Thursday, June 23, 2011

Summer Selection


For various reasons, I haven't had many Nature outings in the last week or so, the weather certainly hasn't helped. When I said, on my last post, that we desperately needed rain I was rewarded the very next day but it doesn't know when enough is enough and I don't think we have had one day without it since. April finally arrived... in June! April of course, having masqueraded as June! I still can't believe how quickly the year is progressing, one minute it was the beginning of Spring and on June 24th it is midsummer's day!... It goes too fast...

'The days are clear,
Day after day,
When April's here,
That leads to May,
And June
Must follow soon:
Stay, June, stay! -
If only we could stop the moon
And June!'
(Christina Georgina Rossetti)


I haven't seen the Great Spotted Woodpecker in the garden since I last mentioned it (I may just have missed it of course) but I was pleased to see this one while on a local walk.


Great Spotted Woodpecker


Here, helpfully displaying the red on the back of his neck to show me he is male.



I also saw this Bullfinch. Unfortunately the light was bad but I have included it as it is not often I manage to get a photo of one. I have seen Bullfinches several times in that location so hopefully, I may get a better photo eventually.


Bullfinch (male)


Not a very sharp photo of this member of the Crane-fly family but I had to put it in, just look at those eyes!!


Tipula vernalis

Butterflies are in worryingly short supply in my area at the moment but thankfully the same can't be said of bees. I think both this one and the one at the beginning of my post are Bombus hortorum but from memory the collar and 2nd abdominal segment were quite a deep colour so wonder if they could be Bombus terrestris.
Edit: Thank you very much to Greenie for pointing out that the bee at the start of this post is probably not Bombus hortorum but a member of the Cuckoo Bee family possibly Psithyrus vestalis.


Bumble-bee (Bombus hortorum?)

'Across the open common land
shines glowing purple floral blooms
The bumble bee can hardly stand,
as flowers' scent is rising fumes'
(Stephen Patrick)


The Chiffchaff was in its usual place again :)


Chiffchaff


I'm not sure what this cheeky looking Squirrel was eating but it was certainly enjoying it.


Grey Squirrel

'Intelligent his mien ;
With feathery tail and ears alert,
And little paws as hands expert,
And eyes so black and keen.'
(Catherine Ann Turner Dorset (?))


Chaffinches always seem to be pretty accommodating when it comes to having their photo taken.


Chaffinch

'The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined body being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives'
(James Russell Lowell)


I had to heavily crop this very distant shot of a Common Buzzard so it is not the best but I have included it as I usually only see them in the air.


Common Buzzard

~~~

I took the next three photos some weeks ago but didn't get round to posting them.


Mute Swan


Greylag Goose (hybrid)

Edit: Thanks to Greenie for pointing out the above is of mixed parentage. I should have noticed!!


Coots

~~~

The following two photos were taken in the garden. I hadn't seen a Jackdaw visit for some time until this year, when I have seen several. In my opinion the Jackdaw is a very smart bird in both senses of the word. Not only does it look handsome but like the rest of the much maligned and highly intelligent Corvid family it is a very interesting bird. Jackdaws usually nest in colonies with monogamous pairs collaborating to locate a nest site which they then defend from other pairs and from predators for most of the year. They nest in the cavities of trees, cliffs or ruined, and sometimes inhabited, buildings, often in chimneys (sometimes with fatal consequences when a fire is in the grate below!), and even in dense conifers.



Jackdaw

'There is a bird, who by his coat,
And by the hoarseness of his note,
Might be supposed a crow;
A great frequenter of the church,
Where, bishop-like, he finds a perch,
And dormitory too.'
(William Cowper)


The above poem refers to the fact that Jackdaws are famous for using church steeples for nesting. They have a linear hierarchical group structure with higher ranked birds dominating lower ranked birds. They mate for life, pairing before sexual maturity. Young males establish individual status before pairing with females. Once paired, the female assumes the same social position as her partner. Un-mated females are the lowest members in the pecking order, and are the last to have access to food and shelter. Hmm, I think they need a bit of women's liberation in their community :)

It is known that Jackdaws share food and objects. The active giving of food in birds is found mainly in the context of parental care and during courtship rituals but Jackdaws show much higher levels of active giving than that documented for primates such as Chimpanzees. This behaviour is not fully understood but there is a theory that it is associated with mutualism, reciprocity and harassment avoidance. It is also known that occasionally the flock will make 'mercy killings' during which a sick or injured bird is mobbed until it is killed, a harsh but effective way of putting a suffering bird out of its misery...

~~~

This Robin started to build a nest in the Ivy at the side of the dining room window but for some reason I think it abandoned it before it was finished. There was one in there complete with baby birds a few years ago which was destroyed by a cat which unfortunately still visits the garden so in some ways I was pleased the Robin had second thoughts this year. I think it did nest in a different part of the garden though.


Robin


Until next time... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just June



So here we are in June already, how quickly the year is going and how strange the weather has been so far. We have had some very dull days here but barely any rain still, we desperately need it and if it is going to be dull it may as well rain! However we have had some sunshine and there is still time for it to turn into 'flaming June'. Rain at night and sun in the day, that's what we need :)


'Sweetest daughter of the year,
Smiling June, I hail thee here.
Hail thee with thy skies of blue,
Days of sunshine, nights of dew.
Hail thee with thy songs and flowers,
Balmy air, and leafy bowers,
Bright and fragrant, fresh and clear,
Smiling June, I hail thee here. '
(Henry Francis Lyte)


Last year on one of our regular local walks I noticed a Blue Tit flying in and out of a hole in a tree obviously feeding its young and recently I saw one at the same tree. I couldn't quite work out if it was feeding young again as it didn't appear to have anything in its beak. I wonder if its young might have just fledged and if perhaps it was checking the nest to make sure there were no more chicks left in it. It kept peering inside for some time before flying away and although I waited for a while it didn't return while I was there.


Blue Tit




This beetle was sunning itself on an Ox-eye Daisy. It is our old friend the Fat-legged Beetle but as this is the female she doesn't have the fatter legs of the male.


Fat-legged Beetle (Oedemera Nobilis)


It is always a welcome sight to see the hedgerows laced with the pretty flowers of the Dog Rose.


Dog Rose

'I am the queen whom everybody knows:
I am the English Rose; ...
As joyous as a Robin Redbreast's tune,
I scent the air of June;
My buds are rosy as a baby's cheek;
I have one word to speak,
One word which is my secret and my song,
'Tis "England, England, England" all day long.'
(Cicely Mary Barker)



I was struck by the beautiful depth of colour of this flower which I at first thought was the Hedge Cranesbill but now think is the Meadow Cranesbill.


Meadow? Cranesbill


Last year whenever we visited this spot there was always a Chiffchaff shouting its name from these wires and this year I am pretty sure it is the same bird back there again.


Chiffchaff (above and below)


With it being persistently windy here for so long butterflies have unfortunately been few and far between but I did see this Common Blue


Common Blue Butterfly

'Airy, lovely, heavenly thing!
Butterfly with quivering wing!
Hovering in thy transient hour
Over every bush and flower,
Feasting upon flowers and dew,
Thyself a brilliant blossom too.'
(Translation from Herder)


and this very smart looking Speckled Wood.


Speckled Wood Butterfly


A lot of the Rabbits I see lately seem sadly to be suffering from Myxomatosis so it was pleasing to see these two young ones looking healthy and bright eyed.


Rabbits


As this bee had an orange-red tail (although it can't be seen in the photo) I think I have identified it correctly.


Bumble-Bee (Bombus pratorum)


'Burly, dozing humble-bee, ...
Where thou art is clime for me,
Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere;
Swimmer through the waves of air;
Voyager of light and noon;
Epicurean of June.'
(Ralph Waldo Emmerson)



I have tried but failed to identify the flower in the next photo so have posted it in the hope someone may be able to help.


Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor)

Edit: Thanks very much to Greenie for identifying the above flower and yes, I should definitely have recognised it! ;) Thanks also to Cheryl and John.



I could hear this Yellowhammer but for some time couldn't locate it but then it stopped singing for a few moments and started again in a different place where I spotted it quite easily.



Yellowhammer


'But this sweet day, an hour ago,
A yellowhammer, clear and low,
In love and tender pity
Thrilled out his dainty ditty.'
(David Gray)


The poor Yellowhammer was once a much maligned little bird surrounded by fear and fable. Cobham Brewer, in his Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898) said;

'The eggs of this bird are spotted with red. The tradition is that the bird fluttered about the Cross, and got stained with the blood in its plumage, and by way of punishment its eggs were doomed ever after to bear marks of blood. ’Tis a very lame story, but helps to show how in former times every possible thing was made to bear some allusion to the Redeemer. Because the bird was “cursed,” boys who abstain from plundering the eggs of small birds, were taught that it is as right and proper to destroy the eggs of the bunting as to persecute a Jew.'!

On a happier note, some of both Beethoven and Messiaen's compositions were inspired by the song of the Yellowhammer.

Well, that's all until next time... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.