by Paul Cormacain
OVER the years there have been many competitions which incorporated the young and the old, the good and the bold, the hims and hers, the wee ones and the big ones, and others. But now the Wildlife Trust have come up with something entirely different, something I had never even heard of, something I could never even have thought up. The original competition is a hedge laying one.
The thinking behind the competition is perfectly straight forward. Get folk talking about hedges, get them involved in hedges, get them thinking hedges.
A hedge laying competition is so far fetched that folk are bound to talk about it. The more they talk about hedges, the more will they start to realise what fantastic places for wildlife the hedges are.
This competition is a first, and it is going to be held at Cnoc Caim, or Knoccairn, near Dundrod, outside Lisburn. The date is Saturday 13th November. Visiting some friends last week, I saw at first hand the importance of hedges. There were trees, loosely forming a hedge, between our friends' garden and the house next door. The next door neighbour felled a tree. It fell in the friends' garden, and did not harm the beautiful sculpture and growth next door. The friends were incensed, forbade any work on the fallen log in their garden, and talked about growing more trees that would only harm the neighbours. Like I say, hedges are very important things.
A hedge composed of trees can be excellent visually, can be good to shelter under from the rain, and has a certain limited use for wildlife. The hedges the Wildlife Trust are publicising are of greater importance to wildlife.
Hedges can act as wildlife corridors where the likes of hedgehogs can move from one field to an other, along a hedge, and not be visible to their enemies.
Young birds can feel safe in a good hedge, they can learn to fly short distances, they can remain invisible to cats or hawks, they can team about what food is good, what food is available. They can learn to communicate with others of their species in safety.
They can look out at the world in safety, and mama and papa can teach them about life.
Young birds can get food in hedges, and they can safely be taught about what is good for them, what is not. They can learn about the future, when they will have to build their own nests, and many birds nest in hedges.
At the base of a hedge you may find a yellow hammer's nest. I have frequently seen robins' nests in them. Many finches take to hedges, and they take shelter, find food, and build nests there. Thrushes use hedges, and blackbirds will be found there as well. Needless to say the hedge sparrow, correct name hedge accentor, lives in hedges, nests in hedges, feeds in hedges. Then there are the warblers and the tits, all to be found in hedges. Are you beginning to see why the Wildlife Trust is putting so much emphasis on hedges?
We have mice in this country, and pigmy shrews. Were you aware that these animals also use hedges? They live there, hide there, breed there. I remember seeing one pigmy shrew who was not too happy with his hedge home. He had managed to get himself impaled on a blackberry bush thorn, and how he did it I will never be able to understand. But he was in agony, was screaming with the pain, and did not even stop to say 'thanks' to me for freeing him.
Many hedges have a selection of flowering plants growing in them. And what creatures like flowers? Well, there are the butterflies and moths, distributing pollen and giving pleasure. Then the ants, they are great ones for hedge bases. Bees and wasps frequently find a hole at the base of a hedge, perhaps a hole abandoned by a mouse, and they set up home in it.
If the base of the hedge is damp, why the frogs will be attracted to it. Then there are the newts, the water creatures we used to catch when we were children, they also like a damp base. The competition is being held on the farm belonging to a member of the Wildlife Trust. It is due to start at llam. It is geared to enthusiastic amateurs, as we do not have any full time professional hedge layers. So why not go along, or better still, why not enter? Bring a friend or two, talk about hedges, learn some more about them, and I hope the weather stays good.
If you require any more information, please phone Victoria Meredith or Dawn Miskelly on 4483 0282.
Saturday 13th November - Wildlife Trust Hedgelaying Competition. Phone Victoria Meredith, on 4483 0282, for more info.
Tuesday 16th November - At Lagan Valley Island Arts Centre, 7.30, 'Playing With The Elements', phone Catherine on 9038 3152 for details.
Monday 22nd November - Hear Jim Wells on Irish raptors in Friends' Meeting House, Lisburn, at 7.30, more from 92661982.