NO Mow May is a great initiative, but it’s one that is set to cause a bit of friction in the Dúlra household.
Dúlra hasn’t yet broken news of the new campaign not to cut lawns to the chief gardener, the one and only Mrs Dúlra. The garden has yet to be cut this year and, in the past week, the growth has been incredible. But still we’re only one-third through May and, according to the new rules, it can’t be cut for 20 more days. Dúlra wasn’t brave enough to bring up the fact that there’s a ban on cutting the lawn this month – so he hopes that instead she just finds out by reading this.
It’s believed that by simply leaving your lawn alone for the month of May you can make an important contribution to wildlife. By actually doing nothing you will free the wildflowers in your garden. Lawns may look great to us, but they’re dead zones for nature. And already Dúlra’s liberated lawn has thrown up a whole kaleidoscope of wildflowers. And those flowers are attracting pollinators. The number of bees has clearly increased, but Dúlra is hoping that one unusual insect in particular is given a new lease of life – the daddy-long-legs.
Snáthadán – knitting needle – in Irish, they seemed to be everywhere when Dúlra was young – especially in the house. Today, those gangly insects are rarely seen, at least by Dúlra. Although they thrive in damp areas, they will lay their eggs in long grass and indeed any wild area. Unfortunately Mrs Dúlra suffers from arachnophobia and she won’t welcome the possibility of daddy-long-legs getting trapped in her hair, so maybe Dúlra will keep that objective to himself.
But he did see one insect in the garden this week that will impress her: a green-veined white butterfly, which breeds on plants including the cuckooflower, which is already growing on the uncut lawn. Dúlra’s not sure if any bluebells will burst forth like they did this week on Black Mountain to coincide with the community festival named after them, Féile na gCloigíní Gorma. But he's hoping.
The swifts and house martins which have just arrived from Africa will surely appreciate the extra insects that will be created. It’s incredible to think that they spend all day plucking food from the sky, insects that we don’t even know are there!
Irish society is clearly incapable of dealing with the biodiversity crisis. The cutting of hedgerows and draining of land by farmers is being turbo-charged in the countryside all around Belfast. In recent decades wildlife was pushed to the fringes, but now even that fringe is being obliterated.
We don’t own that land, but we do control our gardens, or even just those window boxes that can be allowed to become a mini-meadow. Of course Dúlra’s not looking forward to June 1.
That’s going to be a long day’s work for him as Mrs Dúlra stands watching!
• So far no swifts or house martins have taken up residence in the nestboxes under the roof. Their calls are being blasted out into the sky from morning to night, but there have been no takers.
Swifts are still arriving from Africa this week, they only spend 100 days here while they breed and last night Dúlra’s heart jumped when he spotted two flying over the house. But at that very time, the recording was of the house martin’s call rather than the swift’s – each lasts about 20 seconds – and the two birds continued on their way. Trying to lure them is like trying to catch a trout. You clearly need patience – and a bit of luck!
• A blackbird was singing his heart out this week when Dúlra walked past it in a back lane in Belfast city centre - it’s probably the most confident bird in the city.
Because the bird has managed to use the barbed wire as a protective blanket – sitting singing on the fence under the twisted wire. He's a smart bird – no raptor or seagull will ever get near him there!
If you've seen or photographed anything interesting, or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.