Day 22 – In praise of the untidy

A gathering of bees has taken up residence in my neighbours bathroom roof. I’m not sure it’s a hive, although they go in with pollen and come out with nothing, so I guess they’re feeding young bees. They’ve been for the past three or four years, in a couple of weeks they’ll buzz off until next year. They can get in through the small holes on the edges of the roof, I’m not even sure if my neighbour knows they’re there – I can see them on my side, but she won’t be able to see them on hers.

My friend who featured on Day 18 has swifts turn up every May and nest in his roof – again, they get in through a small hole under the eaves. It doesn’t cause any problems for them, and they get to welcome swifts every year. They put up a swift nesting box one year but the swifts weren’t interested. There are fewer and fewer swifts coming back to nest in the city and one of the reasons could be because of the way we are sealing up the gaps and holes where they want to nest. I don’t know, I expect it’s other things too, but when we tidy up our gardens and verges and wastelands we inadvertently remove important habitats for all sorts of insects and animals. All that destructive ivy, those prickly pyracanthus bushes, the poppies growing from the edges of walls and cracks in the pavements – they all have a part to play. There should always be a bit of space for the untidy. ‘Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet’.

Day 21 – Solstice

10.15 on the longest day of the year, and the hottest day of the year. A couple of weeks ago I was complaining about the rain, but we could really do with some now. I’m hoping my little allotment pond is keeping the wildlife there hydrated. It’s worth leaving out bowls of water if you live somewhere that any wildlife might be passing by. 

It was 33.5° at 3.15 this afternoon. I know this because one of our residents has a weather station in his back garden – its always good for a look when the weather’s being exciting I love the way that technology has made it so easy to record and share this sort of information – more evidence of citizens science I guess. Happy Solstice, enjoy these long evenings while we can. 

Day 20 – Gardening 

The sun has helped these spectacular lilies to burst into flower. They smell amazing too, doing scented battle with the jasmine, also in full bloom. They look great, trouble is I can’t really see the point of flowers if they aren’t interesting to pollinators – and they really aren’t.

These are more my sort of thing – wildflowers waiting to go out the front when I get a chance. I bought them from Avon Wildlife Trust at the recent Festival of Nature and I’m excited about getting them in and growing. Don’t ask me what they are though, I can’t remember half of them.

Day 19 – Out and About by the River Pt 2

Managed to fit in a little ride alongside the Malago on the way home this evening. It’s a little local river that rises up on the edge of Hartcliffe and discharges into the Avon – a bit scruddy looking but important still as a source of water for wildlife in the area, especially when it’s hot. It’s a bit low on water at the moment… 

Day 18 – Watching Swifts 

This evening we went to friends to watch the swifts over their garden. They live on the edge of Bristol and every year swifts come back and nest in their loft – they get in through a small hole under the roof tiles. It doesn’t affect the house at all, but many others in the area have sealed up these little holes and the numbers of swifts seems to have declined. It’s always a bit of a nail biter as we come up to spring – will they arrive? Will they still come and nest in the loft?

My friend has a camera set up on the nest in the loft but it was too dark to see the chick, although we could see it moving, and hear it calling for food. So, as we hermetically seal our houses up the technology enables us to get much closer to nature much more easily. A shame. If you want to watch some swift chicks that you can see check out the swift cam at the Oxford Museum of Natural History
*nb – I couldn’t manage a swift photo so got these goldfinches sitting on next door’s aerial watching the swifts. Maybe 🙂

Day 17 – On the Levels

On Saturday my friend and I decided to take a mental health day down on the Somerset Levels – our go to place when everything is getting too grim. There’s been a lot said and written about the effect being ‘in nature’ has on people’s mental health and I know for me being out in the countryside walking or bird watching is soothing and meditative. It switches your mind off, gives you a reboot. The news lately has been so unremittingly grim – I know we’re lucky to be able to walk away from it for a while. Sometimes you just have to. 

In his book ‘Where to go to watch birds’ from 1986 John Gooders dismissed Shapwick Heath as being ‘mostly destroyed by the commercial extraction of peat.’ It’s a NNR and was taken over by Natural England toward the end of the 80’s. I’ve been going there for almost that long and have watched it develop into this gloriously diverse habitat, teaming with life. It’s one of the best places in the country to see the starling murmerations in the winter- a wildlife spectacle everyone should try to experience at least once in their lives. And now, in Spring it is full of birds, nesting, feeding their young, generally hanging out. As well as Shapwick we went to Ham Wall, the RSPB reserve on the other side of the road- another stunning reserve which has developed so much in the past few years.


So – what did we see? 

Glossy Ibis – recently taken up residence in the area. A beautiful and exotic bird to see in the June sunshine. 

Lots of godwits – not sure what sort. 

Lapwings – a bird from my childhood. We used to have clouds of them flocking in the wheatfields of Bedfordshire, not so frequently seen these days and not in such numbers. 

A deer in the path back to Ham Wall, watching us from the other side of the canal.

There were lots of chicks of various sorts, including lots of cygnets of various sizes. 

And so many Marsh Harriers – I remember how excited I was the first time I saw one of these here, several years ago. Now they are everywhere and I see them every time I go. 

As well as the birds photographed we sat and watched a barn owl quartering the marshes for a while, gliding across the reeds with its distinctive round white head. While we were watching a cuckoo flew over, kindly making itself known with its song. And of course there were the persil white Little and Great White  Egrets – another natural success story. 

It’s a stunning place, full of life and diversity, soothing troubled minds and taking us back to ourselves. We left at sunset – nearly 10pm, and had to drag ourselves away. 



Day 16 – Allotment soundscape


Inspired by the soundscape feature on Springwatch last night, I’ve recorded a 2 minute soundscape on the allotment this evening. There were a lot of birds tweeting but I’m rubbish at birdsong so I’m not sure what. I’m planning to do a mini big garden birdwatch on the allotment over the weekend, so hopefully I’ll know then. Lots of swifts chattering around at high speed in the sunset, and several blackbirds making themselves heard. I recorded this on my phone so not sure about quality. Might try again with better equipment. I couldn’t get it to play from an Audioboom upload and don’t have time to spend messing about, so here it on Youtube. Don’t expect anything to happen to the picture though!