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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guide to Garden Wildlife

I mentioned a while back that the excellent British Wildlife Publishing had a new book out Guide to Garden Wildlife by Richard Lewington.

I now have a copy and can shar with you some brief thoughts. The book sets out to enable us to identify more than 500 species likly to be found in our gardens (from Hegehogs to Hoverflies) and to better appreciate the wildlife that shares our most immediate environment.

The book is brilliantly illustrated by Richard Lewington with excellent bird illustrations by Ian Lewington. Each section has a good introduction. There is an excellent introduction by Ken Thompson (author of no nettles required) and also tips on wildlife gardening and creating a garden pond.

The problem, no reservation, I have with this book is from Ken Thompson introduction.
Thompson recounts the story of Jennifer Owne who for 30 years has been documenting the wildlife of her unremarkable suburban garden in Leicester. After 15 years she reported her findings in a book "The Ecology of a Garden the first 15 years".

At first her findings don't seem that amazing, three species of amphibians, 6 mammals and 50 species of birds. But she had 1602 species of insect plus 121 further invertebrates. She had over a third of the British list for butterflies and hoverflies and almost half the list for harvestmen ! And she didn't attempt to count all the species of insects! Thompson comments that her garden is not dramatically inferior to Monk's Wood Nature reserve (and in bees superior).

Now you will note that if a typical garden can throw up that volume of species how useful can a book with just 500 be for identification purposes? Actually not bad, it will help you identify many common species and will give you pointers as to the family of insect even if you can't identify it exactly. That at least will narrow down the search in more detailed reference books (listed in the Bibliography).

To me this book is a nice overview providing an introduction to a more detailed world.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wildlife News

The National Trust has said it will refuse to co-operate with the voluntary Badger cull on its land in Wales.

David Bullock, the trust's head of nature conservation, said: "We have obligations both to badgers and the people who use our land. We are not persuaded it is the right thing to do."

If trials on the effectiveness of culls had shown they could reduce cattle TB by 80% - a real difference - "then, subject to the highest welfare standards, we could not have objected to a badger cull, but it has not gone that way,".

I was betwixt offices this morning and this gave me a rare chance to listen to Radio 4's World on the Move programme. The programme told of the migration of the Painted Lady from Africa to the UK. Already Painted Ladies are arriving in Northern Spain and the offspring will hatch and make their way here. We are probably well aware of the Monarch migration but probably unaware of what goes on in our own backyard so to speak. In some years there can be big influxes in the UK.

World on the Move along with Butterfly Conservation are trying to track the Painted Lady along with another migratory insect from Africa the truly spectacular Humming-bird Hawk Moth. If you see either of these you can record it here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

In a Time Warp

So I'm going to work this morning and I'm thinking its sad to see that old cinema turned into a Tesco and then my brain suddenly went "oi Pete what are you doing here?".

It seems that in auto-pilot mode I had turned as if going to my old job. The fact that I haven't worked there in 6 years is rather weird eh! Luckily the two jobs are two miles apart!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Boom of the Bittern

Tricia and I went to Minsmere today to meet a few people (like the lovely digi-birder) and to do some birding.

We saw some good birds superb views of 3 Bearded Tits, Med Gulls, Arctic, Little, Common and Sandwich Terns, Cetti's Warbler, Nightingale, Wheatear, Brambling, Whinchat, myriad Marsh Harriers, Dunlin, Ruff, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, loads of warblers (Grasshopper, Garden).




Of course the bird many go to see at Minsmere is the Bittern. This is a typical view.

Long Tailed Tit

And then again you can get very lucky with the Bittern. I make no apologies for the number of images.

As we walked about to the visitors centre a Nightingale sang out and we could hear a Bittern boom lovely.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saturday in the Spring Sun

I met up with Dave and Joy this morning and we went to the Lee Valley Spring Wildlife event.

I suppose for some of the girlies who read this blog this will have been the highlight.

but for me it was the rescue bats they had which were coolest. Around the reserve we saw Lesser and Common Whitethroats and also lots of Sand Martins.

We then went to the Rainbow & Dove in Harlow for a drink in the sun and I took Dave and Joy to the guaranteed Green Sandpiper at Rye Meads which wasn't present! Still we saw a Northern Wheatear which was a year and patch tick.


Lesser Black Back Gull

This poor Grey Heron had a damage winged.

Ah the natives are panicing

As I drove home last night I noticed queues at the local Tesco Petrol station. This morning they were still queueing and half the pumps were empty.

The tossers at the Daily Mail had a headline "petrol to hit £5 a gallon if you can find any". Nice and responsible journalism just the kind of quality we expect from them.

As I pulled into the drive I had a shock a male Sparrowhawk sitting on my gate!

Friday, April 25, 2008

A return to traditional values

One of the things that has been irritating in British Politics is the fact that the two major political parties have become virtually interchangeable.

Old Labour die hards have bemoaned New Labours move to the right and Thatcherite Conservatives are a mite disturb but Dave "hug a hoody" Cameron.

So it was a relief to see the abolition of the 10p tax band and see redistribution reenter the Labour Party lexicon. Of course redistriubtion from the poor to the rich wasn't what the likes of Nye Bevan had in mind.

You have to wonder about Gordon Brown, he waits 10 years for the job and then makes a right horlicks of it. That Blair bloke must be laughing his head off.

I have to say the Labour barracking of Nick Clegg at PMQ's when he was remembering the soldiers who had died in Iraq and Gwyneth Dunwoody MP was pretty disgraceful.

But then they all seem like a bunch of overgrown yobs.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Butterflies had a dire 2007

According to reports from charity Butterfly Conservation 2007 was a terrible year for butterflies.

Butterflies do not fly in the rain, making it impossible for them to reach the plants on whose nectar they feed. Heavy rain also means they are unable to breed.

It was the worst year for over a quarter of a century. The stats from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme found that eight butterflies were at an all-time low - the Common Blue, the Grayling, the Lulworth Skipper, the Small Skipper, the Small Tortoiseshell, the Speckled Wood, the Chalkhill Blue and the Wall.

Butterflies like the Small Tortoiseshell were once common in UK gardens.

You can read more here.

Happy Birthday OC and CP

Happy birhday to both OC and CP, hope you both have super days

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Homeward bound

I had a haircut booked for 2pm so I planned to leave early but as it was raining.....
the pub had a lot of business trade so breakfast were early and I was home by 9:15 !!

However the afternoon has been gorgeous so I headed to Amwell....

Lots of Warblers (Blackcap, Sedge, Willow, chiffchaff). Also Little Ringed Plover and my first Common Terns of the year. Buzzards (saw lots on holiday) Sparrowhawks and Kestrels over.

Anyway some photos...

Blackbird having a bath

Wood Pigeon

Reed Bunting (Male)

Great Tit

And a plethora of Blue Tits

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


uh hang on my brain is detecting something seriously wrong. Ah got it Sun!!!

I went to

671 All Saints, Crondall.

There was a prayer meeting going on and as it was rather pleasant I sat in the churchyard and started David Copperfield.

after half an hour.... I should mention that the tower is much later 1650 something. There are wooden galleries running into it from the church.

I then went on to an English Heritage property Northington Grange. The property is now a ruin but is important becuase it was the first private house built in the greek revival style.

Then on to Hinton Ampner. A lovely garden, nice house with a parish church in the grounds (not on my hit list but worth going into).

Lots of flutters about but only one perched and that was distant. Hope OC appreciates bees and orange tip flutter