Monday, 24 August 2015

Wildflower Survey

We are now entering the pre-autumn equinox period of crisp azure blue skies and mellow golden yellow and lime green landscape.  I love the early morning freshness of a clean new day after a cosy nights sleep as the temperatures start to drop.  

The Equinox is the period when the sun passes from the northern hemisphere over the equator to the southern hemisphere and  vice-versa  in the spring.

This week we were fortunate to have the expert services of eminent botanist Peter Gateley to conduct  a complete survey of all the wildflowers present in the 'WilderNess'. 

Indiana Jones of Botany

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Autumnal Notes

On checking the blog archive, the weather changed and autumnal stirrings  commenced almost to the date, in exactly the same week last year.  Although summer faded we did have a beautiful balmy September so maybe we will again.

The meadow has past its peak now and is turning yellow and gold and preparing for harvest at the end of the month.  The team have been collecting and scattering seeds as we survey each week.  

Visitors will notice some new signage around the area explaining what the 'Wilder-Ness Project' is all about.

Wild Carrot

Some wildflowers have been in ascendancy and some in decline.  This year there is far more Carrot than 2014, but far less Viper's Bugloss. It is interesting to speculate why this is so as a very broad seeding took place in the early spring.

Field Scabious

Great Willowherb

5 Spot Burnet Moth

There has been an increase in the abundance of bees and butterflies and for the first time bumblebees have been included in the fortnightly surveys.  Despite adding two new species to the list,  again some species have hardly appeared this year such as the Peacock butterfly.  In 2013 there were very large numbers, this year we were lucky to spot ones or twos.  Peacock butterflies  exclusively breed  on nettles and there has been a heavy clearance of them in the gardens so this may have been a contributory factor. 

Slowly the birds are disappearing as the summer fades.  All the adult swifts have left for Africa leaving their young to follow on after.  They must be hard wired in the genetic memory to follow without guidance from their parents half way across the world.

The Robin and Wren are making quiet autumnal  noises in the trees and shrubs and soon the blackbirds will be back squabbling over the ripening rowan berries and blackberries.

The team now have 2 new volunteers on the Wilderness Project, Gill and Tom.  Both are very welcome help in the sometimes overwhelming amount of work that needs to done in maintaining the meadow.

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