June 2010

This month I have been struggling to resolve that age-old conflict between those who love nature and those who love gardening. We have a vegetable garden just along the village of which we have great hopes, but we have recently been puzzled by various depredations that have significantly impacted on our carrots, beetroot and brassicas. Slug pellets didn’t stop the nightly disappearance of our baby seedlings, so up went the netting. Maybe it was Pigeons? Still the slaughter went on! Then one day a week or so ago we were on our way back from an early morning walk and called in on our little bit of heaven to find a family of Shelduck, mum, dad and three offspring had taken up residence under the netting at the local salad bar! They actually seemed more than a little put out that we should take exception at their marauding ways, but sanity prevailed and off they went, probably to raid someone else’s pride and joy. Hopefully the Cavalo Nero will recover, but it was costing us a fortune in carrot and beetroot seeds!

When time has allowed I have been volunteering with the RSPB to monitor the Cirl Bunting population following the releases they have been making over the last few years. Tempus does fugit and I was extremely frustrated and saddened to realise that I could no longer hear their high pitched calling. Stuart would excitedly point to a hedgerow and let me listen, “There,” he would say, “You must have heard that!” But sadly no, my upper registers have been eroded away to a ringing “silence”. At one point we even had the telescope focused on a lovely male Cirl Bunting, only yards away and I was reduced to lip-reading the birdsong! How sad, I am just going to have to rely on my eyesight- I must call the opticians for an eye test!

May has been such a month of change, we have gone from below average temperatures to soaring blue skies beaten by a huge sun and filled with skylarks and swallows. But even so, the swifts have only just made it back to skim low over fields that are suddenly brimming with grasses and wild flowers. Is it just me, or is there really a world of difference between a field and a meadow? Field now conjures up a utilitarian food production facility whilst meadows are altogether far more glorious. A meadow is something you want to hunker down into and watch the world through a haze of stems and stalks, seed heads and flowers. This morning we heard the cuckoo calling away down by the shore. I have heard several this year already, so maybe there are more of them or maybe I have been out and about that bit more who can tell?

Stop press! The RSPB and volunteers marched miles of hedgerows over the last few days of May searching out Cirls, Yellow Hammers, Linnets and Skylarks, all of whom enjoy similar habitat requirements. The highlight of my survey was watching two young foxes playing out under the watchful attention of their mother. They all knew I was there but I sat quietly and kept a respectful distance so I was able to watch them for 5 or 10 minutes. What a privilege!

We need to keep our paths open, so I hope you manage to get out and about this month. Don’t let our pathways disappear for lack of use. I may well return to this topic in later months.

Ian Bennett

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