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 3

I continued to sit quietly with my back propped against a mossy Beech tree, whilst the vixen cub snoozed.

A short while later a bold rabbit came lolloping through the leaf-strewn wood. I watched it, wondering why on earth it would come so close to the foxes.

The young vixen sat up, ears pricked and eyes bright.

Down the bank she came, her hunting instincts up.

What happened next was very funny.

The cub ran as fast as she could towards the rabbit, but when she was about ten feet from it, she stopped. “What do I do now?” she seemed to wondering. At little more than half its size, she had no hope of catching it!

The rabbit knew this too. It stared rather disdainfully at the cub for a few seconds. Then it stamped a hind foot and was off into the undergrowth. At this the young vixen ran forwards again…

…and started to hunt through the leaves (as though the rabbit had somehow hidden itself in them).

Far safer to play at catching something imaginary than to attempt the real thing!

Eventually she worked her way right round the tree I was leaning against, popping her head out of the far side.

For a moment we looked at eachother. I don’t think she really knew what I was, but she was downwind of me now. Catching my scent, she turned and made her way back the way she had come.

Off up the bank…

…into the safety of her Earth.

And that was the last I saw of her (for that day).

Suddenly I was alone again on the old path through the woods, listening to the Beech trees whispering, my body filled with that uniquely-rich gratitude that comes when nature shares her secrets with us.

Spring is in the Air!

Busy at work today, I managed to head out just as the sun was dipping towards the hills. I was only out for an hour, but there was plenty of evidence that the Goddess of Spring was waving her wand over the countryside.

Edging round the corner of the first hedge, I spotted this little chap sunning himself.

As I stood watching, one of his fellows snuck out from the side of the hedge close by.

He was upwind and so didn’t smell me. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a wild rabbit that close before. He was so relaxed he even found time to do a bit of scratching!

Then he saw me and was off.

I strolled on and found myself under a mixed hedgerow of alder, beech, oak and sally willow (sallow). It was clear which was bursting with life the most. The alder and beech buds were almost as closed today…

…as they had been a fortnight ago.

The oak buds were still tight and brown…

..but the sally willow was festooned with a wonderful froth of pale lime-and-silver green catkins!

When only half-open, they look like miniature shuttle-cocks…

Fully open and they turn from silver-green to lemon-gold…

Some of them look like funky caterpillars wrapped around the branches…

Leaving the trees behind, I headed on over the fields. This old oak leaf caught my eye, its skeleton clear to see: a reminder that winter’s coat tails are still flapping in the wind.

In the pool where the frogspawn had sat in bloated lumps last week…

…blobs of dark, wriggling tadpoles now gather in the middle of translucent half-eaten spawn-sacks.

And the reflection of trees overhead are still bare…

Spring may not have reached its peak as yet, but the ivy berries are fat and full and show the promise of what’s to come.

Today is the Vernal Equinox, the day of “equal night” and with it comes that warm glow of knowing. Soon the migratory birds will return, bringing their exotic songs from afar. Wild flowers will nudge their way along the banks and ditches and the air will dance to the hum of bees and insects.

As if to prove that magic was in the air (not that I needed it), this fairy-cup caught my eye as I climbed over the final fence. Or is it a fairy-pipe?!

It’s nearly midnight now and I’m sleepy after a long and busy day, but I’m glad I took an hour away from the computer to enjoy the simple beauties of our world. For those of you who couldn’t or won’t be able to do the same, I hope this little glimpse of some of them may bring a smile of pleasure to your face 🙂

Happy Springtime, everyone!