This months blog comes from our good friend Bill, who regularly visits the site and advises us on the natural development of the Retreat. What to plant and where to plant it to benefit wildlife.
This year has seen record temperatures of +19C. The bird life has been quick to take advantage of this mild spell, with lots of premature activity being witnessed. As dawn broke on another sunny day a Song Thrush greeted the rising sun with its sweet musical refrain perched high on the island, some say its fluty piping song is more pleasant than the Nightingale!
Spring has arrived really early this year, the Linnets were enjoying themselves, playing chase above the 'Grandfather' Oak Tree. This tree has a girth of 20 feet and is approximately 430 years old (Oaks are classified as ancient when they reach 300 years) The Linnets were also surveying the Retreat from this great height, paying particular attention to the flowering Gorse which happens to be their favourite nesting shrub.
Our resident pair of Oystercatchers have returned which I hope will breed again this year. Also known as the “Seapie" due to being black and white like the Magpie.
The Teasel is an attractive wildflower growing freely on the retreat and can attain the height of two meters. These dried Teasel heads (pictured opposite) are from last years flowers and are multipurpose. The prickly seed heads were once used to raise the nap on cloth, particularly wool, by teasing the fibres out to produce a moleskin finish. Today they make an attractive addition to a flower arrangement and provide a valuable food source for Goldfinches in a hard winter.
Hazel Catkins are in flower and Pussy willows are now beginning to show, the flowering Gorse looks splendid. We are on the threshold of spring, soon we can expect the return of our summer migrant birds, there are exciting times ahead!
Welcome to the Mells Hamlet blog where we will be keeping you up to date with the latest news from the Retreat.
We’re currently making use of the winter to clear gorse and continue our extensive landscaping and planting of pioneer species of trees, shrubs and plants, designed to attract varied wildlife and to compliment a healthy ecosystem. Dynamic zones will be incorporated into the landscaping adding to the areas of wildness, ideal for attracting spring arrivals, nesting songbirds together with the invertebrates on which they feed.
The lakes are proving to be the ideal habitat for visiting winter Ducks, Swans and Geese and also wading birds during February. This male tufted duck (pictured), with its striking black and white plumage and conspicuous yellow eye, is an agile diving duck, some 7,500 widespread breeding pairs here in the UK with numbers swelling to 110,000 during winter. We are hoping to see if they set up residence on one of our lakes.
Quite a recent arrival into East Anglia and to our retreat, is the little egret (pictured), this small heron has found the local wetlands much to its liking. The 900 resident breeding pairs are increasing annually, numbers swell in winter to 4,800 birds. They will happily cohabit alongside the grey heron in a heronry to raise their young.
Our intention is to enhance and evolve each unique habitat to maximise its potential for wildlife and for our guests to enjoy.