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Jim Macd

Latest posts by Jim Macd

Pond or not

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 13:09

I haven't had any problems with algal bloom, my water is always crystal clear but I have a water butt with the overflow plumbed into the pond via a trench. It means I never have to worry about filling up the pond and certainly don't have to worry about refreshing the water each year. The overflow from the pond goes into a bog garden. I put the pond in in August last too by coincidence. I would buy your pond plants from Naturescape because they will inevitably come with some wonderful hitchhikers unlike the other pond plants I bought from anywhere else. On day one of adding my plants (quarantined first in a plastic trug filled on the day of ordering the plants to ensure no chlorine left, quarantined for duck weed above all else) I had at least two leaches I've now got at least 6, at least 5 dragonfly larvae, now got too many to count, too many to count common pond snail eggs and consequently now got a pond full of snails which keep everything spotless. I also bought 10 adult snails of each kind black ramshorn, red ramshorn and common pond, needless to say it's also full of whirligigs and water boatmen, now numerous frogs and at least one newt. All this in just a few months. It just shows how desperate our wildlife is for a home. My pond is just over two meters by 1.5. I used a preformed liner because of fears of my dogs turning a butyl liner into a sieve but they've been really, really good and I needn't have worried. There's so many videos on Youtube and loads of good websites for advice. Above all just do it. You'll be hooked. I'm already planning another bog garden and smaller pond for the plants I got carried away with and ordered. 

bumblebee boxes to buy or not to buy

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 12:46
Bumblebee nest boxes don't work

13 January 2014, by Tamera Jones

Bumblebees, honeybees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are in decline worldwide. So what better way to help stem their decline than by installing a bumblebee nest box in your garden? The only trouble is they don't work.

That's the conclusion of a study to find out if bumblebee nest boxes do the job they're supposed to.

Researchers from the University of Stirling and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust tried out six different nest boxes. Some are available on the internet and from garden centres, while another one the researchers designed themselves.

Over their four-year study, they found that not a single commercial nest box 'became occupied or showed any sign of inhabitation' by bumblebees. The only box that showed some success at attracting bumblebees was an underground Heath Robinson-style box designed by the researchers.

But even this box was unreliable - at best the homemade box attracted nesting bees seven per cent of the time, but at other times the insects shunned this design entirely. Instead, mice, ants or wasps often took up residence.

'If you bought a car and it didn't go, you'd certainly have a right to complain.' 
- Professor Dave Goulson, University of Stirling

'We had an inkling that bees don't tend to use the boxes available in garden centres and the like, but we wondered if - with a bit of tweaking - we could get them to work,' says bee expert Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Stirling.

During their study, the scientists deployed 736 nest boxes in gardens, on university grounds and on farms in southern England and central Scotland.

On average only 23 were actively used by bumblebees - that's a paltry 3.1 per cent.

'If you bought a car and it didn't go, you'd certainly have a right to complain,' says Goulson. 'If people buy these nest boxes and they don't work, we don't want them to become disillusioned. It might be better for people to spend their money on planting a lavender bush or buying and sowing wildflower seeds. If they did, they'd soon see bees foraging on them and know they have done their bit to help.'

Intensive farming has led to huge losses in bumblebees' favourite habitat throughout the UK. In an attempt to tackle the decline in bumblebees over the last 50 years, the UK government has invested in projects to help restore habitats and support native wildlife, including bumblebees.

As the availability of nesting habitat has also probably fallen because of farming, conservationists think this may also have contributed to the insects' decline. Despite this, much less attention has been paid to finding out what makes a good nesting site for bumblebees.

'It's easy to count bees visiting flowers, but it's really hard to find their nests, so we don't know that much about this area of their life history,' says Goulson.

Until this study, it was assumed that nest boxes might encourage bumblebees and so help increase their numbers and improve crop pollination.

Favourable uptake rates

Indeed, studies in the US, Canada and New Zealand in the 1950s, 60s and early 80s show much more favourable nest box uptake rates of between 30 and 50 per cent.

'The difference could be because there were more bees around when those studies were done. There might have been up to ten times as many bees 30 years ago,' Goulson says.

Although the researchers found all commercially-available nest boxes to be ineffective, they did figure

Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

Posted: 01/03/2015 at 11:54

Silene noctiflora, nut, you can really smell it when you walk past it at night, it's heavenly. Oenothera is another but I didn't think it needed a mention and not native, but anything that has a more powerful scent at night is great for attracting the moths which will attract the bats. The native grasses attract the moths all by themselves but if you're not into grasses for their intrinsic value then you might not consider them. Personally as long as the wildlife likes I'm happy but I do appreciate the challenge of identifying the different grasses, much easier with a flower spike though.  My favourite for the meadow is Sweet Vernal Grass, it has a scent not so different to a Lavender hedge at night. The roots smell of detol if you dig up a turf.

Yes, sorry, my site isn't the best for mobiles, I've had a lot of difficulty making it look good both on a desktop and a mobile. The tables are the worst though, so for now I'm afraid I've given up. You change one thing to suite and something else pops out of place. Like my nan trying to get into spanx.   

sand8: Reaseheath, ah, that's not too far from where I'm from a nice place to go to college. I'm from the other side of Warrington. 

Yeah, birds like pollinators aren't the only wildlife either but for most of us in a suburban garden birds and bats are the biggest thing up the food chain you're likely to get in your garden. But by providing homes and food for all out insects, some of them rare and worth conserving in their own right, not to mention the value of conserving our native flora by growing natives you can do so much, after all the insects might start off their life in your garden and fly off to colonise another area, your garden is then like the source of a river, an ecological reservoir, a sanctuary, like you say, and a home, not just a feeding station, a foundation to our valuable food chain. You've got to get the foundations right after all or the system will collapse. 

Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

Posted: 28/02/2015 at 11:48

Buttercupdays that's great, I love the Goldcrests, They're actually one the more common birds, but you wouldn't think so. I see them occasionally at the bottom of the garden in the hedge, most of the time you mistake them for a wren, it's only when you see the yellow as they dart about. 

Yeah, the larch wasn't the first non-native you'd expect in there but it's got 4 stars for food value and five for Mycorrhiza and on the Total list better than the native Hornbeam, Holy and Yew! I've got a 4 meter high Scots Pine that has plenty of cones for a young tree and as you say the Finches love it. We get Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Siskin, but I also put out Niger and sunflower seeds for them.  You're lucky to have seen the Green Woodpecker, I saw them when I lived in South East Lancs, but no here in County Durham, I've only seen one Jay here.  We've had Redwings and Fieldfares visiting too but not this year, the Guelder Rose is still laden. 

sand8 So glad I could help. Which college are you going to?

How great to have Buzzards. Haven't seen those up here yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time now. We get the Long tail and the Cole Tits. They're like little puff balls on a stick.  The pheasant doesn't come very often to the garden now since I've got two Jack Russells and the pheasants aren't the nimblest of birds to get into the air. Oh that reminds we had Partridge one year. I couldn't believe my eyes. Try to add a meadow if you can with Nightflowering catchfly, the bats spend ages flying up and down our garden at night. I'm not saying they only come in our garden but sometimes I think they know where ours starts and ends. 

I finally added a pond at the end of last year. I'd decided not to because of the dogs, I thought they'd be in in all the time. Anyway I could hold back any longer so I went for a preformed small one as better than nothing. The dogs have been great, both fallen in once and I've only twice had to tell them off for 'digging' the water so I which I'd done it when we first moved and gone bigger. Oh well. Still I hadn't finished the pond, it was filled and planted, but was still making the bog garden and hadn't edged the pond when dragon flies were already laying eggs. I had to physically move one who was insisting on laying in a 'turf cave' made when I dropped a couple of turves while aiming for the stack. I hated the idea of those eggs not getting a chance to hatch as they were scheduled for being buried. It was great to get a good close look at her though. She was so beautiful. Her wings were like crystal and her body covered in emeralds, totally amazing! You don't appreciate just how wonderful some of these little creatures are from a distance. 

Well, thank you both of you for your replies. It was wonderful to hear your stories.  Hope I've not made too many typos, not had a chance to check it.  

cat deterent

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 19:04

Cats hate lavender.  

attaracting birds to my garden

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 18:59

This was last year, it's looking great at the moment with the snow drops out and crocuses just coming through. I knew I should have got the camera out today.

This is looking through the Hazel Copse

 And in summer.

 I can't tell you how many more insects you'll get if you get hold of some native grasses. Emorsgate Seeds, sell, them and some native wild flowers. The birds will have a field day feasting on all the insects that will be living on them. That list I link includes willows. Some willows are much better than others. I have some white willows which hardly get touched by insects some years, but other times get stripped while the goat willow is eaten alive and the blue tits go crazy picking off all the caterpillars. This is why in the past my catch phrase has been 'There's more to wildlife than pollinators'. It's fine having exotics that provide lots of pollen but where's all the food for the birds? Anyway make your own mind up.  

By, the way, some of the Pansies are still going, not in flower, but everyday the Wren goes over them picking off whatever it can find. They're pretty much Viola tricolour, another native.  


attaracting birds to my garden

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 18:24

Just one of the best things you do is plant a mixes, native hedge, or plant a nice, native silver birch or two. I've got a lovely Birch copse that's always teaming with blue tits. Take a look at a thread I've just added about a list of beneficial trees and shrubs.   Since I moved in 5 years ago my neighbour, an RSPB member, can't stop saying how pleased she is with the work I've done. She says there's never been so many birds in her garden. She puts out heaps of bird food too. So that for me makes all the work I've done worth every spadeful of soil I've dug planting. I took out 22 conifers the first couple of months, she thought I was the devil incarnate then. She didn't understand my plan. She could only think 'Cover'. Oh, By the way, as well as the Sparrow Hawks that regular vista, and the owls of course, we even get a Hen Harrier. I nearly died when I saw that. The neighbour hasn't seen it yet though, probably all my trees getting in the way.  


Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 18:13

Most people interested in ecology have heard of Sir Richard Southwood and his 1961 work on British Trees and Shrubs and their associated insects. I remember memorising the list as a student. But not everyone knows his 1961 work was updated, twice, first in '84 to include mites and lichens and again in 2006. The 2006 update is so much more useful. It always frustrated me that the '61 work was merely an indication of diversity without really describing it's benefit overall to other wildlife in real terms, i.e., insectivores and, subsequently to predators that feed on them etc. Take as, my favourite example, the native Field Maple and the introduced Sycamore. The associated insects for the Field Maple is 26 while the Sycamore just 15, almost half. Yet anyone that knows the Sycamore will know it's covered in juicy greenfly and mites etc.. Consequently Sycamores have had a really bad press since they're quite invasive. A quick look at the updated data, however, shows that the Biomass of the Sycamore's foliage invertebrates is given a 5 star rating as opposed to just 1 star for the native Field Maple. Now, I'm sure nobody is suggesting plant loads of Sycamores but it's reassuring to know that they aren't so bad afterall, and when you take into account Mychorizal Fungi, Wood decay fungi, Wood decay inverts, Leaf litter benefit, Blossom for pollen and nectar, Fruits, Seeds and Epiphite community then it comes in an incredible third place after Native Oaks and the Birches. Very impressive indeed for a non-native!

Well, you can take a look at the data and the original text. I have entered it into various tables it can be sorted according to the different, above, criteria.

I have to admit I've not had a chance to have it proof read so forgive me if there's any mistakes, but you can check it yourself against the original text. By the way, I suggest you have a look at the text before making any decisions based on the data anyway. (The text is also linked on the above page.)

Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 18:09

Oh, sorry, I seem to have added that twice. Sorry. 

Filtering the water of a newly made wildlife pond

Posted: 27/02/2015 at 17:25

By the way, if you pond is for wildlife, the last thing you want to do if to filter it. 

Discussions started by Jim Macd

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bumblebee boxes to buy or not to buy

Is being a bumblebee nest box a good idea? 
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Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

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