Wednesday 19 June 2024

Harebell seedlings

Day 364 #365DaysWild


Harebells.

Tiny, pretty, nodding bells of blue characteristic of the unimproved  impoverished sandy Nottinghamshire soils.

A younger me would pass little harebells during my local runs. Field scabious too among the thin grass.

Harebell seed was sown several weeks ago and I now have a half tray of little seedlings at cotyledon stage.

I will pot them in the next few days and intend to plant them where grass is not vigorous.




Tuesday 18 June 2024

Wilding

Day 363 #365DaysWild


To The Broadway cinema to see the ‘Wilding’ film.

Isabella Tree’s account of the journey of the Knepp estate from bankrupt farm to the shining light of British land management for nature is truly inspiring.

Around us nature appears to be shutting down. Once

common species now face extinction.

Having confidence in natures own processes to effect change is a key message.

Rootling pigs turning and giving life to soil, regenerating scrub and the subsequent arrival of wildlife stars like turtle doves, nightingales and purple emperor butterflies lifted the heart.

The release of white storks to breed successfully for the first time on these islands for several hundred years was very much icing on the cake.

We left with spirits high showing what can be achieved.

Knepp -we certainly like … and we’re coming!

Monday 17 June 2024

Summer starts…

Yellow rattle seed
ripe and ready.

Day 362 #365DaysWild

The seasons move on, each marked, sometimes arbitrarily.

In the meadow, the yellow rattle is rattling indicating ripeness. Seeds are now spilling from the dried seed pods. For us, a sign that summer is here.

I’ve been around with scissors and a brown paper bag harvesting seeds that’ll be scattered around where grass needs thinning next year.

Whilst snipping, I disturb a meadow brown butterfly that was resting on a stem.

The first for 2024 and a day later than last year.

So welcome.


Sunday 16 June 2024

snipefly

Snipefly
Day 361 #365DaysWild

Wet and cold that goes on and on this year.
Heavy rain on successive days.
Vegetable garden plants not thriving with slugs and snails having a heyday.

Invertebrates very low in numbers - butterflies and moths depressingly absent. One species of bumblebee present today.

This is all hugely worrying.

Sure, we’re in England and we’re synonymous with wet summers.

But this time the unremittingly bad news from across the country about invertebrates comes after a series of poor years.

A pincer action of fragmented habitat, toxic pesticides, unsympathetic land use and the wet, cold weather is resulting in ever-smaller residual invertebrate populations. The consequence of this affects species’ ability to bounce back. They simply aren’t there.

Ever-smaller populations of invertebrates affect food chains. Our skies are empty of swallows, martins and swifts and our trees empty of flycatchers. Hedgehogs are undernourished and fail to thrive. Bats have insufficient food.
And so on.

Today, very few invertebrates in the sodden meadows.

Perhaps appropriately, a couple of snipeflies hanging out on ragwort foliage. They hunt beetles and other invertebrates in wet meadows.




Saturday 15 June 2024

slaughtering ..


Day 360 #365DaysWild

After a hiatus, I've soaked and washed and disinfected and sited the bird feeders..

And almost immediately word has spread among the garden avian community..

Grub up!!

And now the birds are slaughtering the feeders!

Juveniles. Adults in all states of undress... 

Blue, great and coal tits. 

Goldfinches, chaffinches and greenfinches. 

Blackbirds and robins. 

Wet, male greenfinch
Dunnocks. 

Wood pigeons.

Great-spotted woodpecker.

Even carrion crows trying to get a beak full.

I can't keep up!!

Male goldfinch

Friday 14 June 2024

Remembering nature..?


Day 359 #365DaysWild

The Labour Party has published its manifesto for the forthcoming election.

Although the shadow minister has trailed many laudable initiatives, not a single mention of nature in this BBC summary…


But dig deeper and there is a whole section on restoring nature.

The climate crisis has accelerated the nature crisis. Whilst Britain enjoys remarkable natural beauty, the Conservatives have left Britain one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. Labour will deliver for nature, taking action to meet our Environment Act targets, and will work in partnership with civil society, communities and business to restore and protect our natural world.

As part of our plans to improve responsible access to nature, Labour will create nine new National River Walks, one in each region of England, and establish three new National Forests in England, whilst planting millions of trees and creating new woodlands. Labour will expand nature-rich habitats such as wetlands, peat bogs and forests so families can explore and wildlife can thrive, including on public land. Labour is committed to reducing waste by moving to a circular economy.

Keir Starmer talking and walking with a father and son beside the sea.

Britain’s coasts, rivers, and lakes are being polluted by illegal sewage dumping. The Conservatives have turned a blind eye and weakened rather than strengthened regulation, with serious damage being done to our countryside, our tourism industry, and people’s health.

Labour will put failing water companies under special measures to clean up our water. We will give regulators new powers to block the payment of bonuses to executives who pollute our waterways and bring criminal charges against persistent law breakers. We will impose automatic and severe fines for wrongdoing and ensure independent monitoring of every outlet.

Labour recognises that food security is national security. That is why we will champion British farming whilst protecting the environment. We will set a target for half of all food purchased across the public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards. We will introduce a land-use framework and make environment land management schemes work for farmers and nature. And we will work with farmers and scientists on measures to eradicate Bovine TB, protecting livelihoods, so that we can end the ineffective badger cull.

Labour will improve animal welfare. We will ban trail hunting and the import of hunting trophies. We will end puppy smuggling and farming, along with the use of snare traps. And we will partner with scientists, industry, and civil society as we work towards the phasing out of animal testing.


I’m in!!!

Thursday 13 June 2024

big, warm, sweet ..

Day 358 #365DaysWild



Open the door to ‘Dad’s Tool Shed’ in our vegetable garden and the big, warm, sweet, onion fragrance of harvested garlic hugs you.

Resting there after their growing season, in the dark of the shed shelves while their leaves and stems dry to a brittle gold.

They were planted as individual cloves in October where they became established before the winter. The wet spring probably helped swell the bulbs too.

We’ll save the biggest, plumpest bulbs to split and plant in the composted ground in the autumn.

And eat the rest.

Get in!




Wednesday 12 June 2024

Hungry

Day 357 #365DaysWild



Above the lawn, looking down from the TV aerial, a male kestrel watches.

A male has been present throughout the year. We guess the same bird.

Badgers have disturbed the part of the lawn we’d reserved for voles. Big gashes opened up revealing the soil and tunnels.


He hunts in the disturbed ground with his talons.

He stayed hungry.

 

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Stealthy..

Day 356 #365DaysWild



During the night.

A stealthy fox.

Monday 10 June 2024

Large skipper


Day 355 #365DaysWild

This cold, wet spring and early summer has been poor for butterflies.

Today, a single large skipper butterfly. Nectaring on red clover.

Females lay their eggs on grasses. 

We don’t record large skippers here every year so are
delighted when they do appear.

Hopeful of more large skippers so that they may breed successfully.

Their cousins, small skippers, should arrive in a few weeks..


Sunday 9 June 2024

Strawbs..

2024 has not been a
vintage year for strawberries

Day 354 #365DaysWild

We are now harvesting our own home-grown strawberries.


Organically grown, mulched with our own compost and cultivated without digging, they’ve failed to thrive due to the cold weather we’ve had so far this year. They’re a sorry lot this year. Smaller than we’d like and without the sun, not ripening as well as they should.


It may surprise you to learn that they are, however, the best you can get.


Smaller and lower quality - how can they be the best …?


They’re the best because commercially-grown strawberries are (according to government research) amongst the foods that have the highest levels of pesticide residues. They’re included in the so-called ‘dirty dozen’ of foods containing the most pesticides. Samples of UK-grown strawberries tested in 2022 showed 91% contained residues of PFAS pesticides.


PFAS chemicals are a family of 1,000 chemicals causing huge concern to scientists and nutritionists. They’re the ‘forever chemicals’ that accumulate in our tissues and persist in the environment.


There is a growing body of evidence linking PFAS chemicals to serious diseases such as cancer.


UK consumers believe that they are eating healthily when buying fruit - but in so doing are being left with no choice but to ingest these chemicals, some of which may remain in their bodies long into the future.


There is action we can take…

Our crop in a better year …


We should:

✔️be stricter on the pesticides available for use in farms and gardens and provide support for organic growers

✔️as consumers be more cautious in buying fruits and vegetables and apply pressure to supermarkets and government 

✔️take the opportunity wherever we can to grow our own fruit and vegetables.


Saturday 8 June 2024

We salute you!

Day 353 #365DaysWild


At the bird feeder today.. 




The folicly-challenged salute you, 
Mr Blue Tit!

Friday 7 June 2024

Common ..

Common blue butterfly

Day 352 #365DaysWild

Buffeted by the wind, a common blue butterfly anchored to a ribwort plantain flower.


Birds foot trefoil is an important larval food plant for common blues. 
Birds foot trefoil beginning to flower



The meadow has some trefoil, but the small orchard meadow has none.



We have a plan and so this defecit will, I hope, soon be sorted...
Seedling trefoil just moving
from cotyledon leaves


Thursday 6 June 2024

Roe, a deer

Day 351 #365DaysWild


On camera. Along the mown orchard path. At dawn.

An elegant, shy roe deer doe. Not sure how she got in. And some trepidation about how she’ll be compatible with a vegetable garden.. 


Unlike the non-native muntjac we see with increasing regularity, roe are native to these islands.

And, as with all deer, their numbers are rising. I see roe deer frequently on my morning walks. Usually in small groups. Ever watchful. Always nibbling.

We removed all their natural predators hundreds of years ago and are living with the consequences to woodland and sapling trees.

I almost stepped on a tiny roe deer fawn hidden in the grass on New Farm a few years ago. Exquisite.

 For the time being, we’re excited that she’s here.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

My little hedge ..

Day 350 #365DaysWild

Fruiting hedge blackberry 

Mixed native hedges are fantastic for wildlife. They give our countryside its distinctive appearance.


So, we planted a forty metre hedge two years ago consisting of:

  • Hawthorn
  • Holly
  • Field maple
  • Hazel
  • Spindle
  • Blackthorn
  • Dog rose

Hedges that host blackberry, honeysuckle and rose are especially beautiful.


The new  hedge frames two sides of the orchard and will one day hide the mismatched and variably-sized fence panels our neighbours have inflicted on us.


Mixed native hedges are great for pollinators. They provide larval food for loads of insects.

They give cover and nest sites for birds and mammals.

Many native hedgerow plants go on to provide fruits, berries and nuts.



Douglas Boyed estimates that a 100-metre stretch of a single species hawthorn hedge is home to 21,000 moth caterpillars (±6,200). Vital food for songbird chicks, predatory invertebrates & parasitoids. 


Most of our little plants have put on new growth. Where there have been losses we’ve infilled with holly & hawthorn.


Imagine my trepidation then on Saturday when Bob and Bill came to view.


Let me explain….


Bob is a skilled hedge layer with a lifetime of practical, hands on experience shaping and laying hedges.


Bill is synonymous with farm hedges among his farming peers. What he doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing.


I showed them my little hedge. They stooped. Rubbed leaves. And approved!!


But then both agreed ‘Needs more N’.


‘Looks anaemic’.


So today, I dressed the little hedge with pelletised chicken manure. They’ve certainly now had a nitrogen (N) fix.


Now, let it grow!!


Bob is currently in his late seventies. I’ve booked him for my hedges first laying in twenty years…