Saturday, 22 December 2012


Sorry it's all been a bit quiet on the blogging front from us. However, we have a guest blogger this month - Stuart Mabbutt.
Stuart has been an Oxfordshire (England) Gardener for over 24 years and now specialises in wildlife gardening. He makes wildlife programmes for Radio Cherwell Oxford Hospital Radio and writes articles and features in other local media. He gives lively talks to groups showing how small as well as large gardens can be a haven for wildlife. With light hearted observations he looks at the psychology and sociology behind what makes an effective wildlife gardener as opposed to traditional gardener.

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular contribution here. My aim is to work your mind slightly differently so that when you are out there looking after your garden, you spare a thought for the wildlife that is and, could be, using that space with you.

Gardens are not just about having well manicured lawns with crisply trimmed edges, bedding flowers in nice tidy blocks of colour or perfectly straight rows in the vegetable garden. Just as much enjoyment I believe is gained by sharing the space with other living creatures from birds to moths, bats to badgers.

You don’t have to have a large garden to attract wildlife - small gardens are just as important especially when you put together an entire row of small gardens that in the eyes of wildlife, looks just like one big linked up habitat. They don’t care if there is a fence dividing your garden from your neighbours. Wildlife sees it as one block of space uniting entire communities.

A good place to start is to have a lawn that has varying lengths of grass in different areas, not just mown within an inch of its life all over. Although birds like to feed on short grass, insects love longer areas. To increase the bio-diversity in your garden, build from the insects up as they are near the foot of the food chain, then everything else will follow.

Grow as many varieties of plant as possible and leave some seed heads when you are dead heading as this will increase the insect and bird life in your garden. When pruning down all your herbaceous perennials in autumn (once they have finished flowering), leave about 5 inches of stem uncut above ground. Not only will this protect the crowns of your plants from the severe winter weather but it will also give insects somewhere to hibernate. This again is a good food source with which to attract birds in winter.

Perhaps you have room for a small tree that fruits or berries, this again can be a good food source for birds. If you are growing trees and shrubs try and focus on native plants that grow naturally in this country, they are more attractive to native wildlife.

Ponds are great ways of attracting wildlife to pay a visit to your garden but never plant overly invasive plants that will soon overrun. Also keep in mind that fish in a pond will reduce some of the insect and amphibian populations you may wish to attract and enjoy.

The main thing to consider when you are gardening with wildlife in mind is, not to be too tidy - wildlife doesn’t like too much housework to be done. Leave some piles of dead wood and some piles of rocks, to give small creatures places to hide and, if you have a large garden, standing dead wood is very valuable. By this I mean if you have a tree that is dead or dying, leave it standing for as long as possible unless it is dangerous. This encourages insects and other animals that live higher up and off the ground. Green Woodpeckers love standing dead wood as they have very soft bills so can’t hammer very easily into hard wood. This is often why you can observe them feeding on the ground as they trying to find ant nests in your lawns and borders. Gardens stocked with numerous flowers producing evening blooms are called ‘Moon Gardens’ - great for people who work all day!

Moon Garden plants are usually white which reflects the moonlight even more and are fragrant in the evening too. Foliage is also sometimes white which adds to the reflective quality of the garden.

Evening Primroses, Yucca and Night Scented Stocks are good plants for evening enjoyment. In the herb garden, mint, thyme and even basil often flower in the evening.

Plants that are flowering and fragrant during the day usually attract daytime insects but plants with evening and night interest attract insects that are on the wing or active in the evening too. One additional advantage to having evening and night flowering plants is that they stand out in the moonlight and make it easier for pollinating insects to spot.

My point behind all this is that if you attract and keep these insects in your garden in the evening, you can then expect to attract predators like bats! Bats use huge amounts of energy and can hoover up vast quantities of insects therefore, try to grow native plants to Britain and you will attract native insects and native bats.

Growing trees and shrubs in a linear fashion help bats to find their way around. They memorize where the features are to help them navigate where to go. Removing a feature breaks that line of growth and may confuse them so that they may not cross that void to get to the next tree. Often early flying bats don’t like to break cover because there are more predators around so losing part of a row of trees may disrupt their movements. Later flying bats are often more adventurous and fly in more open pastures, probably due to less predation from owls etc.

So go on, have a go at Moon Gardening and watch the bats share it with you! Have a go at gardening a little differently and see if you too can attract more visitors into your garden.

Happy Gardening
Stuart Mabbutt
Wildlife Gardening Specialist
01865 747243
Web address (link to listen live over the internet) for the page dedicated to our wildlife programme on the Radio Cherwell Website -

Follow us on the Stuart Mabbutt Gardening Ltd Facebook page (link) This link takes you to the sign up page unless you already have an account.

Or Ozoshare (link) similar to Facebook for discussion on environmental topics. Ozoshare's membership focuses on green issues only to form a green community to promote environmental responsibility. This link takes you to the sign up page unless you already have an account.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

BLUEBELL BULBS (hyacinthoides non scripta)

There is nothing more quintessentially English than a woodland carpeted with Bluebells - beautiful.
Bluebells are perennial. Member of the Lily family. Clusters of bell-shaped flowers from April to June. Grows to about 12 ins (30 cm) high. Found in woodlands so looks good planted under trees. Unrelated to those plants in Scotland called Bluebells – these are actually Harebells.

Popular nectar plant for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Leaves provide food for autumnal and 6-striped rustic moths. Preferred food source for the Brimstone and Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies. Pollinated by long-tongued insects, such as bumblebees, and some hoverflies. Honeybees have short tongues and so have to steal the nectar by pushing apart the base of the petals.

Pliny said that Bluebells sprang from the blood of Ajax. Another legend dedicates the plant to Hyacinthus, who was loved by Apollo and Zephyrus, the god of the West wind. Hyacinthus, though (a lad, by the way), loved Apollo more and so Zephyrus killed the lad in jealousy. From his blood sprang Bluebells.

White juices from the stem make a useful glue. During the Middle Ages it was used to stick feathers on to arrows, and during Elizabethan times, it was used for laundry starch and glue.

Bluebell fields can be dangerous as they are full of fairies and concentrated magic. The flowers ring to summon fairies to midnight revelry. Anyone who wears a Bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. If you hear Bluebells ring you will soon die – thus they were known as Deadman’s Bells in Scotland.

It is important to make sure you plant true English Bluebells, and not the very invasive Spanish variety, which are a real threat to our native Bluebell populations. Spanish Bluebells are not really woodland plants are are more often found in open ground. Spanish Bluebell flowers are on one side of the stem, which is also thicker than that of an English Bluebell. English Bluebells have creamy-coloured pollen, others do not. English Bluebells have a strong, sweet smell and narrow tubular flowers with rolled back petals. Planting dry bulbs – Plant as soon as possible after receipt. If you can’t plant straightaway, store them in a mesh tray with sawdust or shredded newspaper to stop them going mouldy. They will also keep a bit longer if you store them in the fridge. For a more natural look, scatter the Bluebell bulbs and plant them where they land. Make sure they are planted to a good depth (about 4 inches). If you have any leaf mould plant them with some of that to imitate the natural woodland floor. Bluebells grown from seed take 2 – 3 years to flower.

In the green – plant asap! Bluebells in the green are planted January to May and have green leaves when planted. When planted later in their flowering period they may consist of the whole bulb, leaves and flowers. If you are not able to plant within a day of the bulbs arriving, temporarily plant them in trays or pots of compost until you can plant them out. They can be kept outside.

Sunday, 29 July 2012


This lovely ancient woodland is situated a few miles from Canterbury and is rife with wildflowers, wildlife and orchids. It is also home to the last surviving population of Duke of Burgundy butterflies in Kent (photo courtesy Butterfly Conservation):


Walking through the woods at any time of year is magical. Wide pathways lead into the woods and you are surrounded on either side by widflowers and trees such as Chestnut, Conifer, Beech, Hazel, Oak. Even in winter the woods are beautiful.

In spring the Bluebells arrive and the many species of orchid start to put in an appearance - Twayblade, Common Spotted, Man, Fragrant, Early Purple, the rare Lady Orchid and Pyramidal:

Other wildflowers include Lesser Knapweed:

Wild Foxglove:

Wild Columbine, Eyebright, Scarlet Pimpernel, Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Centaury:

Birds such as Nightingales, Spotted Flycatchers and Chiffchaffs also live in the woods, as do dormice, lizards and 32 species of butterfly. The woodland is managed by the Woodland Trust and Butterfly Conservation recently conculded a project in 2010 to better prepare the woods for Duke of Burgundy butterflies.

The woods also have areas of scrubland and chalk grassland known as Bonsai Bank, where many butterflies and sunny wildflowers can be found. The track below leads to Bonsai Bank:

The following photos were taken in July 2012 in the area below and around Bonsai Bank, truly a wonderful piece of nature!

And then you finally get to an area where the woods open up into undulating countryside and more wildflowers, butterflies and bees!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


N3YRCGMV85CX Oak trees are wonderful - majestic, towering, living hundreds of years and a haven for all sorts of creatures. There is also a lot of folklore connected with Oak and this blog is the fruit of my research on this fantastic tree.

The Oak has been sacred to many major cultures in history and has been associated with major gods – Zeus, Jupiter, Dagda, Perun and Thor – all of whom were thunder gods, and this also led to the belief that Oak trees could never be struck by lightning. Druids often practiced their rites in Oak groves. In fact the word Druid probably derives from their word of Oak: “duir” = men of the Oaks. Mistletoe often grows on Oak trees and was believed to have been put there by the gods during a lightning strike. Mistletoe growing on an Oak tree doubles its magic potential. Ancient kings wore crowns of Oak leaves as a symbol of the gods they represented as kings on earth. It was believed that ships built of Oak would not suffer lightning strike.

Roman commanders were presented with crowns of Oak leaves during victory parades. Many Oak groves were supplanted by early Christian churches. Oak was used in Tudor houses for strength and durability. In 1651, Charles II hid from the Roundheads in an Oak at Boscobel. In 1660 he made 29 May Royal Oak Day to celebrate the restoration of the Monarchy.


Much folklore surrounds individual Oak trees. For example, the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest is purported to be the tree where Robin Hood and his Merry Men hatched their plots. Another example, the area of Selly Oak, south of Birmingham, derives its name from Sally Barn who, over 300 years ago, was believed to be a witch. Local villagers killed her by driving an Oak stake through her heart and buried her where she fell – from which an Oak tree eventually grew which became known as Sally’s Oak and later Selly Oak.

Oaks have some weather divination powers in folklore:
“If the Oak is before the Ash Then you’ll get a splash If the Ash before the Oak Then you may expect a soak!”

Ancient folklore tells of hollow trees in old sacred Oak groves where elves, fairies or demons lived. If in the vicinity, turn your cloak/coat inside out to neutralise their magic. Fairy spirits were believed to enter houses through knotholes in Oak timbers. In pagan Ireland, it was a crime to fell an ancient Oak tree. To find a worm in an Oak apple leads to poverty. To find the insect in a gall, however, leads to riches. To find a spider means that an illness is due. If you have toothache, drive nails into Oak trees and leave your pain with the tree. May dew from an Oak leaf was used in beauty treatments. Drop two acorns in a bowl of water to see if you will marry your lover – if the acorns float together you will both marry, if not you will part. Acorns were also placed on window sills to guard the home from lightning and harm.

If you catch a falling Oak leaf you won’t catch a cold. Oak fires draw off illness. Carrying acorns will prevent illness and increase immortality, fertility, sexual potency and youthfulness. Plant an acorn in the dark to ensure money in the near future.

One Christian legend tells of all the trees meeting together when Christ’s crucifixion was announced. They vowed to have no part in the event. As the Jews chose the wood it all splintered into pieces and was useless – except for the wood of the Oak. It was, therefore, seen as a traitor by the other trees. Another Christian legend concerning when Cain murdered Abel – he had to carry his dead brother’s body 700 yards to bury him. He then stuck his staff in the ground to mark the spot and the “Seven Oaks of Palestine” immediately sprang forth.

When King Harold survived the Battle of Hastings and was at Rouen with William, William made him swear an oath under an Oak tree. Harold broke this oath and the Oak shed its leaves as a sign of this.

At Howth Castle in Ireland there is an ancient Oak. If the tree falls the Howth family line will die ouit. Hence the branches of the tree are supported by wooden posts.


Culpeper recommended powdered acorn and wine as a diuretic. Ground acorns have been used as a substitute for coffee in the past. The bark has a high tannin content. It yields a brown dye and the Oak galls give a black dye from which ink was made. Boiled bark was used as a tonic for harness sores on horses.

The Oak is antiseptic, can reduce inflammation and controls bleeding. It is taken internally for diarrhoea, dysentery and prolapse of the womb; externally for piles, bleeding gums, dermatitis, ulcers and varicose veins. DO NOT TRY ANY HERBAL REMEDIES WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING A QUALIFIED PRACTITIONER! HERBAL USES MENTIONED ARE FOR INFO ONLY!


Oak is an important wildlife plant, growing very large and living for many hundreds of years. Produces acorns. Over 300 species of lichens have been found on Oak trees; 30 species of bird are associated with Oak and more insects feed on the tree than any other species of plant – a record 284 species.

Food plant of the caterpillars of the following moths – Brindled Pug, Oak Tree Pug, Spring Usher, Peppered, Oak Beauty, brindled Beauty, Pale Brindled Beauty, Small Brindled Beauty, Feathered Thorn, Orange, Lunar Thorn, Purple Thorn, Scalloped Hazel, Scalloped Oak, Scorched Wing, Large Thorn, August Thorn, September Thorn, November, Pale November, Winter, March, Blotched Emerald, Common Emerald, Little Emerald, False Mocha, Maiden’s Blush, Marbled Pug, Red-green Carpet and Broken Barred Carpet. Purple Hairstreak butterflies.

The tree has a period of quite rapid growth for its first 80 – 100 years and then it gradually slows down. Acorns are produced when the tree is about 40. Leave Oak leaf litter where it falls beneath the tree and this will help keep the tree healthier. Oak trees are tolerant of heavy clay, exposed conditions, coastal and chalk areas.

Monday, 25 June 2012


I was very lucky today to be able to tag along with Tom from Kentish Stour Countryside Project and Jan, a bird ringer with over 30 years experience, and another lady, to watch local barn owls being ringed for record purposes.

We set off at 9.30 with Godmersham as our first port of call. We parked up by an old Sweet Chestnut tree and were rewarded with the sight of two barn owls flying off out of the tree as we approached. A search of a couple of potential nesting holes revealed that the owls had not nested there so we moved on to the next stop a few fields away, where a nest box had been sited in a tree in a field of very inquisitive sheep.

Jan went off ahead of us with a strange device called a dolly - basically a long pole with a piece of stuffed material on the end which she used to block the nest hole to prevent any owls inside from flying out.

The rest of us were then able to come closer. A ladder was put up against the tree and Jan climbed up and opened the hatch at the front of the nest to see if any owls were in there - unfortunately not. Just an old rook nest full of wool and twigs. Tom was tasked with the job of clearing this out and sprinkling in fresh sawdust for any future owl occupants to make themselves at home. We then went off to a second next box next to the river only to find that this, too, had been used by rooks and Tom had to clear it out again! Whilst we were there a rather extraordinary sight met our eyes - there was a lot of squawking and commotion going on further up the river and as we walked a bit closer to see what was happening a heron shot past shrieking, closely followed by a kestrel - never seen anything like it!

We then got back in the land rover and off to Bilting to a couple more nest boxes on sturdy poles. Again the procedure with the dolly was followed and when Jan opened the hatch it was discovered there were three barn owls in there! I was so excited, I can tell you! Each owl was taken out and carefully placed in a cloth bag and handed down to be placed on a rug on the grass.They then had to be weighed and this was recorded in a book. Once on the grass they were carefully unwrapped and the process of ringing them began. The owls were very sleepy (as you will see in the photos below!) and very well behaved - in fact, Jan said she hadn't seen such well-behaved owls! Two were females and there was one male (female barn owls are slightly darker than males). The females have speckles under their wings. Their wing measurements revealed their ages as approx 55, 58 and 59 days old. Whilst Tom was clearing out the box he found a freshly killed vole (their dinner tonight!) and, sadly, a decomposed owl. The following pictures I think, speak for themselves! After ringing they were then very carefully put back in the bags, taken up the ladder into their newly cleaned nest, courtesy of Tom. Ringing records help to monitor bran owl prevalence and where they travel and nest. One of these may well be found next year nesting a in a box further along the river or may well turn up elsewhere and its records can be looked up via the ring number. Barn owls are declining in numbers and it is so important for farmers to put up nest boxes and to create the right habitat for the voles and mice that they eat. Bad winters have a severe impact on barn owl numbers - they cannot hunt properly when it rains or snows and some end up starving to death. The cold weather can also affect the number of voles and mice available, which can also lead to starvation. Many owls (an estimated 3000 - 5000) are kiled every year by cars as they fly low alongside road verges looking for prey. If you would like to help barn owls there are many charities devoted to helping them which you can find in your local area or nationally via a Google search.

We did go to three more next boxes, one which involved rather a long walk wading through shoulder-high wheat! However, all 3 had broken hatches and were no owls had obviously nested in them.

All in all a very enjoyable morning!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Our garden is surrounded by fields of oats at the moment. A native hedge separates the fields from our garden. Some of this was planted three years ago, the part at the front much further in the past. We have a good selection of Rowan, Crab Apple, Hornbeam, Hawthorn, Spindle, Privet and Elder - all excellent for a variety of creatures. Fruits for the mice, voles and birds, flowers for the bees, butterflies and moths and places for the birds to nest and shelter. The front part of the hedge is entwined with Wild Rose, White Bryony and Wild Clematis. If you have Privet i your hedge, try and leave it to flower rather than trimming it - you will be amazed at the butterflies and bees you will get on the flowers!

Not only is a hedge is marvellous habitat for wildlife. The wildflowers in front of it are also just as marvellous. Red Campion adds a splash of pink and there are always bees on the flowers. Comfrey is another plant that like the semi-shade conditions provided by a hedge - and is another plant beloved of bees. As is Hedge Woundwort with its spires of purple-red flowers and its downy, nettle-like leaves.

The hedgerow in the field next door also has Bladder Campion and Blackberries growing alongside it, with the odd Teasel which has self-seeded next to it.

We also have two ponds next to each other. The first, smaller one was dug a year before the second. This has become rather overgrown with Cotton Grass, Yellow Flag Iris and other pond grasses. Willowherb has also taken a liking to it. When there hasn't been much rain this area becomes more of a bog now than a pond but it still has plenty of wildlife value. Purple Loosestrife grows beside its edges and when in flower is full of butterflies and bees. The main pond next to it is full of native oxygenators, a couple of Lilies, Bogbean, Water Forget-me-not, water snails, water boatmen and,at this time of year, dragonflies and damselflies. The colour of these creatures is vibrant and breathtaking.The two photos below show the pond two years ago when first dug and how it is now.

Leading up to the pond is our meadow area - every year this is different. The first year we sowed cornfield annuals and left it to set seed. We also planted a number of perennial wildflowers. The following two years we left it and just added extra plants, scattered a few seeds and then waited to see what would appear. This year we have Lesser Knapweed, Oxeye Daisy, Catmint, White Campion, Sorrel, Elecampane, Purple Loosestrife, Ragged Robin, Marshmallow - to name but a few and there are still more to come. As I write it is mainly white but this will soon change with the addition of pinks, blues and reds. The area is buzzing with bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths and other flying creatures. I saw a slow worm there yesterday and a few weeks ago a couple of ducks flew in and spent the day floating about on the water or sitting by the pond. We have mown some paths to gain access to the pond and the whole meadow area is loosely enclosed with widely-spaced trees and shrubs. An rusted archway is the entrance to the area and this is slowly getting covered with honeysuckle, climbing roses and hops.

The front of the meadow area is just rough grass but, despite that, clovers and Wild Carrot have sown themselves there and soon that area will be a splash of white with the Wild Carrot flowerheads.

We made a wildlife stack (see blog earlier in the year)in February out of logs, old pots, hay etc and planted the top with wildflowers. We built it close to the far side of the pond next to a "grove" of Silver Birch trees. This area is now smothered in wispy tall grasses but the stack can be seen through them and I should imagine many creatures have made a home in it.

Also amongst the meadow area are two piles of logs acting as wildlife refuges, initially for frogs but we have had no frogs this year. But I would guess it is a pretty popular area for slow worms and maybe the odd grass snake which has been seen amongst the grasses. A patch has also been dug in the grass area for growing Kidney Vetch, a food plant that blue butterflies love. Having seen one or two of them flitting about I am hoping this patch in flower will encourage them to stay! I sowed California Poppies in between the plants as they are good nectar plants, although not native wildflowers to the UK.

To the right of the meadow area is a pergola which we have planted with various Honeysuckles and Clematis to provide eventually a nice sheltered seating area. This too is surrounded by grasses, Ox-eye Daisies, Red Campion and Meadow Clary.

In front of all of this is a very tall, majestic Hornbeam, a micro-habitat in its own right, catering for insects (particularly moths), birds and squirrels. Around 28 species of wildlife are supported by Hornbeam trees. A tawny owl took quite a shine to the tree last autumn and sat in there every night shrieking for about three weeks. I loved listening to it! The area under the tree is awash with Bluebells, Oxlips and Cyclamen in the spring.

This brings us to the front of the house which is mainly laid to lawn but a wildflower patch under the kitchen window adds a splash of colour - this changes every year as I generally leave it to do its own thing.

Part of the back and edge of the house has an older Wisteria climbing up it. When you walk through the leafy archway beside it you are greeted with intense humming coming from a swarm of honeybees that arrived three weeks ago and set up home in a space into the wall that they managed to discover through the Wisteria! However they are doing no harm and I quite like listening to them and watching them at work as I walk by.

At the far end of the front garden is a shady, sheltered area which has Primroses, Red Campion, Bluebells, Snowdrops and Ground Ivy. Definitely at its best in spring but still a good little habitat.

I would urge everyone to give over a little bit of their garden to creating one or two wildlife habitats. It brings immense pleasure to sit amongst it all and watch and listen to the creatures it attracts getting on with their daily lives. Even a sunken bowl of water will bring in new wildlife! When we moved here the garden was very bland. It is now home to many species of bee, butterfly, moth, bird and bat. We are also plagued with rabbits sometimes, which can be annoying when they eat what you have just planted, and the squirrels can be annoying when they eat all the bird food but - I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, 1 June 2012


I was very lucky to be invited along to the reintroduction of this extinct British bumblebee. The bee was last recorded in the UK in 1988 and officially declared extinct in 2000. Its demise is the result of farming, the use of pesticides etc and the destruction of hedgerows to make way for vast fields of crops. Scientists have been working for the last three years on reintroducing this species into the UK and the day finally arrived for the reintroduction on 28 May 2012 at the RSPB Dungeness nature reserve! The project has been a collaberation of Hymettus, Natural England and the RSPB. There has also been a lot of liaison with local farmers on Romney Marsh and the sowing of swathes of marshland with the wildflower species that the bee needs in order to survive.

Dr Nikki Gammans has been key to the whole project and she and colleagues went over to Skane in Sweden earlier this year to collect Short-haired bumblebee queens to release in the UK. Sweden has a large Short-haired bumblebee population and after negotiations with the Swedish scientists etc it was agreed that the team could collect some bees to release in the UK. The bees were caught in nets, placed in vials and housed in fridges at 5 degrees to calm them and they were fed for 5 days on a nectar solution. Once in the UK, strict quarantine was observed for two weeks to make sure no parasites had been brought back with the bees. Some bees sadly died from parasite infestation but 51 survived.

Dungeness (2 photos above) was chosen as the release site as the bee had previously been recorded there and its climatic conditions and native flora were ideal and similar to those in Skane. Dungeness is a fascinating place, a shingle habitat. Shingle habitats are rare worldwide and Dungeness has 40% of the UKs shingle reserve. Dungeness has three distinct habitats - young shingle, lichen heath and wild grassland. This results in a rich biodiversity in the area, with over 500 species of wildlife recorded there. It is a national nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest.

On the release day, the British media did a stirling job in keeping the event in the public eye all day via radio and TV news bulletins. The RSPB centre in Dungeness was a hive of activity with film crews and people invited along to witness the event. After all the media interviews, the process of releasing the bees could then get underway. Nikki went off to her campervan to get the bees out of the fridge and they were handed out in cool bags to four group leaders to be released at four different sites.

The group I was in went off across the shingle to a patch of Yellow Flag Irises and the queens were taken out of the cool bag in their plastic boxes and vials. We had 8 of the 51. As they warmed up they started to get a bit feisty and were keen to be off!
One by one the boxes and vials were opened and the bees started to clamber out. Once they realised freedom was to be had, they were off! Some still needed to warm up a bit so were happy to sit on someone's hands to absorb the heat. It was a splendid moment and one I won't forget, watching them fly off to freedom and a new life, and hopefully to multiply in numbers across the surrounding area.
It was a lovely sight watching the bees fly off into the flowers and we could occasionally spot them as they went from flower to flower. It was quite an idyllic scene - warm weather, clear blue skies, reed warblers singing their hearts out and a couple of cuckoos flying around!

The story doesn't end there. The bee's progress will be closely monitored and more queens are planned for collection and release over the next two or three years. Truly a conservation success so far.