Dawn chorus is falling silent

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Well that’s the prime bird-watching season virtually over for another year, as the birds start to retreat into the dense undergrowth to moult and their singing peters out with the winding up of the mating season. Early nesters have their broods off their hands by now, but a few second or even third broods still have a bit to go.

Young birds are joining adults at garden feeders, learning the ropes, and some youngsters are quite able to feed themselves, but, like typical teenagers, still prefer to beg for food from their parents, with quivering wings.

Reader E.D. sent me this endearing picture of a young great tit being fed by its parent in his garden.

With my attention moving away from birds for the time being, other forms of wildlife are now taking over, such as insects and plants. This is the time of year when wild flowers are at their peak and it is a good time to get into the countryside with a field guide and try and put names to some of them.

Not all plants, however, are welcome in the rural environment and it is perhaps a good time to give some publicity to a couple of examples, highlighted by a leaflet which popped through my letterbox recently.

In the 19th century many foreign plants were brought into this country by collectors. Many did not cope well with our climate and only survived with artificial help, but some loved it here and exploded into the countryside and aggressively colonised huge areas of the Borders. Leopardsbane and few-flowered leek are good examples, but are relatively harmless compared with the big two thugs, Giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed. The former causes problems through erosion and its poisonous sap while the latter can to crack concrete and break through building foundations. Both are extremely difficult to kill and both spread very effectively through copious seed production and the ability to reproduce from tiny root fragments.

These two spread unchecked along the Tweed river system for decades until the Tweed Invasives Partnership was set up to try to eradicate them. Almost a decade since its inception, the success of the project can be clearly seen along our rivers, with little or no evidence of these plants remaining.

However, vigilance is still required as a few missed plants reaching maturity can set the whole process back to the start. So what can we do to help?

Firstly, if you see any of the big two baddies on your travels contact Tim Barratt, the Tweed Invasives Officer at 01896 849723 or e-mail tim@tweedforum.com with details of location. If you have them on your land, you can get information on how to control them in the leaflet Controlling Invasive Plants in the Tweed Catchment, available from Tim.

Let’s hope that we’ve seen the last of them.