Wildlife Wednesday – Looking for a New Home

Hello!

Female Black Bird

Gentle Female Black Bird

Much has happened over the last 6 months. We have been on the house hunting roller coaster, drawing ever increasing circles on a map to find a new garden and a place we can call home. Leaving here is an easy decision, our children have their own homes now and our once rural outlook has changed – along with our little band of neighbours we fought and lost to a development ironically wanting the slice of rural life we have here. Sharing is hard sometimes.

Song Thrush eating the last of our Viburnahm berries

Declining Song Thrush enjoying the last of our Viburnham berries

The days of watching bats swoop across the house and listening to Owls call to each other have gone, as the field of wildflowers, damp ditches and pioneer trees are now turned over in the name of progress, I hope new hunting grounds have been found. Its time for a new family to live here, we have superb schools in our slice of commuter belt, our lovely village has an increasingly rare post office and thriving shop, great pubs and wonderful walks.

Blue Tit in a hurry

Busy little Blue Tit

But for us, we’d like something even more remote, maybe not a sensible decision in our mid fifties, a place with a huge pond, some wilderness, somewhere to grow trees, hedges and habitats for the wildlife we love and somewhere to create another garden from scratch. As for the house, we are really open minded. Somewhere for family and friends to visit would be lovely.

More Tea Vicar?

More Tea Vicar? (Our Summer table converted to bird table for the winter)

We’ve looked in Yorkshire,  the East Coast, the West Coast, the South Coast, South Wales, Mid Wales, over to France, The Cotswolds. We almost bought a house in Somerset, but our chain broke, then felt relieved we hadn’t.

Scarpering Magpie

Scarpering Magpie

Our ideal home would be away from intensively farmed land. But as 70% of land is farmed in the UK and we need access to parents and children, the search is still on.  Organic wild life friendly farms are few and far between. The impending detachment from EU legislation and the protection they gave our wildlife, is hopefully an opportunity for our government to commit to better or at the very least equal what we had. Farming although ‘rural’ does not mean more wildlife, often its the reverse, the trashing of our soils, the basis of life, the overload of chemicals at the expense of pollinators and the wider natural food chain, leaves us all poorer. Humans have food but laden with toxic pollutants, the natural world is in a desperate sharp decline.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker sharing sunflower hearts with a Great Tit

Greater Spotted Woodpecker sharing sunflower hearts with a Great Tit

Six months of headless chicken searching on top of a crazy work schedule, has been comical at times, less so at others. And our buyer’s fragile chain has been a blessing as its given a breathing space to sort through a life times possessions. Mice had made a shredded nest in a box of children’s painting age 5. I hope their babies are as talented as mine.

Tea for Two

Tea for Two

We shall probably be here till Spring, then take a rented house for a while. There is lots more still to sort, children’s paintings age 6 to start with. Decluttering and packing up for storage is very time consuming. Especially when there are birds to watch, walks to walk and stars to gaze at.

Thats not a turkey bone! Blue tit

That’s not a turkey bone! Blue Tit enjoying the remnants of a fat block.

Our visiting birds are less skittish now we are at home more, they seemed as unsettled as we did. Most species will happily carry about their business with me in the garden but quickly forgot we are friends not foe on our return.

Happy to sit near by, one of our friendly robins

Happy to sit near by, one of our friendly Robins

WordPress has changed since I last wrote a post, has anyone upgraded? I think I am nearly up to capacity on photo storage, with 31% remaining, I’ve reduced the photo quality on this post, is this the best way to deal with that? I’m linking with Tina today for her Wildlife Wednesday meme, it seemed the most appropriate way to explain my absence. I’ve asked Tina already, but she is not up for sale otherwise we would be moving there!

Happy Wildlife Watching!

Wordless Wednesday – Wildlife Trusts #30 Days Wild

Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum nectaring on Phacelia tanacetifolia

Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum nectaring on Phacelia tanacetifolia

Meadow Buttercups - Hatfield Forest, Essex

Meadow Buttercups – Hatfield Forest, Essex

Male Ghost Moth

Male Ghost Moth – Hepialus humuli

Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi - Wicken Fen

Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi – Wicken Fen

Almost wordless! The Wildlife Trusts #30 Days Wild challenge each June encourages folk to make room for nature in our lives and do something wild each day, we did not climb mountains but this first week we ate a picnic lunch in a field of Buttercups at Hatfield Forest, spent a balmy evening at Wicken Fen, amongst wildflowers and Dragonflies, lolled about watching early Bumblebees in our own garden and took dog walks in fields with Ghost Moths for company. Its about taking time to reconnect in the natural world. Twas lovely! And anyone can join in at anytime.

Wildlife Wednesday – A Perfect Storm

Inspired by Tammy’s Casa Mariposa blog, I have been trying for some time to compile a list of UK Garden Centres and Nurseries which sell plants without neonics – systemic insecticide use. I am failing. The RHS were unable to help – despite selling a licensed logo “Perfect for Pollinators” This isn’t regulated – plants can be treated with neonicintoid insecticides and still carry the label.

Astrantia Roma

Astrantia Roma and Bumblebees

Neonics, used to kill off insects by commercial growers deemed to be aesthetically harmful to a plant, stay within the plant – that same systemic insecticide is able to kill the very pollinators it’s labelled to attract. Which is beyond stupid. Laced with hidden toxic chemicals enticing us to buy the perfect plant we are creating a pollinator death trap. Dave Goulson reports “Neonics in soil can persist for years. They can also last for several years once inside perennial plants. Once you have them in your garden there is no known way to get rid of them, other than waiting many years for them to slowly break down.”

“They are tremendously toxic to insects; just one teaspoon of neonic is enough to give a lethal dose to 1 ¼ billion honeybees.”

Scabious

There has been much debate on the use of neonics on farmland crops – the soil association reports “around 95% of chemicals do not get into the crop but instead get into soils and are absorbed by wildflowers, hedges, trees and streams”. Its acknowledged now these insecticides play a large part in killing our Honeybees. But these same insecticides kill our earthworms, wild bees, bumblebees and other pollinators including Butterflies, Moths and Hoverflies, and even the birds who feed on these insects.

Chalk Hill Blue Butterfly

Chalk Hill Blue Butterfly

Two months ago I chipped into a twitter debate, which lobbied the RHS to do something about the lack of testing on plants carrying a label they endorse and sell. Led by John Walker and Kevin Thomas, The Natural Bee Keeping Trust and Dave Goulson, Scientist, Sussex University lecturer, Bee champion, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and author.  This resulted in a change of wording by the RHS. “…..been grown in accordance with all relevant UK and EU legislation and regulation, including the use of pesticides and the current ban on neonicotinoids” However, in reality, the ban is applicable to farm crops not commercial garden plant growers.

Yesterday Dave Goulson launched a crowd funding appeal which aims to test garden plants for neonics, to find the ones which are truly safe or not, then lobby for garden centres to sell plants which are genuinely good for bees and other pollinators. Those that are safe would be sold as neonic-free. He is a measured man, not a ranter or crank, a scientist, who acts on scientific evidence. Hence the need to carry out tests. Greenpeace have already tested garden plants on the EU mainland and found neonics.

Borago officinalis and Honey Bee

Borago officinalis and Wild Bee

Without pollinators, we would not eat Strawberries, Apples or Chocolate, amongst many others. Without pollinators we would see very few flowers in our Gardens or on Countryside walks.  Buglife report it’s estimated that 84% of EU crops (valued at £12.6 billion) and 80% of wildflowers rely on insect pollination.

Solitary bee on 'White Pearl' Perennial Sweet Pea

Solitary bee on ‘White Pearl’ Perennial Sweet Pea

As gardeners we are uniquely placed to really help our beleaguered pollinators and impact how this knocks on into the wildlife food chain and ecosystems. We can make a genuine difference. If we carry on planting plants laced with toxic chemicals then its quite frightening how empty, devoid and unhappy our gardens could be.

I haven’t included any of our May 2016 wildlife from home today, these photos are last Summers. Tina from My Gardener Says who hosts this lovely meme, has shared lots from her Texas garden though.

Happy Wildlife Watching!

Wordless Wednesday – Carpets of Bluebells with my Faithful Friend

IMG_2082

Archie our Labrador, enjoying Spring Bluebells

National Trust Ashridge Estate Native Bluebells

National Trust Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire -Native Bluebells

National Trust Ashridge Estate Native Bluebells

National Trust Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire – Native Bluebells

Archie, taking in the scent of Bluebells

Archie, taking in the scent of Bluebells

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/trails/three-in-one-bluebell-walk-at-ashridge

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate/features/protecting-the-bluebells-at-ashridge

http://www.wildlifebcn.org/news/2016/04/04/bluebell-barcoding-day

http://publicengagement.wellcomegenomecampus.org/page/bluebell-survey-2016

http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/hyacinthoides-non-scripta-bluebell