Friday, 17 July 2015

Butterfly spotting

There is so much to see and survey  in the 'Wilder-ness' that it is sometimes difficult to relax and enjoy the beautiful  vista of wildflowers.  Whilst madly taking photographic records the stress of missing something important can be a distraction. 

As other photographers will have found, the light in Ness Gardens can be very challenging and it can be difficult to find the best conditions to take that perfect image.

With so much to discover and enjoy the team are endeavoring  to put up as much signage information as possible.  There is an appreciation that  the  balance between experience of wilderness and education must ideally not impinge on the other.


Common Blue

Mid July is by far the best time to go hunting for butterflies as all this years new ones  will be on the wing.  At last we have managed to obtain a picture of a Ringlet.  It is a very difficult one to find because of its ability to merge with its environment.  Nettle beds and brambles are very fruitful places to look for butterflies.

Meadow Brown
Red-tailed Bumblebee 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

New Species

The Summer Solstice has passed and the season is already starting to wind down as the daylight hours get shorter.  June and July are the peak months for seeing a large variety of wildflowers, bees and butterflies.  The meadow is looking rich and verdant with growth and the special beds are particularly rich in colour. 

Two new species of butterfly have been recorded for the first time at Ness in the Wilderness.

The Brimstone Butterfly which particularly  favours  the plant Alder Buckthorn which was especially planted three years ago. The second one, Ringlet is very much an exciting find but despite much effort and energy we still do not have a photograph yet.  There are fewer butterflies recorded in Cheshire this year, possibly due to the late spring. Despite this bumblebees seem to have done quite well.


The bee hotel is also creating much excitement as bees and mammals have already moved  inA weasel recently poked its head out at one of the team as they walked past.

Having selected a suitable cavity the bees reverse backwards into the hole and lay eggs at intervals along the length.  The hole is then sealed off with mud until the larvae hatch and dig their way out.

Most of the baby birds have fledged and left the nest but one or two sparrows and blackbirds are still stilling sitting on late eggs.  On the ponds at Ness we can still observe very tiny coot and duck chicks.

Tall Hogweed is now towering over the avenues of seeding Cow Parsley.  This in turn will be  towered over by random stems of Giant Hogweed. (Rule of thumb being if your are looking down, it is Cow Parsley, at eye level, Hogweed, looking up, Giant Hogweed). 

Underneath and less noticeable are the  small florets of white and pink Hedge Parsley and beneath this  even smaller tiny white flowers of Goosegrass can be seen elbowing there way amongst all this competition for light. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Mobility Scooter

Well done the 'FRIENDS' of Ness Gardens, getting such wonderful mobility scooters.  As a volunteer I was resigned to weeks of not being able to get to the meadow (broken foot) at the most beautiful time when all of our previous months hard work is coming to fruition. It was great whizzing around most of the usual places.  The only problem I had was everyone else wanting a go.  Eventually I was hijacked by our leader.

Now is a great time to start watching the different growing stages of the meadow.  Posters have been installed in the Information Shelter of what to look out for.

More and more butterflies and bumblebees can be seen  in and around their favourite nectar bearing flowers.

Small Tortoiseshell
Many birds are now onto second and third broods and the bushes and shrubs echo to the sound of constant badgering mutterings of  fledglings waiting to be fed.   At this stage the male adult bird  carries on feeding whilst the female lays another clutch of eggs.

Red-tailed Bumblebee

During the last short period of sunshine some of the adult birds could be seen chilling out and sunbathing in the warmth.  One magpie I could see was  panting in the heat.

What to look out for :

 Solitary Bee

Damsel Fly

Friday, 29 May 2015

Summer is in

As the swifts announced very loudly last week summer is in, which of course means heavy showers and rain.  Nevertheless this is good news for the meadow as all the autumn winter planting is now beginning to flower.  From May onwards it will be difficult to keep up with the finds but we will endeavour to feature as many as we can over the coming weeks.

Common Blue
Over the next few weeks there will be fewer butterflies as last years adults die away and the new caterpillars have yet to metamorphise. 
Peacock Butterfly

As May slips into June the wildflowers appear in increasing numbers so now is great time to study what is happening in the meadow and  discover if we have succeeded in our planting. Hopefully some new species will appear to add to last years list.  This in turn will attract a wider range of plant specific insects and butterflies.

Four Spotted Darter

Ragged Robin

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Bluebells and Bats in profusion

The 1000 bluebells planted last autumn have blossomed in their first season  the Spinney.

Everywhere is draped in white veils of blackthorn and hawthorn blossom broken by spots and strips of golden yellow gorse.  The trees  too soon  are loosing their blossom in the wild wind and deluge of rain and the ground is carpeted in multi-coloured petals.

Solitary Queen bumblees can seen digging holes for their nests in the sandstone in and around the waterfall.

Pink Campion

Meadow Buttercup

May is a great time to start searching for the smaller, more delicate wildflowers as they have the light and space to propagate before becoming overwhelmed later in the summer by bigger and more lush relatives. 

Ones to look out for include :

Lily of the Valley, For-get-me-not, Fritillary,Common Butterwort, Yellow Rattle, Comfrey,Wood Sorrel, Herb Robert.

Cow parsley

As has been  seen from  night camera photographs, Ness Gardens has a considerable active night life. What is less obvious is the large bat population that lives and feeds in the area also.    Species include :

Soprano Pipistrelle,  Noctule Bat,  Daubenton's Bat, Whiskered/Brandt's Bat,  Brown Long-eared Bat, Mouse-eared Bat.