Author Archives: Murtagh's Meadow

About Murtagh's Meadow

As an ecologist I have always had an interest in nature. I love gardening and would spend all day outdoors if I could. I also enjoy taking photographs and writing. I live in the west of Ireland with my young family.

Gardens for Pollinators

Spring just around the corner (I hope). So it is time to start planning the garden. And with a new UK scientific paper out telling us that allotments and gardens supported the highest bee and hoverfly abundances, our own gardens are a great place to start helping our local pollinator populations.

If this is something you like doing I thought I could provide you with a list of Pollinator Friendly Plants. This list is based solely on what works in my garden. The garden is situated in Co Mayo, Ireland.  We have relatively mild climate but we do get frosts, and they can occur anything from late September till May. We have both native wildflower areas and cultivated areas with flowers and also a vegetable plot.

Best Garden Flowers and Herbs

White tailed bumble on lupin

Delphiniums – the bigger bumblebees,  like garden bumblebees love these.

Lupins – a number of different bumblebees will use them and I have also seen honey bees try (but I don’t think they were successful).

Russian Comfrey – these plants are always full of bumblebees.  Carders, early bumbles, love it. A number of hoverflies also feed on it especially Rhingia campestris. Another great positive about this species is it keep on flowering once it starts.

Poppies – I have pink, opium poppies that self seed in the vegetable plot. It appears to be a magnet for honey bees but white tailed bumbles and early bumblebees will use it to.

Snapdragon – again a favourite for carder bee.

Nasturtiums – these self seed in my vegetable plot. Again they will be used by a variety of bees.

Bumbles on sage

Bumbles on sage

Sage – a wonderful herb that is always buzzing in my garden. Appears to be particular favourite of common carder bees.

Oregano – grows both in the greenhouse and outside. The one in the greenhouse is always full of white tailed bumbles, the outside ones less so. The plant is probably happier and producing more nectar in the warmer greenhouse.

Calendula – hoverflies love this flower.

Fennel flowers – another favourite for hoverflies.

Borage – another great all rounder for bumblebees and honeybees.

Native Flowers and plants

Foxgloves – again suit the larger bees like garden bumblebees.

Ragged robin – this plant does well near the pond seems a particular favourite of green veined white butterfly.

Bumblebee on dandelion

Bumblebee on dandelion

Dandelion – a brilliant early pollen source.

Ox-eyed daisy – hoverflies and butterflies will both use this.

Willow – I have both native and cultivated willows. The catkins are really important for bumblebees queens emerging from hibernation early in the spring.

Fruit blossom – Again I have native and cultivated forms. Hoverflies seem to love blossom, but bumblebees and butterflies will feed on them to.

 

Interestingly in the scientific paper just published a number of these plants have also proved popular in the UK. The following nine native plants were found to have significantly more pollinator visitors than expected based on their abundance – Creeping thistle, Wood avens, Common hogweed, Cat’s ear, Ox-eye daisy, Creeping buttercup, bramble/blackberry, Autumn hawkbit and Dandelion. And the non-native top five were: Borage, Butterfly bush, Common marigold (Calendula), Lavender and Comfrey.

Further reading

A systems approach reveals urban pollinator hotspots and conservation opportunities

Katherine C. R. Baldock, Mark A. Goddard, Damien M. Hicks, William E. Kunin, Nadine Mitschunas, Helen Morse, Lynne M. Osgathorpe, Simon G. Potts, Kirsty M. Robertson, Anna V. Scott, Phillip P. A. Staniczenko, Graham N. Stone, Ian P. Vaughan & Jane Memmott

Nature Ecology & Evolution (2019) |

 

 

 

 

 

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Lens-Artists Challenge #28 – Curves

You can’t get much curvier that this willow room at Turlough Country life Museum.

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But nature does seem to like curves too.

19 Positive Steps

So here we are one week into 2019. I am not making resolutions this year but instead coming up with 19 positive ways to help the environment.  These may be things I already do, may be things I wish to do better or maybe something I haven’t tried yet. I hope you can find some inspiration here too. Here and there I have include some links with more information.

1. Compost whatever we can.

2. Grow some more food. I am hoping to grow more in my vegetable plot this year. Even if you just have a window still you can grow some herbs.

3. Buy some stainless steel containers for buying meat or fish from local butcher/fishmonger.

4. Use canvass or other types of reusable shopping bags.

5. Investigate what we can order in bulk, to reduce waste.

6. Seek alternatives to goods sold in plastic. So for example, buy solid soap bars as opposed to liquid soap. Alternatively, find somewhere were we can refill plastic bottles of washing up liquid or detergent.

7. Make more space for wildlife in the garden. And / or work with local community groups to improve areas for biodiversity.

8. Make more of our own bread and when buying do so from bakery that uses paper only bags/wrappings.

9. Don’t buy bottled water.  Bring your own.

10. Buy unwrapped fruit and vegetable. Local market may be good place to start.

11. Make own yogurt in grass jars.

12. Walk and cycle more.

13. Plant some more Pollinator Friendly Flowers (will do post on this soon).

14. Cut the lawn less.

15. Buy clothes made from natural fibers (cotton, lines, wool etc) and organic if possible.

16. Donate unwanted clothes and other items to your local charity shop.

17. Use vinegar, bread soda and lemon or other eco friendly cleaners for cleaning.

18. If painting, use eco friendly paints.

19. Take time to go for walks and enjoy nature.

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Lens Artists Photo Challenge #27: My Travels

I enjoy traveling within my own country but am often reluctant to travel further – but sometimes you don’t have to go far to see stunning scenery. Two days ago we headed for the west coast to Doolough near Gweesalia, here in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland.

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If there’s a heaven for me, I’m sure it has a beach attached to it” – Jimmy Buffett.

I had to “borrow” this wonderful quote from PA Moed, as it is very true for me.

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To the right you can see the Mullet Peninsula, to the left Achill Island.

The beach is a great one for shell collecting.

And at over 2km long  you can also get a very decent walk. I know there are many beautiful places out there to see and many of you have shown me some of them in your own blogs. But for my travels, I  am, so far, content with this.

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18 goals for 2018

So as we start the new year, what happened with all those 2018 goals?

1 – Finish the 1000 piece jigsaw we started just after Christmas.

Yes we did! And we started a new one this Christmas, which is almost complete!

2 – Complete five Heritage in Schools visits.

I did 6 and it was great meeting the children and seeing their enthusiasm for nature.

3 – Maintain blog growth

Work commitments meant less time for blogging this year, so I have posted fewer posts and hence less views but I am happy I maintained what I did.

4 – Continue to create wildlife friendly habitats in my own garden and encourage others to do likewise.

This was our new wildflower area in the summer – was very please with it.

Wildflower area

Wildflower area

Though my work in 2018, I had the opportunity to give biodiversity workshops to a number of community groups which has been very rewarding.

5 – Have fun days out with my family.

We had quite a few. I just love these sort of days.

6 – Growing food

Not as much as I would have like so hoping for more this year. Apples were by far our best crop in 2018.

Apple harvest

Apple harvest

7 – Read 18 books

Not sure I achieved 18, but there is always a book by my bedside!

8 – Clutter

Still clutter everywhere!

9 – Friends are so important. Try not to miss birthdays .

Upps, I have missed a couple especially those with birthdays in the later quarter. Apologies!!

10 – Learn to identity more bugs and plants.

I was very lucky to spend a day with some BSBI members.  Learned lots about plants.

11 –  Do something new.

I downloaded the duolingo app to try and refresh my Irish language skills both for myself and also to help my children with their Irish homework!

12 – Reduce use of plastics

This has been harder than expected. So much is covered in plastic and often outside packaging is in cardboard but inside is plastic. This will be an ongoing challenge for this year.

13 – Do a couple of crafty projects

I worked with another mum completing a recycled art project with our local school . This was fun. Also my daughter and I brought a ‘make your own stuffed unicorn’ kit but we came to standstill when the instructions no longer made sense!

14 – More exercise

Need to try harder!!

15 – Good work/life balance!

Another difficult one especially when one is self employed. Again something to work on.

16 – Appointments

Actually did this and have my dentist appointment already made for 2019!

birch shieldbug-001

Birch Sheildbug

17 – Try and record another new species for the garden list

New shieldbug!

18 – Do ten bee and butterfly transects

I did 11 butterfly ones but only 6 bee once. Worryingly bee numbers were down though butterfly numbers were up, possibly a result of the sunny and warm June and early July.

So that is it. A review of last year. And 2019 – well still working on an idea – watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Thank you to all those who have read and commented on my blog during the last year. Without you it would not be what it is.

May 2019 bring you lots of joy, adventure, and friendship. May you continue to find your creativity. Thank you to all of you who have inspired me to keep blogging.

Let us hope that 2019 will bring the world to a better place. In the words of Greta Thunberg, my 2018 hero, “you are never too small to make a difference.”

Happy New Year!

Photographic Review of 2018

It is so had to pick one of two photos for 2018, so I have divided into a few categories.

Favorite new place we visited – Clare Island, way back last January.

Bog pool, Clare Island

Favorite wildlife photo, probably has to be the tiny frog in my daughter’s hand, just because it is sooo small.

Tiny frog

tiny frog

Favourite bee photograph because I just love bumblebees, is this carder bee on apple blossom.

Carder bumblebee on apple blossom

Carder bumblebee on apple blossom

Favourite garden we visited. I have two, Belvedere walled garden here in Ireland and Picton Castle walled garden in Wales. Photograph below is from Picton Castle.

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Hot reds

And finally just because I like it.

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Inspired by Lens artist photo challenge #26