Ricardo's Weekly Waffle
"The only real way to understand nature is to experience it, to watch and listen and smell and experience. The best naturalists are the best listeners, those that have an uncanny knack at knowing what a particular bird is by one particular movement, having unconsciously seen it a thousand times, observation is the key to a naturalist‚Äôs knowledge.
A recent collage of books about wildlife gardening published over the last few years will tell any body what to do to encourage wildlife to their garden. Each book will say that the now (I hope) ubiquitous log pile, fishless pond, neglected grassy patch, butterfly friendly plants, bug box, wildlife friendly hedge etc etc, all make for a friendly diverse habitat for all sorts of ‚Äòbeneficial‚Äô bugs and beasties (Subjective word beneficial; beneficial to whom and to what?) Well of course this is true, but what about quantities, situation, size?
The key to the success of being able to support a multitude of what matters is observation, the ability to appreciate what you have around you and how it behaves. Only when you have watched a tiny parasitic wasp lay its eggs with a hypodermic type movement of its abdomen into a caterpillar of a cabbage white, an ant protect its brood of aphids from a ladybird who wishes to dine on them, as well as the sparrow hawk that has gunned its way through the garden in an attempt to take your blackbird (the one with the white patch under its eye) back to its plucking post, will you really start to empathise with the dramas that unfold in the environment in which you are attempting to be symbiotic.
I love hedges, those fortunate enough to listen to our podcasts might know this by now! I spent days looking into them as a child looking for birds nests, looking for the places where hares or rabbits ran through or a suitable place for me to clamber over! The life a well managed hedge can support is astonishing, unsurpassed even, food, shelter a place to breed, a place to hibernate, a platform to sing from, a corridor to run along, a sight to behold. There are several species of hedging plant that accommodate many species but for me spindle is seen far too infrequently. If asked I would always say that spindle berries are a robins delight. I know this because I read it somewhere. At the edge of the wooded limestone quarry to the west of the house there are spindle bushes one particular specimen is probably 40 years old, a tree really. I frequently gaze into this bush from my ‚Äòconvalescing office‚Äô and our bay window downstairs. Plucking orange berries from the pettaled pink husks I have seen robins and blackcaps. They aren‚Äôt always here though, and they seem selective over which berries they eat. This makes me think that those orange orbs are tastier at various stages of ripeness. Of course I have no case study evidence to back this up but I know this is so because I have experienced it!"