Ecological concern · nature

Moth Night

My wonderful husband made me a moth trap for my birthday (as requested!) mostly re-purposing bits of wood and using some egg boxes a neighbour no longer wanted (one of the good things to have come out of the pandemic is our road’s WhatsApp group where people often give away items).

Moth trap

Moth Night 2020 runs from 27th August to 29th August and so we used it last night for the first time. This morning I was surprised by how many moths were trapped but also disheartened as they all looked so similar. There are many more moth species than butterflies!

After looking through the Concise Guide to Moths and discovering the incredibly helpful What’s Flying Tonight? website, I had a good idea about some of them and then checked online with a Facebook group. Pleased that the ones I had identified, I had identified correctly, it was nice to know the names of the ones I had struggled with.

So we have: Square Spot Rustic, Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Pale Mottled Willow, Silver Y and Straw Underwing.

Our new wildflower area in our front garden is very popular with moths: mint moths during the day and I’ve spotted moths at night – just need to find out which ones now!

Wildflower Garden with mint moths
Wildflower Garden
allotment · books · Christian · community · Ecological concern · nature · Social justice

What’s on my shelf? (Part 4)

Once again, I find myself reading half a dozen books at the same time:

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson

I love Dave Goulson’s writing, having read A Sting in the Tale earlier this year. We made the hard choice not to go and hear him speak at a Wildlife Trust event last week; we are trying to keep September as free as possible to help with the back-to-school adjustment.

The Garden Jungle is full of ideas (some simple, some needing space) for gardening for wildlife. I have a dream of completely changing our front garden so that we have grass, plants and a pond.

The Big Six by Arthur Ransome

Reading children’s books set in the 1930s is very relaxing! I enjoyed reading Coot Club on our holiday in East Anglia (Mr Pilgrim is now half-way through it!) and I’m now reading The Big Six which is also set on the Norfolk Broads. There’s a simplicity and a joy in reading about children sailing, fishing and bird-watching.

We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsay

Ben Lindsay is a church leader in London and writes about the black religious experience in the UK. As a white woman, it has opened my eyes and I hope that I am changed because of reading this book. Each chapter ends with questions to consider and I know I need to keep going back to this book. If you are part of a church, I would recommend reading this.

The Gardens of the British Working Class by Margaret Willes

I spotted this at a friend’s house. She had borrowed it from our local library so I didn’t want to request it from there! I haven’t reached the sections on allotments yet but I’m enjoying looking at history through the eyes of gardeners.

Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers by Peter Marron

This beautiful book about the names of butterflies and moths was a birthday present from my gorgeous daughter. (I think she had some help from Mr Pilgrim.) I love words and names and history and butterflies and this is a book to treasure.

Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Holiday Adventures Part 2

We’ve just returned from another week’s holiday in our caravan, this time in East Anglia staying on the Suffolk coast.

Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye, delighting Small Boy who loves learning about the planets.

A kingfisher was spotted on one of our boat trips on the Norfolk Broads – my first ever! We also saw common blue butterflies (another first), grey seals, a marsh harrier and reed buntings.

The kingfisher prompted me to find the sonnet As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerald Manley Hopkins and to re-read the kingfisher acrostic poem in the beautiful Lost Words books with poems by Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris.

 As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells. 

We particularly enjoyed Ross’s Wildlife Boat at Horsey Mere which had a little fore cabin so the children had a secret place to hide, play with toy birds and look out of circular windows at passing boats and birds.

Another highlight was RSPB Minsmere – we visited three times, there was so much to explore! We loved the pond-dipping activity, the woodland dens and the Wild Library.  (The cafe provided a variety of vegan dishes and was making a concerted effort to reduce plastic.)

There are so many beautiful parts of the UK with many still to discover!  

It’s now the end of (meteorological) summer and the start of the new school year. I’ve been feeling down as life returns to routine and rotas, to desks and tables, homework and uniforms.

I remembered that I love autumn (the children want to make conker caterpillars!) and that life outside doesn’t have to stop. The allotment is calling!

1 September is not only the start of autumn, it is also the start of the liturgical season of Creationtide.

Creator of Life, The Earth is full of Your creatures, and by Your wisdom you made them all. During this Season of Creation, open our eyes to see the precious diversity that is all around us. Enlighten our minds to appreciate the delicate balance maintained by each creature. Inspire us to conserve the precious habitats that nurture this web of life.

(Extract from the Season of Creation 2019 prayer)

Ecological concern · nature

Big Garden Bird Watch

This afternoon the Pilgrim family took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch for the first time.


I placed myself by the patio doors with some binoculars, a pen and the RSPB bird identification sheet. Setting the timer on my phone for an hour, I waited.


A bird has to land in the garden to be counted so the gulls flying overhead and the crow over the fence were ignored. 


Surprisingly after a short wait, a robin appeared in the garden. Small Boy and Little Miss were very excited and I dutifully wrote ‘1 robin’. 


Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash


Then I waited and watched.


We looked at the snow drops.


I asked for a cup of tea.


A bumble bee appeared. 


I drank the cup of tea.


The children tried the binoculars: ‘Everything looks smaller, Mummy!’


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


Branches danced in the wind.


We watched.


And waited.


‘How much longer, Mummy?’


I watched – sometimes alone, sometimes with a child in my arms.


Birds flew overhead, almost tumbling in the wind.


We kept looking.


And waiting.


We saw the bee again.


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


I looked.


I spotted two birds in the branches of a tree. Too far away to really look at without the binoculars, I urgently called Mr Pilgrim over.


We stood still, staring and studying.


What were they?


And then they were gone.


We kept watch a few minutes more and then the timer sounded signalling the end of the hour.


Using the Collins bird identification app on my phone (recommended at the duck workshop we attended), Mr Pilgrim identified the birds as goldfinches. 


I filled in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch form (robin 1, goldfinches 2) and then Small Boy and I walked to the post box to send off our results. 


I’m surprised and delighted – I wasn’t sure we’d see anything! 

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Quack!

Mr Pilgrim lovingly agreed to attend a Duck Identification Workshop with me (run by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust) last Saturday. We spent an hour in a community centre listening to a fascinating presentation about local waterfowl and their habitats, and then walked around nearby Stockers Lake looking for ducks. The workshop leader had great binoculars and a telescope plus expert knowledge which we needed!

Coots and some gadwells (kleptoparasitism in action!)

We saw: coots, tufted ducks, a swan, cormorants, goldeneye, gadwall, great-crested grebe, mallard, pochard, shoveler, wigeon, moorhen, lapwing, lesser black-backed gulls and black-headed gulls.

Tufted duck

We learnt:

  • Ducks can be dabblers, divers, grazers or predators
  • Ducks can’t fly when they are moulting
  • Gadwalls kleptoparasitise coots
  • Coots and moorhens operate in different ecological niches (and so have very different looking feet!)
  • An unfamiliar bird Small Boy and I had spotted earlier that week was a little egret

The presentation finished with some ideas of how we could help ducks (interestingly, mallards – the ducks of our childhoods, the ducks of picture books – are in decline). One of the ways we can help local waterfowl is by using less water; households in Hertfordshire (for reasons unknown) have above average use of water (160 litres per day rather than 150 litres).

Mallards

So what can we do to reduce our household water use?

  • Affinity Water suggest having four minute showers rather than a bath. I’m not sure this is realistic! I’ve been timing my showers this week (try it!) and I can have a shower in under four minutes if I don’t wash my hair but it’s nine minutes if I do.
  • Ensuring the washing machine and dishwasher are full before using.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing teeth (does anyone still leave the tap running?)
  • Only boil enough water for immediate use.

So much of choosing to seek to live justly is about less – less comfort, less convenience, less choice, and maybe less cleanliness!

community · Ecological concern

Loving and living local

At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.

It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.

I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.

David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.

This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:

  • A common frog in the pond
  • Dragonflies
  • A red admiral
  • Many speckled woods
  • Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
  • Squirrels
  • A robin

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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]

[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]

I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.

The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’

Ecological concern · Ethical living

A mole, badgers, ratty and a frog

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.

(The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham)

I’ve been spring cleaning this week which always reminds me of Mole. Small Boy was an enthusiastic but not very skilled helper! It’s been a long winter; I’ve been feeling a bit ‘bluh’ since Christmas. But now the colder weather has gone, pockets of colour are emerging in the garden and we can spend sunny afternoons outside.

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We made mud pies – one of the National Trust’s 50 Activities to do before you’re 11 and 3/4. This weekend we’re going to be doing more digging.

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Number 10 on my 18 Countryside Activities list for 2018 was ‘See a live badger’. I have wanted to see a live badger for many many years and now I have – nine in fact!

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Last year, we joined the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and in February I discovered they had a bookable badger hide. Last night Mr P and I sat very still and very quietly behind a large glass window watching and waiting. First we saw two ducks, then two rats, then two rabbits…and then the main show began…one badger…followed by another…and then another. Nine in total. Beautiful creatures, eating noisily and oblivious to their audience.


Last summer, I described how in Ruth Valerio’s Just Living, there are seven themes of practical response with ecological concern the area where I had the most to grow. I re-read this blog post yesterday and was pleasantly surprised by how much I had grown.

And so to Ratty. Ratty in the Wind of the Willows is of course not a rat but a water vole. These are one of my favourite animals.

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Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

I am discovering more about my local river, the River Colne, through the River Colne Catchment Action Network and Watford in the Water. I used to think it was a canal (!) but now I am enjoying discovering more about this small river so it was exciting to read this week that water voles have been spotted there.


No Toad to complete the Wind in the Willows cast list but we did see a local frog!

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