Jim Macd

Latest posts by Jim Macd

Native plants

Posted: 13/06/2015 at 12:00

I should add, just scanning through the suggestions, so many aren't native. Only one crab is native. But again check with the council what they keen by native. I have another list of pages that gives the benefit of certain native and non-natives to wildlife. Some surprises there. 

Native plants

Posted: 13/06/2015 at 11:56

I've just finished updating and double checking my list of natives. Here's the link You can choose where the links go to. Google, the pfaf site which is interesting but to very scientific and check any information before using it, and the Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. My site makes it very easy to use since it's laid out in a list. The list came originally from the Natural History Museum site, hence the name NHM. It was supposed to be a list of only natives, however I noticed several anomalies, and probably others did too which is probably why they've taken it down. Well, if you look you'll see a couple of abbreviations a, and n. I toyed with the idea of removing these plants since this indicates that the species aren't strictly native, however I felt removing plants that have been here since the Bronze age a bit hard line so I marked them 'a' meaning here since before 1492 and 'n', meaning here since 1492. I suppose I should make it clear what native is, 'native' means anything that arrived to our shores naturally, by it's own steam. So the Collared Dove is native though it's only been here since the 50's and the poppy is not though it's been here for ±5000 years because it was brought by Bronze age farmers and the dove just flew here. Agg. means a species that is really a collection of species, the most notorious example of that been the Dandelion and Blackberry where there's hundreds of debated subspecies. Not all subspecies have been included and some not at all, but where I thought they were of interest or when one sbsp was native and another wasn't I've tried to include it. I have still to include other sbsp but may never get around to updating all. It's taken me weeks to do this update and months if not years to get the time to do it. I suppose you should ask the council what they mean by 'native'. Anyway as you'll see by the site there's hundreds of very garden worthy items to choose from. And you can get them from many sites which abide by Flora Locale's code of conduct including Emorsgate Seeds. But again check the entry since many offer invasive or none-natives such as Fox and Cubs, you wouldn't want to introduce that to your garden. By the way, you mentioned, Bluebells, sorry, didn't get time to read every post. If you live near other households that have Spanish Bluebells then I wouldn't get Bluebells since they hybridise so readily. The amount of times I shout and the telly when someone is encouraging us to get English Bluebells. It was the first and biggest mistake I made when I moved in here. A complete waste of time and  effort, though you could argue I'm supporting the growers, better to just make a donation for them to grow them. 

Odd Bod Bird

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 19:49

"I'm glad my daughter's not the only soft-hearted one "

Odd Bod Bird

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 19:32

I 'adopted' two feral pigeon brothers when I lived in london, they both had hooked beaks and looked more like raptors than pigeons, called them Kes and Perry. They did okay for a year then I had to go away one Christmas so wasn't around to feed them. I never saw them again. I hope it's because they were fed by someone else. 

bumblebee boxes to buy or not to buy

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 17:45

Yes, bumblebees like to nest in old mouse holes, they're attracted by the smell of the mouse and they like the nesting material. I've had several nest in mouse holes and one in a rat hole under my garage but they seemed to get confused when I opened the garage door. The point of the article is to warn buying bee boxes is a waste of money? I made a cavity in a dry stone wall I built and put in an old mouse nest but they bees weren't interested. I thought it would be ideal but they didn't. 

Odd Bod Bird

Posted: 26/04/2015 at 13:15

Yes, I'm sure it's a genetic mutation. Mustn't' be doing him any harm otherwise he wouldn't be around to take a photo of. Time will tell if the females are put off but the mutation is likely to be recessive so the chicks would look 'normal'. 

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.  

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