Country diary: Sad decline of our native wild flowers

Fumitory is now very scare in our countryside. The flower is an important food source for turtle doves.
Fumitory is now very scare in our countryside. The flower is an important food source for turtle doves.

Where have all the flowers gone? Since our childhood, countless wild flowers have vanished from the countryside. Wild flowers; Corn Marigolds; Scarlet Pimpernel; Flowering Rush, Spearwort and Fumitory etc, are all very scarce.

Martin recently photographed Fumitory on the edge of a cornfield. Modern herbicides easily destroy such weeds, depriving birds of a food supply they require. Only recently we read that turtle doves have disappeared from favoured sites. In this country they have declined by more than 93 per cent since 1994. Their favoured food supply was Fumitory. The last time we observed a turtle dove was over 20 years ago at Black Toft Sands Reserve near Goole. Will they thrive again if conditions and food requirements are met?

Hot, sunny days have necessitated frequent watering in the gardens. The water tub was completely dry, so Michael cleaned out the debris, and left it to refill when rain returned. Next morning Michael called me to witness a visitor. A frog gazed up at us, almost pleading to be rescued from his four foot fall into the steep-sided ‘prison’. The rescue team was at hand!

Having a dog certainly ensures plenty of country walks with a faithful companion. However, grooming Tigga following a recent walk through long grass, revealed a tick. Ticks are tiny, spider-like creatures found in grass or woodlands. They attach themselves to passing animals (including humans) and bite into the skin to suck blood. An unfed tick is very small, but when sucking blood it swells to the size of a pea. That’s when I noticed it. Although the bite is painless, a tick can carry disease and should be removed.

Tigga allowed me to remove it with fine-pointed tweezers. Grasping the tick’s head as close to Tigga’s skin as possible, a slight to-and-fro action levered the head out.

Dancing in the sunshine along a secluded path beside the neglected Sea Cut, were many varieties of butterflies.The majority of butterflies seen during early July were the large white, frequently noted in gardens, and the small white. Only one tortoiseshell butterfly was recently observed. They used to be much more plentiful until recent decades.

In late July a peacock butterlfly was noted as it revealed its almost black underwings. Its interesting wing design of ‘eyes’ is so conspicuous that it cannot be mistaken for any other species.

Many brown varieties have been on the wing, including speckled wood; meadow brown; wall brown, and the large ringlet, along with the copper and skipper butterlflies.

Himalayan Balsam flourishes beside our local rivers and ditches – often called Policeman’s Helmet on account of the flower’s fanciful resemblance to a helmet! It was introduced from its Asiatic homeland in 1839. I love its fragrance, with the sweetness of midget gem sweets beloved by children.