When we first came to Canada in 1998 people would constantly tell us in winter that “you should have been here ten years ago – the snow was this high etc etc”. We thought it quite cold and white enough, thank you very much, but now we would be making the same observations to newcomers ourselves. The climate is going haywire. If things carry on as mild as they have this week we could be starting a very early spring this year. Temperatures are just not supposed to stay above zero for any significant time in January. I am sure we will have real cold before too long, but this does feel all wrong … especially in the week that the year 2016 was (again) declared to be the hottest year on record.
The usual garden birds were joined by a flock of around 15 American Robins on Friday. They seem to be having little trouble finding shelter and food and were attracted to the garden today by the appearance of leaf litter in a sheltered corner where the snow is not so deep. There was a lot of pulling up of brown leaves and throwing them aside as insects and other tasty scraps amongst the litter were consumed. The “richest” leaves seem to have been near to the discharge point of a rainwater downpipe some three feet from the wall of the house.
Plenty of evidence too, this week, of raccoon activity with clear and distinctive tracks in the snow close to the house. The picture at the top of this post is not of raccoons in the garden, but of raccoons very close nearby in the middle of the week – handsome devils.
Being kind to Fireflies
It’s a bit early for us to be thinking about high summer insects but there is an article we recently came across (http://grist.org/article/fireflys-are-disappearing-heres-why-and-what-you-can-do-to-help/) that worries about the imminent loss of fireflies. We enjoy a good few of these fascinating insects in summer; perhaps not as many as we would like but a respectable number, and they bring a lot of pleasure. Looking after them and ensuring we can continue to share our garden with them is a good thing to work at.
According to the article “The problem, as always, is other human behavior, including the use of pesticides and artificial lighting and the destruction of firefly habitat. Fireflies — or lightning bugs — thrive in meadows, woods, and along bodies of water, all of which are shrinking because of our sprawl. Urbanization, it seems, is killing the firefly. They’re not only being harmed directly by human development, but indirectly by the effects of climate change. Invasive species that thrive in a warmer climate and drought destroy even more of their habitat.”
So, what can we do in our gardens to help them along? Easy stuff – minimise use of chemicals; leave worms, snails, and slugs for firefly larvae to feed on; turn off the lights; provide lots of nice ground cover, grasses and shrubs for them to lurk about in. Stuff we do anyway but this is a good reason to think about leaving a bit more long grass in the corners. That should be easy enough.
Remember, fireflies are an indicator of biodiversity that you can measure by their blinking lights.