St Francis of Assisi I am not

But I would love to be more like him. Giotto’s images of this early saint welcoming birds and conflicting animals (sheep and wolves?) are inspiring, not to say tantalising! To have birds feeding from your hands would be amazing – but then I guess back in medieval times birds might have thought so too, as they’d most likely fear ending up in a pie (such was the scale of human poverty for the most part – and abundance of birds!) Unlike today.

Blackbird preening on the fence

I’ve been really fortunate as a non-artist to be sponsored for #TheArtistChallenge which involves posting an art work every day for 10 days. It’s to promote art, love of art and camaraderie… And the importance of all of these, and of art – one of the first human skills – is no longer to be underestimated. So like I say, I’m no artist – (please see the above quick sketch) but I have appreciated the challenge, and the looking – and the connecting… Right now, as I write, the blackbird is singing (from a hidden position) keeping me company and occasionally playing “Anything you can sing I can sing better” with his neighbouring rival. I do feel I know him better for having tried to capture him on paper. And it’s brought home how lucky we are to just to have garden birds now – in this pandemic – which has not only hit us humans but also is hitting birds with avian flu being the covid equivalent for birds, and this is happening in nearby counties. Cue: wash birdfeeders

Blackbird from behind

Back to St Francis of Assisi – I’m afraid I’m still much more likely to scare wild things off, by either chasing after the butterflies trying to capture on camera, for example – or simply by wanting to be outside with the birds. At which point they all invariably fly off. “They’ll come back if you settle down” my father in law said. He’s right, as when just sitting quietly they will happily carrying on peeping and singing, if out of sight. Full on gardening seems to scare them away. Or even walking round, inspecting every seedling and plant, as I am wont to do.

I’m afraid to say there are some wild things that I actively crash about to discourage – the pigeons who would make such a mess if allowed, and the rats my neighbour found while fixing the fence…Those I have ‘discouraged’ with noise, disruption, blocking off their route to his bird food, and pouring some water down their rat run at night when out, hopefully. All this disruption doesn’t do much for the tranquility of the place for the other wild things!

Upside down hoverfly – it flew off ok

What’s a person to do?? I can report some successes – today the first Orange Tip of the year visited. It even deigned to sit for 1 second upon the Cuckoo flower specially planted to attract it. (Before I managed to chase it off). This sunny Easter weekend, we’ve seen a yellow Brimstone, a Holly Blue and a Tortoiseshell here. I even uncovered and disturbed a resting Red Admiral in the shed. (D’oh! Although I’m sure it would rather be outside…in this sunshine?) A Peacock has been sunbathing too – so as far as a Butterfly Garden goes, not too bad, although very short visits, really. What do they all eat this time of year? My French Lavender is just about to flower, so here’s hoping…

4 French Lavenders (with mini meadows sown with BeeBombs behind)

Project Speckled Woods isn’t going too well. Though many can be found in the woods in the park nearby, there are none here as yet, in my trees. Perhaps once the Eleagnus is big enough to flower, and the mini meadow grows…RSPB say Cicely would be good but not time or budget left now this year. On the blossom front we have 2 plum flowers and the Amelanchier is looking likely anytime soon to flower, but then it is still small.

As far as the Wildlife Ponds are going, well in one I think I’ve only seen the shake of one newt’s tail. A slow, disappearing kind of shake, into the gloom. Sadly. But the other, the one I dug especially, is full of wriggly tadpoles! They very much enjoyed a make do fountain – large water bottle with small hole at bottom, filled with 3 day aired tap water (to get rid of the chlorine) – yesterday. They dashed in and out of the jet stream it made and swam straight up to it to get sprinkled. Sweet! Must give them some cucumber.

Tadpoles in jet fountain

It is encouraging in these super difficult times to think am making some kind of difference to the local wildlife, mostly for the better, and that this effort is producing a small if valid contribution to protecting and enabling biodiversity to flourish on this small patch. Definitely many more birds, grubs, beetles, worms, hoverflies, wasps and even a few more bees and butterflies. All worth it, and always so much more to learn, and do better next year! One dreadful error has been succumbing to the temptation of a quick hit of a colour pop, extra anemones not needed, at the till – without checking they were propagated peatfree. And I do feel bad. But I’m no saint, only human I suppose – and it is a journey. Like faith and vows it needs regular renewing to reinvigorate the direction of travel. We all need to go peat free – horticultural trades included – and every bit of pressure and positive action helps. Temptation enforces the rule! St Francis Assisi’s rule I’m not completely clear about, but am pretty sure it would be something like love every living thing, however lowly…and value all life about us! They say once we understand it better, we can love it more, care for it better (doing ourselves untold good too, in the process). Long live the wild things!!

Orange Tip (in same spot where a Tortoiseshell landed earlier – perhaps Erysium way to go!)

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