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Posts Tagged ‘garden wildlife’

Snail

Snails can be a real problem in the garden eating plants and crops but believe it or not they can be fun too, why not have your own Snail Races?

What you will need

  • Some willing Snails
  • Large piece of cardboard
  • Marker Pen
  • Round containers e.g. plant pots
  • Small labels

What you need to do

  1. In the centre of your piece of cardboard, mark out a series of different sized circles radiating outwards, the smallest centre circle is the starting point where your snails will begin their race, the largest outer circle will be the finishing line.
  2. Find and collect your snails, snails are more active at night and during damp weather, during the day they like to rest somewhere dark and damp, try looking underneath or behind your plant pots.
  3. Carefully stick a label on each snails shell with their number so that you can identify them.
  4. Place all your snails in the centre circle and watch them go!
  5. The snail that crosses the outer circle first is the winner, it make take longer than you think snails do not always move in straight lines.
  6. After your races place your snails back where you found them or in another suitable place away from your plants.

Interesting Snail Facts:

  • In the World there are around 50,000 different types of land snails.
  • During very dry weather and in winter snails retreat into their shells, they seal the entrance to form a hard cap.
  • Snails can see but can’t hear, most land snails have two sets of tentacles, the upper ones carry the eyes, while the lower one has the olfactory organs.
  • Garden snails have a top speed of 45 metres per hour, this is about 1.3 cm per second, they are one of the slowest creatures on Earth.
  • The largest land snail recorded was 12 inches long and weighed nearly 2 pounds, it was a Giant African Land Snail.
  • Depending on the species snails can live 5 – 25 years.

Have fun

Gill

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I hope that you all had a fun Halloween, my favourite part is trimming up the front of the house with scary pumpkins, cobwebs, big spiders and bats – it’s funny we only tend to think about Bats at Halloween yet for most of the year they live all around us, in the UK we have 18 species of Bats, many of which we rarely see, they will probably have been flying above you whilst you were trick or treating, searching for flying insects (midges, beetles and moths) brought out by the warm weather, this year was the warmest Halloween on record reaching an incredible 23.6C (74.5F) in London during the afternoon.

Bats are not scary at all in fact they are beautiful, unique mammals that live a secretive life. Bats emerge at dusk to feed whilst they fly, during October/November they are making the most of any available insects and building up their fat reserves which is crucial to their survival during hibernation in the winter months. There is a saying ‘as blind as a Bat’ in fact Bats are not blind they have good eyesight, as good as ours, when they are hunting for insects at night they use their hearing to locate their prey, as they fly they make calls or ‘clicks’ and then listen to the returning echos, this is called Echolocation, it helps them to build up a map of their surroundings , including objects which they do not want to fly into and also to locate flying insects (their prey). The calls that the Bats make are usually pitched at a high frequency that we cannot hear, you can hear these calls if you have a Bat Detector, not only will it pick up the calls of Bats that are near but you can determine which species of Bat it is as each Bat has its own unique call.

Bats begin to hibernate in November, hibernation is a state of inactivity when the metabolic rate slows, body temperature is lowered and breathing is slower, during this time they live off their fat reserves they will begin to emerge in March looking for insects. Bats roost on their own or in small groups often in cool quiet places such as attics, disused buildings, tunnels, bridges, caves, or old trees but due to modern housing and redevelopment their roosting sites are diminishing, in the UK, bat populations have declined considerably over the last century.

We can all give our Bats a helping hand by putting up Bat Boxes, now is a crucial time for them, 2 or 3 placed in different directions will provide a range of roosting temperatures at different times, site as high up as possible, in a semi sunny position and out of prevailing winds and rain (preferably facing south, south-east and south-west). Boxes can be put on buildings ideally up by the eaves or on trees, 2 or 3 can be arranged around the trunks of larger trees, clear away any surrounding branches especially underneath so that the Bats have clear access and can land easily before climbing up into the box, different species will occupy different types of boxes.

The Double Chamber Bat Box  has two chambers with ledges for Bats to cling to.

 Wooden Bat Box

The Conservation Bat Box has vertical chambers with angled cut-away front showing ladder style grooves which allows the bat to climb into one of the twin chambers.

 Conservation bat box

All UK bats and their roosts are protected by law, which means it is illegal to harm or disturb them so don’t be tempted to open your bat box to see who is inside instead you will have to watch closely at dusk to see if anyone comes out, another sign that they are occupied is ‘mouse sized’ droppings that contain insects underneath the box, it may take quite a while for Bats to use your box be patient or you may be lucky and they move in within weeks.

So go ‘batty’ this month and put up a Bat box

Love your environment

Gill

 

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Thank you to everyone who entered our Family Zone June/July Competition, it sounds like you all had lots of fun on your Bug Hunts, you found some wonderful creatures:

Wood Lice, Worms, Slugs, Millipedes, Bees, Painted Lady Butterflies, a big furry caterpillar, a Slow Worm, Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars, Ants, Spiders, hoverflies, Ladybirds.

It was difficult to choose a winner and unfortunately there can be only one, the winning entry was from Jake Andrews aged 5 from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire he found a Grasshopper and sent in a lovely picture of it that he had drawn himself ‘well done Jake’, Jake wins a Ladybird and Insect Tower and a Field Guide to Ladybirds.

grasshopper

Grasshopper by Jake Andrews, age 5

The School Zone Competition was won by Halstead Preparatory School for Girls, Woking, Surrey the winning entry was by Maddie Robson aged 8 who answered all the Insect Questions correctly they will receive a Solar Insect Theatre and a Minibeast Identification Guide – well done.

I hope that they enjoy their prizes and that they will attract lots of insects into their gardens which they can identify with their guides.

You never know what you will find in your garden!

A couple of weeks ago, as I was pegging out the washing, something caught my eye, I had a closer look I couldn’t believe what I saw it was a huge fat green caterpillar about 8cm long, there were actually two of them the second was slightly smaller about 6cm long.

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar July 14

Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar

I quickly searched through the Books of Moths, Butterflies and Caterpillars that we have and found a perfect match it was the caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk Moth. Elephant Hawk Moths are resident in the UK and commonly found throughout England, Wales and Southern Scotland the adult moths feed at night on Honeysuckle and other tubular flowers and are attracted to light. The caterpillars also feed at night their preferred food plants are Willowherb, Fuchsia and Bedstraw the ones in my garden were feeding on the Bog Bean at the edge of my pond, on fine days in the late afternoon they rest on stems. The caterpillar spends the winter as a pupa in a flimsy cocoon amongst plant debris on the ground or just below the surface this means that I will have to be very careful when I am tidying up the garden in the Autumn.

Elephant Hawk Moth

Elephant Hawk Moth

The caterpillars were amazing, I have only seen one of them again since, we have caught the Elephant Haw Moths in our moth trap before, they are stunning you would never think they are flying around in the UK at night they look tropical.

Why not make a moth trap and find out what is flying about in your garden at night – click here for more information.

Congratulations to our winners – have fun.

Gill

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In the office this week we have been watching Sylvia’s latest video blogs, the first featured a large frog and the second a very tiny froglet, Kim has a pond in her garden and commented that she couldn’t mow the lawn because of the tiny froglets, Sylvia has froglets and toadlets in her garden, this got me thinking – how many people would be able to identify a toad from a frog?

 

Frogs & spawn

Frogs

What do they look like?

Common frogs have smooth skin which can be grey, olive green and yellow to brown with irregular dark blotches and a dark stripe around their eyes and eardrum and dark bars on their legs, they can lighten or darken their skin to match their surroundings, adults frogs grow to 6-10cm in length they can breathe through their skin as well as their lungs. In Spring frogs lay their eggs in large clumps this is called frogspawn.

Where do they live?

Common frogs are most active at night between February and October you can find them by ponds, lakes and canals and in meadows, woodland and gardens, in Winter they hibernate in pond mud or under piles of rotting leaves, logs or stones.

What do they eat?

Frogs eat snails, slugs and worms as well as insects which they catch with their sticky tongue.

 

Toad

Toads

What do they look like?

Common Toads have warty skin which can be dark brown, grey and olive green to sandy coloured, they have broad, squat bodies and they tend to walk rather than hop. To deter predators they secrete an irritant substance from their skin and can puff themselves to make themselves look bigger, females can grow up to 15cm long the males are slightly smaller, toads can live up to forty years.  In Spring Toads lay their eggs in long triple stranded strings in still water amongst water plants.

Where do they live?

Toads are more active at night and can be found in woods, parks, scrubby areas, fields, ditches, lakes and damp areas of the garden often in compost heaps, during the Winter they hibernate in deep leaf litter, log piles and in burrows.

What do they eat?

Toads eat slugs, worms, insect larvae and spiders occasionally larger toads eat slow worms, small grass snakes and harvest mice!

 

Provide the frogs and toads in your garden with a safe place to rest and hibernate by putting a

Frogitat – Ceramic Frog and Toad House

Frogitat - Ceramic Frog and Toad House

or a Woodstone Frog and Toad House Bunker

Woodstone Frog and Toad House Bunker

in a wild quiet corner of your garden.

You can watch Sylvia’s video blogs on facebook or by subscribing to ‘Sylvia’s Briefs’

Gill

 

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