I was lucky to see a kestrel hunting from an electricity pole:
and hovering low (though I didn’t see a successful hunt)
What could be better than not mowing the lawn? The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust have some advice on turning a grassy area into a wildflower meadow, starting with “Let it grow during the summer to see what turns up”, so I stopped mowing at the end of May and waited to see what happened. The results were not too encouraging: several ant-hills, a lot of white clover (great for bumble-bees), daisies, buttercups, numerous tall yellow-flowered weeds (with hundreds of hover-flies), quite a lot of Self-heal. There were a couple of surprises – Ragwort (I hoped that this would bring Cinnabar moths, but so far it’s only produced tiny Ragwort flea beetles), and Sea Holly (full of pollen beetles) – presumably a garden escape. Still, at least I don’t have to mow it again until September.
The hedges are doing better, with White Bryony and Woody Nightshade making an appearance,
along with Dwarf Mallow on the path
This will never be a complete catalogue of the area’s wildlife, but even after 15 months or so I’m finding species that I haven’t identified before: partly I guess because I’m getting better at finding them, and partly because most species are seasonal, and you need a year or two to cover the ground. The 300th species is nothing exceptional – a Lesser Yellow Underwing moth – just one of the 74 different moths I’ve found in my small patch.
Over time the picture may change, and I hope to be able to report those changes. So far the Harlequin ladybird is here in large numbers, but hasn’t yet displaced the local 7-spot and 10-spot types; other species in national decline (hedgehog, starling, house-sparrow…) seem to be doing well locally. Climate change and introduced species will make their mark, but I can only hope that the impact on the diversity of local wildlife of human activity – like the expansion of Didcot – will be limited .
Here’s no. 300:
I always thought there were two kinds of snail: the sort that eats cabbages, and the sort you eat with loads of garlic butter. Looking a bit closer, they are quite attractive creatures, and all different. Of course they eat vegetation (so do we) – but they also provide a food source for various birds and mammals, so I don’t mind them unless they threaten to take over the garden. Here are some I’ve found within a few metres of the front door:
September is a good time for spiders, but this year they seem to be everywhere – garden spiders of varying sizes hanging from plants, sheet-web spiders in the grass, hunting and jumping spiders in the porch…. Luckily I like them: as far as I know there are no dangerous spiders in the UK, and they all have individual characteristics. Here are a couple I’d never seen before (with thanks to the experts on Flickr who identified them for me):
Nigma walckenaeri, a little green spider that spins a fine woolly web across a leaf and hides behind it waiting for lunch to turn up:
and Nuctenea umbratica (aka crevice spider or walnut orb weaver) – a nocturnal spider that usually spends the day out of sight – I spotted this one under the outside lights at 10:30 pm: