Let’s Go Birding!

After our last blog post about insects,  I’m sure you’ve all been keeping your eyes to the ground! Now it’s time to look up though – with the bird breeding season upon us it’s well worth keeping an eye on the trees and hedgerows to see who’s around. Below we’ve listed a few of our favourites to keep an eye on – particularly if you have bird feeders in your garden. Thank you to Rosie from the Wilde & Greene farm shop for her amazing photographs.

 

  1. Chaffinch

These little delights are a lovely addition to any garden. Their distinctive colouring (red with a bluish grey head for males, a more subdued brown and buff for the females) separates them from other finches. Look for their obvious black and white wing bars in flight.

During nesting season these little birds make a distinctive frog-like ‘kkk-kkk’ if you venture too close to their nests, and loud ‘feep’ calls can often be heard coming out of hedgerows and trees.

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2.  Dunnock

This lesser known sparrow is the real life ‘little brown job’ of the bird world.  Sometimes called a ‘hedge sparrow’ you will often see them skulking around the ground underneath bird feeders, hedgerows and bushes. For something so normal looking, Dunnocks have extremely interesting breeding methods. It’s always the quiet ones. Listen for a high-pitched, rather frantic chatter coming from hedges.

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3.  Greenfinch

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Greenfinches love black sunflower seeds! They are bright little birds with a twittering (sometimes a bit jurassic) song. They’re common on heathland, in parks and gardens and in woodland.  Their distinctive green-green plumage and black-tipped wings make them easy to spot.

 

4. Great Tit

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Great Tits are very easy to tell apart from other members of the tit family. They have a long, pointed beak and a very black head. They’re much larger than blue tits, and their plumage tends to be more green than blue, with a yellow chest. It’s a very common garden and bird feeder visitor. You can hear its very distinctive two syllabled ‘teacher-teacher’ call pretty much anywhere you go.

 

5.  Long Tailed Tit

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These lovely little birds are a common favourite. They fly from tree to tree in excitable family units devouring insects as they go. You’ll often find them on fat-ball feeders. They have an almost electric sounding repeated ‘sceep’ call  which is hard to miss when they’re around! Long-Tailed Tits are easy to spot – they’re little rose-pink, white and black fluff balls with very long tails and short beaks.

 

6.  Goldfinch

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Other than an extremely distinctive bubbling chatter, Goldfinches are incredibly easy to recognise because of their read faces, black caps and yellow and black wings. They’re common visitors to bird tables, gardens and parks, although I often see them sitting on top of houses on aerials chatting away to one another.

 

7.  Barn Swallow

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They’ll be back soon! Swallows migrate here from March until October for the summer and nest inside old farm buildings. They have a distinctive chatter with a ‘kkk’ noise coming from the throat added in for good measure. Barn Swallows have such a distinctive shape – a deep forked tail with long streamers and pointed, elegantly curved wings, you’ll most likely see them on the wing, playing and flying through the air catching insects as they go.  They have white undersides, red throats and blue bodies.

 

8.  Great Spotted Woodpecker

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These striking birds have black and white plumage with strong red undersides. The male also has a distinctive red patch on the back of his head. You’ll more likely hear them rather than see them when they’re in trees  – either a loud drumming or a loud call that is almost like a laugh, which they often do in flight too.

Rosie was lucky enough to have one on her bird feeder, where they can sometimes be spotted (they like peanuts). Otherwise, look out for them in woodland, parks and large gardens.

 

With numbers in strong decline, it’s more important than ever to take notice of the birds that we have in our local area. Why not keep a record of the species that you see – maybe even keep a tally on numbers to monitor the birds year on year? Even if you decide not too, they’re still nice just to look at!

 

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Bug Life

Cavenham Heath is a wonderful nature reserve right next door to our farm shop in Tuddenham, Suffolk. We like to keep up-to-date with the bird sightings on the heath by keeping our sightings board relevant and updated weekly, and we’re very excited about the Stone Curlews that have just arrived up there for the summer.

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Right now though, we’re thinking about insects, which we have lots of down south too! After hearing that we’re at risk of losing huge numbers of our insect population, we’ve started to look at the ones around us.  Graeme Lyons visited the Suffolk heath at the end of last month and gave us all of his records for his visit. We’ve picked out a few of the most interesting species that are also common down here for you below:

Minotaur Beetle

Minotaur Beetle

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This is my personal favourite. The Minotaur Beetle is a large dung beetle with three large horns on its head. It buries the dung of mammals (particularly sheep up on the heath) in finger-sized holes for its larvae to feed on. They grow to around 2cm long and are easily identified because of the horns.

 

Birch Catkin Bug

Birch Catkin Bug

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This rust-coloured bug is common on or around birch trees. It mainly feeds on the seeds of the birch, and you may sometimes find them clustered together on a single birch leaf. With all the silver birch on the reserve, you’re bound to find one if you keep your eyes peeled! Watch out though, they have stink glands to ward off predators which have led them to also be called ‘Stink bugs’.

 

Garlic Snail

This little guy can be found under logs and is about the size of your little fingernail. Give it a sniff – it smells like garlic! It has a yellow-brown shell which is translucent.

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Ero aphana

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Ero aphana is a nationally scarce spider found on heathland. It’s one of four species within the Mimetidae genus which are also called pirate spiders. This is because, unusually,  they predate the webs of other spiders – not for their food, but for the spiders themselves. These spiders grow to around 3mm long.

 

Dock Bug

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GRAEME LYONS

This is the most common and the largest member of the Squashbug family. It’s called the Dock Bug because it mostly feeds on the seeds and leaves of docks and sorrels. Like other bugs within their genus they have specially adapted mouth parts that they use to pierce plants to extract juices.

We’ve got lots of other insects to talk about, but in the meantime do let us know if you find any of these – or any other interesting ones!

The 4 R’s

At Greener Greens we, like many people, avidly practice the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down waste, conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy.  But something I saw today prompts an additional R – resourcefulness.


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I was at the Dorking recycling centre (aka “the dump”) which sadly the local council has voted to close, although closure has now been delayed until the end of September.  As I put a black bin into the landfill/burn container one of the recycling team split it open to reveal its contents.  “Why are you doing that?” I said. And this is what I was told…

On recognising the folly of the planned closure, the team thought they would prove the value of their service by opening each black bin deposited, reclaiming (yet another R!) items that can be recycled and keeping a tally of the amount their actions earned the council. Within the first fortnight they had reclaimed 2 tons of clothing for which the council receives 50p per kg and many tons of other items.  To date the team has gained the council thousands of pounds.  And so impressed is the council with their trial that it has allocated funds to help their efforts.

I saw 3 bags opened today and each contained bottles, paper and other recyclable items.  Sadly one third of the contents of one bag was recyclable, demonstrating that we still have a way to go.  But this wonderful team at Dorking is busily generating the statistics that enable a better message to be presented to us all.  And they have given a new dimension to “protesting”!

We shall be campaigning to keep this recycling centre open and the team in jobs. And to do that, we will be following the progress of this trial.

Now’s the Time!

As you may know, we’re a business that prioritise our planet over profit. Our leafy vegetables are all packaged in biodegradable compostable bags, and the rest of our veg goes naked without any packaging. All of our fresh produce is from small-scale and independent farms which means that we can guarantee that all of it has 100% traceability, contains no pesticides or chemicals and does not negatively impact on our environment.

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At a time when we’re at risk of losing our insects and we have only sixty years of topsoil left due to intensive farming, it’s more important than ever to make responsible choices when buying our food.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be presenting a series of blogs around the subject of insects and what makes them so great!

In the meantime though, choosing how we eat is a simple but powerful form of direct action.  You can guarantee that when you buy from Greener Greens, you are making a little difference to people, plants and planet.

We’re Backing British Farming, and it’s Exciting!

Today is Back British Farming day!  Did you know that UK food self-sufficiency is now just 61% – down from 75% in 1991?  The campaign by countryside magazine highlights acres of reasons why British farming deserves your support, as well as offering you the chance to make a real difference.

The day coincides with the week that we took part in Go! Organic –  a London-based festival encouraging people to take part in organic living. We built and constructed a pop-up farm shop for the people of London, at which we showcased five of our key British growers.

The event was a huge success, with people lining up to buy our produce! We were very proud to be able to shout about the growers  – Sunshine & Green, Cherry Gardens, Tablehurst Farm, Dynamic Organics and Sweet Apples Orchard. Daniel from Orchard Farm’s eggs also went down a storm.  We had several comments on the quality of our produce, with some people even asking if it was real – the ultimate compliment.

We pride ourselves on our growers and the quality of our produce and our British farmers who are working hard to enhance the British countryside, protect the environment, maintain habitats for native plants and animals and support wildlife species. Whether it’s helping birds get through the winter months by putting down seed, establishing woodlands and hedgerows to create habitat for animals or planting fields of pollen and nectar rich flower mixes to feed bees and butterflies, British farmers are taking action every day.

Our growers take real pride in the land that they grow on, and try to encourage and enhance wildlife every step of the way. For example, Jonathan at Cherry Gardens Farm collects fallen apples over the summer and stores them until the winter, when he puts them out for the birds that may be struggling with the frozen ground, and Blueberry Bob in Horsham practises biannual thinning and coppicing of  woodland on the farm, which has encouraged flora and shrubs such as bluebells, narcissi and snowdrops, buddleia and elder and has recently received a forestry commission grant for coppicing regeneration.

With the spirit of buying British in mind – it’s time to introduce our new line of BRITISH GROWN pulses and grains! We’ve started stocking Hodmedod’s, who specialise in British grown chick peas, spelt grain, lentils, and – for the first time – British grown Quinoa. We’re very excited to have them on board, and are hoping that you can revolutionise your cupboards and eat more of these protein-based little treasures, safe in the knowledge that they’ve come from a local grower with a transparent food chain.

Buying British has never been more important. With climate change, rising diet-related ill-health and widespread declines in our wildlife, the need to produce healthy food, cut food miles and protect our wildlife is getting more important. Choosing how we eat is a simple but powerful form of direct action:

 

1.BUY BRITISH

  • Buy British food with a transparent supply chain – so you know the journey that your food has taken to get to your table. This way you can ensure that your food is of the highest quality, and that the farmer who grew it has been cut a fair deal.

 

2. EAT WITH THE SEASONS

  • You can check out the Great British Larderto find out when British fruit and veg are at their best. It’s important to eat seasonal produce because that allows you to buy British all year round. This cuts food miles and guarantees that your food has come from a place of quality.


3. CARE FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE

  • British farmers are custodians of around 75% of the British countryside. It’s important that we too take responsibility for it too.  Whilst out enjoying the countryside, make sure you take your litter home, follow the countryside code, and if out with your four legged friends, keep them on a lead around livestock and pick up after them.


At Greener Greens we take pride in our growers. All of them are independent, certified organic or biodynamic, and take great pride in their produce. This shows in the quality of the produce in our boxes that we send out weekly. The farms that we collect from all take great steps to preserve and encourage their natural environments and habitats. If you shop with us, you can guarantee that you’re backing British farming.

Greener Greens at GO! Organic

GO! Organic festival is looming! We’re really busy building our stand, which will be entirely recycled and reused after the event. It’s all going up to a farm shop which is opening in Suffolk very soon after!

Throughout the weekend of the 8th and 9th of September the world of ethical and organic will be taking over Battersea Park to bring you an amazing couple of days of fantastic entertainment, insight, education and inspiration. Speak to producers & suppliers, eat wonderful organic food and drink, meet the farmers and hear about how living in the city doesn’t mean you can’t be organic!
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You’ll have the opportunity to buy sustainable products , enjoy live music, hear talks, see chefs in the Organic Kitchen and take part in lots of awesome activities & workshops for adults and kids.

We will be there with our fully themed and prop-heavy stand to shout about the quality of our food, the independent growers that we’re lucky enough to buy from (you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of our farmers too), and to launch our new 100% environmentally friendly and reusable box
es – in which all of the packaging is biodegradable or compostable, and the boxes are all recycled or FSC approved.

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We’ll also be launching a new product – UK grown pulses, beans and grains. They’re supplied by the wonderful independent business Hodmedod, which is the UK’s only supplier of organic beans, grans and pulses that are grown here.

 

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So, if you’re interested in coming along then we’ve got an exclusive discount code which will give you 1/3 off the price of a ticket! Just enter code ‘Greener33‘ at the checkout on the GO! Organic website to redeem this offer.

This Could Be It!

This could be it! The beginning of the return of our wildlife! This week, Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, announced the first agri-environment scheme directly funded by the UK – not Europe – as part of the preparation for post-Brexit farmland funding. It’s called ‘Payment by Results’ and rewards farmers for delivering environmental benefits to their land. It’s already being trialled in Suffolk and Norfolk as well as the Yorkshire Dales. DEFRA has now committed an extra £540,000 to extend the project, which is brilliant news for our wildlife, our environment and for our farmers, as this scheme will allow them to regain control over their land.

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In Suffolk and Norfolk, farmers are benefiting from planting nectar plots for bees and other pollinators as well as providing winter food for farmland birds during the ‘hungry gap’, while those in Wensleydale are focused on managing species-rich meadows. Sheep and cattle farmers managing grassland in the area have been rewarded for producing habitat suitable for breeding waders or managing species-rich meadows.

At a time where 40% of bird species worldwide are in decline and that one in eight species of birds is threatened with extinction as a direct result of intensive farming, this scheme is extremely important, and may well be the first step towards rebuilding our damaged farmland environment.  The aim of the scheme is to carry out further trials to find a model where “profitable farm businesses and environmental land management can co-exist and complement one another”.

“The Payment by Results pilot marks a shift in how we think about rewarding farmers for their work. This approach signals how we see the future of farm payments, where farmers deliver public goods for the environment which we all enjoy,” Gove has said.

Let’s hope that this scheme remains in place for the foreseeable future, as it could well mark the beginning of the rise in our bird & insect population.

 

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“I Can Get This Cheaper at Sainsbury’s”

This weekend two things happened – firstly, Tesco announced that it was going to merge with French supermarket chain Carrefour as part of a ‘strategic alliance’ to cut prices and become more of a force when buying from global producers. Secondly, the French organisation The Food Assembly sent an email to its UK members to let us know that they were pulling out of the United Kingdom to focus on their more successful assemblies across Europe.

These two occurrences are on entirely separate scales in terms of size – and for that reason the connection between the two may not be all that obvious. But the connection is there, and it is becoming increasingly common to hear of the big businesses and corporations going from strength to strength whilst small independents and high streets seem to be operating at an ever-worsening decline.

In July 2014  The Food Assembly launched in the UK, enabling the general public to purchase high-quality food while supporting small-scale producers who create jobs and foster social well-being.  Each Food Assembly is an independent and local project while remaining part of The Food Assembly collective. It is the local farmers and foodmakers and a unique community spirit that keeps the network alive.

Unfortunately, The Food Assembly business model that works so well across the rest of Europe just doesn’t work here. In fact, when the UK opened more Food Assemblies we actually bought down the average business volume per collection. Basically, we just didn’t have enough public interest in our Food Assemblies.
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There are many contributing factors to this. The main one is that small businesses just can’t compete with the cheap prices that supermarkets can offer. Small independent businesses like Greener Greens buy their ingredients, produce and stock at a fair price from reliable and ethical growers whilst supermarkets can squeeze farmers and suppliers as much as they like to get their prices lower and lower. Despite the fact that these prices cripple growers and producers, customers still buy into the lie of cheap food. As a small independent business who sell fresh produce that has been bought at a fair price, we see this first hand. All too often at markets we are asked “why is this so expensive?” or told that “I can get this cheaper at Sainsbury’s”.   Supermarkets are all too happy to sacrifice their growers and suppliers to ensure that people still buy their products – all too often compromising quality for cost. For as long as this happens, organisations that focus on community will never be able to thrive. The reason why the Food Assembly works so well in the rest of Europe is because many European countries recognise the importance of their local farmers and their community. Even supermarkets in Europe tend to sell local produce in each of their stores – because that’s what the consumers want.

 

So, as Tesco and Carrefour try to use their joint buying power to cut costs and offer lower prices to customers (as a reaction to Sainsbury’s and Asda merging to do the same thing to their suppliers), please remember that there are consequences to these actions.  Growers will continue to suffer, organisations like the Food Assembly will continue to disappear. Without local businesses and organisations there isn’t a community, and without community we really don’t have very much at all.

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We’d like to thank Jane of Woking & Guildford Food Assemblies for all of the enthusiasm and passion, not to mention the hard work, that she has put into organising and running both events. We at Greener Greens have had a wonderful experience with the Food Assembly, and hope to be able to keep providing their members with organic fresh produce in the future.

Pea Moth, Turnip Fly…Find the Link!

We hope that you had a weekend filled with bug-related activities! Even though National Insect Week is over, we’ve got one more post for you.  Last week’s blog was heavy on insects and a bit light on vegetables, so we’ve combined the two! Here are a few insects that share their names with vegetables & fruit:

Turnip Fly

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Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies. The larvae are white, legless and headless maggots that feed on the roots and can kill seedling and recently transplanted brassicas. There are three generations of cabbage root fly during the summer but it is the first generation in late spring-early summer that is often the most damaging to crops and garden vegetables.

Adult cabbage root flies resemble house flies in size and appearance. Later generations are less damaging to cabbages and other leafy brassicas, as older plants have larger root systems and are better able to tolerate the damage. Host plants where the root is the edible part, such as radish, turnip and swede, are damaged by any of the generations.

When fully fed, the larvae go into a brown pupal stage in the soil, either emerging as adult flies a few weeks later or remaining in that state overwinter.

 

Lesser Pumpkin Fly

It is similar to a fruit fly but, as its name suggests, it parasitises members of the pumpkin family. Its larvae can be found living in the flesh of pumpkins, courgettes and squash.

Dacus ciliatus is a pest of a wide range of crops in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. 

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Apple Maggot Fly

The adult form of this insect is about 5 mm long and is slightly smaller than a house fly, with a white dot on its thorax and a characteristic black banding shaped like an “F” on its wings. When threatened it turns its wings 90 degrees and moves them up and down whilst walking sideways; the combination mimics the appearance of it being a spider due to the wing pattern in the new position appearing as additional legs!

The apple maggot fly is native to North America.

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Pea Moth

Adult pea moths are plain grey/ brown in colour with small pale yellow markings on their sides. They are tent-shaped, have a 15mm wingspan and long antennae.  Larvae are small yellow/ white, dark headed caterpillars up to 6mm long.

Caterpillars wander the host plant for a day before entering a developing seed pod in which they feed for up to a month. Caterpillars emerge from the pods by eating their way out and over-winter in the soil as pupae in silken cocoons. You may find some of these in your garden if you grow vegetables as they’re native to the UK.

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