CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

It was the beginning of spring of this past year that I decided to let our garden become an Ark, and to let everything that wanted to grow be there without interference from me. And it worked, the garden became one large ecological wonder, Thistles, Foxgloves, Nettles, Comfrey, Dandelions, and so many more wild plants seemed to be in competition with each other to produce the most foliage and flowers. Needless to say the garden became a haven for insects and the butterflies were found in abundance too. Everyday I was out there filming and taking photos of all these delightful creatures, too many of which I don’t quite know the proper name of. First time seeing the Orange tip butterfly and also the Meadow Brown. At some point the Leek flowers were visited by several Peacocks, Red Admirals, and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. Besides the ordinary Whites I also had a visit of a Green Veined White, and of course not to forget the Painted Ladies of which there were several this past summer. I had a Meadow Brown which was also a first here in the garden, and of course the yearly Speckled Wood. Such a delight!

At some stage there were numerous Tortoiseshell, Red Admirals and Peacock butterflies on the same plants in a rather smallish area, they seem to love the flowers of the leeks which I had let grow out.
And then there are the Hoverflies and the Bumblebees, and the honey bees, I am afraid that I still have issues with identification, maybe I might have some time during the winter to look over my photos and do some identification, I would love to know more about them all right, and there are good websites to help me.
Several times during the summer I have had to step in to help rescue bees. A little honey later and they fly off again.
This photo shows what was like a little invasion of creatures but my photo is too unclear to identify, it was an amazing happening I thought.

And even though we had such an abundance of creatures in the garden in this past year, I am having to re-think my gardening plan for this coming season 2020, the reason for this is that by now the garden is totally overgrown. I have let it get out of hand and now will find it hard to find space for vegetables, the growth has been so enormous and so I will be planning differently but still with insect life in mind.

Let me know please what you do in this regard, do you just let every wild plant grow where it wants, or do you keep some order in your garden or plot. I would be very interested in learning from your experience my friends. Thank you.

MY GARDEN UPDATE ~ JULY

It has been a while since I did serious work in the garden, seeing that I had not sowed nor planted anything this season, I had let the garden be for the bees and the insects, they of course took full advantage of the wilderness, and though there were not as many insects around this summer, I was still able to find some today. I had my little helper with me all day, Ruben, my grandson, came over and we both put on our wellingtons and out we went, we soon started to pull some of the overgrown cleavers away from other plants, also some of the ivy was removed. The two cold frames were totally overgrown some of the plants were pushing up the plastic and some had grown through it! Ruben, being almost 6 and a very enthusiastic worker was lifted into the frame and soon had pulled all the ‘weeds’ out, they then went on to the compost heap. We covered the earth in one of the cold frames with comfrey leaves, that will be good for the soil.

Ian came and cut the grass so we could use this for mulching as well.  We spotted quite a few insects and I am happy to say that Ruben does not mind them at all, he is just very interested in the little creatures and seems to quite love them.  Here is one beauty sitting on the flowers of a parsley plant, there were several others on the same plant.

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Then there were all these weevils, and several different types of beetles, spiders, and caterpillars, lots of woodlouse as well. And the snails and slugs could not be counted, so many.

We have at this moment quite a few of these most beautifully scented white clover growing, I sowed them last year to improve the soil and they are giving a lovely display this summer.  They will be good for the soil.  The flowers of the parsley are quite beautiful too, they seem to attract many different insects.

And so the summer is moving along, there is more work to do, is lots to prepare before we leave for Gozo in autumn, though the garden will not be unattended while we are gone as there will be people in and out of the place all the time, still, I must make sure that when we return the garden will be ready for me to start more planting.

GOZA’S NATURAL HERITAGE

This morning we made our first walk in Gozo. We are staying in Xlendi which is a little place on the South-West of the island. It consists of what looks like a ravine, or a mini-fjord, and is flanked on the one side with apartments built in honey coloured limestone, and with rocks and short shrubbery on the other side.

DSCF4526We are staying in one of the apartments, ground floor at the front door, but a very high fourth floor on the opposite side where the balcony is.

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The apartment does not get much sun as it is NW facing, only when the sun is about to go down do we see any of it, nice to get the setting sun, however, it does make the place here rather chilly for the time of year, and for the first time since we arrive on the Maltese island have I had to wear thermals inside. Outside, though it is glorious, lovely and warm in the sun, and the sky blue without any cloud. Obviously we are going to be outside most of the time, soaking up the sun as much as all the history and architecture of the island, but this morning I concentrated on the natural heritage which is simply amazing and so interesting.

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We walked down a path only a stone’s throw away, and discovered a wealth of wildlife and flora, we also saw the most beautiful blue sea and rocks stretching as far as the eye could see. I got working with taking macro photos of the flowers and insects while Ian strolled on and sat resting on one of the many benches. One of the most pleasing factors was the sea breeze which was both refreshing and warmly scented.

The flower of the Mallow plant, and an ant lost on the large hot rocks. The shrubs and wild plants are low and stay small mainly because there is such a water shortage here, it is April right now and the people have not seen any rain since the New Year. The rocky soil also contributes to the stunted growth of the plants. Everywhere we see lizards, beautiful little creatures, very fast, though they love to just sun bathe, difficult subjects to take photos of.  Their colour varies, but like this one green seems to predominate.

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There is a steep road down to the little harbour, apparently at some time there are many of the Gozitan fishing boats anchored there, but now, now we only saw clear aqua marine water and fish of which I do not know the name.

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This is the path leading down to the sea, there is also another path that leads over the hill towards the tower seen on the left and to some of the salt pans. But that is going to be a walk for another day.

 

 

In the photo on the right, Lichen, these lichen are growing colourfully on some of the rocks, the rocks are mainly limestone, with plainly to see fossils.

Here is one of the fossils, they are so interesting and make for an exciting walk, to think that these creatures are the makings of the sedentary rocks surrounding us.

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One of my favourite photos and views of the morning was this flower, the name of it escapes me totally, please if someone knows can you tell me.  It was delicately scented.

DSCF4590Among other plants and trees I’ve seen are the African Tamarix trees here, they are considered an endangered species, but seem to do well here.

And yet another creature I came across, a type of beetle I guess.

I know that there is a lot more to explore in nature here, this is only the first day and we have a whole month here.  I hope to keep writing about what I discover and illustrate with my photos.  Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STILL THE BUTTERFLIES and other end of summer stuff in the garden

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Bird feeder and trellis ready with a coat of ‘green’ wood preserver.

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And with a kind friend cutting the hedges, which were overdue to be cut all summer, there is plenty of trimmings to be shredded and put on the shredding compost heap, great for mulching next year.  We bought a cheap enough shredder in Lidl last year and find it very useful.

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Tucked away behind the compost bin I found these toadstools, Wow….is autumn really almost here!

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Blackberries also found totally at the back of the garden, not many of them, but enough to have a mouthful. 

It is just so delightful to discover all sorts of plants and creatures in the garden, it’s amazing what can be found over the seasons in a small plot.  Always enjoying the diversity of nature.

 

 

CENTRAL PORTUGAL – A BEAUTY ALL OF IT’S OWN

 

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Central Portugal is very beautiful, especially in spring time when many flowers are blossoming.   Roses are plentiful and found in the gardens and along the streets.  The Lilac trees are nearly finished flowering, and there are many of them.  There are very many wild flowers too, whole meadows are coloured yellow, giving the landscape a brightness that is very cheerful.  I’ve seen lots of wild Lavender too, and there is a red wild plant covering the Olive tree orchards with a carpet of deep red, I think that it is a type of Sorel.  There is an enormous amount of Broom. I see so many exotic plants that I don’t even know the names. And the insects are so plentiful, just amazingly interesting.

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TODAY A SMALL TORTOISHELL BUTTERFLY IN MY GARDEN

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This beautiful sunny morning a small Tortoiseshell Butterfly (Aglais urticae) was drinking the nectar from deep blue flowers in the garden, it was a lovely sight, it patiently sat until I had made about 20 photos of it.

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Intricate details of same Tortoiseshell.

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Apparently it’s main food is Nettles, and it is around between March and October, it is quite common around here but I have never quite seen a specimen with such fluorescent blue on it’s wings. It’s caterpillar is black, yellow and pale green underneath, and a bit hairy. And it is found all over Europe.