Category Archives: Dragon Goes Wild

All my blog posts for The Wildlife Trusts’ #30dayswild – do something wild every day in June 2016. I’ve now extended that to try and #StayWild for 365 days wild as well!

Saturday Special – wildflowers

On my allotment plot, I’m allowed to have some non-edible flowering plants, to attract the pollinating insects. I chose to plant a Penstemon, lavender, and a packet of wild flower seeds. The advantage of the seeds is that once some of the wild flowers have grown and flowered, they drop seeds so there’s a chance I’ll get some of them back again the following year!

Most packets of wild flower seed are made with butterflies and bees in mind, and the advantage of wanting flowers instead of lush leaf growth is that you don’t need exceptionally rich soil.

Simply pick a packet of wild flower seeds (I got mine from the supermarket), and scatter the seeds over a patch of bare soil. Sprinkle some soil over the top of the seeds just to cover them over, otherwise the neighbourhood birds might eat them all before the seeds have a chance to germinate!

Of course the disadvantage of mixed seeds is that it’s not easy to tell a wild flower from a weed – I left anything that was growing, until it flowered, as that made it a little easier to identify!

     

One particular wild flower that grew last year, and self-seeded is the Teasel – I left the seed heads on the plant, as Goldfinches like to eat them and I thought it could be a tasty snack for them.

I didn’t pay any attention to the spacing of the seeds – I literally just scattered them across the soil. It should help to keep the pollinating insects happy, and later in the season give those birds something to eat that isn’t the fruit I’m growing for myself!


#30dayswild

Can you guess what this plant is?

Ok, I’ll give you a hint – I watered my houseplants today, which is when I took this photo.

Hmm, I reckon that half of you know instantly what this houseplant is, and the other half are just staring at the photo wondering which way up it should be.

Maybe this photo makes it a bit clearer – it’s an orchid, or to give its full name, it’s a Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis). The RHS gives them a “moderately easy” rating for difficulty of growing, but so far I’ve never achieved keeping an orchid alive after it’s flowered. Maybe I’ll have better luck with this one?


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Moth identification

My random act of wildness was made easy today when this moth decided to sit on the outside of the window and pose for a photo!

While butterflies have the colour to make them stand out, moths are surprisingly pretty in their own way – I hadn’t expected this moth to have such delicate fringes on the edges of its wings!

The lighting wasn’t ideal for the photo, but I think it’s a Mother of Pearl moth. According to UK Moths, in certain light the wings seem to have a pearl-like shine.


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Buzzing Bees in the Bin….?

The “solar powered big belly bins” in the city centre are causing a buzz…. literally! A few days after a couple of local beekeepers collected a swarm from the bin, more bees were gathering.

Because the beekeepers were able to collect the swarm, the first ones must have been honeybees…. but I wasn’t willing to get close enough to get a clear photo on my phone to be able to identify these ones!

I’m not sure what the attraction is for the bees, unless it’s rubbish that has a sweet sugary content which drew them in. But whatever it is that made them pick that particular bin, they certainly seem to be making themselves at home!


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Buzzard Training Flight

First we heard the Buzzards calling, but couldn’t see where they were. Then they came into view – first two of them circling, then we realised there was a third lighter coloured Buzzard with them.

Although Buzzards do have a lighter coloured variant, I’m going on the assumption that the lighter one might be a juvenile Buzzard, and this potentially was a ‘training flight’ for it to gradually learn how to hunt. Certainly the Peregrine Falcons teach their young, by eventually dropping their prey for the youngsters to catch in flight…. I would guess that a Buzzards would do much the same!

        

 


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Lunch Delivery

I was looking out of the window earlier, and spotted this bird of prey circling (I think it’s a Buzzard by the way it was flying). It wasn’t until I looked at the photos on the computer, that I realised the Buzzard seemed to be carrying lunch in its talons!

   

 

Sorry for the blurry photos – it was one of those Buzzards that just wouldn’t fly quite close enough for a decent clear picture!


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Saturday Special – Grow your Own Strawberries

One way to get a little piece of wild is to try growing your own fruit or vegetables. I was planning on this post being about growing your own radishes…. but mine went straight to producing flowers, with no radishes to be seen 🙁

So instead, here’s my guide to growing your own strawberries! You don’t need a massive garden to achieve it – just enough space for a small plant pot. The strawberry flowers provide pollen for bees, and once the fruits have ripened, they’re a tasty treat for us humans!

You don’t even need to go to a garden centre to find the plants in the first place – most supermarkets sell strawberry plants, or if you’re really lucky and a neighbour grows strawberries, they might have some small plants (strawberry runners) that they’d let you have for free.

There’s loads of different varieties, and I haven’t a clue what the ones are called that I’m growing. I got 9 plants from an offer in a newspaper a few years ago, and since then I’ve picked lots of tasty strawberries, and also now have a total of 40 plants, plus several others that I’ve given away to friends and neighbours!

So what do you need to get started?

  • Soil – you can use multi-purpose compost, or even use a grow bag. Either way, you need something a little better than just soil from the garden. You can usually find this in supermarkets, but if not, then a garden centre or somewhere like Homebase should have plenty available.
  • A pot – you can buy special “strawberry planters” but I’ve had great results from just planting them in a large (12 inch) regular pot. Make sure it has drainage holes in the base though! You could also have individual strawberry plants in smaller pots (a 5 inch pot should work really well), or even use a hanging basket – planting the strawberries in the top, allowing the fruits to dangle over the edges for ease of picking.
  • “Crocks” to aid drainage – this can be anything from pieces of a broken terracotta pot to those polystyrene packing chips. Just something to stop the water running straight out of the holes in the base of the pot.
  • And last but not least, your strawberry plants!

Strawberry plants are more commonly sold as “bare-root runners” (new young plants) in the autumn / early winter, but some varieties are sold during the spring. I purchased 5 more strawberry plants this year, and they arrived last week, so there should still be some available out there. There’s plenty of different varieties out there, ranging from “normal” strawberries to white-fruiting plants, or ones with pink flowers…. generally speaking, the “normal” looking ones should be easier to grow successfully.

Place your crocks into the base of the pot – if you’re using polystyrene packing chips, you don’t need too deep a layer.

Carefully add the multi-purpose compost or grow bag soil. Add it in slowly if you’re using those chips, otherwise it can make them move and you’d have to start over again!

Once you’ve got the pot full to about 1 inch off the top, stop filling it! Gently ease your strawberry plant from it’s existing pot (or if it’s a bare-rooted runner, just take it from any packaging it arrived in). You don’t want the soil level to be any higher up the plant than it is at the moment (for bare-rooted runners, you just need the roots under the soil).

Make a hole in the soil that would fit the roots into – the bigger the plant, the bigger the hole (obviously).

Place the strawberry plant into the hole, and top it up with more soil to fill any gaps.

Press down firmly to make sure there’s no air pockets.

Put your plant pot in it’s final location, and water the plants thoroughly.

If you plant them in the winter, most strawberry runners will fruit the following summer (or if you buy slightly more established strawberry plants, they can be planted in the spring and should still fruit that summer).
You do want to cut off any runners (small strawberry plants that grow on a long “running” root) in the first year, so they don’t put all their effort into making young plants!

 

All you need then is some cream to go with them!

 


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Kestrel Spotting

It’s unusual to spot a Kestrel from the window – previously the only ones I’ve spotted were as I was walking through a field, so when I spotted this bird, I originally thought it must have been one of the local Buzzards.

But then the bird started frantically flapping, and hovered in one place for a little while…. and as far as I know, the only bird of prey around here that behaves in that way, is the Kestrel!


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Trainee Long-Tailed Tit

Looking out of the window this evening, I spotted a small bird sitting in one of the plants. The long tail made it clearly a Long-tailed tit, but it didn’t have the reddy-pinky colour to its chest feathers that the adults normally do.

Long-tailed tits feed on insects, and that particular shrub that it was working through, has been covered in blackfly for a little while. This particular long-tailed tit was clearly a youngster that maybe needed a little more practise at hunting for its supper in a plant like this!

Once it stopped hunting the flies and stared straight at the window, I got a clear view of the head feather colouring, which definitely made this bird a juvenile. Hopefully it enjoyed the evening’s feast!


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