No rain has fallen, in this part of the land, for an unprecedented time & everything is more red-hot & dried-up than in all my long years here I have ever known it…the thermometer that day in London was 97F; but the hot glare of the South Coast, my parched & blighted garden & the sight of all the young sheep & lambs languidly prostrate & starving, dying in the Marsh, drove me away, under solicitation, to umbrageous Essex…
Henry James to Edith Wharton 7 September 1911 (from Henry James and Edith Wharton: Letters 1900-1915. Lyall H. Powers, ed. Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London, 1990)
Get the impression that we have had had no rain for almost 2/3 of the summer months? Even British people who are resolute in their sun worship were getting a bit weary. We seem to have put some distance between ourselves and the heat, for now. And a few good soakings have restored the green to the lawn. But I think the earth could do with a bit more.
A challenge for us around here has been keeping everyone hydrated, which meant at the very least keeping water bowls topped up throughout the day. We have about ten of them dotted about the yard, from baby-sized bowls for fledglings to giant bowls that even sparrowhawks have used.
The other way to keep them hydrated is with fruit treats. And back again this year is the disappearing watermelon. We humans get the first bash at it, and then invariably because it is difficult to get good quality melon here, we pass off what’s left to anyone who will have at it in the yard. And that includes all manner of living creature.
The ‘After’ has been subjected to all manner of pecking and nibbling, not just from the insect world. The squirrels love it. Just when you think the watermelon has nothing left to give, the squirrels will come along, pull a chunk off leaving just bare rind.
Even in the depths of heat wave, the creatures managed to find sustenance. There are certain wildflowers (some say weeds) I let grow in the garden (I’m pretty good like that) which the butterflies love, especially the leaves:
It reminds me of brassicas which I know certain butterflies go for. Anyone know the name of this one?
And then along with the various bumbles and the honeybees we have, apparently there is another:
I had a bit of a wry chuckle upon reading about leaf cutter bees on the Royal Horticultural Society’s website where it states: They are useful pollinators and any damage to plants can be tolerated. Well, as long as the RHS says it’s ok not to kill them, then that’s ok then.
Of course, the wildlife is not the only ones who profit from the largesse of our plot of earth:
I know it may not look much to real beekeepers, but in our almost 10 years of providing a home for these creatures, this is untold bounty for us. We got it the old-fashioned way, by crushing and straining (!), getting honey over most everything, and having to close down the house in order that the door-stepping wasps and bees didn’t gain entry.
But we didn’t neglect them. We provided them with pulp and crushed comb so that they could have a party at a safe distance from everyone else. It also served to distract the wasps from the hives. I have to admit to mixed feelings when I see all the photos on the BBKA Facebook discussion of dead wasps in jars full of sugar water. Or yellowjackets as we from the Northeast in the US call them (I confess, I wondered at first if the UK had yellowjackets, as all anyone ever talked about were wasps…). I’ve seen yellow jackets around our hives, but the bees always seemed to be able to fend them off. I suppose I haven’t had it so bad (Bill Turnbull seems to be afflicted). A fair few did show up for the party, but even there, I think the bees had the upper hand.
For the bees, it was a little treat much like the sugar syrup we feed them in autumn: chance to bulk up without expending too much energy. Which brings to mind something else I saw on the BBKA FB forum. Someone was called out for feeding bees, I think it was sugar water, because it would distract them from pollinating. Apparently, it’s the same theory as the one where you shouldn’t feed hedgehogs live worms: it’s like candy, they’ll fill up on them and spoil their appetite for dinner. I don’t know about these theories. It seems you would have to be feeding hedgehogs and bees massive amounts of these items every day (or night) all day (or night) to distract them from natural behavior.
And speaking of hedgehogs:
A hand-crafted gift from Tony and Jo for my birthday. We didn’t have any residents last time we checked a few weeks ago, but fingers crossed…
Which I have become even more of, especially on FB where I bore a handful of people with my latest obsession: bird cams. Specifically, Cornell Labs bird cams, which they sponsor in conjunction with a number of other organizations all over the States. I started off in the spring watching red-tailed hawk chicks grow. But my current fav, and I mean I have been watching them all day every day is a young osprey chick and its parents at the University of Montana. Which has led me to watching another couple of chicks at a Montana ranch, which has led me to watching a couple of bald eaglets in Juneau Alaska. And then back to Cornell Labs and their work in California with a California condor chick.
Now, birds are not the only winged creatures on my mind. Every evening, at dusk, I go out to feed the hogs (several visit each night). Usually a few show up about then, drinking water and waiting for that free meal. At the same time, the bats show up, almost clunking me in the head as they dive for bugs. I wish two things: I wish I knew what kind of bats they are, and I wish I knew where they roosted.
And those are my dearest wishes at the moment, but that’s they way we roll around here…