Monday, 21 October 2013

Practical Session Report - October

October is our penultimate session for 2013. A time when all life at the churchyard is preparing for harsh conditions that winter brings.

Ivy provides a late food source, first for insects, which assist the ivy by pollinating the flowers. Ivy then begins to develop fruits, which are a good food source for birds as the season turns. Holly berries also turn from green to the bright red that has become so symbolic of winter and the festive period in the UK.

It was a nice surprise to see some 7-spots still out and making the most of the 'good' weather. Ladybirds over-winter in their adult form. Soon they will all collect together in various safe places, which range from under tree bark to inside our houses.
The banded snails were out in force too. This is a variable species, which as we can see varies from pale all over to clearly defined bands of colour. A harlequin ladybird can also be seen in the photograph.

The caterpillar of the Knot Grass moth (Acronicta rumicis).

Next month will see our valiant volunteers loading up a trailer with all of the grass cuttings that have been collected over the past year or so. Until then!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Parish Life - October

It has been an interesting start to the autumn season, with an initially unseasonal spell of hot weather in September that helped to ripen the hedgerow fruits. There seems to have been quite an abundance of hawthorn berries, blackberries and sloes. It is very tempting to go foraging for fruits to put into jams and jellies and to make sloe gin, but always remember to pick responsibly, leaving some for birds to feed on over the winter. Also, take care to tread gently and to try not to damage the surrounding foliage.

As the weather turns cooler, it is time to start feeding the birds that visit our gardens. This allows them to build up fat stores under their feathers that will help insulate them against the winter chill. The nation spends on average £200 per year on feeding wildlife, but it does not always have to be expensive. Leaving the seed heads of perennials such as ornamental grasses can provide a food source.

In fact, the best way to garden for wildlife is to mimic nature and to leave some areas to go a little “wild”. These spaces can provide a haven for birds and mammals. A pile of old logs can be a shelter and a food source, as it can harbour insects such as beetle larvae for hedgehogs and birds to feed on.

In the churchyard of St. Giles, we try to mimic nature, too, which explains why there are areas that are left wild to encourage native species. But it is a managed space and the cutting/raking regime is planned to allow plant species to flourish in their growing season.  As the end of the working year approaches, there is still plenty to do. If you would like to be part of our enterprise in maintaining the churchyard as a haven for wildlife, please join us on Saturday 19th October, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon.  We are happy to show newcomers how we carry out our management programme. Tools and gloves, and refreshments will be available.  Please come and enjoy a session looking after your local environment!

Contributor: Liz Cullen, Co-ordinator