Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Rattling of Magpies

I could hear the magpies most of the day, but they remained out of sight. I know they like to sit on the rooftops and drink from the guttering – sometimes you can look out of the window and see a tail dangling down from the roof!

It sounded like a lot of young magpies, so when I did eventually spot one sitting in a tree, I was surprised to discover that all that noise was coming from just one bird! It looked pretty much like an adult bird while it was perched on the branch, but its lack of experience at moving through trees made it clear this was a young bird. Just after I took this photo, it tried to get to the opposite side of the tree – there was a lot of wing flapping as it tried to get to the right branch as no doubt it wasn’t overly confident at knowing which branch was the best one to perch on.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 20 - Young Magpie

Incidentally, what is the correct collective noun for Magpies? Wikipedia tells me it’s a charm, which doesn’t seem quite right…. and British Bird Lovers gives several different suggestions, ranging from a gulp of magpies to a mischief of magpies.


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A spare piece of lettuce

The slugs and snails have been nibbling their way through the Sprout plants we’re trying to grow, which obviously isn’t much help! Last night, we spotted a slug on the steps in the garden, which looked like it was wanting a tasty snack. Rather than letting it get as far as nibbling the sprout plants down to nothing, we decided to take out a piece of lettuce that was left over from the evening meal.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 19 - Feeding the Slugs

I think the leaf was a success – I’ve never seen a slug move so quickly! I don’t know how many slugs and snails were munching through the leaf overnight, but there was nothing left by the morning.


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Gone Wild

There’s a lot of grassy areas nearby, which are maintained by the local council. In the last two years, some of the areas have been designated “wild” with the grass only being cut twice a year.

Some of the “wild” areas seem to change shape each time the surrounding grass is cut, which I doubt will encourage any truly wild flowers to grow. One area, however, has only been left wild since the Spring and already looks to be a success with the local Blackbirds; they were busy rummaging around for food under the long grass.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 19 - Wild areas

One of the intentional “wild” areas – more grass has been cut than this time last year though

Personally, I’d like the council to sprinkle some wild flower seeds in those wild areas – it’d give more flowers for the wildlife to eat, and also look more intentional than just looking like they forgot to cut the grass!

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 19 - Wild areas

Apparently unintentionally “wild” – normally the grass around the mature trees & young apple trees is cut short


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Synchronised…. sunbathing?

For a few years now, a local Blackbird has come into the garden and flopped onto the grass for some sunbathing – it’s not something I’ve ever understood, but the Blackbird seems to adore it.

However, it’s not something I’ve ever seen any other birds doing…. until today. Two crows seemed to be sunbathing on the edge of the grass; it really did look like they were taking part in a synchronised sunbathing contest with the way they appeared to mimic each other!

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 16 - Sunbathing CrowsDragon Goes Wild - Day 16 - Sunbathing CrowsDragon Goes Wild - Day 16 - Sunbathing CrowsDragon Goes Wild - Day 16 - Sunbathing Crows

After a while, they decided to move a little further down the grass; maybe they were following the sunshine, or maybe they just wanted a fresh piece of grass to sit on.


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Goldfinch on the web?

I’ll be honest with you – today hasn’t been the most positive of days. So not feeling that I wanted to get outside for my something wild today, I stood by the window and watched the birds. One in particular caught my eye, sitting on a nearby piece of guttering. Normally you’d see Magpies leaning into the guttering to drink the water, but this little Goldfinch seemed to be after something to eat.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 15 - Goldfinch on the web

The spider webs across the guttering have caught some seeds as well as the usual flies, and this finch seemed intent on plucking the seeds.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 15 - Goldfinch on the web

I’m amazed at how strong the web actually is – that little bird was tugging with some force to get the seeds out, but most of the web remains intact.


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Chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp

The RSPB aren’t joking when they describe House Sparrows as “Noisy and gregarious [fond of company]” – a loud chirping made me look out of the window, where I could see one adult House Sparrow sitting in the Quince. This bird was chirping to what I’m guessing was a young sparrow sitting on the wall; just the one bird seemed to be doing all the chirping!

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 14 - House Sparrow

Our garden seems to be popular with the local family of House Sparrows, and I was surprised to discover that they are actually on the RSPB red-status listing, due to their decline since the mid-1970s.

House Sparrows eat seeds and scraps, but we don’t actually have a seed feeder in the garden at the moment. What we do have, however, are lots of flowering plants that go to seed once the flowers have gone over. Rather than cutting the seed-heads off the plants, we leave them so the birds can munch on the seeds.


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A tasty little snack

Have you ever stopped to look closely at a snail eating a leaf? I certainly haven’t ever done that before, but when I saw this snail sitting on the patio, it was fascinating to see it munching slowly through a fallen leaf.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 13 - Snail

I know that snails aren’t considered ‘friends’ in a garden, given that they find young plants particularly tasty, which is incredibly annoying when you’re the one trying to grow the plant! On the allotment, I move the snails to the Rhubarb plants – the snails seem to approve, and a few nibbled rhubarb leaves doesn’t worry us, as the leaves aren’t edible for humans anyway.

However, I have seen some suggestions that we should leave some decaying plant matter for them to feed on; apparently that’s their favourite, and is meant to stop them from munching through the plants we want to keep.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 13 - Snail

Certainly this snail seemed keen to finish its leaf, rather than tucking into the other plants nearby, so this autumn it might be worth trying to leave some plant matter lying in the garden for them to tuck into in the spring.


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Creeping over the wall

I’ve been actively seeking out some “wild” in areas you might least expect, and one of those was in a recently repaired wall. Previous years have seen the wall covered with a Virginia Creeper, with the leaves turning a vibrant red in the Autumn. The wall was recently replaced, which I assumed would be the end of the plant, but it would appear the Creeper had other ideas.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 12 - Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper last Autumn

Just on the edge of the original wall and the new addition on the top, there’s a few leaves peeking out, so maybe this Autumn will see a vibrant red display again!

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 12 - Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper now


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Cutting the grass

Cutting the grass is one of those chores that few people enjoy, especially when the grass is on a steep slope in a prestigious area, visible to everyone who drives past. One group of residents resolved the need for cutting the grass opposite their crescent, by employing some more natural techniques to keep it looking tidy; they use a flock of sheep!

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 11 - Sheep

The sheep slowly munch their way through the long grass, no doubt also providing a perfect location for their lambs to be raised. The older sheep were munching on the short grass, but the lambs were particularly taken with the longer tougher stalks.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 11 - Sheep

It’s certainly not a sight you would expect to see just a mile or so from a city centre, but it seems to do the trick. The council did try using pigs to clear some ground elsewhere, but they didn’t seem quite as successful; one lot of pigs escaped from the field and needed to be rounded up by a couple of policemen! Thankfully these sheep seem much better at staying in the correct area.

Dragon Goes Wild - Day 11 - Sheep


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