Ten Wonderful Wildlife Blogs

Feel inspired – and grab your binoculars – for a chance to spot these elusive little creatures this summer
Image: Shutterstock

If you love nothing better than to “stand and stare” in the hope of spotting some of the UK’s phenomenal, but rather shy, wildlife, have we got a treat for you. Here’s our round up of some of the best UK wildlife blogs around. These blogs are filled with great wildlife stories, gorgeous photos, live webcam footage and more. Perfect to enjoy over a hot cuppa.

 

Wildlife Kate

Customers at Kate’s bird snack bar
Image: Wildlife Kate, sponsored by CJ Wildlife

With heaps of live webcam action, wildlife blogger Kate’s site is a must. Enjoy footage of birds stopping off at her purpose-built bird snack bar, and mice dropping into the festive mammal feeding station she built complete with Christmas tree and roaring log fire. It’s wildlife footage with a difference.

A wildlife expert with a passion for education, you’ll have seen Kate on Countryfile, Springwatch and more. Check out her photo of the foxes visiting her garden. There are two dogs and four vixens, three of which look pregnant. She hopes to be “filming cubs visiting around the middle of May… Exciting times.”

Brigit Strawbridge 

Female hairy-footed flower bee
Image: Brigit Strawbridge

Have you ever spotted a hairy-footed flower bee buzzing around your garden? Brigit says they’re smaller than a bumble bee and have a zippy, unbeelike flight path. But the telltale sign that alerted her was the characteristic high-pitched buzz of a female – like the one pictured – supping on the nectar from a snowdrop.

If you’d like to learn more about bees, Brigit’s blog is the place to go. Based in Dorset, she gives talks in the local area as well as further afield – like this lecture she gave at the National Honey Show. She’s also working on a book which is due to be published in Spring 2019. You can read a few excerpts from it on Brigit’s blog.

My Life Outside

‘Owls’ about that?
Image: My Life Outside

Having spent eight years searching for the elusive little owl – but never being lucky enough to spot one – Wales-based wildlife photographer Adam didn’t hold out much hope when he took his mum on an owl-spotting trip to Kenfig near Bridgend. But then his mum said, “isn’t that one over there?…”

Here you’ll find stunning wildlife photography from someone who likes nothing better than to grab his hiking gear and camera, and head out into the magnificent wilds of Wales. Check out Adam’s series of badger photos from Dinefwr Castle.

The Reremouse

The striking Noctule bat – with his beautiful auburn fur
Image: The Reremouse

How well do you know your bats? If you’d like to know more than you currently do, take a look at this blogger’s bat pages. It turns out the gingery Noctule (pictured above) is the UK’s biggest bat. And, up to 40g, he’s about the size of two small hamsters.

Passionate about wildlife, The Reremouse offers a great source of information to help you do your bit. Tempted to leave food out for local wildlife? “Anything you put out… needs to at least be similar to food sources that they would use in the wild – i.e. fruits, seeds and nuts.” And don’t feed too often or too regularly, or there’s a risk creatures could become dependent.

Why Watch Wildlife?

A black-headed gull was food for someone. But who dunnit?
Image: Why Watch Wildlife?

When visiting Scarborough, wildlife watcher David came across a bundle of feathers belonging to a hapless bird that had clearly become something’s lunch. But whose? Check out the clues that will set you on your way to discovering the likely identity of the killer.

David says that although we spend £200 million each year on attracting birds to our gardens, we’re actually spending less time in wild environments. If you’re in need of a little inspiration to help you step into the great outdoors, you’ve come to the right place.

British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Meet Harry and Beatrix Otter!
Image: Matt Binstead, British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

Keep up to date with the comings and goings at the British Wildlife Centre at Lingfield in Surrey. Setup in 1997 by former farmer, David Mills, the centre now houses the UK’s finest collection of British native species.

You’ll love keeper Matt’s blog post about the centre’s two baby otters. Imaginatively named, Harry and Beatrix Otter (get it?), they’re already almost as big as their mother. Featuring a wealth of information about our British wildlife, the blog presents some wonderful photography too – our favourite is Susie the stoat in ermine.

Isle of May National Nature Reserve

Dolphins playing in the waters off the Isle of May
Image: Isle of May National Nature Reserve

What do you do when you’re trying to get off the Isle of May, and a grey seal decides to hide under your quad bike? That’s just one of the many stories in the life of this small island nature reserve, off the east coast of Scotland.

An island teeming with bird and animal life, the Isle of May hosts spectacular seabird colonies in the summer, while in the autumn it’s a breeding site for the biggest colony of Atlantic grey seals in Britain. Well worth a visit.

Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies actually benefit from a cold snap
Image: Wikipedia

Despite their fragile appearance, a winter cold snap can actually benefit butterflies and moths. In fact, the folk at Butterfly Conservation say some species including Large Skipper, Large White, Ringlet and Chalk Hill Blue, see their populations increase after a winter of extreme cold.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do to encourage a wide range of butterflies and moths to visit your garden, this is the blog and website for you. One top tip: “Leave bare patches of wall, fence or earth, or place large stones in sunny borders, so butterflies can bask.” Check out the site for more like this.

Ben Porter Wildlife

Can you spot the plastic fragments amongst the plankton?
Image: Ben Porter Wildlife

Exeter Uni student Ben Porter spent a chilly day hauling nets near Falmouth in Cornwall. He and his fellow students were looking to establish the ubiquity of plastic and microfibres in the seawater samples they took. Sadly, Ben’s photos speak for themselves – a stark reminder of the scale of the problem facing us.

As well as flagging up environmental pollution issues, Ben, who studies conservation and ecology at the University of Exeter, is into birds, moths, mammals and more. He also takes a mean photo. Check out his spectacular snap of an oystercatcher in mid flight.

Mark Warnes Photography

Beavers have been reintroduced in Camarthenshire
Image: Mark Warnes Photography

Take a look at photographer Mark’s pics of the beavers at the Bevis Trust in Wales. This cornerstone species was hunted to extinction in the 1600s. The trust, which is working towards their reintroduction, hopes that bringing back them back to Welsh rivers will also help re-establish other species too, like otters, water voles, frogs and newts.

Mark’s blog offers a kaleidoscope of stunning nature photography, from the colourful puffins on Skomer Island to the badgers of Carmarthenshire. If you’re looking for some inspiration from the natural world, you’ve come to the right place.

Have we missed any of your favourite wildlife nature blogs? If so, do let us know by heading over to our Facebook page and leaving us a message.

 

T&M catalogues come alive with augmented reality

Always striving to provide gardeners with the very best customer experience, Thompson & Morgan is now able to offer its customers a new interactive element to its catalogues. Working in conjunction with Layar, a global leader in augmented reality and interactive print, T&M’s products are coming alive in the pages of its plant catalogues this spring.

Easy to use and extremely user-friendly, Layar is the world’s most popular platform for augmented reality. The company aims to ‘bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds’ – meaning that their technology can make printed images ‘come alive’ on the screens of our smart phones and tablets.

Since launching the Layar facility in January of this year, Thompson & Morgan has noticed that an increasing number of its customers are using Layar to view pages in its spring catalogues and are enjoying the new interactive digital experience.

Once customers have downloaded the Layar app onto their smart phone or tablet, they can scan the pages in the T&M catalogue which display the Layar logo. The scanned page then comes to life! Users can tap their device’s screen to view ‘how to’ videos and photo galleries; to buy products; to contact Thompson & Morgan and to share content on social media.

If it all sounds a bit sci-fi and techy and like something from a film starring Tom Cruise, then go to www.thompson-morgan.com/layar for more information and tips on how to get the most out of this fantastic technology.

Thompson & Morgan’s marketing services manager, Clare Dixey said ‘We’re really excited to be offering an augmented reality experience to our customers. T&M is keen to stay abreast of developments in technology which can provide our customers with an enhanced experience. We’re aware that not all of our customers will use the facility, but we’re noticing a good number of customers are enjoying the added content and ease of browsing and ordering’.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

No courgettes? No problem. Grow your own!

Beat the veg deficit -T&M has the answer!

Articles in the press this week have flagged up a shortage of courgettes in UK supermarkets. This will consequently affect prices with courgettes – and many other vegetables – becoming more costly. However, Thompson & Morgan has the answer: grow your own!

Cold weather in Spain and Italy, which supply many of our supermarkets with fresh vegetables, has been blamed for the lower-than-average production. The shortages are not just limited to courgettes; suppliers suggest that imports of aubergines, spinach, peppers and tomatoes could also be affected. The laws of economics mean that prices in shops and supermarkets are already being driven up, putting even more pressure on those trying to stick to healthy New Year’s diets.

Thompson & Morgan has long promoted the health and cost benefits of growing your own vegetables. The company is offering 20% off a collection of seeds of the vegetables most likely to become more scarce and expensive as the year goes on, encouraging gardeners to grow their own.

For those on a New Year health drive, home-grown veg is always going to be a better bet than shop-bought – for a start, it hasn’t spent weeks in transit and then on a supermarket shelf, so its nutrients and vitamins are fresh and ready to give you that 2017 ‘new you’ boost.

Growing your own has never been easier either; with a variety of ‘How to’ articles and videos on the Thompson & Morgan website, amateur gardeners can find all the information and support they need to grow a variety of tasty and nutritious veg.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

“Kalettes” the Ghosts of Christmas past?

Are “Kalettes” the Ghosts of Christmas past that are now making a welcome return?


Not that we at Thompson & Morgan are keen to say “I told you so”, but the recent resurgence of Kale as a superfood and now the amazing new development of “kalettes” is somewhat old news to us.

Back in 2009 we offered Brassica ‘Petit Posy Mix’ to our customers and said:

“Petit Posy™ is similar in appearance to both Brussels sprouts and kale but the flavour and nutritional content is very similar to spring greens – perfect for fussy eaters who don’t enjoy sprouts!
The loose buttons are easy to pick off the stems and are perfect for adding to stir fries, serving steamed or microwaved and make very nutritious winter greens”

kalettes brassica petit posy mix

Also known as “kale sprouts” or even “flower sprouts” these easy to grow brassicas could well be an alternative to brussels sprouts during the festive season, they could also supplement winter veg over the whole of the season due to their very long cropping season. Extremely hardy ‘Petit Posy’ will stand throughout the winter to ensure you have access to tasty fresh vegetables whenever you need them that have a milder taste than traditional Brussels and so may well appeal more to younger members of the family too.

Available to buy from seed with 20 seeds per pack, the price has barely changed in nearly 7 years too, making our very own “kalettes” superb value for money!

Graham Ward

I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

Top picks and predictions for 2017

Master plant breeder, Charles Valin, head of Thompson & Morgan’s award-winning plant breeding programme, gives his top picks for 2017. Charles’ plant breeding accomplishments include the world’s first white bidens, the first properly dwarf buddleia, the first intensely scented trailing violas and the first ever bright blue verbascum.

strawberry just add cream, lily corsage and petunia mini rosebud romantic

1. Strawberry ‘Just add Cream’.
I’ve got high hopes for this fabulous new strawberry variety bred by us here at T&M. I’m confident that the exceptional flavour and aroma will make it the new favourite of chefs and gardeners alike.

2. Lily ‘Corsage’.
This stunning lily dates from 1961, but is still among the most elegant Asiatic Hybrids ever created. Each soft pink flower has delicate spots and a subtle eyeliner edge. It is also pollen-less, so there is no danger of staining if you use it as a cut flower and it is safe for cats.

3. Petunia ‘Mini Rosebud Romantic’.
Like a miniature version of the classic double petunia, this lovely variety is ideal if you don’t like dead heading petunias due to their stickiness – this one is absolutely non-stick!

coreopsis sunkiss, dianthus dynasty and alstromeria Sndian summer

4. Coreopsis ‘Sunkiss’.
The brightest yellow flowers and largest central blotching of any C. grandiflora type to date. This is a breakthrough in seed-raised coreopsis, allowing it to be better priced compared to traditional cutting-raised young plants. Combines well with other plants.

5. Dianthus ‘Dynasty’.
A double-flowered, more elegant version of the classic Sweet William, ‘Dynasty’ is perennial and perfect for cottage gardens. It has a lovely fragrance too and makes a fabulous cut flower.

6. Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’.
This variety has been around for a while, but I think it’s still the best performing Alstroemeria for the garden. The contrasting bronze foliage and never-ending blooms are hard to beat!

coronilla citrina, wasabi rocket, pepper padron and scabious kudos

7. Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’.
This plant is a gardeners’ dream: it has nice glaucous blue evergreen foliage, flowers for nine+ months of the year and its strong Narcissus fragrance wafts quite a distance even on the dullest of winter days.

8. Wasabi Rocket.
This popular salad green has even more of a kick than the traditional rocket and it’s much easier to grow than the real Japanese Wasabi plant in our climate. Just what sushi lovers have been waiting for!

9. Pepper Padron.
I have personally tried this one in Spain. It is served gilled as tapas and has become a sort of edible version of Russian roulette: they are so tasty and mild, so you tuck in confidently, thinking they’ll all be the same, but roughly 1 in 10 of them is devilishly hot! This is bound to be a favourite with chilli fans.

10. Scabious Kudos.
In my opinion, this is the best performing Scabious around; it just flowers and flowers and flowers. It performs equally well in the garden and in containers. Kudos is also a Mecca for bees and butterflies which we all need to attract to our gardens.

Sonia Mermagen

Sonia returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer in 2016. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

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