Monday, 20 February 2017

A nudge from the Spring Usher ...

Spring Usher moth
Three Spring Usher (Agriopus leucothaearia) moths to the light last night. Eleven moths of five species - nudging me to hurry. Lots of development to do before we usher in the spring here - which by my rules coincides with the arrival of the first frog spawn.

The birch border is our current development focus. It celebrates death, decay - and new life. Birch stumps, their contents dissolved, stand as empty husks. A bracket fungus-ed rotting trunk. Piles of logs within a thick carpet of the product of the arborists' heavy duty wood chipper. Cut sycamore logs. The nutrients of the wood nourish the sandy soil for the plants that follow.

The Woodland Trust tells us: 'Silver birch provides food and habitat for more than 300 insect species - the leaves attract aphids, providing food for ladybirds and other species further up the food chain, and are also a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the angle-shades, buff tip, pebble hook-tip. Birch trees are particularly associated with specific fungi including fly agaric, woolly milk cap, birch milk cap, birch brittlegill, birch knight, chanterelle and the birch polypore (razor strop)'.

Birch cast a gentle, dappled shade that allows light to the understory and greater floral diversity on the woodland floor below. In 2017 I hope to plant dozens of native primrose seedlings and divisions. Cyclamen hederifolium and coum will puncture the mulch too, one day, in every shade of pink and also provide seed for ants.

This week we added an evergreen honeysuckle and a Rolls-Royce of a birthday bird box gift from my favourite aunt and uncle.

And here's the glory of the border so far - my new pond. With log edging as a home for amphibians and invertebrates and a gently shelving shingle beach for ease of access for mammals and birds it's one of my best. But I am now a man of many ponds having five (plus two smaller water holes made from the ends of wide, water pipes). The pond will be softened with planting. My trail cam (movement activated camera) is now triggered ready for the feast of wildlife that will make this pond a regular watering hole.

Time is ticking - Jill's allergy to birch pollen is beginning to have an effect. In a house such as ours where walls are thick and the building long, it is sometimes difficult to know where the other is. It is said that 90% of conversations of those who share a home consist of shouting 'What?' from another room. In spring Jill can be found by following the explosive sneezing...

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