Sunday, 12 August 2018

Butterflies

Most readers will, no doubt, recall the dire warnings and prophecies of doom which were being cast far and wide last year with regard to our butterfly population. The subject made most of the newspapers, it featured in a number of T.V. programmes and also on news bulletins. Basically, we were told, the butterfly population had hit rock bottom and many varieties faced extinction. Even David Attenborough, who is president of Butterfly Conservation, added his voice to the throng. Yes, last year was not the best on record for butterflies and the recorded numbers dropped. However, I have long held the belief, seasons come and seasons go and some are good, some are bad but, overall, Mother Nature has a way of sorting most things out and things generally right themselves. There are always many, many, things which impact upon the fortunes of any species never one single item. Temperature, rain, wind, food supplies to mention just a few. The worst effects are usually felt, in my opinion, when a number of those factors conspire and occur together. It is then that things start to seriously go wrong but, come the next season things are restored and, hey ho, everything begins to recover.

This year has undoubtedly been unusual for its long, hot, dry, period and as such it has had benefits for butterflies. As a transect walker for Butterfly Conservation, I undertake two walks each week in the woods which I look after for the Woodland Trust. In both of woods there have undoubtedly been a large number of butterflies, not only that, but also a number of species previously rarely seen or unrecorded. The transect walks take place from the first of April through until the end of September. A few weeks ago, at the halfway stage of the walking period, the count numbers for the whole of Dorset were fifty-one and a half per cent up on the numbers recorded over the same period last year. To date, the number of Common Blue butterflies is almost at the level of the all-time high for my two woods. I strongly suspect, by the time next weeks walks have been completed, that record will have been broken. 

White Admirals have appeared again this year, Clouded Yellows and White  Letter Hairstreaks. The latter even appeared in my garden one afternoon. I am several miles from the woods so this was not, I suspect, one from there. Apart from the fact that I have quite a lot of elm trees around my field, which is the feed plant for the White Letter Hairstreak, it is difficult to understand why that one paid a visit. There has never before been a record of that species in a village in which I live. The nearest known, small, colony is getting on for twenty miles away.

In general terms then, it is looking increasingly likely, the Dorset records will show a huge rise in numbers of most butterfly species. I wouldn’t mind betting that the same sort of results will be recorded throughout the country. This has been a good year, but just as easily, next year could be another bad, one that is how it goes. 

One very notable and, perhaps, a little negative impact of the heatwave has been the fact that large numbers of butterflies have been recorded by me in the bottom of ditches. No doubt the lack of moisture is the reason. Although fairly dry, the ditch bottoms have retained a degree of moist earth and I think this is the attraction for the insects. 

Before I finish, may I remind readers, The Great Butterfly Count is still on and anyone interested in submitting sightings of butterflies in their garden or local area may do so by going to the Butterfly Conservation website. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Cricketers opens under new management

The Cricketers Inn will reopen under new management tomorrow, Friday 3rd August 2018.

Let's all make sure we get down there and support our pub regularly.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Rats

It Is a fact of life,if you keep poultry, you will have rats. In fact if you keep almost any kind of stock you will, sooner or later, attract rats. Apart from the obvious health hazards associated with rats they are a major nuisance in that they chew things and they dig holes all over the place. They nest in hay or straw stacks and generally do a lot of damage. The most effective way of dealing with a rat population is to poison it. You go to your local agricultural dealer and buy a box /bucket of rat "Bait" which you then administer and after a few days when you notice that the said bate is not being eaten the rats will be dead or dying. Of course, we old country boys who have dealing with these creatures for years also pursue them with air rifles and terriers, and some, even use ferrets for a bit of ratting. All good fun, but not really effective in getting rid of a rat infestation. 

Having had poultry of some form or another for most of my years on this earth I have used rat bait for as long as I care to remember. As with all things there are right and wrong ways of using these substances. It is, of course, important to ensure that other animals cannot,and do not, eat rat bait. It will, for example, kill a dog. It, therefore, always needs to be used with caution and by following the instructions on the container it comes in. In order to protect wild birds, and indeed poultry, the bait should be administered in covered containers into which rats can gain access but, other creatures cannot. These containers have inner compartments which help to prevent spillage if the container is knocked over or overturned. So there you have it, all fairly straight forward, you may think,and yes it should be. Well it used to be until, that is, the politicians got involved.

Let me say straight away I am not a political person and the following is not political in that sense. I have a fairly simple view of politicians, of all shades and persuasions, I don’t like them. For the most part they are dishonest chancers, most of whom have never had a proper job or done a decent days work. I would be more inclined to trust a secondhand car salesman. If you think this is all a bit extreme let me remind you of the expenses fiddles and the fact that nearly all of them got away with it claiming ignorance or misunderstanding. Excuses that would, most certainly, not be available to you and I in similar circumstances. If all that were not enough look at their lavish redecoration expense for grace and favour housing and their,even more lavish, "fact finding" trips around the world. Not to mention, the many corporate jollies and gifts they receive. All, of course, perfectly legal … nice. 

What, you may ask, has all this got to do with rats ? Well, I discovered, a few months ago that rat bait legislation was changing. I found this out when I went to buy some in the usual way, and was told, by the person serving me, soon I would need a certificate / licence to continue to purchase rat bait. That was the first bit, soon thereafter, came another announcement advising that the strength of rat bait was going to be reduced.

Having been using rat bait for over fifty years, one might consider, I knew a little bit about its use. However , I took one of the glossy brochures providing all the info a user needed to comply with the new rules. It quickly became apparent that in order to gain the, now necessary, certificate of competence an exam was required and a fee of £65 would have to be paid. So, a new bureaucratic system costing people, that neither want or need rat bait instruction, a hefty sum and, no doubt, lining the pockets of those providing the advice. I declined their kind offer refusing to be ripped off in this appalling manner. Consider if you will, some months in the winter, when rats come in from the fields and hedgerows, it can cost me in the region of thirty pounds a month to keep them down, I only have three acres. Goodness knows what the costs are to a large farm, they must be huge.

It would appear that a number of politicians, I haven’t bothered to find out who they are, succumbed to lobbying by an ornithological society claiming misuse of rat bait was killing wild birds. This might well be the case, there are, and always will be abusers and misusers of almost anything you can think of. Sadly that is a fact of life. It is also a fact of life that those same abusers will not comply with the rules and will not take, and pay for, a test. All that is achieved in such situations is, quite simply, careful users, following the rules, will be penalised and hit in the pocket. Just look at what previous political bans have achieved, pistols are banned in this country, more gun crime than ever before. Knives for young people under eighteen are banned, more knife crime than ever before. A whole list of drugs are banned, the country is awash with illegal drugs. Quite simply, banning does not, and never has worked.

The problem is, politicians always know best. I did consider writing to my local M.P. and, after due reflection, abandoned the idea. I don’t write to M.P.s often, only twice in the whole of my life. Each time it proved to be a complete waste of time and paper. You see, on both occasions I was wrong and did not fully understand the matters about which I was writing. I was told the M.P.s were right, it just so happens that both are no longer M.P.s, having lost their seats. One having been involved in a scandal over mistakenly buying and expensive carpet on taxpayer funded expenses, who then retired, and the other being kicked out by the electorate for basically being a complete waste of space. The good news is, the latter did get a Knighthood for his failure, you know it makes sense, lovely system we have! Incidentally, both of the matters I wrote about did come to pass and the fears I had expressed were realised. I fear we have two as well as four legged rats in our midst.

So it was that my rat population exploded. Not having received their normal dose of bait, they did what rats do and bred. I found myself surrounded by the nasty creatures. Off I went to the agricultural merchant only to find the bait available to me was now being sold in tiny packages of a few grams and priced at the hefty price of a pound a packet. Translate that into the weight I once was able to buy, three kilos, and the price becomes eye watering. The agri merchants  are as bad as the M.Ps, never miss a chance to fleece someone. I had considered getting my future supplies of rat bait from France, where common sense still seems to prevail but, fortunately, I have found a supplier where I can obtain the normal stuff at the usual price ! Didn’t they do well. Rat problem solved. It would appear there are, would you believe, loopholes in the legislation so, pretty much, business as usual. 

Just a final thought, I doubt very much if the people this cock-up was aimed at are doing anything differently in terms of care. It might just be they are doing nothing at all and the rat population in their areas is growing apace. When, as I suspect it will, it reaches epidemic proportions you will, no doubt, be treated to the inglorious spectacle of the Honourable M.P.s responsible diving down their own rat holes and blaming everyone else.