Saturday morning was dry and bright: ideal conditions for practical outdoor tasks. I was forming a plan over a cup of tea when a young Dunnock (downy feathers still very much in evidence) careered headlong into the window, knocking itself senseless. Rather than leave it lying on the ground at the mercy of our cats, I placed it on one of the bird-feeding stations. Several tits and a Robin came and went but the stunned bird remained exactly where I had left it for a good hour, looking groggy and extremely sorry for itself. Gradually it recovered sufficiently to fly off into the woods, so I felt quite optimistic that it would make a full recovery.
Relieved not to have a terminally concussed bird on my hands, I got to work on my first ever Pond Weed Bin – an ingenious idea picked up from the Guardian Weekend as a method of controlling stubborn perennial weeds. Parts of our land have been overrun by bindweed and our dry stone wall is at collapsing point with vast fronds of bracken sticking out in all directions. Slow drowning these menaces seemed like the perfect solution.
After much hacking and wrenching, I dumped a sizeable heap of thick-rooted weeds into a tub filled with water and added a handful of duckweed from the pond in the hope of keeping the stench to a minimum. In several months the roots should break down into a “compostable mush” and the water become rich and nutritious (“weed tea” is the way Lia Leendertz describes it in her article). The mixture should then make an excellent fertiliser when diluted and watered on plants.
Butterflies were numerous in the warmth of the early afternoon: Orange-tips, Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells and Large Whites were on the wing in and around the meadow. Sadly, not a single Painted Lady has been seen this year – no doubt the inclement weather is to blame. However, towards the end of August and into the first week of this month a male Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) was observed feeding on a mixture of sludge and animal waste caked on the grid by our barn. I was vaguely aware that this species is said to come down to the ground to take salts and minerals from muddy drains, but this was the first time I had seen it happen. I snapped a picture of him (see above) using my old and very basic Olympus 4.10 Digital – hence the poor quality of the photograph. A decent camera is going to be at the very top of this year’s Christmas list.
This morning was somewhat overcast and breezy but the rain stayed away for most of the day. I continued clearing the dry stone wall, tugging out great knobbly rhizomes and long fleshy roots from between the rocks. The Hedge bindweed (also known as Bellbind) is deceptively attractive with its pretty white trumpet flowers and heart-shaped leaves. In all fairness, it is highly attractive to bees but unfortunately, twines itself around the stems of other plants, smothering them in the process.
A female Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) joined me for a time, her pale yellow rump frantically bobbing up and down as she searched for insects in the garden waste. I also found a Seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) sheltering in the ivy, so was careful not to cause too much disturbance in that area. Butterflies were thin on the ground except for a Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria), which came to rest a short distance away, its buttery white eye-spots clearly visible each time it spiralled up into the air.
It rained intermittently during the late afternoon, but no matter, a great deal had been achieved. In addition to my extreme weeding, D had made excellent progress on clearing the culvert and a new bat box was nailed proudly above the main doors leading into the animals’ house. A productive weekend all round.