It’s quite difficult during the summer months to set aside time to write my blog, so please accept my apologies now for my tardiness.
Watching the birds that visit our garden at the moment is more than pleasant. The Starlings, originally a little family of four has now grown to nine as they have successfully fledged five chicks. Its so funny watching them follow their parents around the garden flitting from fruit cage to bird table, fence post to feeding station, then having a bit of a go themselves sticking their beaks in the lawn to grab unsuspecting grubs. It’s hilarious observing them as they all try hard to fit around the fat ball feeder a the top of our ‘totem pole’ – they’re all scrunched up and squabbling with each other because there’s not really enough room, then along comes an adult and tells them all off – or at least that’s what it looks like and one will fly off so the rest have a bit more room and manoeuvrability.
As I sat in my office the other evening, while processing a booking request for our B&B, I noticed the Pied Wagtail on the back patio. It had caught moth and was systematically removing its wings in order to be able to feed the juicy body to its young. That moth was no pushover though, being quite large, it wriggled itself away several times but to no avail as it was no real match for the Wagtail.
This got me to thinking – birds can be so methodical in the way they ‘prepare’ their food, Thrushes are a good example with their deliberate destruction of a snails shell in their quest for the ‘succulent’ insides – I have no problem with that, or their undeniable skills at seeking out slugs, the bane of all cabbage growing gardeners. Then there’s a plethora of seabirds and waders that seak out shellfish and, with specially engineered beaks, free their prize of its tenacious outer protection and enjoy a tasty meal.
Each year on Skye I have enjoyed the emergence of certain wild flowers. Carnivorous plants have always fascinated me, their design is so varied as well as their sizes. So who would think that here on Skye we have two species of Carnivorous plants in abundance? In fact I had rarely seen them in the wild in the south of England where we lived previously – mostly that was in the New Forest National Park – so on our first hike through Glen Sligachan in 2011, I was amazed at the number of Oblong-leaved Sundews (Drosera intermedia) that thrived in the many damp areas alongside the path.
Then of course there are the Butterworts (Pinguicula vulgaris) with their lime green star shaped rosette leaves and glorious twin lilac flowers. They nestle in all sorts of places; alongside rocks, up on cliffs, alongside paths, in fact more of less anywhere damp and wild that you can think of. They are totally invisible during the winter months as are the Sundews, resting over this period as rootless buds in the acidic bogland they call home.
Now! Going back to slugs and snails, I’ve just had a random thought. Is it my imagination? I ask, I have Brussels Sprout plants in my veg patch, and I have surrounded three with Oyster shells (empty ones of course) and the slugs and snails have not been near them, the other plants shave all been nibbled. Could this be a way to protect my brassicas from the dreaded slugs and snails? Well I’m going to the Oyster Shed later today to get a load of shells from Paul in order to try out my theory. I’ll let you know how it works – if it works that is and its no coincidence or my imagination.
So, back to the original question- where is the connection between carnivores and flora? Well carnivorous plants (flora) catch flies, ants, and any other unsuspecting insect that crawls or flies close enough to be caught on their sweet sticky leaves. Both the Sundews and Butterworts digest their prey to gain nitrogen which is mostly absent in the acid bogs where they grow in abundance. Flies and other creepy crawlies however are abundant in such places which are generally warm and damp during the summer months, thus attracting Meadow and Rock Pipits. Pied Wagtails, well they love moths and their larva, aside from many other insects of course, rooting around in the lawns, in between the grasses and shrubs in the garden in search of their meaty repast. So there’s the connection, albeit fairly tenuous but all in all there’s a perfect balance which is abundantly obvious here on Skye. So put your walking boots on and get out there to see whether you can find our native carnivorous plants. They take a bit more searching out than our garden birds which we can watch from our sitting room windows, but when you do find them the reward is – well – oh so sweet!