Nature thrives despite the May chill

Colourful alliums illuminated by a ray of rare May sunshine

Colourful alliums illuminated by a ray of rare May sunshine

SO that was May. Too much rain and too much cold north-west wind for The Happy Moonraker’s liking, but the birds, the bees and the flowers have thrived. It makes no difference to them because they will do what nature decrees that they must do. Every hedgerow hums with the high-pitched sounds of tiny birds stretching their beaks upwards, trying to persuade their parents to pop food into their mouths.

Early yesterday evening, Tilly the dog and I were out walking and could hear the sounds of the blackbird, song thrush, blue tit, great tit, wagtail, kingfisher, mistle thrush, pheasant, partridge, goldfinch, chaffinch, sparrow, dunnock, magpie, jay, woodpigeon,  jackdaw, cuckoo and woodpecker.

And at 4am yesterday the dawn chorus was overwhelming.

Crops are growing apace in the cornfields, and you would think that everything in the garden had been basking in warm sunshine day after day. Apart from baby pea plants that have been attacked by mice, the signs are looking good for lots of fruit and vegetables.

The only things that seem to be having problems are butterflies: except for the occasional warm, still afternoon, conditions have not been good for them. We’ve seen a comma, stretching its wings on a quiet road, an occasional brimstone, an orange tip and very little else. We’re all waiting for some warmth, please.

A rare mutant delphinium that has grown in spite of the prevailing weather conditions

A rare mutant delphinium that has grown in spite of the prevailing weather conditions

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An unsavoury harvest

The roadside harvest on a short walk along a rural road

The roadside harvest on a short walk along a rural road

THE Happy Moonraker and Tilly the dog decided to take some action themselves instead of waiting for the council to do any clearing up.

We set off one sunny afternoon with a plastic bag and a pair of gardening gloves. Look at the photo to see what we collected.

It’s rather sad, isn’t it? A collection of rubbish, almost all of it food or drink related, dumped out of vehicle windows on a short stretch of narrow, rural unclassified road.

Smokers who buy packs of 20 don’t seem to chuck the empty packets out of their windows, but those who smoke packs of 10 do. What does that tell us?

It tells me, at least, that perhaps if cigarettes were not available in 10s, fewer irresponsible young people would start smoking because it would simply be too expensive if they had to buy 20 cigarettes at a time.

According to other evidence in our collection, thirsty people who buy beer and soft drinks can’t bear to keep the empties near them, and snack-and-take-away stuffers obviously prefer not to take their wrappers home.

 

Stopped in my tracks

THE Happy Moonraker was jogging (slowly of course) along a rough path next to the hedge when all of a sudden there seemed to be a stone inside my trainer.

It didn’t budge when I tapped the toe of the trainer on the ground; it didn’t budge when I removed the trainer and shook it; it didn’t budge when I took my sock off.

Each time I put the trainer back on and each time there was something sticking in the bottom of my foot.

It was a mystery, until I took the shoe off again and looked at the sole, and there was the blackthorn sticking right through the thick rubber, into the shoe and digging into my foot.

No wonder I couldn’t move it, and no wonder it hurt my foot every time I put weight on it.

The thorn was difficult to remove: I had to twist it and turn it, all the time making sure I didn’t break it but it finally came away in my fingers, leaving a hole in the shoe.

Naturally I had to bring the thorn home and take a photo of it.

A thorn shared has to be a thorn halved.

How about this for a thorny problem?

How about this for a thorny problem?

Bees make a beeline for the compost bin

Seven thousand bees form a surprise swarm under the lid of the compost bin.

Seven thousand bees form a surprise swarm under the lid of the compost bin.

IN spite of dire warnings about pesticide use, foreign viruses and air pollution, there still seem to be an awful lot of honey bees around. A swarm had to be removed from the Market Place in Salisbury this week, and then, out of the blue, The Happy Moonraker discovered a swarm in the compost bin.

A phone call was made to the Salisbury & District Beekeepers’ Association and a helpful man with all the right equipment, as well as 39 years’ experience, attended the scene. He wanted to know how long they’d been in the bin. Three days, replied The Happy Moonraker. Ah, said the expert, that’s good because it means the comb wax will still be quite soft.

Leaving his hands uncovered but wearing a protective top and veil, he proceeded to remove small pieces of freshly made comb and encouraged all the bees into a special box. He moved slowly and took care not to make any sudden movements. This worked because he was not stung once, in spite of being with the bees for a good 40 minutes.

Having put the main part of the swarm and comb pieces in the box, he was able to leave them once he’d seen some of them flapping their wings to show the others how to get into the box. Although he wanted to take them away, he could only do so once he was sure they were all in there.

He returned the following morning in the pouring rain. Gently lifting the lid of the box to check the bees were inside, he then put the box in a bag, placed it in his car boot and drove away. Because of the rain, there were no bees left behind looking for pollen.

Our visiting expert said that the small swarm, weighing about 1½lbs, contained 7,000 honey bees. The Happy Moonraker, who did not count them, hopes they have found a good home where their efforts will be appreciated.

 Easy does it: an experienced bee-keeper carries out the delicate operation to move the swarming bees and their queen into a box before taking them away.

Easy does it: an experienced bee-keeper carries out the delicate operation to move the swarming bees and their queen into a box before taking them away.