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Winged Allies
Birds in Flight at Gwenyn Hill Farm in Waukesha County, WI

Winged Allies

By Linda Halley | From the backyard of the farmhouse you can spot an amazing number of our farm’s wild allies, without which it would be hard to farm organically. Each has its role to play.

The monarchs are bobbing in pairs over the tall, shaggy weeds, among them the monarch-favorite, milkweed. By fall, the rough hillside will have been tamed, transformed into lawn after many months of construction and remodeling, much to the monarchs’ disapproval, I’m sure.

The female blue bird sits atop her rustic house, a winded morsel dangling from her beak. Not sure why she waits, but perhaps the chicks are quiet, satisfied, eyes closed.

A redtail hawk glides through the valley hoping to spot four-legged lunch fleeing from the tractor’s path. I watch the John Deere crawling back and forth through the snow-white buckwheat flowers, leaving a wide, dirt-brown trail as it goes. Barn swallows follow, dipping and diving to gather a meal on the wing. If I had eagle eyes I’m sure I could see what the swallows see, a cloud of pollinators lifting off from the buckwheat blossoms as they succumb to the steel disks behind the tractor.

With a week in full bloom the buckwheat has been feeding our allies the honeybees and wild pollinators like a royal banquet. Grown as a cover crop, it’s time to turn it under and feed the soil before it sets viable seed. Buckwheat, at this stage, is soft, fleshy and full of plant sugars that will be, to the soil microbes, what the flowers were to the bees, a short-lived full-on feast.

The underground world of allies goes unobserved but the above ground world of pollinators in the buckwheat was an amazing sight this week. I captured a few photos of the winged workers in action, which you “Where’s Waldo” fans will enjoy. The industrious honeybee and tiny wild pollinator, however, merited a video, as a still photo just didn’t do them justice. Enjoy the marvels of nature. I do, everyday.

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