Monday, 17 July 2017

a very young meadow ..

Our new meadow is very young - two years old. But already wonderful.

Nine species of butterfly yesterday and the grasshoppers beginning to stridulate today in the July sun. Insect-hunting brown hawkers, common darters, Emperor dragonflies and broad-bodied chasers speed from the pond and across the meadow accompanied by delicate damselflies. Precise. Prehistoric. Agile. Works of art.
What a place!

Like an exuberant puppy our new meadow needs guiding. It thinks we want it to produce thousands of dock seeds - we don't: and so one man and his secateurs spends three sessions cutting the seed heads and bagging them before the seeds drop. Previously I got a bee sting on my hand, this time one on my lower jaw. I was told that the subsequent swelling around my throat gave me the appearance of an orangutang.

Jill harvested yellow rattle from the little orchard meadow and scattered it among the vigorous grasses. Yellow rattle is a grass parasite and will reduce the vigour of grasses, allowing more delicate wildflowers to flourish.
The wildflower palette is restricted at this early stage. Knapweed (16), ragwort (18), self-heal, wild carrot (13), yarrow (17), marjoram (6), red (15) and white (17) clovers (7), ox-eye daisies (9), bird's foot trefoil (23) amongst plants currently in flower. In parentheses are the number of associated moth  species' caterpillars that each plant hosts.
The meadow grasses themselves are hosts to many moths and butterflies as well as a wide range of other invertebrates.
I have spoken before of the need to increase invertebrate numbers. I hope that our young meadow is going a small way towards this aim. The flourishing dragonfly and damselfly population suggests it may be.

As expected, there's no sign of the harvest mice we've released, but a confiding juvenile kestrel spent a lengthy period scrutinising the long grass and flowers. Perhaps the tawny owls had already eaten them all..?

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