Since having Covid last month I've been struggling to get back to a normal level of activity, and I've ended up dealing with just the most urgent tasks from my to-do list and letting everything else drift. This hasn't been an entirely successful policy, if I'm honest, and the sense of things getting out of control has added to my stress load, but you can only do what you can do, and I have been quite unwell. After spending so long walking around Croome yesterday I feared that I'd be ill again today, but this morning I didn't feel too bad, and I took this as a sign that it was now time to start getting a grip on things. So R and I applied ourselves to two projects that have long since ceased to be merely urgent, and were in imminent danger of being so overdue that there was no point tackling them at all. And happily we managed to complete them both, which has given my morale a boost.
The bigger and more critical of our tasks was to tidy the wildlife pond and net it for the winter, to prevent falling leaves from fouling the water. If I tell you that this hoverfly was basking on the uppermost of several layers of leaves on the pond surface, you'll get some idea of how bad the situation had become. In the end I filled a large rubbish bucket with a combination of rotting leaves and the overgrowth of various pond plants, which I cut away as I was clearing the surface. The water below was cloudy and smelled quite strong, but this pond was a well-balanced environment before this autumn's neglect, and I just have to hope that in time it will restore itself.
It was a ridiculously warm morning for mid-November, and there were a few hoverflies out and about, looking for love. Helophilus pendulus is a species that's most often found close to water: males such as this one take up positions on vegetation that will allow them to watch for the arrival of receptive females, while also keeping a lookout for rivals. The males are unarmed and can't bite or sting, but will fly at each other (and sometimes collide) in a great flurry of buzzing wings, with the loudest and most determined winning the territory - unless there's a female present, in which case, if no male manages to carry her away quickly to a safe perch, a mating frenzy can occur that ends up with everyone in the water.
By the time I'd cleared the pond surface and thinned some of the marginal plants, R had put together the frame he built last autumn, and we quickly got it into place and fastened the net over it before any more leaves could blow into the water. This hoverfly, who'd been moving from one clump of vegetation to another as I worked, made a huge fuss for several seconds about being trapped under the net, before suddenly realising that he could simply fly through the mesh. We also upset a couple of common frogs by disturbing them from under some ornamental grass at one corner of the pond, and they dived into the water just as we were pegging down the net, but we created an exit for them there by stretching it over a couple of logs, so as to make a kind of tunnel.