#MayDay #MayDay

Drought fast approaching

This lack of rain is new to May, I decided, last year. Cold grey skies with lots of moisture in them, just passing by. It could be the moisture from the Rainforests isn’t what it was, that there just isn’t the water vapour (the billions of tons of it) there was, now that so many trees there have been felled. In the old days of yore and in the hand painted Books of Days, May was the merrie month, when all the ploughing and sowing had been done, the desperately hard task of just surviving the winter done. A time of courtship and merry making, mead drinking – a time to be looked forward to. Even I daresay when people still lived on and off their land, before they were made beholden to landowners and as labourers to industry for their livelihoods. May Day labour day I don’t know so much about. Apart from the fact greedy capitalism has a lot to answer for.

Merry Month of May in the olden days

The wildlife ponds need topping up, or they’d be nearly empty now, just green slime. (For that i use water that’s been in a bucket for 3-4 days to aerate and dechlorinate). There have been some hot sunny days too, in the mix. While scraping out said slime I put my hand on something that went squidge and moved – and luckily I hadn’t hurt it, it looked complete and hopped off. Another medium small froglet! Didn’t get a pic, sorry, was a bit stunned!

But what I do know is that this lack of rain will have devastating effects if it continues, on our insect and therefore bird and small mammal populations. I remember a call out from Chris Packham last year, to provide for the Bluetits in particular live food source. A call I answered, by ordering by post a few boxes of live wriggling Meal Worms, that I wouldn’t try again! Said on the outside “Do not allow to escape” – very difficult persuading the birds to come and get them and even when they did it was the clever daring starlings, not the timid Tits, who came and gorged on them!

To this end though I am trying to keep certain corners of the garden watered, where the willows are and the newly thriving nettle patch is for example. With any ‘grey’ (or cold that’s meant to be hot water) that I can save, and by eeking out the water butt water and sometimes using the hose, just for a few minutes. I figure it’s worth it, to keep the mini ecosystems going here. The bugs and slugs even and the beetles and grubs all need a bit of water, and are all needed as food for the birds….

I can report a little bit of success with this hard work but not terribly sustainable watering process, I’m pleased to say! My first caterpillar. This year. Not at all sure what it is – only that it must be in its first ‘instar’ or incarnation after creeping out of its egg, on the Nettles! I knew something had to be wrapped up in those sealed up leaves. More research needed….This image too is three times lifesize…

Unidentified 1cm long caterpillar

Other successes look similarly odd in the garden – I thought I’d got the pruning of the Buddleias all wrong, but no closer inspection reveals that the tender tips have been nobbled! And leaves have been curled and sealed closed in a similar way to the Nettle leaves. But this time I knew who the ‘culprit’ was. Or so I thought! But no it definitely wasn’t. These leaf curl ups are very exciting to a would be Butterfly Gardener such as myself. But I do have a lot to learn!

First year of Lockdown I posted a pic on twitter (this is somebody else’s pic, I’m sorry I’ve lost mine) of this tiny day flying moth, which somebody kindly told me was a Mullein. Now I took that on trust, as you do – but have been beginning to wonder. Not least because the Mullein caterpillars are absolutely huge, some reached 2 inches long here on the Mullein Verbascums last year (brought specially for them!). But the day moths are barely a centimetre across… This picture from flicker is 3 times lifesize! They are pretty when they flutter by…

A bit of a mystery – or not, just me being dim I suppose. well the plot thickened, because having been out retrimming a few bits off, I had them waiting to go in the compost bin when one of the twigs moved! Shook a tiny leg even, I realised, a creamy coloured leg. And had antennae the same colour. I was stunned! What was it. Time to look in the moth book. I tell you, i need a better moth book, one where like Pete Eeles UK & Irish Butterfly Life Cycles shows you every pose and stage, wings open closed etc. (please!).

But luckily this time, via Butterfly Conservation membership, the Moth Counter of Gloucester, sorry the County Moth Recorder for Gloucester came to my aid and said it was a Mullein! And looking n the book again, could see what he means. So if this is a Mullein, what’s the little brown and orange dotted day moth??? A Mint Moth, it must be – likes mint and hangs out in gardens, also loves Oregano. So that’s. Mystery finally solved.

And what a relief! Not only to finally see and rescue back to the garden a fully grown Mullein but also to see signs of them having young, who like the silvery Buddleias I’ve got almost as well as the Verbascums which are only biennial. And to understand the little pretty day flyer better too.

A bit more rain would be a greater relief too. I’m not sure my meadows have grown at all – even though only tiny patches they’re up against it with these hot and cold snaps and the constant dry. Birds are really up against it too- what with avian flu about and needing fresh clean water daily, and regularly cleaned feeders. Have to say got some rspb mealworm suet logs for them they love, many are tempted to come by.

May always used to be a damp green and very feverishly growing month, ever since i arrived in Oxon here, 20 years ago. It is also election month – goodness only knows what will happen there, and without wishing to get too political, I can only say we of little brains (our brains being proportionally smaller than bird brains which are fantastically fast and well adapted) just don’t seem to have the willpower to overcome the problems we can see ahead. I include myself here, I drive a car (partly out of wish for safety for immuno compromised partner and love of my life, who supports me in my greening ventures however small). We’re all in the same boat – and we none of us can have it all. We can’t have massively ill gotten gains and integrity; we can’t (have leaders who) break all of the rules and expect to make others pay; we can’t afford to let biodiversity get built over for quick bucks….I could go on.

Neither can we have peat filled pesti/herbicided (poisoned) super-tidied gardens and parks and expect Nature to cope, let alone thrive. We depend on life, for life! It seems so obvious, and yet we concrete over, poison, mow down and constantly ravage the world’s – the planet’s resources. Even the chemicals for the phones and tablet I’m writing on are part of a life threatening extraction – desperately perilous and poisonous for the people tasked with extracting them. We know May wont be so merry ever again if we carry on this way.

I leave you with a teeny other bit of good news. Newt News! I’ve finally seen a midstage Eft – the pic I had to over expose the water and water pump surface for the camera to pick it out. Here it is! ah no, no pics. A pretty complete drought of pics I’m afraid….technical hitch…

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