all in a day

It is a good day that begins with a visit from a kestrel. It was one of those days today when,on my morning visit to let the chickens out, I was visited by a kestrel, hunting above the meadow in the clear morning sky. I have seen kestrels  regularly and sometimes they sit on the telegraph wires, but watching them hovering is always a joy.  There’s been a hobby here too this summer, plying his hunting trade amongst the flocks of swallows and sand martins, whilst the kites and buzzards soar above the valley. There seem to be good numbers of both, suggesting there are plenty of rodents about.

Beside the pond, a female grass snake has a regular basking spot amongst the long grasses where the morning sun shines. She takes to the water if we disturb her, sometimes sliding across the lily leaves before submerging.This week she sloughed her skin, leaving her old one caught in the moss and rushes by the water’s edge. We were going to turn out the compost yesterday, but the first turn revealed newly hatched baby grass snakes, and hastily recovering them, we left the job for another day.

The season is spinning towards the end of summer, and the garden is turning blue and purple again with  the flowering of the asters and verbena. Clouds of butterflies decorate the swaying verbenas- the late season stalwarts of Red Admirals,  Small Tortoiseshells and Painted Ladies. A single Holly blue visits the California Poppies. Earlier this year there was an abundance of Small Coppers and of the moth fraternity, Vapourer moths, their larvae now marching across various plants, backs topped with tiny dense toothbrush- like bristles.

The garden chores are becoming autumnal . We need to start hedging, and many overgrown shrubs need to be reduced to better shape and smaller dimensions. There are seeds to sow and plans to draw up for autumn construction. The days shorten but the job lists lengthen, as is always the way as one season gives way to the next.

At the end of  the day, returning to the chicken coop to shut them safely away, the kestrel has been replaced by hunting bats, and fat rabbits lope lazily down the bank and out of sight. The calls of buzzards are replaced by the hooting of young tawny owls , husky voices down amongst the willows, rehearsing stories of the cold to come. It is still summer, but the lease is almost up.

volcanic bees

One of the best things about knowing your own space very well is looking out for the reappearance of favourites each spring.

The garden was created very much with plants in mind, and when we designed it we gave thought to the shape of borders, the siting of features, the placing of the trees and shrubs, the pond and the paved areas. Afterwards came the joy of planting and watching the return of old favourites season after season.

But in the past couple of seasons my attention has been won over by the invertebrates who have colonised our garden.  When I first identified a Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva), it was sitting on my shoe and at that point I had no idea we had a nursery in the garden.

Last year I found a few tell tale holes in the border under where the Autumn flowering sedum grows. Tawny Mining bees make little volcanoes of soil as they excavate their nests, where they lay their eggs and provison them with pollen and nectar. The volcanoes only last for a short time whilst the bees are busy and then they weather into the borders or lawns to be forgotten for another year.

This spring, I have been inspecting the area where they nested to witness their reappearance. And  today a flash of fox orange reminded me they were about, and I was lucky to find a small male bee, thinner, less orange and sporting a white moustache, cold enough to tolerate me picking him up on my fingertip and allowing me to admire him for a few minutes. And I marvelled that this tiny life that has been dormant below the ground for the best part of a year had chosen this day to emerge and share the same space as me for a few weeks.

Lovely information sheet available from the good folk at the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARs) HERE.  They are important pollinators of fruit blossom, and coincidentally, the first of my plum blossom has just opened.