Sunday, 3 July 2022

Festival month begins

A busy July lays ahead and started yesterday with Holly having a stall at the Far Out Festival in Ickford. Tomorrow I'm off to Bulgaria for a week and then it's Bird Fair, then Steve's Wedding, then a family birthday party plus a load of kids birthday parties for Jacob's friends. Thank goodness I'm getting to Bulgaria tomorrow as the thought of spending that much time in society exhausts me before the ordeal has even begun. The social things I enjoy most are demonstrations, secretive society meetings, plotting and blockades against society :-)

Not much to report from the Old Vic since I got back from London. The weather has been cool and wet. There's been a few new for year moths but no news for garden. Generally everything ticking over nicely. Garden Moth year list now 282. Pretty quiet on the bird front. Haven't heard the Spotted Flycatcher in last few days. 

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing- a nice fresh specimen 
Small Clouded Brindle- if I've identified this correctly this will be a lifer
Yellow tail have started putting in an appearance now 
Not sure if this is a Little Emerald or a Common Emerald with it's darker ground colour and edging worn away? 
I'm presuming this is a Mottled Rustic rather than a heavily marked Uncertain job
Common Rustic agg also now appearing 
Triangle-marked Roller- one of the more regular micros here 
The butterfly border coming along- the Common Loosestrife is now flowering but not many insects about in the day in the rather autumnal conditions 
The cottage garden with plenty flowering now and providing lots of feeding opportunities for insects  
Bryan's coach house border is looking okay- another new area of planting in the garden 
All good at the mini-farm. Bryan's been sorting out the garlic this week (below) 

Holly's stall (above) at the Far Out Festival (below). What with all the food growing and flowers too this weekend, it's all gone a bit full on hippy. Be interesting to get to Bird Fair this month, by the sounds of it, since the re-launch and re-branding to Global Bird Fair, many eco-socialists/carbon commies are keeping away and its just the birding and green Capitalists and their grey army customers. Will see, this could be where birding/ popular natural history forks further into Right (Global, market, high income and technology driven) and Left wing (Local, Low carbon, low income, charity/volunteer, plant and bike based etc)  and if it does there could be an opportunity here for someone to set up a 'Birding Festival'. The old Bird Fair used to represent the whole of the popular natural history community spectrum so in a way if Global Bird Fair has lost some of those 'hippy flavours' it will be a bit sad. Will see. I liked the fact that the old Bird Fair was a place where everyone could come together in one place. Bird Fair was indeed leaning towards the trade fair/capitalist/celebrity camp (the right if you like) a bit too much but things just needed a bit of tweaking/reforming into sustainable/responsible eco-tourism and not a divorce IMHO.   

Friday, 1 July 2022

Down town on the Downs

The usual few days in London this week, I stayed at Steve's up on the North Downs and did some moth trapping there, did two days visiting green spaces for work (this week a mix of private and social housing gardens/grounds) and on Wednesday Gillian and I visited another London Wildlife Trust Reserve (we're trying to visit as many as possible), this time Riddlesdown SSSI. We both agreed that Riddlesdown was the worst keep secret they've got , just a bit of fairly average chalk grassland from what we could see and not much of it either (most of the rest of the Riddlesdown Nature Reserve in which this reserve is hidden seems to have better areas). Many Wildlife Trust reserves are like hidden treasures that are difficult to find and this one was no exception. I've had to abandon quests in the past to actually find Wildlife Trust sites and if you haven't a phone signal you can be buggered and during covid the challenge was even worse with many being abandoned with entrances overgrown etc. Anyway we found this one and despite being rather underwhelming was still worth the effort.

The Wildlife Trust sites always make me think how effective a concurrent private nature reserve network would be to compliment the existing network. Many sites are small- this one was barely an acre and many are a few acres. However they are often spectacular (Bernwood Meadows springs to mind) sheltering populations of very rare and localised species - small is not just beautiful but powerful too and lots of small actions add up to big changes. Anyway I remember reading some information on one of the wildlife trusts, I can't remember which one now but I worked out how many members they had and how much land was under their control (often not even owned but they get the management rights)  and it worked it that there was less than an acre per member. Considering an acre costs about £10K (agricultural and woodland grade) seems like there could be an argument that encouraging private and individual investment in nature and natural capital would work as well or even better than a charity model. Imagine if every person in the UK who was interested in nature owned an acre of land (or more) as part of their private investment portfolio in addition to their gardens or communal green spaces than that would presumably compliment the existing charity based nature reserves very well (would it even exceed the land they control?) .  Land (agricultural and woodland)  holds it value (even slowly increases) and with carbon credits and incentives available now there's even scope to make money from nature conservation so it could become part of pension/retirement fund. On a big enough scale a land market incentivised by carbon credits and ELM payments would drive speculation too so there could even be profit available for the pioneers. Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent but constantly being reminded how important it is for our company to buy more land and maybe even consider facilitating others to do too as part of an investment fund. We could experiment with this in Bulgaria where land is very cheap (development land is about 30K an acre and agricultural land about 1K or so). I'm off there next week and part of the objective is to look into buying up more land. 

Here's a few pics from the moth trapping at Steve's and the Riddlesdown visit.  

Rosy Footman - first one I've had this year
Grey Arches (above) and Sycamore (below) 

Yarrow Plume 
Presumably a mompha but I cant work out which one 
I put this down as Meadow Neb? 
A social housing scheme in Merton, we do quite a bit of work in this sector and often these schemes have some increasingly important (as the amount of green space in London is slowly declining) urban ecology. This one within a rather industrialised area was a little oasis.  
View over the Downs from Riddlesdown- we do a lot of work in this area for private customers, with steep slopes and shallow chalk soils it can be difficult terrain. We have had private customers that have actually turned their gardens into Chalk Grassland complete with Orchids and other signature species. 
My PlantNet app says the above is Dropwort and the plant below is Black Byrony 

The small  Wildlife Trust reserve at Riddlesdown SSS1. A few Common Spotted and Pyramidal Orchids and the usual Chalk Grassland species was all we could see in a brief visit.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

This week at the Old Vic

The weather has been pretty cool over the last week with plenty of wind and some rain which is keeping the garden lush. Birding highlight was a Magpie, the last one here was in the 4th week of March HERE and the other main change has been the appearance of the first juvenile Greenfinches and Goldfinches. 

The best moth night of the last few days was Thursday night with 256 moths of 87 species. Since then been lucky to get 100 moths of 50 species a night. Plenty of new for years and also Clay Triple Lines and Meadow Case-bearer are potential firsts for the garden. Garden moth list now on 531 and year list is 275. 

We've put the chicks out now in coop and run. It's a bit early but they were getting very smelly in doors so I've wired up the coop with a heat lamp so still providing them with a 26 C area to brood up in. Started feeding them more garden weeds (chick weed etc) and introduced a few meal worms. 

Had the first full meal from the garden so setting a new record with the first  fully self-sufficient day of the year. From now on we should in theory be largely self sufficient (or heavily supplemented) for several months (and will try and preserve as much excess as possible). So hopefully well prepared for the escalating cost of living crisis. Once the chickens are laying eggs will be even better. 

This week's addition to the mini-zoo include a Striped Raphael Catfish, African Aquatic Frogs, Mixed Danios and Nerite Snails. 
Clay Triple Lines - a new for garden (and lifer)
Barred Yellow- a garden NFY
White Satin- the first one for this year 
Buff Arches
Scarlet Tiger- seems to be a good year for these. In the heat wave I had six one night and they've been regularly turning up in one and twos since 
I've had the VES lure out but only been attracting Orange-tailed Clearwings- at least three around 
Kent Black Arches- the first for the year 
I think this is Meadow Case-bearer- the striped antennae are a feature which can make this species one of the few Coleophora species identifiable by sight. If I'm not wrong this is a new for garden and lifer. 
Small Emerald- the first for the year of this lovely species 
Short-cloaked Moth- a nice fresh specimen of this new for year 
Presumably Gordon Ramsey would spontaneously combust with this being paraded as a meal but boiled potatoes and broad beans supplemented by duck eggs (from Steve's) was the first fully self grown meal of the year. A bit of further cheating with some mayo and butter and it was delicious. I'd have to lock horns with Ramsey on this as there is something about eating the food that you grow yourself, you can taste the effort, the patience and the care, the love. It's a bit like your ugly baby or partner  that only you find beautiful. It's intimate and personal. It's a unique dining experience and the government can't tax it, and growing food is like printing money so basically it's the best taste in the entire universe. It’s the taste of freedom.   
The chickens at three and half weeks old outside 


Thursday, 23 June 2022

The London Arches

As usual every week I do two or three days in London working on the tree and garden game and try to weave in a bit of birding/mothing stuff.  This week I stayed in the straw bale barn at our business yard (as it is currently not rented out) and ran three moth traps at our HQ which is on the North Downs in an area of small holdings, chalk grazing meadows with areas of chalk grassland nearby. Wednesday evening I met up with Gillian and we had a look at Carshalton Pastures (an area of Chalk Grassland) and the Carshalton Lavender field.

Pretty standard fare in the work I had to look at, mainly hedge trimming this time of year but a lot of the gardens are looking great this time of year.  

120 moth species over the two nights so not bad. A few highlights below. 

Grey Arches, a lifer (two images above) and Dark, Light and Reddish Light Arches below (consecutive images)

Tawny-barred Angle I presume 
White-line Sober type- Synopacma larseniella/taenolella - a gen dent job
A stunning well defined Mottled Beauty
Still working on these pugs (above and below) 

Marbled White Spot- only the second one or so that I've seen
Cypress Carpet was well represented with five or six a night 
This juvenile Starling woke me at at 500am after chatting to Matt to the small hours (about 1am) about stuff like how the ULEZ extending to our borough will affect our business and how we are being pushed along the net zero route even further for better or worse. Dieter Helm describes the current energy and cost of living crisis as the first Net Zero crisis so what with soaring inflation, the Brexit related labour shortages and trade obstacles plus the new net zero regulations coming in we (and all businesses) have an interesting journey ahead (I suspect a very challenging one but one potentially leading to a business environment with is more favourable to our business model). What with all the trees and gardens we maintain for wildlife, all the planting we do plus the recent land acquisitions and the circular waste economy we operate (the green waste we produce powers our business offices etc) I presume we must be both carbon positive and achieving net biodiversity gain already (or well on the way to it)  but it would be good to get some comparable metrics on it all. We have our show/experimental/control gardens where we measure and monitor biodiversity but we don't have any similar ways of measuring our carbon.  The Starling had somehow got into the wood burning stove by flying/falling down the flue. 
Pyramidal Orchid at Carshalton Pastures- a couple of these in what is rather rough Chalk Grassland, dominated by tall grasses.