Our Patch: Wet ‘n’ Wild!

By on Monday, September 9, 2013

our_patch_sj_jarmanAlmost as much as I admire our native wildlife, I love some of the words we have come up with to describe it – whether it’s the inventive collective nouns (crows come in murders, parcels, hovers, storytellings and musters) or some of the highly inaccurate and confusing descriptive names (many female blue butterflies are brown, and Grey Wagtails are yellow).


After the fair weather we’ve had, many of us were a bit disappointed with rain, but our flora and fauna were in desperate need.

This week I have been reminded of petrichor. I had to look it up; I knew the meaning but lack of use meant I had forgotten the actual word – it’s the scent when the ground is hot, dusty and dry, and we get cool rain falling, giving a fresh and unmistakeable scent.

At Whiston Woods the brook was gushing on Tuesday. It has been a dry bed for several weeks, and I have wondered how the foxes, rabbits, voles and other small mammals were coping. Hopefully renewed water supplies will ensure their continued stay here.


Everyone’s favourites (well surely someone’s) are the slugs and snails whose prolific eruption this week confirms that they too have been desperately waiting for restored moisture. Although gardeners loathe them, and I have many a squeamish friend who shudders at their name, they are a vital part of the food chain; nature’s garbage disposal, they remove waste, turning it into compost. They are also the staple of hedgehogs, many birds and amphibians.

slug_windowAn activity for children we love to try is to grab a couple of snails and make a little sugar water. If a trail of sugar water is painted up a window, the snail will follow it, showing the rippling movement of its foot as it propels itself vertically, and its mouthparts moving, slurping up the syrup. It’s fascinating for all watchers and costs virtually nothing. It keeps them entertained for a good half an hour, although we have learned that snail racing is FAR too competitive for the Jarman household.

The frogs, too, have enjoyed a little respite from the heat and the dry, and as we looked for our latest batch of snails, one hopped out to see us. It was particularly co-operative and allowed a couple of photos, much to the delight of the children and the lament of the dog, who desperately wanted to play too.

Many garden ponds are being filled in, and these charismatic fellows’ habitat is being destroyed. Even a small pond like ours can be of use to them as long as there is one small deep area for hibernation.

Teaching our children that water can be dangerous – remaining vigilant while they are near water – and teaching them to swim are to me both more valuable and better for our environment than removing these water worlds.

It’s fascinating to me that most ponds appear fairly lifeless from the surface, perhaps a lily or iris poking out, and the occasional glimpse of a darting frog or hoverfly. A quick dip (another terrific activity for the children), shows there is a whole world of minute critters to behold – mainly mosquito larvae and daphnia, far too small to photograph with my limited camera, but occasionally we manage a Great diving Beetle, a dragonfly larvae, or the charmingly named Rat-tailed maggot.

One creature we rarely see – though I’m glad they’re making a little stronghold in Prescot, as they are unfortunately on the BTO red list – gave us a terrible fright this week.

Having walked through long grasses, we stopped at a very tempting puddle for a splash. After a few minutes our dog suddenly dropped her ball and went into “hunt” mode. It’s amazing to watch, but I was worried what she might find or hurt. As she dived into the grass, a covey of Grey Partridge took to the air, not more than five metres away from us, waving their rusty bottoms at us as they departed.

Another bird with a misleading name, they are a myriad of mottled buffs, oranges and browns, but a welcome sight whatever the weather.



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.


One Comment

  1. Ian Thorogood

    Saturday, September 21, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I’m confused about your comment about frogs hibernating in one small deep area of a pond, SJ. With them being amphibians they need air and to my knowledge spend the winter under a thick layer of leaves or undergrowth. My pond freezes over in winter but they are back again every Spring. I love ’em!

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