Sunday, 29 May 2016

Small victories in the war against ecocide

The Safari was able to sit outside in the sunshine on Saturday but for much of the time all we could hear was strimmers, lawnmowers, hedge trimmers and other power tools ripping into the local gardens without a second thought for what might be being destroyed either directly or indirectly like opening up the dense cover around a nest so that predation by eg cats/Magpies becomes inevitable - there's a Robin's nest nearby we've seen an adult skulking unobtrusively to and fro through the undergrowth at the bottom of the garden.
Cat owners please note that putting a bell on your moggie has no effect on reducing their slinkiness what-so-ever. This afternoon we were at peace with the world on the patio when we noticed a movement to our right. A be-belled cat had crossed the yard and climbed the half dozen steps to the patio in absolute silence. It's only when we spotted it and moved that it ran back down the steps that we heard the bell jingling.
All this feline activity didn't wake the sleeping Woodpigeon high and safe on the pergola. He waits up there for smaller birds to visit the feeders and spill crumbs down on the ground as he's not agile enough to reach them himself.
The other day we were thrilled to have a Jackdaw come down and visit the feeders, today we doubled our record count!
And were very pleased with more visits from the now regular but totally unpredictable male House Sparrow. His routine seems to be a quick snack on the feeder before a minute or two's search of the Silver Birch tree before heading off north to north east-ish - wonder where he's going too.
One particular juvenile Starling is another unpredictable visitor, coming in unexpectedly at any time for a quick suet top up or a bathe in the ornamental waterfall. Most of the birds seem to prefer this to the birdbath a yard away which we would think offered a bit more safety being raised up on a pedestal, only the Blue Tits seem to use it. The Starling never brings his parents or siblings.
Meanwhile down in the yard the orchid story in (literally) unfolding in front of our very eyes.
Here's the first fully open flower.
Apparently there are about 120 in flower at the nature reserve this week and no doubt more on the duneland nature reserve we also visit so we're thinking a spore or two may have hitched a ride with us and found the tub to their liking. We've certainly got down close and personal with them for pics at the nature reserve although that would invariably be when they were in full flower and not once they'd gone over and had ripe seed capsules. Maybe it is a one in a billion fluke. It must be almost 100 years since the garden was last farmland and there may have been/probably was orchids in the pastures and/or hay meadows at that time. Definitely one to ponder and enjoy and a very welcome addition to the garden flora wherever it came from. The tub was originally planted with ornamental Alpine plants into recycled peat-free compost, the Thrift is the only surviving original plant, the Cowslips have were seeded in deliberately from others in the garden. The blue Campanula was in the pot bust has 'escaped'.
Warm sunshine meant insects were on the wing and we had brief visits from the first Holly Blue butterfly of the year and a mature Blue Tailed Damselfly which we assume came from someone else's pond as we've not seen any tenerals around our pond at that point. And then a little later there was one right in front of us struggling in a spider's web.
Being soft hearted we did the wrong thing and deprived the spider of an enormous meal.
It soon fluttered off none the worse for wear from its very close shave.
Tree Bees and Early Bumble Bees visited the flowers on offer while a huge queen Bombus terrestris got trapped underthe pond net for a while being too big to fit through the mesh that keeps the Herons out.
Here's the view from our perch on the patio, somewhere to the right behind the garage there was a Blackcap singing very quietly a couple of gardens away. We tried to see where it might be from the back bedroom window. We've not looked out from there for a while and were shocked to see how much shrubbery has been lost from the surrounding gardens - they're mostly bare now almost habitat-free zones.We are very much an island of structural diversity in a sea of monotonous lawns and 'tidy' flower-beds.
But we bet even those tidy gardens have Greenfly and no doubt a futile ecocidal war will be waged against them. They're welcome on our notebook anytime.
All these little things, while barely significant in their own right, give us immense pleasure at a time we're invalided and unable to get further afield but are all little victories against the masses that seem to want rid of wildness for the sake of 'tidy' and in doing so make our world that little bit poorer. They don't seem to realise all species are interconnected including ourselves, we are a part of nature not apart from it and there is no Planet B!
Wifey came back from the shops late afternoon and suggested we have a drive out to the countryside for a bit of fresh air and to help us going stir crazy at Base camp. We felt up to it so in the car we got. We ended up at a favourite riverside walk where we heard a Garden Warbler (161) as soon as we opened the car door and Wifey spotted a Nuthatch on the feeders at the end of the car park.
The woods rang loudy with the songs of Song Thrushes, Blackcaps and Wrens but the river was devoid of birds apart from a family of well grown Mallards.
At the car park another visitor (probably spotting our bins) had told us too look for the pair of Mute Swans on the lake, "there's a bird-hide you know". Yes we knew, we've only been going there since the early 80s and never seen anything out of the ordinary from it! The best sighting we had was a shoal of large Chub when we looked directly down out of the window once many many years ago and we've seen a Roe Deer on the far bank once.
We had a look from the hide anyway not expecting much but as expected the pair of Mute Swans were feeding out in the middle of the lake. On a dead snag at the side of the hide was a Grey Wagtail with a beak stuffed with flies. It was agitated and calling like mad so we thought it might have a nest in or near the hide so we fired off a few shots and left it in peace. As soon as we'd gone the other came and landed on the branch next too it also with a beakful of food - time to leave them well alone.
The woods are undergoing some bizarre coppicing work, not sure by whom, but we did some Alder coppicing in the top corner all those years ago and this looks like an attempt to revisit that work although the trees seems to be chosen at random and some of the stumps have been left very long - all very strange...shoulda taken some pics. We should also have taken some pics of the dense wildwood a little further along the path away from the river. The trees are all shapes as they've competed for light and their boughs are gorgeously festooned with mosses, lichens and ferns. In places trees grow in the path and their roots have become exposed by the passage of countless feet - looks like a giant bonsai display.
Arty canopy shot through a not-so-invasive-here Norway Maple
The last time we were here the Rangers were cutting developing Alder scrub from the extensive meadow areas. We had hoped there would be an awesome display of Marsh Orchids and Cowslips but it wasn't to be, even the Buttercups weren't putting on as good a show as the un-managed area on the other side of the car park. Maybe we're a week to early still, but we did find a Common Twayblade just at the side of the path through the meadow - very vulnerable to being trodden on by the hordes of rampaging dogs that are brought for a 'walk'.
It was great to get out and the day was finished with a huge plate of fish and chips, the perfect end to a perfect day. Wifey added three birds to her year list, Garden Warbler, Nuthatch and Blackcap taking her total to 102, sadly we couldn't find her Kingfisher, Dipper or Little Ringed Plover (on the brand new pool that has been excavated over the road from the car park - looks mint for them).
Where to next? Back on our perch on the patio at Base Camp lapping up the sunshine and the wildlife sights in the garden. A Honey Buzzard will fly over - - plleeeeeeeaaasssse!
In the meantime let us know who's put in a surprise appearance in your outback.

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