April 2016: Notes from the Garden Shed

Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicum

Pheasant (Phasianus Colchicum

Pheasant's Eye (Adonis Annual)

Pheasant's Eye (Adonis Annual)

This has been a month of lists and list making. Mostly these lists are planning for the many project we now have on-hand, but one I found particularly delightful to make – listing some suitable wildflowers for the pond side embankments. We decided on wildflowers that used to be found commonly in wheat fields before methods were found to eradicate them from the seed corn stores.

Here’s my list; I’ve just used the folk names that I think have a certain beauty and an understanding of these flowers characters. Birdsfoot Trefoil, Pheasant Eye, Corn Cockle, Lesser Knapweed, Red Campion and Lady’s bedstraw.

Recently I’ve also been rather excited by a 1963 list I found of‘nuisance’ birds, species that in 1963 you were allowed to take their eggs – I hasten to add this is totally banned these days thank goodness! We try to work with nature in the Skip garden so I’ve always been interested in the concept of ‘pest’ species and what that means for us organic gardeners.

Here’s the list with the results that visitors to our café kindly gave us – it makes for interesting reading.

Of these eighteen birds four (in red) are on the RED LIST of Birds of Conservation Concern complied by the British Trust for Ornithology and four (in orange) are on the AMBER LIST.

Two, which got the highest ‘no nuisance’ marks, are now on the red and amber warning lists. Both these species in 1963 were trouble to commercial growers particularly the Bullfinch that eats fruit buds and Sparrows that took grain seeds.

The two that got the highest ‘nuisance’ marks – Domestic Pigeons gone wild and Magpies are interesting in so far as humans used Pigeons as message carriers then we ‘let them go’ when other more reliable methods were found. Magpies are more problematic in so far as they do take songbird eggs and young unless you know that predators do have a positive effect on their prey populations – rather counter intuitive but true.

Finally the poor old Shag that got the highest ‘don’t know’ mark. This rather beautiful fish-eating seabird is not commonly seen on inland waters unlike the Cormorant which you can see hunting in the Regents canal.

How perceptions change – here we welcome them all. I’m thinking of doing an ‘nuisance’ insect list next - now that will be interesting.

Happy spring growth!

Shag Bird

Shag Bird