Cause and effect

As the countryside continues to change it’s pallet through golds and orange to starker dark outlines the time for much countryside management recommences.

Happy wife and dog

Having just attended Surrey Wildlife Trust’s AGM the consequences of Surrey County Councils belligerence are becoming more and more stark. With the justification of massively reduced central government funding and the frankly fatuous excuse of “funding the countryside is not a statutory function of a local authority ” a small number of councillors have continued with the deluded approach that the countryside can pay for itself.

In simple revenue terms IT CANNOT!

It is not possible to reduce budgets, even if assisted by additional so called commercial income, without really serious effects. The most obvious of these “harms” is to the ability of SWT to convincingly maintain engagement with local communities and communicate accurately with their concerned membership. The loss of so many skilled staff as a result of justified fear of continued cuts has ramifications.

Sadly it feels like Groundhog day for me and probably for many others among ex colleagues and those old enough among the local communities. The antagonistic relationship between SCC and local communities that existed in the 80s and 90s is returning with SWT caught in the middle and increasingly being identified as part of the problem.

Again let me emphasise that I continue to believe that the best option is for SWT to continue to manage the SCC estate but not on the present basis. It is not in the interest of Surrey residents for the estate to be broken up and managed by other, national, NGO’s with even less accessible accountability. Breaking up the estate would also have another not often recognised effect in that all the minor sites (of so much importance to their local communities) would slide back in to complete neglect.

I remain dismayed at the betrayal by SCC of their own legacy but at least it has given me a title for a thesis, “The Rise and Fall of the acquisition and management of the countryside by  SCC”.

November dawn

 

Now is The Time

I am one of those people who likes to know what is going on around the world so I read, listen to or watch the news each day. I have a particular interest in environmental issues and the welfare of the peoples of the world and see how these two areas are intrinsically linked. When you consider the many different ways people barely survive in the world today whilst trying to accommodate to the speed of change in their environment, the natural world simply cannot adapt quickly enough without losing species. Latest figures, 60% loss of the world’s natural species in my lifetime (and I’m not as old as Steve!). In recent weeks there have been a number of reports about global warming, species & habitat loss and a whole variety of depressing news for the natural world. These reports made me think further with the thought of what are world leaders doing to try and address these issues so we can literally; save our planet.

When you look at the worlds political stage today, it appears to be extremely worrying with several big powerful nations having leaders whose environmental records are appalling.

And if I look back over the last few years here in the UK, it looks equally as bad as this small nation with a large population looks like it will continue to lose numbers of species in the forthcoming years.

This loss of species could well be coupled with further land changes, say as a result of floods and rising sea levels, which could affect the species present and possibly damage buildings, roads and many other human settlements. When I first became aware of the global warming crisis nearly 40 years ago many of these things were predicted as likely to happen. Now these things are an actuality and still the world leaders seem to want to kill off the human race by continuing with practices that further damage our planet.
Here in the UK the government seem to belittle the environment and the scientific evidence that proves the serious problems within the environment and the associated species that need them in order to survive. As one of the most comfortable and allegedly most democratic countries in the world and who’s known love of animals, in recent times more knowledge of the needs of our decreasing wildlife are also largely being ignored.
I can highlight this with a point that I was actually involved with recently. When I say I was involved with this you had better note that so were 61,000 other people! This as a result of a petition we all signed asking Michael Gove to revoke the licence he had given some farmers to shoot Ravens, a species that has only just recovered from persecution and started breeding in parts of the UK where it had been absent for over 150 years!
Leaving the argument to one side for the moment, the petition has been sent to Natural England who are the government department that deal with environmental issues of this kind but they themselves, as an organisation, have been decimated as result of major cuts extending back over the last 20 years!

When I last checked the online petition the other day the number of people who had signed the petition had risen to nearly 64,000 and still there had been no response from Natural England. When you look at it, it doesn’t seem very democratic and it seems the wishes of 64,000 people are being ignored by their own government. If you look a little closer we see further evidence of how little this government does to try and deal with serious environmental issues. Since 2010 the budget for Natural England has been cut by 50% and their workforce has been massively reduced with many of the workers now being seconded to work on the mess they call Brexit. We are living in very troubled times.

I’ve been highly frustrated by government decisions when dealing with environmental issues for many years and despite my example of the problems it seems that there has been some awakening within the people to tell the government that they are seriously worried about the wildlife and the environment in general. I know I’m repeating myself when I ask everybody to get involved by telling your MP and signing petitions to try and stop the collision course our planet seems to be on, by expressing your worries to the politicians and hopefully they may start to listen to us.

Francis

My place of peace

Winters coming

I suspect most people have a special place or a room where they find a level of peace. For me , though the countryside in general often facilitates, a hill top in south west Surrey is my favoured spot.

Some years ago my then boss, Gavin, asked me to pop down and have a look at a small countryside site a few miles outside Farnham which had been recently added to the list of places managed by SWT on behalf of SCC. I found a small rural car park at the bottom of a wooded hill with a summit that presented magnificent views across to Hampshire and Hindhead.

Overcast Autumn View

Frankly it was like finding a little secret jewel. Yes I know that lots of people have enjoyed this special place before but the personal surprise at such a discovery is always a joy.

A couple of days later I was visiting my dad in hospital and whilst chatting mentioned my happy couple of hours walking up and round Crooksbury Hill. At the point where I explained my pleasure at discovering somewhere “new” he chuckled and said “but you have seen it before” which led to insistent denial from me and then amazed capitulation. My paternal grandfather died when my dad was young and we only have 1 photo of him, Andrew Ben Fry, with my dad, Stan and his Mum. This photograph had hung at my family home for years and this photo was taken on the top of Crooksbury Hill!

My dad and his parents

Evidently they would walk from Farnham on a fine Sunday and picnic. In the early 30s my grandfather was a baker and few people owned cars so you walked or bused. Quite a walk, particularly as my dads sister, Doris, was often with them and I suspect a bakers picnic meant plenty to carry.

He and I were pretty certain that the photograph was taken facing north with the distant Hogs Back just visible as the distant skyline. Following my dads death a few months after the conversation we scattered his ashes and put up a bench on the spot.

My dad was passionate about the countryside, Surrey’s in particular, and celebrating him in this manner is still important to our family and many of his friends.

The countryside in surrey has been treasured by its residents and visitors for decades hence it is sad that SCC feels the need to reduce funding management of their legacy to an unsustainable level.

Gone are the days it seems where there was such pride in the authorities work that officers might be celebrated with permanent memorials like the OS triangulation pillar on the summit  of Crooksbury Hill.

Plaque celebrating Mr Durrant

Beautifully restored the plinth also includes

Viewfinder unveiled 23/7/69

Worth a visit? Absolutely. Worth celebrating conservationists like my dad and Mr Durrant. Absolutely, as a reminder that though the view may change peoples needs remain remarkably constant.

There’s lots more that I will return to regarding Crooksbury Hill but for now I will mention one last thing, or should I really say confess 1 last thing? Close to the bottom of the hill is a small village called The Sands blessed with my favourite pub, The Barley Mow. Walk up the hill then eat a delicious meal with a pint, can’t be beaten.

Getting in the Way

The other night I sat a watched a Badger busily feeding in my garden for 45 minutes. I felt a bit spoilt to be honest casting my mind back to the many failed attempts of trying to see Badgers out in the wilds of the countryside and here they are on the edge of a small town busily feeding in a garden. Badgers are one of the most studied wild animals in the UK and a lot is known about their behaviour and what they require to keep a healthy population. They are also at the centre of debate over Bovine TB and some parts of the UK have been subject to a cull in recent times all causing a lot of controversy.

Coffe in hand!

The Badger is one of those species that has started to use humans to their own advantage and they are also have a strong sense of tradition in their lifecycle. Some setts are known to be hundreds of years old and as has happened many times since the end of the second World war, many areas of new housing have been placed near to Badger setts. Sometimes this meeting of new neighbours doesn’t go well when the badgers are regularly upsetting the human neighbours when they dig up neat and tidy lawns looking for earthworms or trash the bird feeding stations. Personally, I can’t say I blame the badgers as they have had their habitat destroyed. In the past I have spent a day working on a housing estate on the edge of a new town where developers had built a new estate leaving a small piece of woodland containing a badger sett. The badgers then started to annoy their neighbours by doing some of the above. The team I was working with spent some time trying to create feeding areas for the badgers and advising some of the humans, all of which inspired me to write this piece.

It’s very difficult for to keep human beings happy! The last 2 centuries have seen the human population increase massively and the impact on the natural world has been equally massive. In amongst the losses there have been and number of species that have been able to adapt and for a few to prosper because of humanity. The Badger has been able to adapt to some invasion of their habitat and, although there have been some losses, there are further examples of this adaptive behaviour to be seen in our local wildlife. I’m guessing that most of you will have Foxes and Brown Rats near where you live. These species are more numerous in areas where there are humans and well known for their history of benefitting from living alongside humans. As for Foxes, I’ve met them at 11am carrying whole bin liners that they’ve just stolen from a neighbour and I’ve seen quite a few earths in gardens over the years. Many people feed them every day and it’s another way that the natural world links closer together to us all.
There’re not many people that like Brown Rats and there is good reason for I have seen damage caused by rats and it’s quite phenomenal the destruction they can cause. But I do also have a soft spot for them as I know they will not be beaten by humans and they are one species that use us instead of the other way around.
I’ve noticed over the years of my observations, work, and keeping in touch with natural history and conservation issues, that the more successful a species is, the more likely it is to be disliked by humans. The species I’ve discussed are just a few of the obvious examples that upset us humans in one way or another and I’ve seen this reoccur with species that have increased their ranges such as Magpies which were labelled by some as one of the main reasons for song bird decline. It’s true that Magpies eat eggs and nestlings for I have seen this with my own eyes but a far bigger issue is loss of suitable habitats for both breeding and wintering birds with other examples like Raven which has spread back to its former haunts in the last few decades but already the old habits have returned where recently some sheep farmers have been granted licence by government to shoot Ravens because of the threat they cause to lambs.

Magnificent raven

 

This is one of those very debatable topics where there seems to be a lot of hearsay evidence often involved and no sensible person who knows that though it is feasibly possible for a Raven to kill a weak, sick or even a new born lamb; it is far more likely to be eating afterbirth or a still born lamb.

As is so often the way of humanity that we humans get angry when nature costs us money and read recently about how some owners of pheasant shoots have been asking to control Buzzard numbers as they feel that the Buzzards are killing the pheasants. This kind of mentality feels like we are going back in time with regards to nature conservation. The reason many of our predatory species became rare or scarce in the first place was down to the game keeping; let’s not return to the bad old days.
The state of our natural environments is in crisis and trying to manage its wildlife is an ongoing problem due to humanity’s obsession with money and we seem to think we have a God given right to put nature where we want it. It’s my opinion that it’s about time we reserved this ideology and mentality and did more to protect our ever-threatened wildlife. If you have ever suffered any bin robbing or lawn digging you should either feel lucky or protect your ‘ castles ‘ better ‘. In these times it’s more important to me to save our rapidly declining wildlife and not destroy it because it annoys us in some way. See what good you can try and do to help.

Francis

Slow Changes

With October upon us the natural changes are starting to happen and I’ve been starting to remove fallen leaves from the ‘ reserve ,’ a sure sign that winter isn’t too far away. The management work for the winter has been started in earnest and I’ve been busy trying to improve the rest of the un-worked area in preparation for sowing wildflower seeds next spring. This work has been laborious with the deep digging and the continuous battle against the dominant weed species keeping me busy. Some areas that I had previously dug were re- dug again as some of the more voracious weed species had obviously not been totally removed and there seemed to be daily growth of Creeping Buttercup and Docks. I also began attempting to remove some of the clumps of Pendulous Sedge. This is going to be a major task as there was quite a number of large clumps present and this species is very deep rooted that makes it very difficult to remove.

With the general management plan in place I had been thinking of how I could further improve the habitat and make it more attractive to the local wildlife. One habitat that has been much reduced in recent times is the classic pond. Many old farm ponds have been lost due to the land being ‘ improved ‘ and many species that used these old ponds have declined quite dramatically particularly in the last 50 years. The reserve needed a pond to hopefully attract some of these aquatic species and I began to prepare an area one. The reserve/garden is on quite a steep slope so an area had to be levelled to accommodate a pond. This has taken a lot of digging so far and there will be a fair amount of landscaping to finish the area.

Future Pond

Along with the idea of a pond I also thought of a very quick way in how to make the area more attractive to wildlife. Some may call it a pile of sticks and branches but to the conservationist it’s a habitat pile! These simple constructions can host a wide range of wildlife species from various insect such as bees (who’s Queens will excavate hibernation sites in rotting timber) and they can also attract amphibians and small mammals once they are a bit more established. I collected some timber from the local woods and started the pile and hopefully the wildlife will soon be finding a home there.

Habitat Pile!

It’s good to plan ahead but what has been happening with the wildlife already present in the area? Yet again the weather has been warmer than average for this time of year and due to my unseasonal planting schedule there have been a number of species that have come into flower and added some colour and food for the insects that have prospered in this late warmth.

Perennial sow thistle
Corn Marigold

At least 2 species of hoverfly and the Common Carder Bees have been seen daily feeding on the 9 species of still flowering plants present in the original area that I planted. The largest visitor to the area seems to be happy with the work I have carried out as I witnessed two Badgers digging up the worms the other night. I feel pretty spoilt really and hope these signs of how the local wildlife is already using the area are a sign of things to come for next year. We can only wait and see what happens in the future but so far so good.

 

Visitors and locals

Yep I’ve been away again! My excuse was I have now crossed a line, 60, where I should be able to choose how I spend my time……. I wish!

I have a strange interest in Lanzarote, strange in the sense that there is not really much terrestrial wildlife (quality yes, quantity no), and the only reason I mention this is the experience of living in an increasingly small world.

One of the birds that passes through the UK and is seen occasionally, on its travels, in Surrey is the Whimbrel. A large wading bird looking like a made up Curlew, it is normally seen on mud and sandy ground by the sea or marsh so it continues to strike me as odd to see Whimbrel on rocky/lava coast in Lanzarote. So clearly designed with a long beak for probing mud it looks like Lanzarote visitors have adapted to a different kind of food. A bird which visits like a tourist just like it does in Surrey!

Fellow visitor

A resident local bird in both Surrey and Lanzarote and introduced to both are the increasing numbers of parakeets. Pretty they may be but I really don’t like the noise, let alone the damage they do to my fruit trees! Always a subject to cause disagreement, introductions (even re-introductions) can often result in unintended consequences and a long term problem to sort out (or not!).

Arriving home in the midst of autumn felt like a celebration of greens, yellows, reds and orange after the earthy tones of a considerably more barren Lanzarote.

Painting by leaves

The glorious weather has also encouraged some more unusual visitors.

Clouded yellow butterfly

Visiting my mother in law, who is staying along the Hogs Back, my wife discovered this exotic visitor on the same area of rough meadow where we had seen so many blues and Marbled whites earlier in the year. Sadly there was too much wind to allow the butterfly to open its wings but a joy nonetheless. Never cease to use your senses even when you least expect an encounter of the wildlife kind.

After the rain on Saturday the sun on Sunday tempted us to walk across Whitmoor Common after a drink at our favoured pub, the Jolly Farmer on the Burdenshot Rd. More glorious colours.

And a sense of winter in waiting.

Lovely to encounter a fellow local.

Sentry Stonechat

Clever little birds these. After breeding on our heaths some of the Stonechats stay put, some move south to the coast and some migrate much further to warmer climes. Using this strategy allows Stonechats to survive whatever the winter weather, hence a mild winter allows the resident birds to breed early and a poor winter doesn’t wipe them all out. Unlike their often near neighbours, Dartford warblers, who usually stay put and suffer the consequences…but that’s another story

Too Tidy, Too Human

If there’s one thing that is going to upset me it’s when we humans apply our “values” on to the natural world. There are many examples of this in modern everyday life and with my conservation instinct at the core of how I look at things there is one that stands out. I am constantly bewildered at how many vital habitats are ‘ tidied up ‘, all because some say they are untidy. There are 1000s of people across the length and breadth of our country who on any given day, could be tidying up our green spaces. This can range from forestry to gardening where people will be trimming hedges, cutting lawns, cutting roadside verges, felling trees, spraying chemicals and countless other activities in order to keep things NICE and TIDY.

Due to social conditioning, many people seem to think this is the correct way to do things and despite various warnings, we are now living in serious times where there are real possibilities of many species becoming extinct due to habitat loss, climate change and persecution in some cases.
It was untidier when I was younger and I recall seeing a flock of 300 chaffinches feeding in winter stubble on a local Farm. You’d be hard pushed to see a flock of chaffinches that big these days let alone a winter stubble field! This is a big example of the “tidying up” of our countryside with farmers being part of the problem but government management of our agricultural land being a much bigger issue. In today’s modern farms, winter wheat is by far the commonest grain grown and is harvested in August most years. The reason winter wheat gets its name is because it is sown in autumn and will slowly develop over winter. The time of harvest till the land is ploughed up and re-sown is the only time where birds and mammals can get access to the fallen off seed. With the old-fashioned stubble field there was access to the seeds throughout winter. This fast production system has taken away a huge amount of vital food for the wildlife and this crop seems to have led to fields being enlarged often at the cost of headlands and hedges and habitats of many plants and animals.

The changes in our agricultural land use since the second World War have had a catastrophic effect on our wildlife. The statistics are proving it and most farmers would say that land productivity has increased, which it has undoubtedly has, but the price has been paid for by our wildlife. Since 1945 97% of meadow lands have gone and all of the associated species have also gone. That’s how serious things have got in these times. The pressure farmers are under from government policy is relentless and serious polices need introducing as soon as possible to redress the balance.

When I used the words tidy and tidiness in this piece I realise that the farmers are more pressurised by government policy in how they manage their farms but other issues of over tidiness seem to be more avoidable, but would need a change of thinking. I’m mainly directing this last comment at the host of gardeners amongst us. I’m constantly amazed at how many gardens have either turned into car parks or bowling greens. It saddens me to see how many gardens have been so heavily manicured and over fertilised that they are little use to wildlife. There is also the massive issue of pesticides that are used on the farms, high ways and now in gardens. We know what these pesticides are capable of and how they kill one of the most important links in the natural food chain. It seems crazy to me to see some dangerous pesticides for sale in supermarkets now days. I urge all gardeners to not use any chemicals and leave areas in their gardens to over grow and encourage invertebrates to make their home. A little untidiness can go along way!

We can but hope that more government money will be put into nature conservation but I’m not holding my breath. With this in mind we should do what we can on a practical level; in our garden for example and if you feel motivated enough, an email to your MP may help raise their awareness that people do care about the state of our countryside. My last advice is, don’t cut the whole of your lawn if you have one, make a compost heap and plant some wildflowers.

Ever Changing World

There are very serious problems in the natural world at this time in our history and I am forever reading depressing reports on various different species of how they and their habitats are declining. I have seen this with my own eyes over 40 plus years of observing wildlife in the UK and still cast my mind back to memories of childhood sightings that would be impossible to imagine in today’s world. I live in hope that things can change and we can redress the balance very soon before we lose any more valuable biodiversity.
In amongst all of the depressing news a few species have reversed the trends and actually increased their numbers and a number of species have established themselves in UK from continental Europe. Since 1990 seven new species of dragonfly have been recorded in the UK which is quite a lot in a short space of time.
So why have some species been able to increase in such troubled times? There are many answers to this question and impossible to fully
here but a number of the reasons can be seen and felt on a daily basis right here in Surrey. As in everything I write about nature and the environment, the weather is at the root of many of the changes.

The above mentioned dragonflies species are among a number of species that are regular breeding species in central and southern Europe and with the rising temperatures that we have been experiencing in the UK over the last 30 years it is not that surprising that these insects have colonised the UK. These heat loving insects have been joined by a number of other continental regulars. Butterflies are another good indicator group into how the temperature is warming up with the Clouded Yellow being a good example of this. Once a very erratic migrant species arriving in tiny numbers if at all or on mass over southern England this species never used to be able to survive the UK winters and perished with the cold. In recent years they have now become resident on the south coast and survive the winters and can have 2 broods each year!

Autumn arrives

Things have moved fast in the last 30 years. There are numerous insects that have benefited from the warmer climate and some species that were on the edge of their range have spread greatly, the impressive Golden-bloomed Grey Long Horn beetle and Jersey Tiger moth are 2 very impressive examples.
Insects are not the only group of animals that have done well because of the changing weather patterns and again I can remember over 30 years ago the afternoon that I saw my first ever Little egret. The first breeding record for the UK occurred in 1996 and there are now nearly 1000 pairs breeding in this country! The other winter a flock of 7 were seen in the water meadows on the edge of Guildford and it is not uncommon to see them around the county.
In general it is quite obvious to see that the warmer climate has encouraged a number of new species to the country and extended the range of others but that is not the whole story. This point really hit me five years ago when one sunny late July afternoon I watched a farmer cut hay on a field on the edge of Cranleigh. In the sky above were 3 Red Kites and 2 Common Buzzard and I recall jokingly recall saying that I felt like I was in Wales not south Surrey. Both of these species have increased populations greatly in the UK particularly over the last 25 years but the reasons for their increases are very different. The story of Red Kites in the UK has been well documented and from the first English reintroductions in 1989 this species has managed to spread out and it now can be frequently seen all over Surrey. The human intervention has undoubtedly helped this species recolonise various parts of its former range. The Common Buzzard spread from south west Britain all along the southern counties then northwards and is now found all over the UK. This species has managed to spread by filling gaps in the food chain and has greatly benefited from fewer gamekeepers and a reduction in the levels of specific insecticides.

Gamekeepering is always a controversial subject and one that will forever be argued but the evidence conclusively proves that the activity of game keepers in the past has had a detrimental effect on birds of prey numbers in the UK. Buzzards have shown that through lack of persecution they can survive and prosper although there are gamekeepers and some farmers that are now calling for licenses to be issued to control Buzzard numbers. I hope this kind of mentality does not become widespread again for the sake of all predatory species that suffered unjustifiably in the past.
We have seen a few examples of how species have and can prosper and the bottom line is that humanity has caused our wildlife to become depleted. Some of the examples discussed have shown how global warming has caused some species to become regular British species. The effects of this warming has encouraged warmth loving species but let’s not forget that it will have the opposite affect on cold loving species such as several fish and seabird species. It’s a complicated issue and time for some serious action to help our struggling wildlife. Nature is adaptable and can survive, it just needs a helping hand with some sensible management. We shall see what happens in the coming years. I’m hopeful that government will finally start taking our wildlife and environment more seriously.

Francis

More weeds and a few surprises

I know that I’m stating the obvious when I say that it has been feeling more autumnal in the last week. With the cooler temperatures, the darkening evenings and the behaviour of the wildlife, all being obviously signs that nature was gearing up to the arrival of the forthcoming winter. With the way our weather patterns have been changing in recent times, we can never be quite sure of what September, or any other month come to that, will bring us and this year seems to be more old fashioned so far which is why I started some serious management work in the last week.
As I have previously stated, nothing had been done to the area for at least ten years and the deep rooted pest species were very well established. To the gardeners amongst you the names of the species will be very familiar to you. Bramble, Creeping Buttercup, Herb Robert and various Dock species are very well known problem species to gardeners and conservationists.
Earlier in the year I had cut the whole of the area down to the ground and there has been a considerable amount of regrowth since then and this was the task I started to try and redress the balance. You can see why Brambles are a successful plant species! Their root systems are deep, extensive and difficult to dig out properly. I decided to dig down at least a couple of feet down into the earth to make sure I would not miss any of the problem species. Several of the Brambles roots took at least 20 minutes to dig out as their root systems were so well established.

Badger help?

This work has got to be carried out to try and ensure that the flower species that I was going to enjoy next spring had a chance of surviving. Knowing that the problem species involved at the site I knew I had a big task ahead of me in a) trying to remove them and b) stopping them re- invading next spring. The deep digging and the sieving carried on to try and lessen this risk. We will only see how well I have done come next spring and I know now that even if I think I have done my best I know there will still be Creeping buttercups and random Bramble shoots appearing. We shall see.
In between the digging and weeding the wildlife was busy all around me with the obligatory Robin often flitting down to pick up various invertebrates I was uncovering and ‘ the shy and wary ‘ as once described in old bird books, Wood Pigeons flying down to within a couple of metres of me to feed on similar food items as well as various grass shoots. Today’s Wood Pigeons are cheeky and almost fearless and I soon understood its’ voracious feeding when I watched it fly from the reserve up into an Ash tree where the high pitched calls of the squabs could easily be heard. From years of watching wildlife I know that unexpected things can happen and whilst digging out a heavy duty bramble root I heard a distinctive ‘ pronk ” call of a Raven. I looked up and there about 200 feet above me was a Raven heading in a south- westerly direction. Its’ massive size was emphasised when one of the local Carrion Crows decided to see off the Raven when it tried to sneak up behind and peck the Ravens tail or back. It didn’t get close enough to try as the Raven became aware of the crows presence and quickly swung/flew round to launch its massive bill in the crows direction. The Crow flew back to the safety of the woods behind the flats!

The flowers in the first planted area were continuing to attract Honey Bees and Common Carder Bees every day and one day I observed a Common Carder Bee feeding in the area and noted it taking nectar from six different flowering species. Many of the Bees seen are smaller male bees and they are busy collecting for their Queens before they hibernate. Many of these individuals are looking very worn and bald and are slowly falling to pieces and dying before the winter comes.

Hoverfly

The attraction of flowers has brought in a number of Hoverflies and several species have been noted feeding on variety of flowers. They have given me some homework to do in trying to learn how to identify them. You are never bored when I it comes to learning about nature.

And another

The work that needed to be carried out in the next few months was a continuation of trying to clear the last quarter of the site from the problem plant species and this was going to take quite a long time and a lot of hard work. I will not be bored for the next few weeks that’s for sure.

One Plant

Idly staring out of our bedroom window and glancing down my reaction was “oh no, not again” for there were so many bees flying round an ivy “tree” that I thought a swarm had settled in the plant growth.

On closer inspection it was clear no swarm of honey bees but a swarm of lots of species; bees, flies, wasps and even the occasional hornet. Why the feeding frenzy? One plant, Ivy, with a plethora of tiny nectar rich flowers. Standing close and attempting to take some photographs wasn’t even scary as all visitors only had one obsession, to find the flower with the fresh nectar. Or if you are a Hornet a meaty snack to carry off.

Know there’s flowers here somewhere

 

Maybe here?

 

Despite the frequent bad press Ivy is seldom a villain (endangering trees by weighing them down), far from it as it provides a rich food source for many insects throughout the year. A bit like Common Gorse there always seems to be an Ivy plant in flower somewhere, even in the depths of winter. Not just a food source either, a refuge for hibernating/dormant butterflies and a preferred nest site for several species of birds, Ivy has many roles.

Hoverfly

Everything was moving so quickly and I am not that good a photographer so I resorted to taking pictures of the slower guests!

 

Speckled Wood

And even slower….

 

Shield Bug

On a sunny day you really can spend hours in the company of a flowering Ivy just make sure you take plenty of patience if you intend to take pictures!