2013 – The year in focus

In comparison to  the relentlessly wet weather throughout 2012, the relatively drier and warmer weather during 2013  had been considerably better for the Wildlife Garden Balcony and the creatures it supports.  You may recall from my previous blog entry that the extremely wet conditions during 2012  led to a population explosion of vine weevils who’s ravenous larvae devoured many of the balcony’s plants with my climbing hydrangea being one of the unfortunate (and largest) casualties to perish.  Nevertheless, the rest of the flora recovered sufficiently to provide a constant source of food and shelter for visiting wildlife. Here are a few “photographic highlights” captured on my balcony during 2013:

DSC01626My Dustbin Lid Meadow really came into its own during 2013 with wild clover (seen above) proving itself to be an irresistible source of nectar to visiting bumblebees

DSC01656I was really delighted to see this shield bug resting on a clover leaf which was growing on my Dustbin Lid Meadow. They take their name from their distinctive “shield shaped” bodies. It was  first time I’d ever seen one visiting my balcony and hopefully means there will be many more to make an appearance in the future.

DSC01622This profusely self-seeding toadflax with its long flowering period (from spring to early autumn ) was constantly visited by bees foraging for nectar. The plant is such a prolific self-seeder that it’s gradually colonising the other Bucket Planters on my balcony. Nevertheless, its such a great source of nectar for bees (as well as a food plant for several moths) , I don’t have the heart to curtail its rapid expansion.

DSC01734The warmer, drier weather this year helped to see an increase in the number of bumble bees visiting the balcony. No matter what sort of space you have, whether its a small balcony like mine or a tiny window box, its easy to attract these beautiful and threatened pollinators with the right combination of flowers. Click here and here to see my recommendations on what to plant in your tiny outdoor space.

DSC01698This St Johns Wort flower growing in my my Dustbin Lid Meadow not only provided a source of nectar for visiting insects , it also became a source of food for several caterpillars, including this one.

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Whilst providing a source of food for caterpillars, bumble bees also feasted on the St Johns Wort’s abundant supply of nectar

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It’s not just  the daylight hours when wildlife can be seen visiting the balcony.  This moth was captured  taking nectar from Red Campion  growing in my Dustbin Lid Meadow . The campion releases its scent at night specifically in order to attract pollinating moths.

WSBC0001 3A blue tit enjoying the fat ball I’d put out for it. The birdcam continues to capture some great images of visiting birds. In fact, its been such a great device for recording visiting wildlife that I’m giving some thought to getting another one just to record those “feathered friends” who visit the  balcony’s birdbath.

DSC01630Ichneumonid Wasp resting on a honeysuckle leaf. These wasps don’t have stings and are completely harmless to humans – and also help to keep down both aphids and caterpillars in the garden which their larvae feed upon.

DSC01774 A “daddy long legs”  or Harvestman discovered for the first time this year on my balcony and a great indicator of a burgeoning insect population which it needs to feed on.

DSC01663 Hoverflys were regular visitors to the balcony this year, attracted by umbelliferous flowers  including yarrow, angelica and fennel . Hoverflys  don’t sting and are completely harmless to people yet have the clever gimmick of disguising themselves as stinging wasps in order to deter potential predators such as birds. The Hoverflys’ larvae are also a great asset to the gardener as they feed, voraciously, on  aphids and is another very good reason why I never try to eradicate aphids using insecticides.

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Spiders, such as this one seen feeding on an aphid, are a great indicator of the Wildlife Garden Balcony’s increasing biodiversity  – as more and more insects make their home here and provide food for arachnids and other predators.

WSBC0007In addition to providing a great source of food for visiting blue tits, my balcony’s home made bird-table also attracted their slightly larger cousins , the  great tits too. This pair, who were regular visitors, were captured on my Birdcam during March to May and no doubt found the peanuts helped to boost up their energy levels whilst they were busy rearing their young back at the nest.

DSC01710 This Acanthus Spinosus or “Bears Breaches” had been planted a couple of years earlier and had never flowered until this year. After seeing the number of bumble bees it attracted, such as this one above,  it was well worth the wait.

DSC01632 This Buddleja Globosa or “orange ball” tree  originated from a small  cutting which I’d taken from another garden and introduced to the balcony earlier in the year. After witnessing the number of visiting bees hungry to feed on its abundant nectar, it turned out to be a very welcome introduction to the balcony.

DSC01763This colourful beauty is the larvae of the equally colourful harlequin ladybird  and can be seen here feeding on aphids.
DSC01712In addition to lending a fantastically unusual and architectural presence to the balcony, this Teasel  became a “nectar magnet” for bumble bees, hoverflys and butterflies alike. It’s seeds are also an important food source for goldfinches in the winter  – who’s conical beaks are  particularly adept at reaching the seeds usually inaccessible to other birds.

DSC01716No sooner had I planted this verbena on the balcony, it was swamped by nectar hungry bees such as this one.

DSC01722This Elecampane (also known as elfwort and horseheal) not only looked stunning with its large floppy leaves and big plates of ragged yellow flowers , it also attracted numerous pollinating insects, such as this small white butterfly.

DSC01791After opening my curtains one morning,  I was really pleased to see this moth on my balcony window. Looking at this photo later on, I was far less pleased to realise that my window was long overdue a good clean!

No matter what sort of space you have, whether its a small balcony like mine or a tiny window box, its easy to attract all sorts of wildlife with the right combination of flowers, food plants and shelter. To get started click here and check out how I went about creating a “Wildlife Garden Balcony”….and see how you can easily do the same!

 

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