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Time flies, bees and herons

Date posted: Saturday 3rd April 2021

Time flies, bees and herons

Is it just me or does time seem to by flying past at an alarming rate these days…! April already, but it’s been reassuring to see the first sand martins flying over Rick Pond in Home Park last Saturday, almost to the day I first saw them last year. Creatures of habit, like most species that rely on food sources being available at the same time, in order to nest, produce and feed their young. This past week’s weather has felt oddly ‘normal, with high temperatures bringing out the bbqs and bare torsos at the start of the week and now we’re all back in hats and warm jackets and sitting in the park’s not such a pleasant experience…

Recently I’ve been attending zoom talks on bees and other pollinators; our local Habitats and Heritage group started with data about bees and the number of varieties in the UK: 1 species of honeybee; approx. 27 species of bumblebee; approx. 250 species of solitary bee. The main causes of decline in bees and other pollinators being, predictably habitat loss and fragmentation, pesticides and fertilisers, climate change, introduction of non native species and diseases, pollution (light, chemical, electronic) and poor management/husbandry. Brigid Strawbridge Howard was unequivocal: ‘The very, very first thing to do is stop using pesticides. If you’re someone who uses pesticides, stop using them – find another alternative.’ (How to Make Your Garden More Bee Friendly How I’d like to see the total ban on our allotments site of all toxic chemical pesticides usage; it’s a problem when plotholders have their own attitudes to the use of chemicals and the impact on wildlife.

She goes on to recommend plants and simple strategies to encourage bees and other pollinators. And Dave Goulson, in his latest ‘must read’ and compelling book, ‘The Garden Jungle’ lists his ten top plants for bees, several of which I’m pleased to say feature in my plot! It’s not rocket science to observe which plants bees make a ‘beeline’ for, and near the top of my plot list are nepeta, marjoram, borage, pulmonaria and allium sphaerocephalon. I’ve now got an opportunity to plant up the new area we’re creating at the front entrance to commemorate our centenary this year, and pollinator friendly plants will take centre stage – perennials, annuals and spring bulbs to bring in the bees, butterflies and, later the birds when the crab apple tree grows!

Meanwhile, back at the plot a couple of weeks ago I was alerted by Ruth to something along by the back wall. I thought it was the fox but there, motionless at the side of Matt’s fish pond was a statuesque, but unwelcome visitor! This time it flew off empty-beaked but past years it has had all Matt’s fish. And on the pond front, nothing in mine until a week or so ago when we spotted two or three very small clumps of spawn. But no sign of any tadpoles recently so I can only assume it was a very juvenile frog who hadn’t yet got the hand of it all…