Monday 30 July 2007

Natural Phenomena

A few examples of the natural world impinging upon the human order of things...

A couple of nights ago as we sat at our dinner in the courtyard we became aware of a continuous humming, droning noise, too high pitched and regular for bees. I thought it was the sound of far off farm machinery echoing around the boundary formed by the trees of the forest. Paul wasn't convinced by this and tracked it down to the old perry pear tree. High in the branches and swarming in their millions the tree was entirely surrounded by midges and it was the sound of their beating wings that we could hear.

I've not been able to find all that much on the web about midge swarms - it is believed the noise itself attracts more midges to join the throng and opinion appears to be divided upon whether it is a mating ritual or not. It seems the midges choose a marker spot for their swarm around a prominent landmark and may return to the same place over many years. There is a little bit about them here on the Marcia Bonta nature blog. The pear tree is showing some signs of stress this year, we fear the worst but hope that it is merely the fallout from these over-abundant insects that is causing mottling and die back of the outer leaves.

Later as it became dark a single spot of cold green light shone out. A solitary glow worm, really a beetle, desperately trying to attract a mate. It's the females that glow, wingless and pretty much helpless, they must advertise their presence for the winged males to find them at the same time revealing themselves to all other comers. Just as last year we seem to have only one lonely lady, I hope she gets lucky.

More trouble from our wildlife was caused today when we discovered that something, almost certainly the coypu or muskrats that infest our waterways, had chewed the leaves off the Barbara Davies waterlily. This poor plant was a gift to me from Paul last year and was nearly nibbled to death last year almost as soon as we planted her in the pond. We were so pleased to find she wasn't killed by that poor treatment and watched each new leaf as it unfurled this year with great anticipation. To find she had nearly suffered the same fate again was heartbreaking, so we went out immediately and bought some chicken wire to make a defensive cage to put around her. Of course, this meant someone had to don the waders and step into the sludge again but it's all in a good cause. I hope it works.

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