled with images of the robin singing to me, watching me preparing the plants for winter… even sitting on my palm eating meal-worms.  This all seemed possible apart from the fact that the ‘territory’ has always been fought over by our neighbours’ cats!

Five days away in Sweden meant that we would not know if the robin would be scared away, but as soon as we returned, I bought some dried meal-worms and put them out on the table.  Although a few were secretly eaten and the bird-feeder was finally enjoyed, the robin must have thought that a yard with a cat either side was not the best area to stay in.

There are now moments when I see a falling leaf out of my back window that I think and hope that the robin has returned and had to smile when my partner compared me to the girl in my favourite #HomeForChristmas advert of the year by Waitrose…

…and that got me thinking.  Do robins migrate?

Well I did a bit of research and as expected most British robins are residents to the UK all year round.  They defend their territories and many females also establish their own winter territories, which perhaps my little robin was trying to do.  Their nests are made from grass, moss and dead leaves, lined with hair and wool, and are usually built in holes in trees or walls.

However, there are some that DO actually migrate south to winter on the Continent whilst others return to the UK in the autumn from Scandinavia and northern continental Europe.

Do you have a little robin friend who returns to you?  I would love to hear about it!

Chalice Well and Gardens

“The Chalice Well is among the best known and most loved holy wells in Britain” and is located in one of my favourite places, Glastonbury. Glastonbury is a lovely little market-town in Somerset, with an array of eccentric shops, delicious food, famous Tor and beautiful Abbey. I have been there at least once a year since I was eight and it is always so lovely to see and feel the change of seasons whenever I visit the Chalice Well and Gardens.

Chalice Well is somewhere I have returned to over the years for its beauty and overwhelming sense of peace. “The Well and surrounding gardens are a Living Sanctuary, a place to soothe the soul and revive the spirits.” Surrounded by nature and healing waters, you cannot help but absorb the pure atmosphere and celebrate life. There are many areas of the garden to visit, including the Meadow, an ideal spot not only for insects but also for a picnic with a wonderful view of Glastonbury Tor.  The Healing Pool, Yew Tree entrance, Vesica pool and the Well head itself all add magic to the gardens. The cover of the Well features an“ancient sacred symbol of two interlocking circles”, geometry that symbolises a union, of“spirit and matter” – the duality of existence.

© the Green & the Wild

The gardens quietly sit and grow between Chalice Hill and Glastonbury Tor, the charming hill which never fails to attract me to it’s summit for amazing views across the Somerset levels.