In Praise of Knapweed

Often overlooked, or even “weeded out”, I think the humble knapweed is one of our most exquisite flowers, with her combination of sky-blue and rich amethyst. For those of you who have not met her yet…

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Let’s Help the Bees!

Bees: we all need them, but often forget them. For several years their numbers have declined rapidly due to a series of invading viruses. This year, however, I’ve noticed a lot more of them buzzing about.

This is good news for us all. More bees means more flowers are pollinated, which in turn means more fruit on the trees, more berries in the hedgerows…and of course more delicious honey!

A Honey Bee inside one of the giant poppies in my parents’ garden

We can all do our bit to help the bees. Window boxes with flowers can make all the difference, helping the bees find pollen without having to travel so far. Even if you live in a high-rise flat, there is usually a ledge outside the window on which a small tub with a few flowers can be placed. All you have to do is remember to water it in the summer.

If you are lucky enough to have a garden, why not plant some flowering shrubs or other plants whose flowers will attract the bees?

At this time of year bees (especially the big bumbles) often blunder through open windows and then find it hard to get back out. If this happens, don’t panic. No bee will harm you unless you threaten it, or perhaps tread on it by mistake!

Take a piece of card or paper and a pot of some kind (an empty yoghurt pot for instance). Wait for the bee to settle. Walk over to it and place the pot over it gently but firmly (making sure you don’t trap a leg in the process). If the bee is on a vertical surface like a window you can still do this. Just make sure you hold the pot down firmly once you have the bee inside.

At this point the sound of the buzzing will increase dramatically, but don’t let this scare you. It’s just that the bee is not used to being cooped up.

Now you have the bee inside the pot, lift one edge ever so slightly (not enough to let the bee escape). Take the paper/cardboard and slide it under the pot. Hey presto, you’ll find that the bee is safely inside the pot and is none the worse for wear.

You can then take the pot, with the paper held firmly to it, back to the open window or door. Once there, lift the pot away from the paper and enjoy the pleasure of seeing the bee fly off unharmed, knowing you have helped some flowers to pollinate that might not have done – and added some more honey to a nearby comb!

Nature Close-Ups: Ferns

Over the last few weeks, the ferns and brackens have been unfolding their beautiful “golden” spirals.

Here is one in the early stages.

Close-up, the stems are like dragons.

They grow in groups along the hedgerows, like strange creatures with party-blowers.

Whenever I see them, I’m always amazed at the intricacy of nature’s designs.

🙂

Fantastic Foxes – Part 1

Not far from where I live, a road leads up a steep hill. Beech and Sycamore trees reach over it. I call it “The Cathedral”. Every time I walk or drive down it, excitement tingles in my fingertips.

The Cathedral

Leading off into the woods is an old path. It’s my favourite of the paths nearby, perhaps because I’ve never met another human being on it!

The old path through the woods.

The other day, however, I did meet someone. Or rather several someones.None of them were human, but they all brought a smile to my face.

Here are two of them.

Two young fox cubs, no more than a few weeks old.

As soon as I saw them, I crouched low to the ground. These were no tame town-foxes, but wild things, wary of the wind itself.

Unaware of me, they played together, chasing each other around and having mock-wrestling matches. (You can just make out the second one here, being pounced-on by the first!)

They soon got tired and for a while they rested in the sun.

Then it was time for a bit of foraging…

…finding tasty things in amongst the leaves.

One of them then headed up the bank and lay snoozing in a patch of sunlight.

Here he is again, just waking up!

The other cub pottered off down the old path…

…before returning again for a last hello.

Then they both disappeared into their Earth.

All in all, I had watched them for twenty minutes or more. What a wonderful surprise that was! There was more to come, too, but we’ll save that for next time…

Enjoy your weekend.

Essi.