Monday, 30 September 2013

Seeds and Fields

There's no denying that it's autumn now. Darker mornings when I wake up, leaves changing colour on the trees and lots of fields beginning to be ploughed all point towards the coming cold winter months.

But ploughed fields weren't always a sign of autumn. Before the amazing creation of winter wheat and the intensification of farming fields were left at stubble for the winter, and ploughed and sown with seeds in the new year, as temperatures got warm enough for crops to grow again. This slower pace of farming meant that during the winter fields were full of spilt grain and had lots of places for insects to hide over winter in the stubble. In fact, what was left sounds almost like a giant field of bird food and the birds loved it.

Now, with more efficient farming methods the stubbled is ploughed as soon as possible in most places; I saw quite a lot of ploughing in August. For many species, including the amazing Devon cirl buntings, this has been part (not often all) of the reason for massive declines.  For some species straight after ploughing is a time of pleanty with gulls and other insectivores enjoying the many little animals that are pushed to the surface of the newly turned soil.

Early autumn is a good time for most birds. The hedges are filled with berries, seeds are still on flower heads and branches, nuts are appearing and the last of summers insects are still humming around. But as the season moves on food will become scarce and that's why this is the perfect time of year to put up some bird feeders.

It doesn't matter how big or small your space, or whether you live in a city or the country, once you've provided the food, birds with come! I live in a first floor flat in Exeter, with no outside space, if I can find room for a bird feeder, surely everyone can. And just think what an incredible sight it would be if everyone did. It doesn't even have to be a bird feeder, it could be something for all that other wildlife out there. A bug hotel, a frog hibernation tunnel  or a hedgehog house,  you choose.

For me, with no outside space, it's really a bird feeder or nothing. I did put up a bird feeder last spring but an unfortunate incident with the window cleaner meant that it is no more. So after a very busy summer I've been treated to two new feeders. The first is a small tray that sticks to the window and can hold a handful of seeds. I'm using this for meal worms to attract insect eating birds like robins, wrens and maybe even wagtails since we're close to the river. The other feeder is an RSPB Starter bird seed feeder, hung on a hook that sticks to my window filled with sunflower hearts. I had one of these whilst at university and saw loads of different birds using it including nut hatch, blue tits, great tits and coat tits. Hopefully there  will be just as much interest in it this time. Sunflower hearts should appeal to most birds and so I'm going for the food that will attract the widest range of species.

After two days there's been no sign of visitors, but it has only been two days. Hopefully over the next few weeks birds will discover the feeders and enjoy this replacement stubble field in the middle of the city. The food is good for them in harsh seasons and it's great for me as I get to watch some lovely wildlife up close. If anyone has any garden wildlife stories or tips I'd love to hear them. For now, I'm off to sit and stare at the feeders in the hope I'll be around for the first visitor!

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Scilly Week

What a great place the Scillies are! After seven days working on the islands I'm back in Devon and blogging again. Whether rain or shine (and we definitely had both) the Isles of Scilly are an incredible landscape and seascape; full of wildlife. Getting the boat across the islands each morning was a brilliant way to commute. 

View from Bryher looking out towards Hell Bay

Along with all the great views when the sun was shining there were loads of butterflies, and even a couple of red underwing moths which sat still enough to be photographed!

 Other wildlife highlights were harbour porpoise, common and bottle nose dolphin, basking shark, Lapland bunting, dottrel and buff breasted sand piper.

Monday, 16 September 2013

A Scilly Journey

As you read this I will have traveled to the most southerly point of UK soil on which I have ever stood.  I am on the Isles of of Scilly. From where I write this, it will be a train journey, a walk, a boat journey, another walk and another boat journey before I get to my final destination on the islands. For somewhere so far away, it's actually very easy to get to without a car or aeroplane!

I've never been before, but I've heard lots about it. A warm, tropical climate, palm trees and white sandy beaches are what appears on the official visitor guide website. While it might be a tad cold for swimming in the blue waters that surround the islands (they are basically part of the Atlantic Ocean after all) I'm looking forward to discovering the scenery and wildlife both on and off shore.

I've been told more than once and by more than one person, that September and October on the Scillies are close to a birdwatchers paradise. Rare birds aplenty are blown onto the islands from as far away as America and the Southern oceans if the winds are right. Birds that would normally create a stir are counted as normal autumn species is this special corner of the UK. I expect there will be at least a few new species for me.

It's not rare birds that I'm getting excited about though. Growing up in Northamptonshire gives you a certain livelong excitement about the seaside. So living on a small island and getting the boat to work everyone morning for a week is going to be an adventure in itself. On the journey over, or back, from Penzance there will be the chance of dolphins, porpoises, whales, sharks, and countless "common" seabirds. Maybe even a jelly fish, sunfish or turtle!

I hope, as you read this, it will be sunshine and a heatwave on the islands (although this normally means less rare birds) and not a hurricane and Atlantic storms (which would be quite good for rare birds). By next week I'll be back in Devon on dry (safe) land and will be filling you in with all my scilly adventures.
Photo by Tom Corser Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 England & Wales (UK) Licence:

Monday, 9 September 2013

Green Water

Whilst enjoying a meal out recently I noticed that the water we had ordered was a little different to the normal fizzy stuff you get in most restaurants. 

On the back of the bottle there's a description of how Belu are contributing all their profits for three years to WaterAir (minimum £300,000), helping over 20,000 people by providing access clean water. As well as the charitable positives the water is also carbon neutral by reducing environmental impacts as far as possible and offsetting everything else. 

I still think it's better to have tap water (it's already being cleaned for drinking so why spend extra energy and resources bottling mineral water) but if you do have to buy water when out, Belu seems to be a really good choice for people and the environment.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Green Weddings

Over the last two years I've blogged about my attempts to lead a green life. I've looked at whether you can be green on a budget, if you can be fashionable and green, if you can be a regular twenty something and still stick to your green convictions. I've had mixed results.

But in less than a year now I am getting married. So the new challenge is: can I balance my girly desire for a day of excessive fairytale celebrations with my dreams of a magical, green, ethical, day? And can I do it without breaking the bank?! What I have discovered over the last nine months since getting engaged is that weddings are complicated, but only if you let them be. Like any new project, there are so many choices and options and decisions that need to be made. Often, the easiest option isn't the greenest. Sometimes the greenest option isn't cheap, other times it is amazingly cheap. My own wedding plans are coming along nicely now and so far there seems to be a reasonable balance between greenness and what we actually want from our day. But while researching and planning and day dreaming I have discovered so many amazing green wedding ideas that I realised there are far too many for me to use them all, even if I could afford or fit them all in. So I have decided  to celebrate and share some of the ideas and thoughts of green weddings over the next twelve months through my blog. It won't be all I'm blogging about but since this blog is meant to describe my attempts to navigate the world and my life in a green way it seems only right to talk about weddings when that is what takes up a lot of my time these days!

Whether it's finding a local supplier for the catering or weighing up the pros and cons of making recycled  paper for wedding invites I'll be looking at weddings from every green angle I can find. If you have any suggestions for blog topics, are or know a green wedding supplier or have a particular green wedding questions why not get in touch with me by commenting here or sending me a tweet (@jennifercavery). I'd love to hear from you.

For now here is a taster (in pictures) of some of the topics I'm going to be covering: