Thursday, 30 July 2009

London Litter

I have had a very busy time since my last post because I've been organizing and enjoying my husband's birthday celebrations...he is now officially an OAP:-)) Yesterday we went to London, had a picnic in the park, went to see 'We Will Rock You' and went on for a meal afterwards. It was a lovely day but I was rather saddened to see a pigeon wandering round Charing Cross Station with a plastic tag caught so tightly round its ankle that it had cut off the circulation and his foot had fallen off. It didn't seem particularly distressed, more uncomfortable as the tag suck out, but it could have been avoided if people would just pick up their litter.

Although I find London quite interesting for a days visit I always love coming back to the fields and woods of home. I just wish the weather would improve as it seems that, just lately, I start a walk in the sun but end it in the rain. When I went out today the butterflies were enjoying themselves in the warm sun and I was hopeful of getting some good pics of them on the Wild Thyme which grows in abundance in the fields. By the time I had got to the top of the field the sky had darkened and it was tipping it down with rain so I had to make do with pictures of the Thyme and Harebells without their colourful companions who had flown away to take cover somewhere.

Talking of taking cover, my poor garden birds are constantly having to fly for cover because of a Sparrow Hawk who keeps swooping down at incredible speeds to snatch the little birds from the feeders. He is coming so often I think I may have to stop putting feed out for a while to try and break the habit. I am off to the New Forest for a few days so I will get my son to monitor it over the weekend and make a decision when I get back.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Worm Brew

For a long time we had loads of worms in one of the compost bins so with that in mind my husband asked around to see if anyone was getting rid of a wormery. Almost immediately someone on Freecycle sent him an email offering him one, so since Easter we have been nurturing lots of wiggly worms.

The great thing about having a proper wormery is that as the worms eat their way through our leftovers they produce a liquid and as the wormery has an artificial floor with holes in, it allows this liquid to pass through to the bottom where it can be drained of by means of a tap. We now have our first brew of wormy wine ready to treat our plants with. Lets hope the plants like it:-)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ragwort: To be or not to be?

At this time of year the fields behind us are usually covered in Ragwort; however, this year there is a lot less, so I am guessing Mr Farmer has sprayed it.

I am not a big fan of chemical weedkillers but as I have mentioned in a previous post, I do think Ragwort needs to be controlled as it can kill grazing animals, particularly horses, and its yet to be decided if it is dangerous to humans. Having said that I have really enjoyed this year, seeing the masses of Cinnabar Moths, whose larval food is Ragwort. In turn, every strand of the remaining Ragwort is now covered with their attractive stripy caterpillars.

A lot of people in the horse world feel that Ragwort should be totally eradicated but surely we need to try and respect that whilst it can be deadly to one species it can be a lifeline to another. I really do sympathise with people who have lost much loved horses to this weed though and hate the thought of any horse, let alone one of the horses I ride, dying in such an unpleasant way. All very confusing...I really don't know what to think.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Insect Takeover

The young birds in the garden now seem pretty self sufficient and it is all a lot quieter. The exception to this is the Magpie family and they are still going around like a group of hooligans hell bent on destroying the runner bean supports and the garden chairs by pulling at any loose thread. If one manages to get a bit of thread or anything else interesting they all chase it madly round and round the garden. They also desperately want to be like the smaller birds and eat from the feeders but they only manage to hold on for a couple of seconds during which time they gobble like mad...very amusing to watch.

Where the birds have quietened down the insects have taken over. The bumble bee's nest that the fox uncovered a few weeks back is thriving. The only problem being that it is right in the middle of the lawn. We also have a wasps nest that is in an unfortunate place; in the rockery, right next to the bridge that hides our filter box that needs cleaning just about every day. It puts me in mind of when I saw a wasp flying around the wildlife pond with a red spot on its back. I was very excited and convinced that we had some rare species in the garden but when my boys got back from school they informed me that they had marked the wasp with a little dollop of paint so they could monitor where it flew. I felt sure they were destined for jobs in wildlife conservation but both went into computing.

The other problem insects that we have are the grasshoppers and crickets. We have a fly curtain at the patio door that is made out of lots of little bits of bamboo on strings but when they blow together it makes a clickety noise that attracts the crickets and grasshoppers so we are forever having to turf the little hoppers out of our breakfast room. We will definitely have to buy a new fly curtain. This little chap hadn't got that far and was well camouflaged amongst the weeds in our lawn.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Glow Worms

It is the time of year when our daytime walk becomes a night time walk. This is so we can count Glow Worms. The females of these fascinating little creatures glow brightly to attract a mate from around mid June to the end of July. They are often seen on grass land, particularly in chalky areas. They usually start glowing at around 10pm and keep going to about midnight. Unfortunately, because I usually get up around 5 am in the summer (thanks to Lizzy, my old cat, pestering me soooo much that it is just easier to get up!) I really feel like going to bed at 10pm rather than going for a walk; however, it is worth getting tired to see these amazing glowing insects. There are several things in nature that the camera just can't do justice to and the brilliant glow of a glow worm is one of them.

This is a favourite poem of my grandson's, although, sadly neither of us know who wrote it:

I wish I was a Glow Worm,
A Glow Worm's never glum,
'Cos how can you be grumpy,
When the sun shines out your bum!

The greatest number of Glow Worms we have seen in any one night is 74 but that was several years ago when the children were young and we all used to go on family glow worm hunts. So far this year we haven't seen many but hopefully we might see more if the weather improves a bit.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Clever Birds

The frenetic feeding of baby birds in the garden seems to have calmed down a bit over the last few days. I don't know if this is because of the stormy weather we've been having or because the youngsters are now managing to feed themselves. Either way I think the parent birds have done and incredible job in raising their young. They have built their nests, kept them clean, fed their babies and all with no hands just a things.

The Parakeets do use their feet quite a lot though and often spend several minutes just hanging around but I wonder if they use them in parenting. This one hung by just one toe for about a minute and a half.

Now there aren't so many protective parent birds around the squirrels have returned to the feeder. Over the years I have tried several ways to make it more difficult for them to get at the bird food. Not that I mind them having some but they eat soooo much. Anyway they are just too agile so I have now given up and they help themselves along with everything else.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Seeds and Weeds

Yesterday my husband and I went to Wakehurst Place in Sussex. We were amazed at the sizes of the trees; some must have been growing for years as they were massive. I have never seen any photo or painting that can truly capture the magnificence of a large tree; they are just one of those things that have to be seen to be appreciated.

While we were there we visited the Millennium Seed Bank. I have always appreciated the importance of plants but never really considered the future of plants and the devastating effect of certain plants dying out. The Millennium Seed Bank Project is incredible as not only do they have to collect the seeds but also work out how to store them in a way that will enable them to germinate again maybe in hundreds of years time and each seed has different requirements. They said that they have now collected seeds from every plant known in Britain except for a couple of rarer ones. What a job...I'd love to work there.

Anyway when I see the weeds in my garden I will now think that in generations to come people might be pleased to see these plants. In fact just at the moment I have to say that some of my weeds are looking quite pretty:-)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Bird Battles

For those of you that get lots of Starlings in your gardens you would probably be surprised that I was not 100% sure that this was a baby Starling. There were no parent birds around and I didn't realize juveniles were so brown. I sort of guessed it was a Starling by its walk but was pleased to have it confirmed after watching a video on MIDMARSH JOTTINGS' blog. Obviously there are adult Starlings around nearby so I wonder why they don't come into my garden.

Just about every other bird has been paying us a visit along with their broods of youngsters. The garden seems like a bird version of Piccadilly Circus with all the comings and goings.

The Magpies have taken command of the ground and go around in a gang, like delinquent teenagers, terrorising everything and trying to undo the string that holds the runner bean canes together. Even the Pheasants get their tails pulled.

The feeding tree has become the domain of the Woodpecker family. They don't mind the smaller birds but hate the Parakeets and there are frequent wing flappings and squawkings as they argue it out. Once the Woodpeckers have driven the Parakeets away they seem to like to show their supremacy by drilling a few more holes in the poor old tree. I don't think the tree will survive for much longer.

There is so much going on I think I could happily spend all day just watching at the window but despite the hot weather I am still trying to do at least one walk a day. Today I chose a nice shady bridleway to wander down but other than lots of butterflies and a vole there wasn't much going on. I think everything was sitting sensibly in the shade taking it easy which is probably what I should have been doing as I got very hot. So something to cool down with; this is a picture of the same bridleway that I walked down today but when the photo was taken, only a few months ago, it was below freezing:-)