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Copy Cow Garden Birding for an Ark-i-type of Naturalist

colobus_trek_ANP

A wildlife tour group, as here, is escorted by an armed ranger to protect them from wild cattle (i.e. African Buffalo) into the deep and shady evergreen forest of Arusha National Park in northern Tanzania. Here we may observe not only leaf-chewing Colobus Monkeys and Gentle Monkeys, up close and highly personable too, but also a great variety of afrotropical forest birds and some magnificent butterflies.

front_step_patches

We can’t go birding in the National Parks and protected areas as often as we would wish. So we must bring Nature to our doorstep. To garden effectively for wildlife I have found, since 1983 when I started “Conservation Gardening” back in England, that one has to throw out a lot of ecological preconceptions. The first and most important lesson is understanding that most ecosystems need some serious cyclical disturbance in order to be more fully productive. Here you can see some recent, pre-rains, disturbance outside our front steps. It’s not everybody’s ‘cup of tea’ but certainly hooches with wildlife.  In many ecoregions ideally you’ll need some kind of cattle. But in the absence of unmedicated cows one has to improvise. Obviously we’re not having anything to do with biocides such as avermectin or diclofenac et al. which may render cattle dung extremely toxic to most fly and beetle species. Cows are the single most important mammalian bridge to healthy diversity. For thousands of years they have been a link between our “ersatz ecosystems” of organic farming, gardening and the former “wild wood”. Without room for cattle we import their “waste products” from a nearby farm and attempt to replicate their trampling, wallowing and browsing just as if they were here – walking daily through “our garden”. It’s not an easy task, but it is much better to be a Copy Cow than there be no cattle action whatsoever in the garden.

a_mesh_of_lantana

Alien plants are tolerated to a degree if they support a significant number of animal species. However in the case of Lantana camara such tolerance requires extreme vigilance, and daily intervention, as this species can grow at nearly a centimetre a day in the warm wet season of November-February.

seed_patch_landrover

Indigenous cereal seed is scattered at certain times of the year to attract granivorous birds, such as doves and weavers,  who in return gently fertilise the woodland floor, after their morning feeding period, particularly below their favoured perches in the canopy.

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