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Great harvest for winter’s wildlife

Field mushrooms
Field mushrooms

Have you been aware of a decline in swallows and house martens each year? Hundreds used to assemble on telephone wires prior to mass migration, but we see few nowadays.

It’s reassuring to hear that goldfinches are responding so well to their special Niger seeds. Michael feeds the birds at Montrosa, and never saw a goldfinch until one discovered these seeds. The message spread, and two returned regularly. It was a great day when four appeared, and then eight at one sitting! Now we can’t believe 15 feed on the container or on the ground.

Love them or hate them, you’ll be relieved to know that wasps come to the end of their working lives now. Only the queen wasp survives the winter, finding a cosy hole or niche maybe in your attic, until next spring. Why do the majority of people love bees and hate wasps, when they are both so beneficial to our planet?

Both bees and wasps are sadly declining. Wasp numbers have collapsed by about 50% in 20 years due to pesticides, and folk requesting they be exterminated on their premises. They are doing no harm. Both bees and wasps will sting, but usually only if molested. Wasps are unfortunately most unwelcome visitors to kitchens when jam making, and to picnics. However, both bees and wasps help pollinate flowers and crops, are are crucial to Britain’s ecology. Wasps do a good job keeping down pests, and insects, that may carry diseases. Please don’t kill them. Nature balances wildlife.

My attention has been drawn to two wasps’ nests this year. What miraculous creatures they are! The paper-like nests are made from minute wood shavings, mixed with their saliva into a pulp, and moulded into cells by their mandibles. The time it must take is incredible for such tiny insects.

This summer produced an abundance of fruit, berries, seeds and conifer cones – a great harvest for winter’s wildlife. A spectacular sight are Siberian crab apple trees near Newby’s Rosette Inn with hundreds carpeting the ground.

Mid-September brought a surprising display of field mushrooms on grassland in Scarborough, even before rainfall arrived. We couldn’t believe our luck as we selected the best for friends and neighbours, and left the rest for the slugs.

The field mushroom is probably the best-known edible mushroom. We picked the stout, pure white specimens with pinkish-brown gills. Where the cap has broken away from the stalk or stipe, you’ll notice it has left a ragged ring which soon falls away.

We all have our favourite mushroom recipes, and I love them in an omelette, or added to scrambled eggs. Another winner is mushroom and cheese melt on toast.

Enjoy whatever the season has in store, and share the harvest with friends and neighbours.