Baftas, Brexit and Insects

I awake this morning to the news headlines on the radio. First up is the Baftas – hot news at the moment as The Favourite has scooped an armful of awards, with Olivia Colman getting the Best Actress accolade. She was briliant, as were her supporting female leads; the film was odd and slightly boring (my view) and seemed filled with characters who were distinctly nasty to each other. I far preferred Stan and Ollie and Bohemian Rhapsody. But then I’m a push over for films with a spot of happiness, some poignant sadness and with music in them.

The news moves on to Brexit; in third place comes a mention of the alarming lack of insects, news of which has just broken.

Back to Brexit – that ongoing saga of unbelievable self-harm which parliament, government, the Prime Minister and some of the country seems to be willingly – almost eagerly? – putting itself through in the name of the “will of the people”. What tosh. It’s the most dangerous emergency the UK has faced sine WW2.

Boris Johnson is being interviewed and he’s using the quiet, well-modulated voice he’s no doubt been schooled in using, in an attempt to be taken seriously as he spouts something or other I may or may not have heard before. I’ve had enough of this man and the porkies he peddled during the referendum campaign so I turn off the radio.

I don’t need to hear anymore. The item on Insects is given little prominence and comes low down on the list. In fact, it’s something which is infinitely more important, scary and of long term importance and significance than a no-deal Brexit.

There’s a global decline of insects. A recent scientific review of insect numbers reports that 40% of species are undergoing dramatic rates of decline. We can’t do without them, whether we like them or not. We need them for pollination; they ensure that 75% of crops in the world are pollinated. And we need food.

Insects provide food for birds, bats and small mammals. They are good for the soil and they keep the number of pests (like flies) down. Loss of habitat and use of fertilisers and pesticides are to blame, along with climate breakdown. Most insect decline comes from Europe and North America.

So what can we do?

1) Make your garden or patch more insect friendly. Plant to attract insects – encourage the bees and butterflies. Don’t use plastic grass (horrible dead stuff – and it’s plastic too). Leave a wild patch on your lawn for the insects. It doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be there.

2) Don’t use pesticides. At all. There are other ways. One of them is leaving things be as much as you can. The worst that can happen is that some plants will be eaten by caterpillars….but then you’ll have the butterflies and moths too.

3) Buy organic or grow some of your own fruit and veg.

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Wildlife on the Wing

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Reviewing 2018, I’ve just looked back at some of the photos I took in September in the Dordogne, and have offset some of the current darkness of midwinter with a spot of captured sunshine.

Insects and wild life dominated, and I was transported back to warm sunny days when I watched wildlife on the wing and completely lost track of time as I did so.

There were plenty of butterflies, and on one particular walk by the River Vezere, I noted down the all species I saw (with a bit of help from a butterfly ID book when needed). The list was impressive.

Adonis blue, Banded Grayling, Comma, Meadow Brown, Wood White, Cleopatra, Brimstone (those two are so alike), Clouded Yellow, Large and Small Whites, Scarce Swallowtail (that was a happy, lucky sighting). My camera was out, but it was impossible to concentrate on taking photos of everything I saw; I was happy to stroll, gaze and snap. Some of those insects seemed to know when the lens was on them too – some stayed still, while others decided to move just at the crucial moment.

In addition to butterflies there was the Carpenter Bee I spotted, along with Hummingbird Hawk Moths and Dragonflies patrolling and quartering their patch.

A pair of  iridescent Kingfishers flashed past, close to the surface of the river, and by night I saw a solitary glow worm low down in a hedge, its rear end a bright luminous green, a fat delightful toad on a path near the river bank, while overhead bats were out finding their supper.

Purple

Looking around the garden in the past few days, I noticed how many purple flowers we have. Purple is a favourite colour; it has regal and spiritual connections and resonates with the violet in the rainbow spectrum.

It’s also a colour which attracts bees – an insect which is so important yet under threat from the use of pesticides.

When taking these shots of the purple flowers I forgot that we have lavender too. It’s just coming into flower and my hope is that it will be visited by as many bees as are in the neighbourhood.

I belong to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. I’m a fairly passive member; I support their work and do my bit in my own way by encouraging an interest in bees with my grandchildren. Granddaughter has moved from being scared of bumblebees to being being brave enough to stroke one carefully (I wrote about this last year) while it’s immersed in its task of collecting pollen. Her interest has spread to liking hoverflies and being fascinated by them.

Pond dipping with Grandad

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Eight year old granddaughter recently revelled in the delights of pond dipping during her visit to the UK. Our ex-pat family live in the US and visit during the summer to see us and escape the heat of Texas in August (probably when it’s at its most challenging). If she tried pond dipping there she could easily net a baby alligator; here it’s a tad safer and there was great interest in the smooth newts we found in our garden pond.

Neighbourhood friends she has here came round to play. They all wanted to pond dip and not only were tiny young smooth newts found, but also some fully grown adults which were studied, observed and returned to the pond. Continue reading

That Monday morning buzz

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What better way to spend a Monday morning than watching wildlife activity in the garden?  I’m not that domesticated, but I do like to take advantage of hanging washing out to dry on a suitably sunny day; the free, eco-friendly effect of the sun offsets using the more expensive option of the dryer, and the clothes smell better for being out in the fresh air. Continue reading