If you wonder why worker Wasps go for our sweet things at this time of year, it is because, up till mid-summer they have been emerging from their nests to find soft-bodied invertebrates, like caterpillars, aphids, spiders etc. They can’t digest these themselves because their ‘wasp-waists’ are too narrow, so they chew them up and feed them to the larvae, laid by the Queen in cells in the nest. In exchange, they eat the sugary excretion from the larvae, but as summer goes on the Queen stops laying, the larvae grow into fertile males and females which leave the nest, to mate, and the workers go hungry. They then feed on tree-sap and rotting fruit, which sometimes intoxicates them, causing them to act unpredictably! Of course, they also then turn up on our sugary snacks, before dying off,
Wasp showing their large club-antennae
but remember what a role they have had earlier in the year, preying on pests and parasites throughout the country. Conditions: Lovely warm and sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 20 Min 9 C.
At last we have a day of replenishing, heavy rain but it isn’t deterring the large, mixed flock of Tits we have had visiting our feeders for days now- upwards of 30 Great, Blue, Long-tailed and Coal Tits, heralded by their lovely twittering calls, but dominated by what seems like a successful year for Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Studies have shown the mixed-flocks enhance birds survival in several ways– there are more pairs of eyes and ears to guard the individuals from predators, and more to look out for food-sources so feeding rates are higher than for one’s and two’s. During breeding, protecting a territory is the priority, but once breeding is over, then safety and feeding
Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits dominate the mixed flock
Young Long-tailed Tits. part of the mixed flock visiting at present
Blue Tits, part of the mixed flock.
become central. So far, the mixed flock is just Tits, but other species, like Goldcrest, Warblers and Nuthatches may join in later in the year. Conditions: Long spells of rain, cloud. Temperature: Max 15 Min 11 C.
Last year we had a very ill, young Fox in the garden. After a few days we heard it had died- it had mange, probably from the most common source, the Sarcoptic mite. Yesterday, this young Fox, was briefly in the garden, thin, scratching and with bare patches on its haunches, indicative of the early stages of mange, which it could have caught from close contact with another fox. The National Fox Welfare Society does provide a free medication that sometimes helps, but involves feeding the fox, which we are usually unhappy to do. It may not return, but if it does, we will have to resolve this quandary. Other Foxes usually build up resistance- lets hope they have. Conditions: Sun and showers. Temperature: Max 14 Min 9C.
Fox with probable early mange
All plants in the Goosefoot family (which includes Quinoa) have edible seeds and the seeds of our most common Goosefoot- Fat Hen- have been found at every prehistoric site excavated throughout Europe. Fat Hen seeds formed part of the last meal of Tollund Man, the 2,000 year-old victim of hanging, and possibly of ritual sacrifice, found in a Jutland peat-bog. The young leaves of Fat Hen can be used like spinach and the seeds used in soups or dried and ground as flour for flat-breads. Known as ‘Melde’ in old English, this common plant was long
Fat Hen, Goosefoot family
Fat Hen seeds, Goosefoot family, with Marmalade Hoverfly
a staple in place of ‘greens’. Conditions: Cloud and sun. Temperature: Max 20 Min 13 C.
Alongside the terrible tree-felling policy of Sheffield City Council, the lottery-funded, community based Manor Park project is something to celebrate- community orchard (we are eating some of the windfalls), heritage trails, sculptures relating to its earlier farms, many and varied, expansive wild flower meadows with children’s trails/play/ activities, The Rhubarb Shed cafe, craft workshops, all on the fascinating site of Mary Queen of Scots imprisonment. All with a great view over Sheffield city and easy access for large post-war housing estates and local schools. An inspiring nature-nurturing open space. Conditions: Sunny intervals and non-existent, predicted showers! Temperature: Max 21 Min 14%
Manor Park Heritage area, Sheffield
Community orchard, Manor Park
Wild flower and meadow areas, Manor Park, Sheffield
Flower meadows, Manor Park, Sheffield
Coppice with standards– I’ve talked before about the value of coppiced woodland for wildlife and diversity of flowers, insects and birds and the favoured form of coppicing in Sussex was ‘coppice with standards’. As can be seen in the photo’s, the coppiced Chestnut or Hornbeam, cut in rotation every 12 -15 years for maximum sustainable wood-crops, would also always include ‘standard’ oaks, which were have been spaced through the coppice, and of varying ages. Occasionally a mature Oak would then be felled for timber, and another sapling left to grow on and eventually replace it. This management of woodland produced a wide variety of sustainable wood over
Normanhurst woods, Catsfield- coppice with standard oak.
Recently cut coppice with standard oak.
centuries. Sadly, much woodland is now left to grow too dense for light to filter in and the variety of species to flourish. New Oaks are seldom planted to replace the old. Conditions: Rain overnight in Sheffield. Temperature: Max 20 Min 10 C.
Gin seems to be the fashionable drink this year and if the south is anything to go by, you should be able to make your own tasty and beautifully coloured Sloe Gin shortly. Despite the exceptionally hot, dry summer, and maybe due to the very wet spring, without late frosts, very plump, nearly ripe (already with a bloom on their skins) Sloes were weighing down the Blackthorn bushes on East Hill, Hastings this morning, mingling with heavy crops of Elderberries and Blackberries. Conditions: Nearby Herstmonceux had an astonishing 3 inches of rain yesterday, while Catsfield had long deluges. Temperature: Max 20 Min 15 c.
Blackberries and Sloes