The world's jigsaw

 


I was sitting at home on my bench in the winter sun when I heard that familiar sound again. It was a bumble bee. I have seen my first bumble bee of the year. She was buzzing along our warm south wall. What was she looking for and why did she not stay in her winter sleeping hole? She was looking for food to help her through the rest of winter. I know it is a ‘she’ because all the males die in the winter, and this is a precious fertilized queen.

The bumble bee soon found food in a newly opened crocus flower. Everything is co-ordinated and happens almost as if it were pre-planned. But experts are now saying that spring is coming a month earlier than in the 1980s. Flowers are blooming earlier.

Very nice we might think warmer weather sooner. But will the flowers be out in time for the bee? What if they do not synchronise? The flower will not be pollinated, the bee will not get her food and will die. Not very important happenings on the world stage we might think. But this could happen on a grander scale with all wild animals and plants everywhere. 

The whole system works by exact timing, blue tits hatch when their caterpillar food supply is at its peak, hedgehogs come out of hibernation when the worms and slugs are coming to the warmer surface. The finely tuned invisible mechanisms could break down if one piece of the world jigsaw is not in place.

Another first for me was the sight of a flock of lapwings this week near Shrewsbury. I have not seen lapwings in this number for a long time. They are easy to identify as the tips of their wings are rounded and they are black and white. When I was a little girl living on our farm, lapwings were a common sight. They laid their eggs in a scrape on the ground in our fields with spring crops.

We had a nest here once in our orchard and as soon as the chicks hatched, they were on their gangly feet running after their mother, who took them on to old Oak Meadow to feed on worms and insects.

Another countryside difference I noticed this week was the absence of cattle in our fields. I seem to remember that our cattle stayed out all winter. But although I drove for some time here in the countryside, apart from some sheep, most of the rich green fields were empty. The Archers are using out-wintering for cattle again, but it is not everyone’s choice. Progress is not always straight forward.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

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