Garden Bioblitz 2012 – Part 1 Over the weekend of the 21-22nd July I took part in a 24 hour Garden Bioblitz. The mission – to find, identify and catalogue everything wild in the garden. I have been quite quiet blogging recently because I’m still IDing everything! They’ve extended the deadline so I’ve got some time to give an update.

Thankfully the weather was nice that weekend, so I set off in search of everything! I checked under and on leaves, under logs, under stones, pond dipped, got the sweep net out and took photo after photo! There are so many flying things my eyes hurt trying to get them all. Then darkness fell so out went the moth trap and the trail cam (the hedgehogs and fox turned up on cue !).

After 24 hours of searching I was ready to start IDing all the stuff. Birds, mammals and amphibians were easy, (I left fungi and wildflowers to my wife, that’s her speciality) but then the insects! I knew there were lots but HOW MANY! I sat down with my books and the web. What a task. Thankfully there are some incredibly helpful and knowledgeable people on Twitter and the iSpot website who can ID stuff from some of my really bad photos. Thanks to all of them!

I didn’t even know there were at least 25 species of earthworm or more than 30 different slugs! I’ve certainly learnt a lot very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has piqued my interest in insects even more and I have some plans of where to take it, more on that later.

If you’ve never done it, give it a go. When you start to look properly it amazing what you have been missing. I found tadpole in transition, minute froglets and when you really look at flies they are so diverse!

Here are some of the things I found. I will do a Part 2 later with the results and some better photos (roll mouse over picture for names)




























































Now all I have to do is finish IDing and get the records on iRecord. I’m looking forward to the full rollout of this event next year, hopefully I’ll be better at finding and IDing them by then! More updates to follow……

Water Vole Survey Training

On Monday we went to Magor Marsh Nature Reserve which is run by Gwent Wildlife Trust to be trained how to survey for Water Voles. They have been undertaking a release scheme there and the idea is to get volunteers to survey how they are doing. This was organised by Alice Rees of GWT (who we had previously met at the Riverfly monitoring) and Rob from The Environment Agency.

First off we were given a talk about Water Voles, their locations and the strategic plan for their management and conservation. Then how to look for signs and what they are.

After that we headed out onto the reserve to some of the reens (the local term for dykes) to look for signs. A stretch of reen 200m long is surveyed, and we were shown how to draw and mark up a map of the reen with the correct symbols and terminology.

Magor Marsh Reserve
Magor Marsh Reserve

The Surveyors waiting to go
The Monitors

Rob gets straight in (having carefully checked where the edge of the reen is!) to look for Water Vole Activity

Getting In

With his expert eye we soon have our first evidence

These are reeds that have been chewed by the Voles, they have the very distinctive 45 degree angle of cut

Feeding Signs

Then the part Chris Packham would love, Poo! He found a latrine (a cleared area) and poo



Sometimes Voles will cut down reeds to form platforms to feed on

Feeding Platform

Then even more exciting we found a burrow. These can be found along the bank and can be used as bolt holes or nests.
You can just make it out in the bottom right hand corner


The bottom of this large reed shows signs of gnawing where the voles are cutting them down to clear some space

Gnaw Marks

The burrow close up


More of the burrow site

Burrow Site

Everyone looking at what Rob found

The Group

It was a floating nest made from reeds!

Floating Nest

This is the reen from one of the boardwalks. There is a lot of stuff to get through to find the evidence!


After checking that reen we returned for some much needed lunch. After that we split into groups and were assigned 2 reens each to survey.

The intrepid volunteers set out to remote locations on the reserve

Heading Out

We had reens 5 and 6

This is one of the release sites where the voles were originally released

Release Site

It was a bit of a battle getting through the undergrowth to the reen (should have taken a machete!)

Getting To The Reen


The end of Reen 5 ended in a lovely shaded pool

End Of Reen

Reen 6 was located by the hay meadow, it is in there somewhere!

There's A Reen In There

All in all a great day and we learned a lot. We will be returning later in the year and then next year to resurvey and check on the Water Voles progress.

As you can see we were really lucky with the weather and it was lovely to see so many dragonflies and butterflies out.

Azure Damselfly (I think!)

Ruddy Darter (I think!)

Thanks again to Alice Rees of GWT for organising it, we’re looking forward to doing it again.

A Success Story

Late last year we released a rescued hedgehog from Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue. Her name was Sammi.

We had the great news this spring that she made it through winter, she appeared in the garden on 8th of April. She was doing really well.

She comes in the garden every night, but started to seem a bit huffy and would go for a sleep in one of the boxes for a couple of hours every night, she also became rather large, could she be pregnant?

Then she disappeared for a week or two and we didn't see her…

Then she returned……

Then last week I heard a rustle, scanned the garden and there was a hoglet! Further away in the undergrowth was mum, it was Sammi! She had had babies after all, and brought them back to the garden!

This is Cecelia, a little female

Then the next night here was another!

Meet Cecil, obviously a boy!

Not the greatest photos (taken with iPhone) but I didn't want to disturb them too long. A quick weigh and check before being put back with mum.

I think this is proof that the hard work all the hedgehog carers do really does work and that a rescued and rehabilitated hedgehog can be successful back in the wild.

Thanks again to Amy of Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue for all the great work she does (and all the other carers out there).

A Litter of Hoglets

Yesterday we picked up a litter of 5 Hoglets from Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue that we are fostering and then putting into soft release when they are big enough.

One of the Hoglets is Pickle, whom Amy from Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue hand reared! They have settled into their new home well over night, although they make a bit of a mess 🙂

Waiting to go into their box


The Litter


And here they are newly housed. They all went in their new coke nest box straight away.


Thanks once again to Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue who do such great work.

Update as of 31/07/2012 – the hoglets have completed their stay in soft release and have now been released back to the wild near where they were found. Good luck lads 🙂

First Hoglet

Late last night I heard some very loud rustling at the bottom of the garden. To my delight I discovered a little hoglet. She looked really well and in good condition. At first I thought she was alone, but then discovered mum so I left them alone to get on with it. It looked like Sammi (who we released last year) but I'm not sure. There may have been other siblings but thought I best to let them get on with it.



I've also made the decision to go on the Hedgehog Carer course so I am in a position to help my large population of hedgehogs. The next one isn't until September though.

Ladybird Being Paratisised

The Ladybirds have been mating in the garden in the few spells of nice weather we have had

Doing It
Doing It Again

There are plenty of aphids for them to eat. I don’t use pesticides at all so guess this helps
Dinner On A Leaf

The Harlequin ladybird larvae have started to pupate in the garden. I am hoping to get some timelapse of them emerging. We have been photographing their development over the last few days. Whilst doing this we noticed something attached to the side of one of them. On looking at the enlarged photos we saw a fly attached to the side of one. This has kindly been ID’d by Helen Roy of UKLadybirds as a Phorid Fly that parasitises ladybird larvae. We reviewed some more photos and my wife, Rebecca, has captured the Phorid fly approaching the larvae and attaching itself. She has very kindly let me use her photos in the blog. I am monitoring the larva to see how its’ development differs to the others.

Harlequin Larva
Ladybird Larva

Then the Phorid fly moves in


It seems to be injecting it

Thanks to Rebecca for the above photos

It then attached itself
Ladybird Larva Being Parasitised

The normal larva shed it skin and turned yellow/orange

It then developed more of a ladybird look
Rising Up

Ladybird Pupating

The paratisised larva seemed to get stuck in it’s first skin
Shedding Skin

A day later it had changed colour but still seemed stuck
Paratisised Pupa

I will keep an eye on them over the next few days to see what differences occur between thwm. I also hope to timelapse them emerging, it would be great to get both of them!

Bug Hotel (Spa and Country Club)

As it is Insect Week I’m going to do some insect blogs.

Last year I built a small Bug Hotel and it was quite successful. A few leaf cutter bees and the like turned up and a few things overwintered. This year I decided to expand it. It has now transformed from a small Bug Hotel to something more akin to a Hotel, Spa and Country Club!

I started off with an old aquarium stand as the basic structure, and got some left over materials – Wooden planks, floor tiles, flower pots, logs, straw, hay, pipes and “borrowed” some old clay drainage pipes off my dad.

Taking Shape


Button the puppy decided to help too

Little Helper

I already had some purchased insect boxes so built it under and around these. I started to then build layers, old sticks, flower pots, floor tiles etc were added. The flower pots were great to balance “floors” on. I also had some old bird feeder guardians that I had filled with leaves last year for overwintering bugs, so these were added too.

Bug Hotel
Adding Layers
More Layers
Filling Up

I tried to make a variety of mini ecosystems for different bugs to use and hide in

Straw And Bricks

Then I put some old logs around it to make it blend in more. Hopefully the bugs will make use of these too

Wood Surround
Blending In

I built it near the Buddleia we already had so insects were already using the area. I also put some lavender around it.

Bug Hotel

It has now had some time in situ and things are growing round it. It’s already being used extensively.

Bug Hotel
Bug Hotel
Closer Up

Here are some of the features:

A Bee Box – used by leaf cutter and Mason Bees
Bee Box

Butterfly House
Butterfly House

Ladybird and Lacewing Box
Ladybird Box

Cut Up Bamboo Canes and some old blocks of wood I drilled holes into

Cones, Clay Drainage pipes and some old weaved bird roosting boxes

Sawdust section – I’ve put some in the tube and in the flower pot
Sawdust Tubes

More hollowed out bamboo
Bamboo In Clay Tube

Sticks, straw and some rotting wood
Sticks And Straw

Bumblebee box. To the side of it is some straw and old cuttings, sometimes a hedgehog sleeps in there!
Bummblebee Box

Dried leaves for hibernating

More Bee tubes. This time suspended not mounted on the fence
Bee Tubes

I don’t know whether all the bits will be used, there may need to be some fine tuning (and more gap filling) but I’ve tried to add lots of variety. I think the next addition will be some broken pots for woodlice to hide under!

It’s a very worthwhile thing to do, just a small one can help the insects in the garden, and it is really good fun to watch. Bugs are amazing and the variety is astonishing. Now I just have to identify them all!

The Beast Unleashed

We found Beast the hedgehog on 11th of April. Although he was a healthy weight, he was in a very bad state so we rushed him to Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue where Amy has done an amazing job nursing him back to health. He was wheezing lots and it appeared he had been attacked by an animal as he had a couple of infected puncture wounds. We called him The Beast because we’ve never seen such a ‘macho’ looking hedgehog. Whilst he was there he apparently showed an enormous amount of interest in another patient called Tinkerbell, adding further fuel to his growing persona.

Whilst he was there he had made a trip to the Wildlife Watch group at Parc Slip to be shown off as part of a talk by Amy, and to met the kids. Thankfully he behaved. Heres the link to Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue’s trip report –

He has been in soft release for the last 2 weeks

He has been dying to get out, I think he is in the mood for love, so watch out lady hogs of Newport, the Beast is on the prowl!

Finally last night he was released back to the wild. I delayed release by a couple of days because of the atrocious weather we have had. First off I brought The Beast in to weigh him quickly before he was released. He weighed 1057g.

The Beast’s first few seconds of freedom

The cameras caught The Beast having his first explore. First thing – food!


Good luck laddo, come back and visit, and most importantly of all – take care out there. If you have hoglets bring them to say hello!