Counting Nature and Fedging the Issue

dicentraThe sun shone, time was mine, I decided to count nature for the www.waterscape.com survey over the Easter weekend.  I like to think I’m very observant when it comes to the wildlife around here, but it became clear almost immediately that casual observation and (nearly) scientific survey are two very different activities.  Counting stuff, instead of just noticing it, is quite difficult and the minute precision is required you suddenly feel that certainties may only be possibilities.

I realised that any successful counting was going to require a narrowing of the field. On the grounds that the birds were overwhelming I decided to concentrate my efforts on bees as these are something of a pet subject at the moment.  I failed to inform Goldilocks of my new strategy and every so often my efforts were interrupted by shrieks of, ‘Wagtail! Wagtail!’  

I think I may have counted the same carder bee (little burnt orangey ones) five times.  I thought I’d had more luck when six honey bees simultaneously landed on the patch of forget-me-nots outside the kitchen window, only to concede later with my ‘Collins British Wildlife’ in hand,  that my certain six honey bees may possibly have been only six drone flies.  I lost count of the buff-tail bumble bees, which I guess is a good thing, but the survey form doesn’t have a field for ‘estimate of all things buzzy’.   There were ‘quite a few’ (handy scientific term!) hover flies, which I identified mostly from the fact they were hovering, the minute you try to get near them they do this amazing warp speed getaway manoeuvre.   I  think that,  Winnie-ther-Pooh style, I will have to disguise myself as a raincloud in order to get close.  The Man from Salford thinks I will have no problem passing myself off as a rain cloud.

A more successful Easter activity was a visit to Trentham Gardens.  Goldilocks and her pals threw themselves around the adventure playground and then set forth on the ‘Bar Fuss’ or barefoot walk.  Boots and socks off, we bravely ventured through shin-deep mud, cold water, gravel, cobbles, bark-chip, sand and hay.  I couldn’t help feeling that I could have done something pretty similar walking home up the towpath for free.  Goldilocks claims that she is now desensitised to any surface and does not need shoes.  Great, I tell her, we will  lessen our global footprints by not buying any more new shoes and she looks more than a little crestfallen. 

We also visited Trentham’s eco-garden and came away with the idea of a ‘fedge’ for a child-friendly weekend garden project. 

insect hotel at sustainable living project

Here is our fedge.  To the untrained eye it might look like something Eeyore knocked together, but hopefully to the multiple eyes of insects this is the Hilton.  We have stuffed our fedge with leaf-litter, reeds, pine cones, sticks and what I hope are some very dead Japanese knotweed stems.  These hollow stems are five-star accomodation for carder bees apparently.  I guess these structures can be as fancy or as simple as you like and I’m sure people more creative than us could come up with a more impressive fedge.   The project kept Goldilocks happily employed for a couple of hours, running to and forth with her finds and then trying to make them all stick together somehow. (Tip-use plenty of soft materials in between the sticks – leaves, conifer branches and reeds all seem to have good binding properties.)  We finished off by planting a couple of foxgloves  and sowing wild flower seeds at the base of our fedge in order to ‘advertise our vacancies’ to the insect world.  A passer-by admired our handy work and then inquired as to when we were intending to set fire to it!

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