Saturday, April 7, 2012

Massacre of the hedgerows -austerity for the birds and the bees

Did someone decide that  "austerity measures " are for the birds and bees ? 
Why oh why do  people who trim hedges  massacre the tender shoots of Spring ? 

In Ireland the cutting of  hedges is forbidden  by law between March 1st and August 31st.- yet in the last few weeks the hedgrow on the lane-way I walk on every day has been  manicured to within an inch of its life
"Lane way to the Wicklow Hills " watercolour 

 The wild damson trees where I gathered fruit for delicious damson jelly  last Autumn have been mutilated - all laid to waste . There ill be no fruit or blossoms this year - nor for quite a few years to come-  if ever.  

This laneway beside my house  is edged on one side by a typical Irish hedgerow with lovely wild blackthorn and a mix of hawthorn, elder, wild damson, honeysuckle and brambles.
 Blackthorn, if allowed to thrive, grows  into the most lovely small tree - sturdy and gracefully covered in spring with  millions of white blossoms, the flowers which appear before the leaves, are among the first to be seen in hedgerows from late February to early March, 

'Lane way to the Wicklow hills ' Acrylic by Trudi Doyle 
These 'heralds of spring' attract early insects to pollinate them. The flowers produce nectar for bumblebees and early-flying small tortoiseshell butterflies. 
In autumn and winter they are  laden with sloes -  round blueish black berries  with a whitish powdery bloom  can be used to make sloe gin and sloe jelly and have a damson-like (but incredibly bitter!) flavour. 
Blackthorns are nesting sites for birds such as blackbirds, song thrushes, finches, and wood pigeons.

"Blackbirds Nest" Watercolour 
 Hawthorns are often known as  Whitethorn or Mayblossom  and in Irish "Sceach geal". They blossom  in May or earlier and come in  two colours  - white and less commonly  red.
All are now cut to the base -  I can wave good bye to the possibility of blossoms and berries.and I wonder where the birds will nest ?   Why ? 

"The Yellow Kite " Acrylic 
regularly walk my dog on Eagle Hill lane too -virtually unchanged since my childhood -where I played and searched  for birds nests. Its verges have  always been  lush with wild flowers, plants, ferns and a wide variety of shrubs and trees,  including a row of ancient Hazel trees. 
Last week I saw the hedgerow along the lane damaged irrevocably by a wholesale mutilation - the row of Hazels roughly felled  and the rest of the ancient hedges chopped, ripped and torn.
Someone took a chain saw or, more likely, a tractor mounted mechanical cutter to these poor trees with  violence - irrevocably damaging  a natural habitat. 
As I walked there I  heard  the evening songs of  many small birds coming from the discarded piles of  felled timber ......