I have studied spotted flycatchers a lot over the years here in the Kennet Valley, and a warm June evening is the best time for me to quietly sit with a glass of wine, watching their comings and goings in the garden. Luckily this unobtrusive creature, which may have flown all the way from Namibia, favours our row of mature lime trees, stretched along the valley floor, which judging by all the swifts, house martins, and swallows somehow traps or attracts an abundance of insects.
That is my luck, but what is deliberate are the blocks of wildflowers and uncut lawn interspersed with mown paths, creating a patchwork of habitats. I am blessed with a large garden, but I have created the oxeye daisies and white clover now humming with bees, which are just coming into their own and the rewards are bountiful and beautiful. The flycatchers, so quiet and unassuming all day, that I suspect many people never notice, launch their aerial assaults from a favourite branch to chase their prey over the insect-rich grass. If you listen carefully you can hear their bills snap as they make their catch.
Feed well little birds your population has dramatically fallen over the years and this garden is here to boost your numbers before you fly South in the Autumn. They nest around the house in creepers and boxes I put up on the house and I fret every Spring in case they do not return but am so joyous upon their arrival. I garden directly for them and all their cousins and indirectly for these quiet moments I can sit and stare.
Don’t mow in May is nice alliteration, but I mow in May and then leave for June and July. That way I remove the lush Spring growth, giving the flowers more chance to emerge later than the grass, and with them the insects so essential for our birds, damselflies, bats and amphibians all who prey on them.
A male and female bullfinch appear (how cute are they always together) finding some ripening seeds and families of Goldfinches are twittering constantly. A young blackbird is hunting on the strips of short mown paths, together with the dandiest of green woodpeckers hopping after ants. My lawn is not green, it is a wash, a tapestry of tweed and brightly coloured dots of white, orange, pink, and yellow, but most of all it is alive. I just sit and stare. This is my lawn, it could be yours. But you need to start now by not adding any moss killer, pesticides, weedkiller and grow fast lawn nutrients