Tuesday, 22 August 2017

little owls, wwoofers, moths and dragonflies

Such stillness and quiet in the garden. A mist was woven around the sycamores and pines this morning.

The bird feeders have all been repaired, washed and filled. But where there was frenetic activity, there is only the occasional great tit or chaffinch. And no bird song. The flowers of Jill's perennial beds are at their best. The red persicaria was alive with buzzing bees as I walked to let the hens out.

ratatouille
Fruiting fungus are appearing. Exotic plums and custard has made an appearance and the first of the shaggy ink caps are poking through the lawn.

WWOOFer in action
The stillness matches our mood. Our final pair of WWOOF volunteers left us a week ago: great people - and we got a lot of work done together. Giving interested young people the opportunity to try new skills was immensely satisfying: it's the old teacher in me, still fighting to get out. And receiving too has been part of the experience: recipes for brioche and ratatouille have been added to our cookbook. But the time with volunteers has proved very intense: providing them with three meals a day (what eaters!!); organising and leading activities; and then baffling foreign card games in the evening! For fans of the Father Ted TV comedy series, I took on the persona of the blinking Father Dougal at these times when tiredness and lack of mental agility left me floundering. How we laughed!
Juvenile little owl

We held a members' event for Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust at the weekend. As I directed our guests into the garden I watched a group of swallows swooping low over the fields. Our plan was to set the nets up by the pond farm that evening to catch swallows as they travel south. But too blowy.

Last time we set the nets there we caught a few juvenile swallows but the wind made the nets billow and the birds avoided them. I'd been told by the farm gamekeeper that little owls had bred in an oak with a damaged branch. Although we couldn't find evidence of a nest, Andy put a loop tape of a calling little owl by the nets. We were surprised how quickly a little owl began to call back. As the darkness gathered we moved to take the nets down and found we had caught a juvenile. We had no idea we had breeding little owls within a few hundred metres of our garden! Amazing little birds. And as we returned to the nets, an adult bird was perched on one of the net poles. Elation.
Little owl nest boxes

During the dark nights, I intend to make a couple of little owl nest boxes for the farm and one for the garden. Little owls nest in rabbit burrows or in holes in trees. Andy gave me this design. It favours little owls as it provides an entrance tunnel which they like that also provides protection from tawny owls. Little owls in the garden ... just imagine it..

Catching moths seems the most-arcane of activities. And yet it provides another fascinating perspective on the environment around us and the progress of the year. We had to postpone our annual nothing night with pal Mike at the weekend as dad had had a fall. But managed a session on our own when all was quiet. This is the time of year when the different yellow underwing moths come careering into the mercury vapour light. Almost as welcome as early snowdrops or singing blackcaps.

George's Pond is now full. It has taken twenty months for it to reach its limit. It is twenty metres wide with shallow sloping edges. It drew murmurs of approval from our weekend guests. On a sunny summers day they would have been as dazzled as we are by the dragonflies that constantly patrol it.
We will plant a few shrubs around the edge of the pond to allow small birds to step down to it from the tall conifers. And we will continue to enjoy its' progress. I think I'll take a mug of tea down there now.

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