Saturday, 12 September 2015

Big Butterfly Count 2015

What with my new garden having little by way of flowers or larval food plants and therefore something of a green desert, and the generally cool, windy, showery weather we've had this summer, I wasn't expecting to record many butterflies for Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count. Sadly, I was right.

The idea is to count butterflies (and some of the day flying moths) and record the maximum number of each species during a 15 minute period.  Presumably the short period is to reduce the risk of double (or multiple) counting. Result for the first several attempts = none. Then I decided that a given session should start with me seeing a butterfly, then watching for another 15 minutes to see if another one turned up. I achieved a few records by doing this over a couple of days at the end of July.

Then I got really busy with preparations for the Cardigan Belly Dance Festival. I had another go during lunch break during the festival workshops at Small World Theatre on the last day of the Big Butterfly Count. It was lovely and sunny, and there's a small patch of lovely plants in front of the kitchen area (including lavender and cardoons). Not a single butterfly visited while I was watching! Then I was having so many problems with my computer/browser (I ended up on the Norton helpline until the early hours at one point) that logging my results completely slipped my mind. When I finally remembered and went in to do it, the results page was closed. So here, for what it's worth, are my results:
Wall Lasiommata megera

1 Peacock Inachis Io
1 Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
1 Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
1 Small White Pieries rapae
2 Large White Pieris brassicae
1 Wall Lasiommata megera

The two Large Whites were together. The Wall is a UK BAP research species and I think I only saw one once back at the farm. I called in there the other day, when it was lovely, warm and sunny, to drop off and pick up a few things. The Buddleias were smothered in butterflies, all jostling each other for space on the flower heads. There was even a blue butterfly flitting around some ivy. I would have needed my clicker to count them all. (I wonder where it is; I haven't found it in my unpacking yet.) I didn't have my camera on me, either. Just my luck!

Perhaps by next year, the several small Buddleias I have in pots will be planted out, ready to flower and become covered in butterflies on a sunny day!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

40 Minutes a Day

My car radio is usually tuned to BBC Radio 4 and I sometimes catch something interesting while driving.  Sometimes I catch the same fragment of a programme twice. It happened this week, when I caught concert pianist James Rhodes talking about his memoir and briefly about what you can achieve by practising something for 40 minutes a day. The latter is not new; he wrote about it in his blog for the Guardian a couple of years ago. It started me thinking about time management, and quality time.

I'm often aware that I think I am busier than I actually am, and it's because I am allowing activities to linger; the old adage that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. At the moment, I am 'time-rich', and the luxury of it has meant that I've started to forget good time management practice and have started to drift. That repeated fragment of programme was a sign, a wake-up call.

I often hear 'I would love to belly dance/knit/crochet/sew/draw/paint/meditate/do yoga/get fitter'. What it comes down to is how much you really want to do it. Everybody needs some time to themselves to follow their passion, but it can be very difficult to make that time, especially when you generally feel so exhausted, all you want to do is sleep or veg out in front of the TV, without even really paying attention to what you're watching. I also suspect that hobbies are devalued, considered to be something that should have low or no priority, a remnant of the ethos which demands work before leisure, duty before pleasure.

So, do you really want to? Yes? It's too easy to find excuses why you don't, so play What If? What if you got your partner to look after the children one night a week (it's not a big ask, really, is it?). What if you ask your friends to club together to pay for the course of classes as your combined birthday/Christmas present? What if you arrange a car share to and from the classes? What if you steal a little time to yourself by getting up a little earlier some mornings a week to have a quick practice? What if you stop doing something else which you enjoy, but maybe isn't so important really, like those cups of frankly not-very-good chain-store coffee which masquerade as a treat and time to yourself? What if you and the other friends you meet down the pub all go and do something else one night a week, for far less than the price of a round of drinks? What if you ignore the demands of social media for a little while? Apparently, 40 minutes a day is what the average user spends on Facebook in the US. What if you found a way to do what you think you would love to do?

Why 40 minutes? It's generally accepted as the length of time most people can concentrate or sustain their attention on a topic or task before they need a break. It is also sufficient to practise and play without getting too frustrated, and to make some progress. It may be slow, but it's still progress. It doesn't have to be 40 minutes - if you can only manage 30 minutes, or even 20 minutes three times a week, it's still better than nothing.

I started thinking about what I might dedicate some time to. The trouble is, I can think of a dozen things and would have trouble picking one to focus on. Such a wealth of delicious possibilities.

If you're thinking about it too, I would love to know what you would spend your 40 minutes a day doing. Why not leave a comment?