Sunday, 17 July 2011

An Unexpected Blogging Break!

Most of my blogland friends will know that last year I had to take a blogging break after eye surgery due to the side effects of long term treatment for respiratory problems. Unexpectedly, on Tuesday of last week, probably for the same reason, I suffered a mini stroke (that makes me sound like I'm a hundred and five and I'm not!!), it was very sudden and very brief but extremely frightening as I temporarily lost the right side of my vision. I don't mean I lost the sight in one eye but that it looked like everything had been sliced cleanly down the middle with a knife! None of my other senses were affected and after extensive tests and being given aspirin to take daily to guard against any recurrence (which is only of low risk), apart from feeling exhausted, I am OK, although I do have to have another test eventually. I also have a chest infection (nothing new there!) due to the hay fever season so have reluctantly decided it might be best to take another blogging break. I hope to rejoin you soon and will take a peek at your lovely blogs from time to time but please excuse my not commenting for a while. See you soon.... I will miss you!

Thursday, 23 June 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 :)


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.


'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!!



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.


'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.


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

Saturday, 11 June 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.


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.


'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.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Another May Mixture... in Memory of Linda

With great sadness, this post is dedicated to the memory of a dear blogging friend, Linda/Rain Gardener of Gardening by Trial and Error. I and many others whose lives she touched will miss her very much...

'Such love of life cannot so quickly fade
Or vanish like a vapor in the wind.
For it was of a lasting pleasure made.'
(Nicholas Gordon)


Linda was always struck by how very different our Robin is compared with the American Robin. She thought ours was 'adorable'.


'There's a friendly tone in thy minstrelsy,
And a merry heart beats 'neath thy crimson vest;

There's a pleasant light in thy glistening eye.
And of all our songsters we love thee best'
(E. and A.M. Forrester)


Well, what a strange Spring we have had this year! The ground here has been as dry as it would be in the middle of a very hot Summer. The last week or two although relentlessly dry hasn't been particularly pleasant with high winds and barely any sunshine making photography difficult. I intended to post this sequence of photos earlier in the Spring but didn't quite get around to it so as things are fairly quiet bird wise at the moment I thought I would put them on now.

Shall we dance?

Yes, let's

Shall we be serious and do the weed dance?

Oh no, it's much too soon for that!


Tomorrow... maybe?

As I have said in the past, I am fascinated by the way in which Nature uses camouflage and this following photo is a definite case in point!

Orange Tip Butterfly

Despite the very dry weather I have seen some lovely wild flowers on recent walks.

Clockwise from top left:
Red Campions, Dog Rose, Silverweed,
Ox-eye Daisies, Ox-eye Daisy.

As I mentioned before, things are pretty quiet on the bird front at the moment but I managed to get a quick photo of this Blue Tit which had just captured a juicy caterpillar to feed to its young. You'll need to look closely to spot the caterpillar!

Blue Tit

'A flutter of wings and a flash of blue,
And there my brave little friend are you!'
(G.F. Bradby)

Every year, until I see it again, I forget just how small the following butterfly is. Of course I should remember, after all the clue is in the name :)

Small Copper Butterfly (above and below)

'The butterflies, by eager hopes undone,
Glad as a child, come out to greet the sun.'
(John Clare)

I always think how very delicate Lacewings are, it amazes me that they manage to survive the elements.

Lacewing (Chrysopa perla)

I think this caterpillar must be a Garden Tiger but I thought they were bigger than this one and it wasn't found anywhere near a garden although I know that is probably irrelevant. Does anyone know if there is anything similar but smaller and more slender?

Caterpillar of the Garden Tiger Moth?

'The caterpillar there without
Has never known a mother's care;
Alone to seek its daily fare,
On grass and leaves it crawls about.'

The following photo is another from earlier in the Spring, taken at Draycote Water but not posted before. There was a bit of an altercation going on!


Finally, I will leave you with this pretty little Common Blue Butterfly which was determined it wasn't going to open its wings for me.

Common Blue Butterfly

Well that's all for now... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Maytime Mixture

May already! This year is going much too fast for my liking but what a beautiful Spring we have enjoyed this time. The only downside being that the countryside and gardens are getting far too dry. I can't remember the last time it rained here although if the weather forecasters have it right that will be rectified this weekend with showers predicted.

'Welcome, welcome, lovely May!
With breath so sweet and smiles so gay;
With sun, and dew, and gentle showers,
Welcome, welcome, month of flowers!'
(From Juvenile Miscellany)

Just a sample of the beautiful views on my doorstep

This post will contain photos from various walks in my local area and a couple from a little further afield at Draycote Water but I will start with a couple of photos from the garden. As some readers will know, I have always been envious of those of you who have the Great Spotted Woodpecker visiting your garden feeders so I have been thrilled recently to see one in mine. The first time was a very fleeting glimpse as it fed at the peanut feeder at the bottom of the garden. Some weeks later I saw one again, a female, on the Sunflower feeder nearer the house and the next day posed beautifully on the bird bath. Needless to say I didn't manage a photo on the bird bath but I did get a not very good one of it on the Sunflower feeder.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I photographed this Speckled Wood Butterfly on Forget-me-not flowers on a lovely sunny morning.

Speckled Wood Butterfly

This next butterfly isn't posed in the prettiest of places but the photo clearly shows how exceptionally dry the ground is here. It was taken during a local walk on April 17th and we still haven't had a drop of rain since!

Peacock Butterfly

Something else which wasn't posing in the prettiest of places, such is my luck ;) was this Yellowhammer. Luckily I have found somewhere else to see them without having to return to the scene of the Larsen Trap encounter!


This one was slightly more cooperative.

One of the wild flowers which always reminds me of my childhood is the Lady's Smock also known as Cuckoo Flower and Milkmaids. As a child I used to love hunting for the first ones of the year. In folklore it was said to be sacred to the fairies so was unlucky if brought indoors. For the same reason it was never included in May day garlands.

Lady's Smock

'Dainty as a fairy's frock,
White or mauve, of elfin sewing,
'Tis the meadow-maiden growing-

(Cicely Mary Barker)

It is also one of the food plants of the Orange Tip butterfly

Orange Tip Butterfly

Another favourite wild flower, I have a lot of favourites :) is the Cowslip which seems to me to have done particularly well this year. Actually, thinking about it although I love all wild flowers it is the Spring flowers which are dearest to my heart.


Another butterfly seen on a local walk.

Green-veined White

'But lo! a white and spangled thing
Was sporting there on tiny wing;

In haste from flower to flower it flew,

And sucked from each the honied dew.'
(Louisa Segrave)

All of the following photos were taken at Draycote. This Canada Goose looked like it was feeling the heat

Canada Goose

These Great Crested Grebes were looking resplendent in their breeding plumage

Great Crested Grebe

and Mrs Mallard was proudly showing off her ducklings.


Although it is easy to hear and identify Chiffchaffs I find it is not always so easy to see them but this time I was lucky.


And here, it was happily singing its name over and over.

Finally, it is always nice to see the delightful Yellow Wagtails at Draycote. This one is female

Yellow Wagtail

and I will finish this post as I started it, with the male.

Have a lovely weekend... and enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.