Oh look Barnabas! A bumblebee. Barnabas was ushered to the front of the gaggle and required to watch the bumblebee work its way along the path fringe.
It seems incredible to me that we have reached a point so rapidly that a bee is regarded as something noteworthy. I have never feared bees for their stings. They always struck me as rather endearing. I knew a beekeeper or two and they seemed to get along just fine with the hives at the head of the garden. I liked honey too which helped. I am sure I am suffering from selective memory but didn’t every Clover have a bee on it?
The humble bee is it seems now in serious decline. Hence the call to Barnabas I heard this morning as Mrs. Ha and I walked the reserve. A bee is now an object of scarcity and for some of us, desire. Who would not want their plants and crops pollinated? Well the makers of Neonicotinoid pesticides seem fairly ambivalent about that one. It is not certain but the body of evidence is growing that so-called Neonics are causing what has been termed colony collapse disorder. I quote from Wikipedia
A dramatic rise in the number of annual beehive losses noticed around 2006 spurred interest in factors potentially affecting bee health. When first introduced, neonicotinoids were thought to have low-toxicity to many insects, but recent research has suggested a potential toxicity to honey bees and other beneficial insects even with low levels of contact. Neonicotinoids may impact bees’ ability to forage, learn and remember navigation routes to and from food sources. Separate from lethal and sublethal effects solely due to neonicotinoid exposure, neonicotinoids are also being explored with a combination with other factors, such as mites and pathogens, as potential causes of colony collapse disorder. Neonicotinoids may be responsible for detrimental effects on bumble bee colony growth and queen production.
So is this DDT all over again? I recommend reading A Buzz in the Meadow by Mark Goulson. All I can say is that is a sad day indeed when a child has to be exhorted to look at a bee. I have always planted to encourage insect life but now more than ever I shall be ensuring the new garden is organic and bee friendly.
The rest of the walk was more fruitful. The number of Water Rails I am seeing surprises me. I even saw a pair this morning. I suspect they were Mr. & Mrs. and a jolly good thing too if that means more Water Rails. Am I simply more observant 15 years on or is the rather dandy Water Rail more common than before?
Then there was the Water Vole. Nibbling away at the side of the river until I decided I might hazard a photo. It immediately plopped into the water and paddled upstream to the refuge of the distant reeds. A rare sighting for me but one that is by no means unusual according to the reserve brochure. Ratty is back. Mrs. Ha took some convincing that this was not one of the HK rats that had tracked us down, determined to wreak its revenge for having been evicted from our last home. I had to admit that the WV is indeed a rodent and yes it does look like a rat. However the WV is much fatter, has longer fur, a much more agreeable disposition and is, in short, an all round good egg. And of course it swims readily, an aqua-rat, unlike the rural rats that lounged around in Sai Kung gorging themselves on restaurant leftovers.
My final treat was a decent view of a Cetti’s Warbler. CW has a loud, short, explosive call that is a bit of a give away. It is though a denizen of the reed beds and doesn’t flaunt itself the way the Reed and Sedge Warblers might do. It deserves the epithet of skulker more than most LBJs. I now have a site on the reserve where a short pause will usually be rewarded with its call. Seeing the blighter is more challenging and sometimes the rustle in the reeds is a Wren not a Cetti’s. Today however was Easter Sunday and the Cetti’s Warbler rose today. Hallelujah! Well, rose is perhaps a minor exaggeration. It hopped around at the base of the reeds for a good 10 seconds. Exactly enough time for me to grab the camera and say ‘Bugger. It’s gone.’
I doubt very much whether Barnabas saw the vole, the warbler or the rail. But perhaps, just perhaps, he saw the rarest of the species on show today, the humble bumblebee. Now there’s a worrying thought.