As you may already know, our species recording and outreach project ‘iWatch Wildlife’ usually runs a campaign called ‘Species of the Month’ where we ask the wider public to share their observations of a particular species which we then convert into wildlife records for the Isle of Wight.
However, as getting out and about into the wider countryside is currently off-limits, in response we’ve launched an alternative campaign called ‘iWatch My Garden’ – where we’ll be highlighting species that are more likely to visit gardens or be seen during our dose of daily exercise closer to home.
Bee -flies #1
There are two species of Bee-fly which can be seen on the Island at this time of year: the abundant Dark-edged Bee-fly, and the scarcer Dotted Bee-fly only seen in southern Britain.
Bee-flies have a dark brown and golden edged body resembling a bee, they hover above flowers and have a long proboscis which can be mistakenly thought to house a sting like a mosquito
Holly Blue #2
The first blue butterflies of the year to appear and most definitely a garden visitor. Their wings are bright blue, though females have black wing edges. Wing undersides are pale blue with small black spots which distinguish them from Common Blue. The larva mostly feed on Holly, hence it’s name.
This is an interesting one and we’d be very interested to know if you have Greenfinches visiting your garden feeders as they have suffered a decline in recent years and we would like to map where they are and aren’t. Brightly coloured birds with a twittering, wheezing song and flash of yellow and green as it flies.
Three-cornered Leek #4
A showy garden escape which used to be rare but it has become a widespread weed. It was first recorded as a small roadside patch at Ashey in 1967 but it never spread and was never seen elsewhere. Then from the mid 1990’s onwards it began to be reported more frequently and now is a widespread and pernicious weed. The plant has triangular-shaped stems and a strong onion/leek smell.
Slow Worms #5
Slow Worms are neither worm or snake, but actually legless lizards. We have already received a number of reports now they are becoming more active in gardens and starting to think about pairing up. They have a smooth coat, which usually has a glossy, metallic finish. They can grow-up to 40-50cms and some may live up to 20 years!
Good places to look will be in a compost heap or in a greenhouse though less likely if there are cats about.
We have three Newt species on the Island, but you’re most likely to encounter the Smooth Newt (also known as the Common Newt) in your garden pond as it is the most widespread. The Palmate Newt favours shallow pools in acidic areas like heathland and the third species, the Great-Crested Newt – our largest species is extremely rare and a highly protected species.
Adult newts tend to visit ponds during Spring to mate and lay eggs, though may stay to hunt food during Summer. In Autumn and Winter they move out of ponds and find shelter under rocks, amongst tree roots, in compost heaps and in mud. Newts are most active at night and can easily be spotted by shining a torch into the pond.
Look out for froglets as they complete their metamorphosis from larva (tadpole) to the juvenile adult.
Frogs have smooth, moist skin, long, stripy legs and are likely to be found in damp habitats in the garden
Look out for toadlets as they complete their metamorphosis from larva (tadpole) to the small, but perfectly formed juvenile adult.
Toads have bumpy skin, golden eyes and prefer to crawl rather than hop. They can tolerate drier habitats than frogs and spend less time in water.
Keep an eye out for them basking in the sun, in your compost heap, under grass cuttings or even in ponds as they are excellent swimmers.
Happy garden wildlife watching!