Wildlife Garden in Late August

David Beeson

It has been an indifferent summer in Hampshire. Yet we are hugely appreciative of having no fires or floods or plagues of locusts. I guess dampness is preferable to desertification. The cool rainfall enhanced grass growth by removing growth-limiting factors, so with some of the meadows now cut the compost bins are full to overflowing.

Cut and uncut meadow. Harewood Forest is beyond.
An end-of-season Silver-washed Fritillary

The cutting of meadows is an art rather than a science. Which do I cut and when? The Main Lawn and Spring Meadows are easy and have already been cut. The Summer Meadow is always a conundrum. The issue being the short-tailed voles, slow worms and butterflies. All will be adversely affected by cutting. My solution is to rotate which areas are cut when each year, leaving some uncut until spring to allow some butterfly larvae the opportunity to slowly snuggle down into the soil and thatch even over the winter.

Cutting will remove the late flowers, yet they are now few and adult butterflies low in number. Not so the grasshoppers and crickets; they have done well and still chirp.

If the meadow remained uncut shrubs would grow and the zone slowly would move towards scrub and woodland. WE want a flowery meadow with its associated wildlife, so annual cutting is vital.

General view of the pond
Iris remains are still dumped on the pond’s edge. It is organic material and will decay.
End of the pond. Logs are left to decay and provide hiding spots for amphibians. The metal sculpture is a remainder from when we sold them as a fair trade project .. we still have lots!

With time, ponds always fill to form marshland or bogs. Our pond is now over 30 years old and this year has had a big clean. Over a metre of yellow iris gunk has been cut out – akin to cutting peat! Some composted, the rest ultimately to rest in an adjacent hedgerow. Dragonflies are still mating and laying eggs – Common Hawker and Darters. Newtlets are in the weed and some remain as larvae over winter, but the froglets have spread far and wide.

John’s Common Darter

Pulling the iris rhizomes from the water disturbed a long leech – 10 cm or more. It has no willing humans to donate blood, nor fish, so must be feeding from the occasional frog that visits.

Young Wood Mouse and a Yellow-necked above, but no sign of the Dormouse family at the moment.

To my surprise the dormice have moved on. Possibly they migrate with the supply of natural foods (Hazel nuts are abundant now, but not near feeder.) and prefer them to donated peanuts in the feeder. The moles are making new runs through the lawn and dug borders … hopefully they will stop now the run system has been extended.

As the meadow loses it colour the late herbaceous plants and the fruiting shrubs give garden colour and food resources.

Hibiscus and white Phlox.
Japanese Anemone
Gerbera

http://www.nwhwildlife.org is the HOMEPAGE. Go here and scroll down for 100+ ad-free articles. Topics include: Dragonflies, Water Meadows, Orchids, Forest and freshwater Ecology, Okefenokee Swamp in the USA and soon Yellowstone Park!!

If you have semi-scientific articles to offer freely to the world, we would be happy to consider them.

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