Confessions of a Wildlife Ignoramus, Part 3
For the Birds
This has made me curious about the star turns. There are around a dozen house sparrows, maybe six pairs, who treat the area at the side of the house as their stage, chattering and dashing from hedge to feeder to tiny crevices in the wall and back to the feeder again. Having heard that the population of sparrows in the UK has dropped dramatically since the 1970s – estimates of the decline in number vary from 53% to as much as 77% – I feel honoured by the presence of my little colony. Hence my surprise at discovering online that in some parts of the world sparrows are seen as raucous, scruffy pests. On one day in March 1958 Mao Zedong ordered the entire Chinese nation to bang pots and pans in order to force sparrows to fly until they dropped dead. Apparently around a billion obliged. One Elise Tillinghast of Northern Woodlands Magazine accuses house sparrows of being ‘an invasive species, scavengers that have hitched their wagons to humans,’ which seems a bit rich coming from a human i.e. a member of the most invasive species on the planet. She recommends boarding up nesting boxes to drive them away. Apparently there’s some idea that they deter other, better, birds from making an appearance.
Confessions of a Wildlife Ignoramus, Part 2
February: Going Native
Diary of a Wildlife Ignoramus, Part I
January – Ivy
I merrily hacked away at heavy growth on a wooden side fence. No doubt about it, ivy was the enemy. It was growing under and through the planks, throttling the trellis at the top, threatening to swallow up climbing roses and honeysuckle, casting a baleful shadow across the entire bed. No wonder nothing seemed to be flourishing. But I left alone the thick snaking stems surrounding the old brick wall at the back of the garden. It was a massy superstructure rising high above the wall and projecting into the garden like a veritable Notre Dame Cathedral with flying buttresses, too imposing for an amateur to tackle. I wonder in any case if there might be inhabitants who ought to be left alone till the winter.
As an evergreen it offers cover year-round, the flowers outlast other British plants right into December offering vital nectar, and the clusters of berry-like fruit give sustenance in late winter once all the hips, haws and seed heads have been used up. In short, it’s a wonder-plant, a marvel of natural design, at once 24-7 supermarket and grand hotel for birds and smaller beasties. Forget the rest of my attempts at so-called ‘gardening’; from the point of view of wilder Hyde, the ivy reigns supreme. Chris Baines has taught me that ivy should be an essential ally in preventing the garden from turning into that dreaded phenomenon: the GREEN DESERT (more on this in later entries). With some relief, I find that the growth hacked off the fence in the springtime frenzy is re-establishing itself. You can’t beat ivy. And that’s a good thing.
Top tip for January: negotiate a truce with ivy.
Thoughts and advice on this point from Hyde wildlife experts very welcome.