Our Patch: Nature’s Symphony

By on Monday, August 12, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanAs Proms season starts to get into full swing, I’m thinking about the arias and concertos created by the natural world in our very own patch.

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In spring, we have the joyous crescendo of the Skylark. Never pausing whilst on the wing, its merry song is an uplifting reminder that warmer days are coming. The tenor croak of the humble common frog is perhaps an acquired taste, but nonetheless a worthy reminder that the earth is stirring.

Now the high summer is here, the percussive sounds of insects are all around us. The humming and buzzing of bees gathering nectar provide the bass notes, whilst the chirping song of the grasshopper supplies the rhythm. The swaying grasses, a soft, soothing brush of the cymbal and the subtle sound of pollinating insects stopping at flowers and moving on add subtle depth.

Many of the spring bird songs designed to attract a mate have ebbed, and in their wake follow the sounds of warblers, a higher register than those familiar tunes from the robin and blackbird, but just as sweet in their own way.

As the balmy late evenings allow windows and doors to remain ajar, the music of the night – birds gathering to roost – can be heard. Now, I’m not the hugest fan of modern music, yet the discordant squabbling of newly fledged starlings trying to work out their pecking order has a wonderful syncopated rhythm which just makes me smirk.

A sound I don’t find in any way amusing, because it always seems to be my alarm clock, is the call of pigeons and doves. It seems that their sole purpose at 5am is to sit on my chimney and hoot. I am becoming an expert at distinguishing the call of Collared Dove, Woodpigeon and Stock Dove from each other, but I really wish I was still in blissful ignorance!

butterfly1The nature of summertime, as well as providing a terrific backscore, gives us such beautiful visual exhibitions to enjoy. Earlier this month I expressed my concern that our native butterfly species were having a very difficult time, and whilst that is still true, the past 10 days have been a kaleidoscope of reds, whites and, when lucky, a flash of blue.

I have a bit of a garden. Most of it is paved for a cycle and scooter track, a portion devoted to a small pond, a ridiculously big paddling pool, and a small sandpit taking up most of the additional space. Once the table and chairs is taken into account, it would seem there is little room left for nature. However – any twigs or logs are dumped into the corners allowing invertebrates to forage in safety.

The pond provides a home for frogs, dragonflies and the larvae of many species, such as droneflies and hoverflies. The buddleias are a vital foodplant for countless bees and butterflies, and the fuchsia and honeysuckle provide nectar for many flying insects and greens for a number of native caterpillars. Even the lowly privet hedge is a fantastic habitat providing shelter and food.

I’m not bragging; it’s just that although our child friendly garden has only borders for greenery, we had an astonishing number of butterfly visitors this week.

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To begin we had the small tortoiseshell – a butterfly in serious decline, although thriving in Prescot is would seem. The most numerous were the magnificent peacock, and the white butterflies. We dismiss them as “cabbage” whites, thinking of them as pests, but in fact we counted all three commonly occurring British species, Large, Small and Green-veined whites. Less conspicuous were the Speckled Wood, Small Skipper and just one tiny flash of the Common Blue, an all-too-uncommon butterfly. We also managed a Small Copper, a Painted Lady, Commas and a host of day flying tiny moths, most of which we failed to identify.

Summertime is a traditionally a time for feast, and if we pause a minute to watch and listen, a bounty of wildlife is willing to come right to us, providing a banquet for all our senses.

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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