Ross Laugher

Joined: Jul 31, 2020 Last Active: May 18, 2024 iNaturalist United Kingdom

Lifelong love of nature from about 4-years of age; having moved out of London after the War to the small village of Stoke Row in Oxfordshire in 1946, to grow up in the middle of a wood! I went to sleep to the sound of nightjars! Roamed the woods on my own. At about 5 found adders and watched then basking in the sun. Badgers, foxes, Fallow deer, stoats, red squirrels, rabbits seen all the time. Birds galore! At 12 worked on a local farm during holidays and weekends. Especially loved birds. Did BTO territory records for some 10-12 years. Trained for four years under Dr James Monk as a ringer, beginning in 1975. Spent 30 years ringing with him and sending all records yearly to the BTO. We took over the whole area of South Stoke by the River Thames from the eyot to the 4-arches Brunel Bridge ... on the way to North Stoke. Did nest records of all sorts of birds but mainly warblers: Sedge, Reed (+ Cuckoo), Blackcap, Garden warbler, Common and Lesser Whitethroat ... and the first ever Oxfordshire recorded Cettis warbler. Moult study and record cards. Wrote a paper for the Owl Society on Barn owl pellets. Used Longworth traps and recorded all the small mammals in that area, plus Yellow-necked field mouseNorthof the Thames! Made studies of Sepia nemoralis and all the minute snails which abounded in the Goring area. Always did pellet analysis to determine what the kestrels, buzzards et alia were feeding upon. Firstwardenof Hartslock ... before thecaravan arrived! Found 11 species of orchid species in the Goring Valley.
I was a teacher beginning in 1962, and concluded my career, after 20 years as a Headteacher, in 1997.
I began encouraging Red and Blue Mason bees to the garden.
Id always adored gardening, since starting with my mother about 5-years, and always kept a tidy and attractive garden. Then listened to a programme by Monty Don relating that some 98% of our wild flower meadows had gone since the war. I was already aware of the drop in honey bee numbers to my garden. Have always watched Chris Packham and the Team with Soring and Autumn Watches. He also exhorted listeners to get involved with some rough areas left in the garden and pleaded for listeners to put in a pond. Sir David Attenboroughs remarkable programmes also regularly made the point re our disappearing wildlife. So, in 2018 I decided to wild my back garden. Dug out all the lawn grass down to about 9 or more inches, ordered and covered the whole dug area to about a foot deep in non-rich soil, then purchased Meadowmats and covered the whole area. That was disappointing for all I had the following year was endless amounts of Ribbed plantain when promised some 32 species of wild flowers including four grasses. So, then set to with plugs to get real wild flowers underway. I have put a sample of the wild flowers I now have in my garden on iNaturalist. I have now started on the front garden, which I allow to just grow. At the end of the season I use my strimmer as a scythe and cut the grass for bedding for the hedgehogs. This year I have neither strimmed nor mown, just allowing nature to tell me what she has with which to surprise me. I take the seeds of the different plants and spread them into new areas. The changes are amazing and the joy enormous. So far, 25 species of bee recorded, 15 species of butterfly and now with my mentor, Chris Raper, reaching towards a 100 species of moths caught in our moth trap collections. Charms of goldfinch come into the garden and feed on the knapweed seeds, The Hummingbird Hawk moth must be overwintering for it was with the early queens racing to my ribes for their first feeds. It always came to my buddleia, but now moves along the knapweed like a hedge feeding all the way. The pond has its water skaters and water boatman and 13 frogs with newts breaking the surface . At this point I will stop before being completely carried away. But one thing I should note that is of great importance. I live in a bungalow in Tilehurst, Reading, surrounded by houses and busy roads. My front and back gardens are not large! My pond very small ... about 5long! I dont run a car anymore, but have wilded my garden to the point that I dont need to leave my garden to be out in the countryside ... Im already in it!
My studies now are looking into which species are coming and are already here and what is the ecological relationship between each and every one of them to what I am providing e.g. nesting moths on my stinging nettles and the plants I provide ... such as the Mullein moth and my Dark Mullein, and the Campion moth and my Red and White Campion. What is feeding on my Corn Cockle, Hemp Agrimony. Ox-Eye daisies, Yellow and Purple Toadflax, St Johns Wort, Birds Foot Trefoil? All questions to be answered tomorrow.

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