Sorry for the late update guys, but I’ve been swamped with work and other obligations for the last half of June and I’ve been struggling to get anything out. But it’s here now!
As you’ll know if you follow me on twitter, this June I’m aiming to complete the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge. It’s a great way to reconnect with nature on a daily basis, and I’m already seeing the benefits of being more relaxed and grounded, so I’d definitely recommend joining in. I’m going to be doing a weekly round-up to keep you up to speed, and to give me the opportunity for some shameless self-promotion.
The trouble about university life is that the workload is never consistent, and one day you end up with far too many errands to run after a month of virtually nothing. Today was one of those days. Still, I managed to snatch a moment of freedom to admire the (artificially sown) wildflower patches on campus. Thistles, daisies, knapweeds, clovers, buttercups, plantains and a variety of grasses and sedges attract a diverse cast of pollinators – in the ten minutes I watched, I saw honey bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies and day-flying burnet moths. It’s a shame the management always feels the need to scalp their roadside verges – I don’t know anybody who’d complain about a few more flowers on the way to work.
Taking advantage of nice(ish) weather, I went back up to the Crag to collect some more data. Unfortunately, a change in the weather just after lunchtime cut off my fieldwork with only three transects surveyed, but still, it was nice to get out. The shallow, calcareous soils of the Crag support unusual ash-hazel woodlands, normally only found in more upland areas, and it was interesting to see some of the unusual forms the west coast winds have sculpted the trees into.
Taking a break from the city life, I managed a day-long getaway to the Lake District with some friends. Thankfully the weather was nice, providing great views up and down the Rothay Valley as we walked from Windermere to Grasmere. I was amazed at how easy it was to reach the Lakes’ natural beauty, only two short train rides from home, and saw some great wildlife along the way, including several roe deer, numerous young trout, and a tawny owl.
I took the walk into town as an opportunity to ruminate on the tenacity of some species which not only manage to survive, but thrive, alongside humans. Pigeons are a great example, having moved away from their ancestral cliff-faces more successfully than almost any other species.
Finally, a sunny day! I seized the opportunity to return to Warton Crag and do some more fieldwork, managing seven transects in the day and more than doubling the amount of data I’d already collected. There are some stunning views from the top of the Crag – east to the Bowland Fells, south to Blackpool and the Fylde, west over Morecambe Bay, north to the Lake District. On a clear day it’s easy to get lost in the view.
Another trip to the Crag today, revealing the real wealth of insect diversity. In just one 15-m transect I found bumblebees, honey bees, hoverflies (including the large, striking Volucella pellucens with its broad pale belt), butterflies like speckled wood, meadow brown and ringlet, conopid and empid flies (which are respectively parasites and predators of bees, among other insects), and a striking female emperor dragonfly (Anax imperator).
Unfortunately the rain returned today, so I spent the time hunkered up inside, reading books and watching my sunflowers grow. The seedlings are only two weeks old, but already well on their way to overtopping the competition. As well as being easy to grow and providing a gorgeous display in late summer, the disc-like flower heads, actually composed of many tiny flowers clustered together, provide nectar and pollen for pollinating insects, and a wealth of oil-rich seeds in autumn for migrating and overwintering birds.
Until next time,
Have you had any special wildlife experiences in the last week? Leave a comment down below!