Category Archives: Ecology

On the other side of the fence the grass is always greener. Post BREXIT it MUST be for the sake of our green and pleasant land!

On the other side of the fence the grass is always greener.
Post BREXIT it MUST be for the sake of our green and pleasant land!

Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.

I have been grappling with the consequences of the referendum vote and have attempted to share with you my understanding about the EU directives for Nature and Farming subsidies. We all need to be more clued up as our government will begin to frame new legislation or perhaps include EU ones. We must ensure that the UK becomes Greener however muddy the grass looks now. Nature deserves the best from us.

By 2016, the EU under the direction of Member States and the European Parliament has achieved the world’s best record of comprehensive directives and legislation to ensure the environment we humans live in and the rest of the biodiverse species that live in or visit Europe are protected. Protected from habitat destruction, air and water pollution, climate change.  Considering the EU started out as an elite club for business this record in my mind and that of many British conservation organisations had been a good reason to vote remain.

Profit before planet or planet before profit is a way of deciding actions in a very complex world.  Dare we continue to decide profit first? There is a terrific decline in the numbers of migratory and farmland birds.  Add to that the decline in our diverse range of pollinators. We will all profit if we protect the diversity of the natural world.

The wildlife trusts made a statement about why they advocated remain but also stated that whatever the outcome  it would need all organisations that care about nature to step up and ensure environmental protection is continued and improved. The cliff we are really on the edge of is a climate that will make supporting diverse forms of life more difficult. Habitat destruction, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, reducing carbon emissions and preserving water are paramount to all life on earth. The EU directives attempt to address this.
In Britain we should be proud of the role we have played in this within the EU. As a public we support many conservation organisations like the RSPB and have a love for the British countryside and nature. Even political parties at different ends of the political spectrum; UKIP and the Green Party, their MEPs voted against any relaxation in the EU directives and legislation which protects our rapidly dwindling natural world.

David Attenborough expressed his concern about the environmental effect of leaving the EU. It is now the time for all of the public, whichever way we voted, and the charities that look after our beautiful and green England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hold our politicians to account and ensure that our precious natural places, wildlife and countryside are at the forefront of new legislation and will abide by the EU directives for nature.

BUT we also have the thorn in the side of farm subsidies. Subsidies to support hardworking farmers manage when crops or markets fail may seem a good idea. However, these payments to farmers, landowners have not been without controversy in the history of the EU. From an investigative journalism website there were details of where this EU collected money went to in each country. Now I knew some of this but when I began to look at the ones that had benefitted from very high amounts I was shocked. From a farmer in Romania being given a subsidy of 400 euros to the Duke of Westminster( considered the third richest person in the UK) receiving half a million. His Polish distributors, Cogent received over 8 billion in dairy subsidies. Now, this might mean support for many farmers in Poland but it seems a lot. Finally,  there has been a drive to reform these subsidies.

Examples of EU work to reform aspects of farm subsidies

Luxembourg (2012) ‘Greening Instruments – menu for
Member States within the EU framework’. Presented to the
Special Committee on Agriculture. April 2012.

European Commission (2012) Concept paper – May 2012
Agricultural Council – Greening
IEEP (2012) Agriculture and Rural Development –
European Parliament rapporteur reports and conference on shaping the future CAP
Defra feedback at CAP Greening Workshop held on 5 October 2012.
The National Trust & The Co-operative Farms – ELS+
in England post 2014 – Report
Cumulus Consultants Ltd & IEEP – CC-P-570
Issue: 2.0
Date: 21.11.12

The Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) reform is intended,
to address the challenges of climate change
and sustainable management of natural resources,
look after the countryside and help
make these subsidies …GREENER!

The E.U. pays out more than half its annual budget, around €53 billion, in farm subsidies, four times as much as the United States. The subsidies cost each European Union citizen around €110 a year, according to the European Commission, a healthy chunk for a family of four. The money is raised from customs duties, sales taxes and a contribution made by each E.U. country based on its wealth.

In order to make Farming and Environmental concerns link up and be more accountable there have been a variety of initiatives. Environmental Stewardship, Ecosystem Services and general Rural Development funding.

With the Brexit battlebus and the millions to be saved in money to the EU there has already been cries from various recipients of EU money to ensure continuity. Much has been invested by EU money through CAP, to charities like the National Trust with environmental concerns and other rural development funding. It seems in Cornwall there has been major investment in rural development and the plans were for this to continue into 2020.

I have read some interesting blogs on these and on ecosystem services and new ideas from the EU. Miles King Miles King
Jeff Ollerton Jeff Ollerton
Adrian Colston

The New York Times reports
At the same time, the E.U. was shifting more funds away from farmers to a rural development plan that paid out €8.5 billion last year. The idea was to wean the countryside off its addiction to subsidies by encouraging it to diversify.
The money, according to E.U. guidelines, could flow to any number of development objectives: organic farming, farm tourism, infrastructure, renewable energy products and rural businesses. National governments were given great leeway in choosing recipients.
e.g that is how a gravel manufacturer like Arids qualifies for farm subsidies, as did Pasquina, which collected €1.13 million for its new asphalt factory in Spain. The Spanish utility Endesa also was eligible — it received €466,000 for installing electrical connections.
Cargill — the mammoth food producer that is the largest privately held company in the United States, with revenues of €120 billion in 2008. Last year Cargill received at least €10.5 million, collecting subsidies in eight E.U. countries.http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/business/global/17farms.html?_
Other sources for this blog
Lawton, J.H. et al. (2010)
Making Space for Nature: a review of England’s wild
life sites and ecological network
Report to Defra.
The National Trust & The Co-operative Farms – ELS+
in England post 2014 – Report Cumulus Consultants Ltd & IEEP – CC-P-570
Issue: 2.0
Date: 21.11.12

 

The UK  government with our pressure
MUST
1. Ensure the same if not better level of environmental protection and strengthen the EU nature directives. The UK helped create them.
2. Ensure any subsidies for farming is linked into the already good work achieved by many landowners in Environmental Stewardship. Have high standards for nature, farm animals and sustainable farming.
3. Public accountability and transparency in how this becomes UK law and is abided by.
4. Involvement of a wide alliance of environmental organisations in the development of any new regulations, use of tax payers money for farm subsidies, and further progress in keeping England greener than green.

We must ensure we are not ‘fracked off’ into the sidelines of environmental progress. I am not sure but I believe our role in the EU has helped lead on this. We can still help and support other countries in the EU and elsewhere through e.g Birdlife International and other groups but we will have lost the power to really influence the way the EU moves forward on the environment. We may just be too busy dealing with the outcomes of this post brexit world on our own environment and lives.

There is the loss. Nature has no Borders. There needs to be cooperation and leadership at this time in the world’s history. Joined Up thinking.

SO we must ensure we are GREENER on all sides of any fences. Then maybe,  just maybe there would be no need for fences.

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Back home: June at Navasola, Wild flowers and Wicked ways. Never pick wild flowers. No recoge las flores salvaje.

‘Wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy. Leave them alone.’ The photo is of a wild iris for all to admire, part of the ecosystem for bees and pollinators, the plant needs to fulfil its life cycle to survive and reproduce.  Never pick wild flowers. No recogas flores salvajes. Some are very rare now and some extinct. Many are extremely poisonous. Best left alone!

I have spent over a month away from Navasola. While I have experienced snow in Dorset, spring  breezes in Rhodes and hot weather in London and Manchester during April and May the weather here in the South of Spain has been mainly wet. This desperate downfall of water has created an abundance of growth: wild flowers, bracken and high grasses. My vegetable garden is hard to see and also the rock flower garden. But with a bit of work I am getting it less sneeze inducing and for better or worse a bit less wild. I struggle with this but need a few patches where I can try and grow things. This is where I have to discern rare flowers from less rare but all have their part and I love seeing how so many can self seed. I leave many but the cultivated ones struggle to survive if overgrown with the wild ones!  Below is the view from my sanctuary window after a bit of work. I moved the lemon balm which had gone mad and put in a rose from Ruth. There are some wild ones in the photo, a local lily,  three wild alliums  and some to be named! This type of red rose is cultivated and irrigated in this area. It flowers for a long time and the bees love it.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1591

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1587

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy in the UK visiting friends, family and two lovely weddings and for the last week I have had friends and family to stay with me here. We have walked around the finca and found lots of different wild flowers and exuberant growth. Lotti, Ruth’s dog also found where the boar had been taking mud baths and had left their two toe prints. For a short while we had had a stream running into our pond and out the other side. I could have grown rice!

There are also lots of wild iris and foxglove about. Higher up on the hillside it is covered with pink silene and some white ones. There are also lots of yellow flowers and tolpis with tiny white snowflake flowers close to the ground. Too hard to photograph the beauty of such a spread.

Last year outside our gate there was a beautiful wild orchid which I photographed but not clearly enough. This year I was sent a message and we joked and using the expression from the German New Year comedy ‘same procedure as last year’ . Unfortunately, this year within the last few days, someone has come and picked the flower stem.  It seems that the wild iris  is picked too. It is such a shame when wild flowers are interfered with and the orchids are rare. I can only hope that the main part of the plant will be able to flower again. I’m sure it was my parents who used to say wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy, leave them alone. Now, it is a conservation issue too. Too much of the wild is being lost by human hands.

Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

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Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1477

 

 

 

Now I am back I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can  while trying to grow my own veg and finish that novel about the wild ones.

The White tailed Bumblebee; A persona poem.

Bombus Lucorum’s  Dramatic monologue or Persona Poem

( Her thoughts while being photographed in January at Finca Navasola, Sierra Aracena Spain)

bee close up

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may well know me as just a mere bumbling bee

But I am more clever than you think.

My lineage is pre Linnaeus *and to our own kind

We keep ourselves. It’s only you who can confuse

And give us a Bombus Lucorum complex.

If you observe more carefully

And observe you must

Our whiter than white tails, our yellow bands.

But we are more deceptive than you think:

We will not help to pollinate

We merely take the nectar sweet

With proboscis purposefully evolved,

Or tongue for you non latinates,

Adapted slowly over time.

 

I fear I speak abruptly for your kind of kind.

My life is too worn out with weary work.

My genes do not give me the time

To rest inside a burrowed hole,

Like her, with constant demands for more and more.

 

Today you see us swinging from bright flowers;

The yellow sun was kind when first we left.

Our Lady Queen insistent on our following

The path of workers gone before.

We serve, we serve the future of our kind.

We work and work and have no time

Like you to stand and stare.

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Why does the weather change like this?

The stem I have to cling to fast.

The wind is strong too strong too strong for us.

My sister worker in a gust falls into fallen leaves,

So wet with days of rain, her wings can’t fly,

Too weak with days without the chance of food.

The rain it comes with furious speed.

So wet, too wet on dripping leaves.

So near, so far from the desire to feed

On flowers few in this so cold a Spring.

Why did our Lady think this was the time to breed?

So warm it was and then the weeks of rain.

The wind now stronger I too fear I’ll fall

Be blown away far from the way back home.

I fear today we came too far

Too far.

I fear today we came too far.

 

P1100422

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Linnaeus 1761

THANKS TO

  1. Wikipedia for so much information in one place on the White tailed Bumblebee   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_bumblebee
  2. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust. And ideas to be  BEE KIND

 

This was prompted by a prompt from Dverse Poets  http://dversepoets.com/ on creating another Persona. This is a great poetry website to check out and follow links to some diverse poetry and blogs on Mr Linky.

At present this persona style is a particular challenge to me with a story I am writing about the wild. I am caught between wanting to keep the creatures wild and not really speaking but also  with the need to create empathy for the struggles they have in our very current climate.

I hope the photos are of white tailed bumblebees. Please inform me if you think otherwise! The ones on the Christmas, Butchers Broom post were the slurred and blurred ones and I have been trying ever since.  With my friend Madeleine’s Fuji camera she took one of the bumblebee on a fallen leaf. The other day when it was sunny in the morning I found two bumblebees on the yellow daisies. They were struggling as the wind was getting stronger and then it started to rain again. One fell somewhere. I put out some sugar water in case they needed more food. I wonder if they did get back to their hive. As there were two they were possibly the worker bees. A queen will usually emerge in early February and look for food and begin to build up reserves and to lay their female worker eggs. I wonder here if these bees have emerged earlier because of the warm weather in December. Nature is so incredibly complex and so well adapted over millennia. At present these bees have certain skills to help them survive but as the climate is less predictable and more extreme there may be more problems foe even the common species.

A Flutterby of Butterflies. Summer 2015 in the Sierra Aracena.

This year from May to early July has not only been a feast of wild flowers for me to discover and try to identify but also of so many different butterflies. My working walk into my allotment area is bordered with wild scabious which I had decided not to cut back. I was rewarded with being able to walk back and forth through butterflies resting and sometimes arguing over key flowers. It seems to be the wild scabious that they love. With its long stems it bounces up and down as you pass. It also moves gently with the butterflies and the wind and this does not make for easy photographs. A lot have been blurred. After my working walk with the wheelbarrow and scythe I walked up to the Era in the early evening.here we can check on water levels in the deposit and decide whether to pump up more before I start to water. I was flabbergasted by the flutterby of so many more butterflies up there. But then there were so many more flowers. More field scabious, but also pink centuary, and yellow curry plant and many different grasses. The Era had been a levelled out stony threshing area for grain. Possibly used back in the 1920s. We had cleared it several years ago, strimmed and scythed. However, as there were so many flowers on this area last year I decided to do nothing in September. This year I have been rewarded with more flowers and a terrific range of butterflies, albeit with photos all mainly on the scabious. Apart from the swallowtail which seems to like the bushes near the house and the cement left over from the water butt. Hopefully, it will not be a casualty of human so called progress. We hope we are nearly done with any more awful cement mixing and will have a fairly sustainable way of life and comfortable house.   .

The era meadow with house roof
The era above the house. Once used for threshing and now seems to be a butterfly haven.
BBMay to June 2015 and House MArtins 163
Painted Lady on Scabious.
Blog B or wild flowers Scabious and Wall brown or meadow brownEnd of May 2015 Finca flowers 043
Wall or Meadow Brown?
yellow butterfly on era
Clouded Yellow
Larger fritillary on era
Cardinal, large on Scabious!
Large yellow white butterfly
Brimstone on Scabious
yellow butterfly
Probably a clouded yellow as can see the dots!
Swallowtail butterfly
Scarce swallowtail.
small yellow on scabious
Must be our favourite flower. Wild Field Scabious in Southern Spain. Sierra Aracena.

One butterfly missing from the photo shoot is the two tailed pasha . This beautiful butterfly needs the madrono, arbutus unedo, as a place for its eggs. There are plenty of these around the house but maybe this year there have been too many disturbances. There are also many more places for this bewitching butterfly and its peculiar desire for urine. One of my last photos some years ago were of it drinking my dog’s pee. And sorry can’t find that one to add to the collection. However quite pleased with the LUMIX camera and the details. But can’t get hold of the photo editing to crop it and show the eyes and delicate wings yet. Life here in the Sierra is far more comfortable with our solar power but we still haven’t solved our wifi access unless in a bar or the local library. But the library is a cool break as the heat of the summer is rising well into the mid 30s here.

Yellow is the colour of……..Botany studies in yellow

And with thanks to Opher’s World for nominating me for some blogging awards. Check Opher out as there are plenty of references to the great music of the 60s, Dylan, definitely and maybe Donovan! But Opher Goodwin has written some great books and one that he has shown extracts of is about Anthropocene Collapse. I love one of the futures he envisages where we as a species do survive and also keep 50% of the Earth wild. Here’s to some of the wild flowers at Finca Navasola. It’s always amazing where they pop up.

Tolpis
Tolpis and so much sun makes photo difficult. A lot of radiating light.

 

A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower Rays often closed again within the bud.
A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower rays often closed again within the bud.

Yellow is the colour of these wild flowers in the morning.
Yellow is the colour of the Thapsia, tall and elegant from dawn to dusk.
Yellow is the colour of the many, many daisy and dandelion types.
Yellow is the colour that vibrates so bright
Bringing more than just the sunshine’s light.
Bringing the joy of nature’s alluring fight
For the future, the next day, the next year, not the night.

A poem to capture the variety of flowers seen at Navasola this May and June. I had to start identifying through colour as this seemed easier than botanical keys and I had got stuck with 26,000 within the daisy family. Thankfully, we have various books and our own survey which helps narrow this down. But it is still a challenge as there were about five different kinds in yellow. As I was more confident with a range of other flowers I focused on trying to narrow down the daisy types. As we move into June some of this variety are already turning to seed but there are still more to feed the interest of the range of butterflies about. Another post or poem on those!

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Perforate St John’s Wort
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Thapsia, tall and elegant.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
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Leontodon Hispidus I think!
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A wild euphorbia. Yellowish. With wasp with very waspish waist!
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Curry plant and very aromatic
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A lone yellow dahlia facing the bedroom window. At least some things grow well without too much water in my real rock garden.

 

A Wild Welcome Back! All alive and well at Navasola! Or on the Verges of a dilemma. When to cut back ? What is best to help improve biodiversity?

Where to start? We were back at Navasola and nature had begun its takeover. We were greeted with abundance but not of our own making. As I walked around though I was astounded by the variety of wild flowers. Wild poppies, wild irises joined the wild gladioli and all mainly around the overgrown verges of the main tracks. In the rock garden I looked for my additions and was greeted by dahlia and lilies growing up through a mayhem of other plants. The Melissa had grown strong and high too. And I saw a beautiful small purple flower I had not noticed before. This intrigued me till I walked over to the veggie field and there it was in great abundance. The vegetable garden was overgrown to at least waist height with this variety of vetch. There was a slightly squashed trail and I followed it to the fruit patch and where our friend had planted some tomatoes and peppers for us. The following night we ate the habas beans that had survived so at least had some home produce!

Wild roses over my magical path
Wild roses over my magical path
Very vetching!
Very vetching!
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Wild poppy amid grown coriander

Priorities? Well, on with my botany as this was the time to really get to grips with all the extras that were on show. Over the other side of the Finca and up a more chalky hill there were carpets of pink. I had never seen so much of the silene last year. This and more beautiful toadflax. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this and when I returned to this South Eastern side a week later there were just a few remains of the pink spread.The weather had been hot and dry and this is the next stage for the Mediterranean flora. Grow well while you can and withdraw to reseed when it is hot and dry. During that week though I had been busy taming my veg patch with a scythe, and then having to tame hay fever which I hadn’t suffered from last year. There were so many amazing sculptures of different kinds of grasses. But there is only so much I can do and post. More on my attempts to identify the daisy and dandelion types and much more in future blogs. It seems the summer is the time to be out and to post about all the natural wonders. Another dilemma. Reading other blogs it is amazing the diversity around the world and so much to say and view at this time.

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Wild iris
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Phlomis
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Olives blossoming
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Pink centaury amidst a meadow of much more.

Navasola has quite a few wild meadows but a lot of the variety of wild flowers does seem to be appearing on the verges of paths and tracks. It was interesting to read an article in The Guardian about advice as to when to cut the public verges by roads in the UK. It seems that this is the last bastion of wild flower variety and good for pollinators. However a recent post by Jeff Ollerton seemed to suggest leaving the cutting to much later than July and August as there are so many pollinators that need those flowers then. And with changes in climate these creatures may need more time too. I have made a decision at the moment to do as little as possible in cutting down. I didn’t cut down the wild flower meadow on the Era last year, it is full of even more flowers now. However I did decide to reopen paths into the veg garden and try and use the vetch for mulching and compost. There are also areas where the grass might need to be kept back because of my allergy to it. I also get red skin if in contact with some forms of grass. Annoying as I want to be out and about. It seems to me that closely observing the interconnection between plants, insects and animal life is key to helping enable biodiversity. Any advice is always welcome and when I have more wifi I will try and explore some of those blogs which have such a wealth of information.

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Daisy family….possibly a mayweed.
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My favourite scarlet but blue pimpernels
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Bladder campion, named on walk with N.
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Small but adds to a very aromatic environment. Pitch.
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Wild and overgrown verges.
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Oat type grass: one of many rising high above.
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Overgrown rock garden but with lily ready to come out.
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Overgrown front garden but lavender, mint and winter jasmine all growing well too!
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Wild gladioli, hop trefoil and a campanula all brightening up the building site!
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Veg patch overgrown but strawberries and raspberries growing strong.
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More common vetch!
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Wild poppy, with flowering coriander and planted flowers behind.

Bird Biodiversity Poem 0n the Sea Shore

Today we are going to do identification of birds,
Birds on the seashore, birds out at sea,
Birds whose names meant nothing to me.
I must now make a spell and chant out the words.

Ringed plover
Ringed plover

Kentish plover, Ringed plover,
Little ringed plover too,
Golden plover, Grey plover,
Dotterel make a few,
and let’s not confuse
Dunlin, Sanderling, with Knot,
Green Shank with Red Shank
Or take a Stint or two.

Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.
Grey plover in adult winter plumage. Pluvialis squatarola.

That’s just the start
of the spell we need to weave,
If we go to the seashore,
Where there’s a chance to breathe.

Breathe deep and wonder
The vast variety of birds.
Stand in awe and thunder
Storms brewing words

Words we never knew
Words which are a sign
Words in different languages
For birds at the end of a line.

Will we never know
How many we have lost
Far out at sea
Can we count the cost?

Cabanas Sunday 032curlew back

The curlew is out there
With its haunting cry.
The whimbrel is whimpering
The waters have run dry.

Kentish plover, Ringed plover,
Little ringed plover too,
Golden plover, Grey plover,
Dotterel make a few,
and let’s not confuse Dunlin,
Sanderling, with Knot
Or lose a Stint or two.

Cabanas Sunday 013