Saturday 4 April 2020

Two Weeks In The Garden - some thoughts

The last two weeks have seen me spending almost all day, every day in my North Kent garden.  The lock down has pushed me into giving my patch a facelift and I have got on and done jobs that I had been making excuses about for years.  

It has given me lots of time to come up with blog ideas and other social media videos and posts to share with the RSPB Rainham Marshes family, who, like us are sorely missing the place especially after the truly abysmal wet, dank and windy winter that we have all endured. 


Trying to do a people engagement job from home has been interesting and I have turned my garden jobs not into chores but projects and challenges for people stuck at home to apply to their own green space be it a garden, patio or balcony window box  The whole process has been cathartic for me too. I am calmer and more relaxed. I am sleeping better. I am enjoying myself.  Someone pointed out to me today that that is what retirement feels like but I have a long way to go yet before that becomes a reality.

Two wildlife refuges...

I have encountered a wealth of wildlife along the way and our Dressing Gown Lock Down Birders WhatsApp group has spurred us all to get outside (or open a window in some cases) and look up and listen. I suspect that between the 39 of us taking part we have amassed over a hundred species and most of us have had new additions to our lists from doing so.

One of the daily Buzzards

Woodpigeon in the Crabapple

Glossy Starling

As of today I am on a 49 with a distant Chiffchaff added just after breakfast. We have all been trying after dark too, (and I do not mean Noc Mig with all the gear) simply listening and hoping for a strange night time call.   

Most people have had Fieldfare and Redwing  but not me but last night was dead calm and in a fairly short time between nine and ten, I heard several Coots, a Moorhen, Snipe and flock of piping Common Scoters as they whirred over in the darkness on their way back to the high Arctic to breed. Others have been similarly lucky.

Med Gulls are a daily feature for me here in Strood but not for anyone else and I have had Raven and displaying Buzzards and Sparrowhawks but not a Red Kite (ever) as yet.  Who knows how long this will go on for but I suspect that the list will still have opportunities to grow as the spring progresses.

Being outside has allowed me to actually watch what is in my garden for a change rather than a quick pop out to feed the birds.  There are two pairs of Goldcrests utilising the Firs, the same of tinkling Goldfinches and wheezing Greenfinches and I have found Robin and Blue Tit nests so far.

Robin on my new fence stockade


Blue Tit


It has been a little cool until today for many insects but I have had Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies and plenty of Honey Bees, Red-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees visiting the Crab Apple, Primroses and Mahonia.  Smaller bees are starting to appear but the male Andrena species are tricky and I need a female to give me a chance at an ID while a russet male Osmia bicornis – the Red Mason Bee was seen basking in the Ivy today

Honey Bee

Andrena sp

Osmia bicornis the Red Mason Bee

Hoverflies have appeared too with Eristalis tenax, Eristalis pertinax, Epistrophe eligans, Episyrphus balteatus, Syrphus ribesii, Myathropa florea, Dasysyrphus albostriatus and Eupeodes luniger all seen in the last couple of day. I have been making lots of new Hoverquariums so some of these species that like muddy water in which to lay their eggs should be very happy.

Myathropa florea

Myathropa florea

Epistrophe eligans

Eristalis pertinax

Eupeodes luniger

Dasysyrphus albostriatus
High Rise Hoverquarium

A few other flies are now around and Phil C helped with the ID of these three...

Calliphora vicina

Fannia sp

Anthomyiidae sp

While Annie J was able to sort out this impressive Honeysuckle Sawfly for me - a new one for the garden.

Honeysuckle  Sawfly

I planted potatoes, beetroot and broad beans for the first time in ten years, have half cleared out my detritus filled pond and it is already healthier with Ramshorn Snails, Smooth Newts and Common Frogs and by delving into wood and rubbish piles I have found the chrysalises of butterflies and moths and the larders of several hazelnut loving Wood Mice.

Common Frog

Smooth Newt

Ramshorn Snail

Marsh Marigold

Butterfly Chrysalis?

Drinker Moth Chrysalis

Hazelnut gnawedby Wood Mouse

Rhopalus subrufus - thanks to Yvonne C
Harlequin Ladybird

A Velvet Man - ok Velvet Spider Mite

These are exceptional times, well outside of the experiences of almost everyone but although we are being rightly encouraged to hide ourselves away from friends, family and colleagues it is not a communication dead zone. 

Isolating ourselves means staying indoors and being sensible. It does not mean that we can’t share, via the multitude of channels at our fingertips, our feelings, experiences and our discoveries, that we can ask questions of those who may know the answers and throw ourselves into that neglected garden or indoor hobby that you never had time for any more.

Many people are thankfully still out there keeping the world moving around us for which we are all very grateful but now is the chance for many of us to become bigger and better, to self improve, to challenge ourselves and perhaps most importanly to recharge our depleted batteries.

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