How is our wildlife doing in Thorpe Morieux?

December seems like a good time to take stock of what has been happening over the year.   Weather-wise, the Year 2018 will probably be best remembered for its amazing Summer.  I never thought that I would get to the stage of being fed up with the sun and the heat (being a lover of both)!

The news has been very depressing about what is happening with our wildlife generally. Chris Packham, conservationist and best known as a BBC wildlife presenter, talks about us ‘presiding over an ecological apocalypse and precipitating a mass extinction in our own backyard’.  He lists a vast catalogue of once common birds (amongst other species) that have suffered serious declines including cuckoos 56%, turtle doves 98%, skylarks 59% and song thrushes 50%.  All of these, we have noticed with increasing despondency, have declined around us.  The other indicator that I have noticed most is that it is very rarely I need to clean my windscreen because of insect impact. We are also rather concerned about our tawny owls – normally we hear ‘twit twoos’ a lot of the time, but at the moment we are only hearing ‘twoos’ suggesting perhaps a lack of mating pairs. The seriousness of this issue was highlighted only today as I write this piece in late October by a number of eminent scientists and other concerned people such as the previous Archbishop of Canterbury who talk of sixth mass extinction. We live in the midst of the lovely Suffolk countryside but is our countryside, as some people are describing it, becoming a green desert in terms of our wildlife?  From our perceptions here at Newsons Farm we rather fear so.

On a happier note, highlights of our wildlife year in Newsons Farm were seeing our first lizards – surprisingly small ones to have survived the winter – in mid April.  The excitement of a new Butterfly, the Small Heath, in May. July saw our first (or the first we noticed) Tree Bumble Bee and Map-wing Swift Moth.  Noted our solitary Chicory flower – a very pretty blue daisy-like flower in August.   Pleased to see a pair of Bullfinches – always enjoy the lovely peach colours of the male.  Sadly, noted no swallows nesting, although several swooping over our meadow and pond. Although, we heard our first Turtle Dove bang on time, we suspect they may not have nested with us this year.  Although our Autumn tree colours are not as good as last year (perhaps because of the unseasonally hot October), one of my favourite trees, the Spindle, is looking lovely with its beautiful pink and orange berries and generally there has been a good show of berries. Not sure whether or not this means a harsh winter ahead – some people believe so!

This seems perhaps a rather somber article, so as we move into the New Year let’s start on a positive note. Chris Packham has put forward a ‘People’s Manifesto for Wildlife’ full of ideas across a broad spectrum of wildlife issues. What can we as individuals do to help?  One very easy way is to perhaps to be less tidy in our gardens and generally in the areas which are not needed for food and other cultivation.  Sadly, although it looks lovely and tidy, closely and regularly mown grass does nothing to help wildlife.  Harder perhaps is thinking about using less weed killers and pesticides.  If you are thinking of a project, perhaps put in a wildlife pond. Simple things such as ensuring hedgehogs can get into and out of our gardens by having small holes in fences, putting up bird and bat boxes, feeding our birds, etc, will all help ensure we do our bit. 

Frances Bee