Category Archives: Danger

“Despair Dogs Me” or “A Tale of Two Hats”

Lesser men would have broken by now.

I don’t want this to be a sad post, I will just tell you what happened.

Yesterday I shrunk my hat. I had been out three times that day and when I finally got home I thought that my very old and much loved hat was a bit sweaty and dirty, so I threw it in the washing machine.

I should have read the washing instructions, “Wipe clean.”

This might not seem very important because I have two hats but only one of them has character.

HatsThese two hats are identical, they are both the same make and style and they were once the same colour. One of them is my hat and it has lived a life of adventure and has become a bit bleached by the sun.

Two years ago I was out shopping with a friend when I saw a copy of my hat in an end of line sale. “You must buy it,” she said, “One day you may lose your hat and I can’t imagine you without it.” So I did.

I kept it in my wardrobe and planned to wear it to weddings and funerals and maybe for the occasional court appearance but since then, well, I haven’t been arrested for ages and nobody has died, I have never worn it. I don’t really want to.

The good news is that today I defiantly wore my shrunken hat out. It was very windy and I found that it was quite an advantage to have a tight fitting hat.

Old hatI don’t know where this will end. Perhaps I am letting go of an old friend, gently.

My shoes are looking a bit shabby too.

Shabby

I expect that you would prefer to hear what Fizz and I have been up to for the last few days. We have been hunting Boars mostly.

Wild Boar have arrived on the farm. I knew that they were getting closer but a few day ago I stepped outside and came face to face with three of them at about two o’clock in the afternoon. They had just walked through my neighbours front garden and were standing in front of our house.

My landlord tells me that it is ten years since he saw a Boar on the farm but they are here now.

They always have been all around us but I have suspected that they were closing in for several weeks now. About three weeks ago I noticed fresh rooting just across the road from the house.

Rooting

RootingI didn’t really make anything of that at the time, we see a lot of that around here.

Then there was the extraordinary business of an animal eating all of the Arum Lilies.

Rooted ArumJust when I was thinking, “What sort of an animal would do that,” I stepped out of my front door and bumped right into them.

They have been here for a few weeks and I am pretty sure that they are here to stay now.

This is a superb opportunity for the naturalist in me, I can actually lie in bed and watch for them in the fields across from me. The trail camera is out.

It is not so good for everybody else. The Boar are not dangerous and they will always try and escape us unless..

A: You corner an animal and leave it no escape.

B: You or your dog attack their babies. They will defend their young and they are powerful animals.

In the wood that I owned in East Sussex a Rottweiller was killed by Boar just before I bought the land. It was an aggressive dog and the owner had taken to walking it in the wood at night to avoid other dog walkers. A Rottie is no match for a female boar with young. I don’t know what a Rottweiller normally weighs but my GSD was forty kilos and a mature female Boar would be about a hundred and twenty kilos and they are not pussy cats.

I have never considered them to be dangerous but then I have never tried to eat their babies. I am just not that stupid.

What it does mean is that there are places now where I cannot walk Fizz off lead (she is that stupid). The farm fields are still good as I can see everything around, tight and overgrown country lanes are out of bounds for a bit.

Fizz does a really good job of protecting me from Bears and Wolves, the very least that I can do in return is to protect her from herself.

Sentry DutyIs it still safe in the garden?

It’s safe.

Good girl.

I can walk her amongst the Boar on a lead. They will not attack me and if they come too close I will just pick her up. So we went up to the Bluebell woods to hunt for them.

WoodlandAt this point some sort of trained tracker dog would have been useful but I just had to go with what was available. In the video that I am about to show you (when You Tube has uploaded it) Fizz is really trying to find a Boar for me but she has never seen one and doesn’t realise how big they are. She keeps looking under leaves for them.

I am looking at how Boar relate to the Bluebells. One of the arguments put forward by their detractors is that Boar uproot and destroy bluebell woods and that they eat Bluebell bulbs. My old wood was a Bluebell wood with Wild Boar in it and I have been watching them for fifteen years. They have no interest in Bluebells.

Boar rooting.They root up the tracks that run through the Bluebells but they stay on the tracks and avoid the flowers. If they wanted to eat them these woods would be a feast for them. (This is where we filmed the young Boar recently, there are plenty of animals in this wood)

RootingBluebells are actually poisonous to most animals but then so are Arum Lilies.


We didn’t find any Boars but we did see some nice flowers.

Bluebell

BluebellThis characteristic one sided droop is often given as an identifying feature of our native Bluebells and it is but…

It is important to note that the flowers grow from all sides of the stem and this elegance is only a stage in their lives.

BluebellWhen the flowers first emerge the stem is completely upright and later as the flowers go to seed it straightens out again.

BluebellThis next flower is a genuine native Hyacinthoides non-scripta but just at a slightly inelegant stage of it’s development and that happens.

BluebellOn the edge of this wood the Arum Lilies are giving a fine display.

Arum maculatum

Arum maculatum

Arum maculatumEither the Boar here have no taste for this poisonous root or they just haven’t found them yet. I like this flower, I think that it is very beautiful and it is a shame to see it singled out for destruction but animals have to eat.

Arum maculatumOne of the nicest things about this wood is that the walk up here takes us through the farm fields. There is no danger of me being surprised by wild animals here and Fizz gets plenty of opportunity to run and play.

FarmI will leave you with a few images of Fizz preventing me from photographing a beautiful little Speedwell and otherwise doing what she does best 🙂

SpeedwellGet off me you stupid animal!

Stupid FizzThere is nothing in my pocket!

Stupid Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

Trails of Destruction

This isn’t going to be a sad post. It is going to be quite an interesting post, I just need to tell you about what happened yesterday.

You remember the little black lamb that I showed you a few days ago? Well sadly I found him dead on the roadside, hit by a car. It happens and I guess he was always going to be the last one that they saw.

Black SheepIf you walk in the countryside you get used to seeing  Badgers, Foxes and Rabbits lying by the roadside and this is not really any different but I did feel sorry for him.

What really spoilt my day was what happened next. His Mum was not going to leave her dead lamb and she was wandering up and down a busy road with her other lamb trotting along behind her, it was pretty obvious that there was going to be another accident if we didn’t get her off the road and I got met with a bit of a  negative response.

Eventually Jeremy (for that was his name) came out and picked up his dead lamb and moved the others to safety. So that was that.

I hear a lot of, “Oh you townies just don’t understand our country ways,” but I do.

Sorry little lamb, I should have stolen you.

Black Sheep

Then my day picked up, when I went to see the little dog downstairs.

Fizz is a philosopher and she ought to be studied in universities. She is a bit like that Frenchman, Jean Paul Sartre but brighter and she doesn’t use so many words, in fact her whole philosophical argument could be summed up in a single sentence.

“The world is full of stuff that is not Fizz but that is not important.”

It is perhaps not as complex as existentialism but it is true and it helps me to exist.

So off we went to La La Land…..

Dr FizzFizz knows some nice places to walk and she can make even an angry heart forget.

Trail

Orange TipHelp me little animal for I have been hurt.

Orange TipAre you magic? How come you are there when I need you? Why do you even exist?

Orange TipThank you and here, have a nice flower.

Orange TipHello!

Was that butterfly called Fizz?

I don’t think so.

FizzI am going to crawl under the gate now.

If you follow me you can tickle my tummy.

I want to look at flowers.

Bush VetchBush Vetch, It’s a pea and so it has those grab onto anything tendrils and I think that it is wonderful. It is one of those plants that helps to make the jungle an absolute mess.

Bush Vetch

Bush VetchI can’t wait forever.

Fizz

Fizz

Bush VetchOkay I am just going to take a few moments out to check that they did her hair cut properly. Sometimes people are slackers and they miss the little important bits, you know what I mean?

Fizz

Fizz

FizzEverything seems to be in order and they have done a good job.

Fizz

FizzGet down little Monkey! I am fixed.

FizzI am ready to begin my tale.

We are walking along the track, observing nature and playing games with the flowers….

Dog’s Mercury,

Dogs MercuryThis is the female of the species.

Dogs MercuryThis is a Dog in Mercury.

Dogs MercuryAll right! I am fixed all ready.

Dogs MercuryAs we are walking along I have been noticing signs of animal activity. Little holes everywhere.

Snuffle HolesIn my mind I am seeing “snuffle holes.” These are little holes that Badger’s make as they dig for worms. They sometimes look like little animal burrows but they don’t go anywhere, they are only about six to eight inches deep.

There is not much that is unusual about this. We are very close to a Badger main sett and there is a lot of activity further along the track but there is a lot here and I am a bit surprised because we are still a way from the sett. Very active Badgers, I think.

Then I noticed something beside this hole.

Wild ArumThis isn’t actually a “snuffle hole,” this one is where an animal has dug up and eaten the root of Wild Arum.

Badgers do eat the roots of Wild Arum. I have read of this described as a winter activity when food is short and we are in Badger country.

This is Wild Arum (Arum maculatum)

Wild ArumTo us this is a deadly poisonous plant. Every part of it contains toxins that can kill a Human. The reason that it doesn’t kill people is that those toxins cause immediate and painful burns and blisters and if we accidentally put it in our mouths then we quickly spit it out again.

However we can eat it. The roots are edible but they need preparation (I think it is roasting but that is only from memory). This is not a good one to eat unless you are starving  but remember that most animals are starving.

Wild ArumThis next one is very edible and in fact if you don’t eat this then you are an American Donkey (an Ass).

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

Wild GarlicThis is Wild Garlic.

(In fact the Americans do not use the word Ass to describe a Donkey but this is only because they have not mastered the English language and particularly spelling, to me “American Donkey” is just a euphemism, what I meant was that you would be a fool not to eat this wonderful herb 🙂 I said it crudely because I like crude it is very different from rude but I don’t like crudities, I prefer to dunk soft white bread into my soup. Consider this to be my soup. There are some very beautiful and expressive words in the English language and you would have to be an American Donkey to diminish them, you don’t always have to use them.)

Wild GarlicThen…

Here is another one.

Uprootedand another…

Uprootedand another….

Uprootedand another….

UprootedThis is getting weird. Something has walked along this track and systematically and selectively dug up and ate every Arum Lily that it could find. I saw more than thirty of these holes and photographed them.

What on earth does this?

If you know me then you might think, “Colin would know the answer,” but Colin does not know the answer.

PhilosopherStop it. I can see your beauty.

PhilosopherI choose my stuff carefully, I am not a fool and I love you.

PhilosopherI am trying to concentrate.

Something is eating our flowers.

We need to put our tracker hats on, Badgers are obviously in the frame but something doesn’t ring true. The other animal that would do this is Wild Boar and I know that they are also here.

printThese prints are partial, the ground has been quite hard. A Boar has dew claws that leave an impression behind the hooves and I can’t see them, but they could be Boar (or Sheep or Deer) I don’t know.

PrintIt is all a bit weird.

Mystery

Mystery

Mystery

MysterySo I don’t know what to say about all of this, except…

IdiotLet me take you by the hand and lead you through a place that doesn’t have any streets, I will show you something that will make you change your mind.

Fizz

Red Campion

Herb Robert

Greater StitchwortI wrote this through the night and it is now Friday. Yesterday we had a General Election in the UK. I have no idea who won.

Good people never win. Niceness isn’t a winning trait and I already know that the worst man in the country is now our President. That is the failing of democracy. Let them come into the Jungle and we will see who wins.

I haven’t told you about this but I once lived for a year with a Member of Parliament. It’s okay, my wife knew about it. He was a decent man and a friend who helped me out of a jam but I could tell you some stories (and they would include naked MPs, another day perhaps 🙂  but probably not)

One more deep breath and then I will go and see who is now my Glorious Leader.

Orange Tip

Yellow Archangel

Bluebells

Get out of the mud.Disrespect

The Leader is coming 🙂

Old Man Dancing

Dances with Wolves

I am so sorry that I have been away from the blog this month. There was a wolf at my door and you know how much I like wolves, I got distracted.

He has  gone now. I gave him a little dog that I found in the garden and that seemed to fill his tummy nicely,

(I have not really fed Fizz to a wolf)

Anyway Wolfie has gone and we would like to get back to nature. I will try to post every day for a while, to make up for my recent absence.

So much has been happening and there is a lot to blog about.

I am glad to find that I have not lost my touch with the Faeries.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Orange TipTomorrow we could go up and look at the Bluebell woods.

BluebellOr we could video Fizz searching for her yellow ball amongst the Dandelions.

The WinnerThe world has turned beautiful.

Let me put this little animal down….

Orange Tip

Whoa! Hold on! I’ll get a ladder.Orange TipThat plant that I am putting him on is Garlic Mustard.

Garlic MustardNext to Wild Garlic it is one of the tastiest herbs around at the moment. This is one of the very best reasons to get into foraging. Picked fresh it is better than anything that you could buy in the supermarket. Foraging is not just about nettles and Dandelions, some of it is Caviar (without the fishy taste) and you just can’t buy it in the shops.

It is growing in abundance in my neck of the woods and deserves a post of it’s own.

Garlic MustardOh lookit! A brown Faerie.

Speckled WoodThat would be a Speckled Wood.

Speckled WoodIt is so nice to have them back.

I am going to cut this post short because I want to post it tonight.

Sometimes Fizz and I get ourselves into some pretty dangerous situations.

DangerI tend to shut other people out in case they get hurt by the terrible dangers that we have to face.

Terrible DangerSo I haven’t been reading my email or attending to anything just recently and I am sorry if I seemed to be ignoring you. I will be back on top of everything tomorrow.

I had a stroke of luck and came out on top. I don’t have to leave the farm or Fizz, or do anything that I don’t want to do. So it goes.

All right, Cutie Pie?

Cutie PieI did not fail to notice that you played a good game back there and that you are a reasonable companion animal 🙂

Tonto

Feeling The Heat

The purpose of our “Selfies” is to try and capture the feel of the day. These are from December… Great long shadows and it is cold and windy.

Selfie

SelfieNow this is April…

SelfieHer mud is drying up.

MudThese are my holiday snaps and I have been on holiday for a long time.

There may be trouble ahead….


I wouldn’t like to be that Rat when Fizz the Great War Dog gets a’hold of him.


She just needs to practice a bit, she is warming up.

Oh yes, I have bought the Goldfinches a nyger seed feeder.

Nyger feederThey are loving it and empty it very quickly. I will do more about that in another post.

On the subject of birds. The Bullfinches have stopped using the feeders but they are still around. We have an Apple orchard at the bottom of the garden and I think that they are drawn to the buds there.

Disappointingly the Long -tailed Tits have gone. Like the finches I think that their comings and goings are related to the natural food supply but I don’t know what has drawn them away.

The little Robin never came back. There are still lots of Robins about and sometimes I look out of my door and shout, “Come on! One of you must be Christopher.” No, he has gone.

But all of that fades into absolute insignificance because when I opened my door yesterday I heard a song that filled my heart.

Barn SwallowNow I know what they say, that “One Swallow does not a summer make,”  but that is rubbish, it is summertime now 🙂

There is something that I have got to do this year. Swallows pair up for life, each autumn when they leave they separate and then in the early summer when they return they reunite. It is something to witness and I have got to video it this year. They are so excited to be reunited, like little puppies and it doesn’t last for that long but for a little while there is a great video waiting to be made.

Barn SwallowI am going to love hearing their song again.

The little Mud Eaters beat the Swallows back by several days.

House MartinI didn’t really do the House Martins justice last year, they don’t nest outside of my front door like the Swallows but I will try harder this time around. I love their little feathered feet.

I like a little heat.

SelfieWildflowers then, there is so much going on that I don’t know where to start.

Walking along the country paths it just looks like a mess of green…

MessUnless you know it.

Cow ParsleyThis little leaf is the Cow Parsley and in a few weeks it will be painting the most beautiful pictures.

Cow ParsleyThat reminds me of another April challenge. The St. Mark’s Fly.

St Mark's FlySo called because the adult flies emerge around April the twenty fifth (St. Mark’s Day), these are the ones with long dangly legs that trail behind them when they fly.

St Mark's FlyThe challenge is to photograph the female, I just could not find one last year. They only live for a couple of weeks and the window of opportunity is a small one.

But back to the present, this leaf is the Hogweed.

HogweedForget any misconceptions that the name might suggest, this one is a very beautiful flower.

HogweedAlso the large, saucer like, flower heads are an absolute magnet for insects. I am finding my first flowers now and it will be here until the very end of Autumn.

I have got to leave the wildflowers for a bit because I have got to take Fizz for a walk, I will come back to them. While we are out I am going to upload some wild animal videos for you to watch.


These are female Fallow Deer (Dama dama) They are just losing their winter coats and so they look a little bit tatty but they are healthy animals.


This week the trail camera returned 180 videos over two days and nights. 136 of those were of my little friend the Fox but I also got 44 clips of the deer in the daytime, a nice return.

This is the same spot that I videoed the Boar in last week and it is proving to be a good place to set the camera. As well as the Deer, Fox and Boar I have been getting clips of Badgers, nothing exceptional but it is good to know that they are there. I feel happier if I can say that I am putting the camera out to film Deer, they are hunted just the same as the Boar but there isn’t the same hysteria and people are much more likely to go into the forest to look for Deer.

This location is not in the Forest of Dean, it is woodland some way outside of the forest boundaries and the Boar here are the animals that the Forestry Commission have been kind enough to drive out of the forest as they attempt to disperse them across the whole county, or country even.


A few other things that are good about this location, apart from the fact that it is rich in wild life, It is an unmanaged Sweet Chestnut coppice, I wouldn’t normally like that because there is very little else that grows in such a coppice but it does give me quite good views of the animals. This is also a Bluebell wood and that will make a nice backdrop and nobody comes here. I have filmed a lot here and have never picked up Dog walkers or anybody at all, that makes me feel quite safe about leaving the camera out. I will continue to film here for a few more weeks.

Okay I am back and Poochy has been walked. It is quite blustery out there today.

Back to the wildflowers. I like them because they are beautiful…

Ivy-leaved Speedwell(Ivy-leaved Speedwell)

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellFizz likes them because they make a nice soft bed.

Fizz in BedGet off the bed!

I am very pleased that I got pictures of the Town Hall Clock buds last week because this week there were no buds to be found.

Town Hall ClockAnother flower that has just appeared…..

Remember the diminutive Harry Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)?

Hairy BittercressThis is the girl of his dreams, Lady Smock and if you think, like Harry that she looks good enough to eat, well, she is.

Cuckoo FlowerCuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis). The leaves and flowers are the best bits to eat, they  have a peppery flavour that adds a lot to a herb salad.

Cuckoo FlowerBoth she and Harry are Cardamines and they can cross pollinate but  will she, wont she? That is what Harry would like to know.

Cuckoo FlowerA couple more “firsts” for the week, this little splash of pink is Herb Robert.

Herb RobertLast year I was able to find this one in flower throughout the winter but this year, this is my first.

Herb RobertI have also seen my first signs of the spathe of the Arum Lily.

Wild ArumThere will be much more of these flowers in the weeks to come.

Well it has been a long post and you must be feeling pretty tired.

Tired FizzI have just got one more wildflower to do today and then we can play ball.

FizzThis is Hen-bit Dead-nettle. I found it growing on my steps when I got home.

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettleI will try and find it in more picturesque surroundings.

Goodnight Fizz.

Selfie

 

The call of the Wild

Following on from our discovery of the Boar tracks in the wood, Fizz and I have been out hunting. We left the camera out for three nights and it returned one hundred and ninety videos. The pesky Fox above made around a hundred and sixty of those. At least it was good enough to show up in the daytime.

************

You may have noticed that I have been neglecting the blog in recent weeks. I am coming to a time when I have to think about my future and maybe leaving the farm. It kinda stifles my creativity but everything is fine.

I came here with the intention of taking a year off, following my divorce. Just to give me time to think and get rid of any negative thoughts that may have been bothering me. That worked pretty well, I feel happy in myself but my year off has stretched to sixteen months now.

You know that if I leave the farm, what else I will have to leave, don’t you? It stifles my creativity.

FizzI haven’t spoken to her about this yet. I am working on a plan that will give me another year here and if all goes well, I will leave next April.

Nothing is forever.

When I came here my plan was to take my year off and then seek to rehabilitate myself. Go down to the job centre and start a new life.

There isn’t any work around here, I would have to move into one of the local towns and then with luck find myself a job stacking shelves in a supermarket, something like that. It just isn’t ticking all the boxes for me. I am an adventurer and I am not that afraid of life. There must be something better than that, so I will go and find it.

It all stifles my creativity. But…

and it is a big BUT….

Today life is beautiful and we need to enjoy every moment of it, don’t think that we haven’t been doing just that.

FizzHow to track and capture Wild Boar

Hmmmm…
Boar Tracks

Ah ha!Hoglet tracks

This ought to work…CameraWatch closely….


The two adult animals in that video are mature sows and I believe they are the mothers of all the little hoglets that you are going to see running around.

There are two other large animals in this sounder, one male and one female. They are last years litter. The female will probably stay with this sounder but the male will leave in the summer. Males are solitary animals.

You can see the two juveniles in this next clip and in case you can’t tell the male is the stroppy one. He is a magnificent looking animal.


Normally we think of a sounder being composed of females and their offspring but the young males will stay with the sounder until they are about sixteen months old and they don’t start growing tusks until they are two years old.

He looks impressive but he is still a lot smaller than his mum as you will see in this next video.


These beautiful animals were kind to me and I got quite a few videos but that will do for now. I don’t want to bore you 🙂

I brought the camera in for the weekend, I might stick it back up there next week. I would quite like to have one more look at them.

I have to be very careful. The local rag printed a single letter condemning last weeks headlines as I expected and that was of course buried on the letters page. It also ran this little story.

ArrowWhat has been reported as an arrow is almost certainly a crossbow bolt, around here that is the favoured tool of poachers, it is powerful enough to kill and you don’t need a firearms licence.

The bottom line is  that you can get £6.50 a kilo for wild boar meat unbutchered. An adult female weighs around 100-120 kilos and 70% of that is meat. At that rate that’s about £450 for one of those mothers, say it’s less, a little one £200. There is an element here that see the Boar as fair game, in fact you would be daft not to take one (regardless of whether or not it is suckling young). Have you seen that film “Whiskey Galore?” Well the Boar are our local bounty. That is why there is so much hatred stirred up against them. When somebody kills one he is almost doing a public service (They eat children, remember)

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked, “Aye Lad, seen any Boar yet?”

“No mate. Not a one, the old FC must have shot them all.” 🙂

Wild flowers:

We went up to photograph the Early Dog Violets and they were very nice…

Early Dog Violet

Early Dog Violet

Early Dog VioletOn the way up there we found these….

Town Hall Clock

Town Hall ClockThey are the first buds of what will soon become the beautiful and multi-faceted Town Hall Clock (Adoxa moschatellina)

Town Hall ClockBut today they are just buds.

Town Hall Clock

Town Hall ClockI know that some of you are still up to your necks in snow but here, everything is beautiful.

Let’s skip the Sweet Violets…

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets“Woke up one morning half asleep,”

Lesser Celandine“With all my blankets in a heap,”

Lesser Celandine“And yellow roses gathered all around me.” (Lesser Celandine)

Lesser CelandineI’m just sitting watching flowers in the rain.

Wild Dafodill“Feel the power of the rain,”

Wild DafodillIn amongst the Lent Lilies I found my first Wood Anemones.

They don’t really like the rain.

Wood Anemone

Wood AnemoneSuddenly there isn’t any shortage of flowers. I don’t have enough time to post all off the species that I photographed.

The Elm trees flowered, I have been watching them closely and waiting for this.

Elm

ElmA lot of the stuff that I do is technical, it is because I want to have pictures of a particular stage in a plants development for my “Easy Wildflowers” blog and it isn’t always easy to understand why I get so excited.

I enjoyed seeing the sepal development on the Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot)

ColtsfootSo my future is riding on a Horse. I have put my entire fortune on a magnificent mare called, “Bendy Peg Leg,” if anyone can do it then she can.

Assuming that she wins, this is what will happen.:

I will stay at the farm for one more year because I want to write Easy Wildflowers. There are not enough local wildflowers to keep me interested beyond a year. I will go homeless next April. I will put my belongings on my back and go into the wild. How long that I will stay in the wild?,  Ha!

I will take a tablet and a solar charger and I will blog from the wilderness and it will be great.

If the Horse loses? She is a sure thing. Bendy Peg Leg, I got it on good authority.

Umm…. Trust me, I know something about animals.

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

England in the Springtime

Today I have just a couple of wild flowers and a couple of rather good selfies to show you but before we get to that…

My story starts yesterday on Sunday the first of March, Spring Eve.

There was a cold north westerly blowing and I could have stayed at home but, you know, the Dog needs a walk. We headed out along a woodland track and the trees gave us some relief from the bitter wind.

I wasn’t expecting to see much but this is where I have been coming to look for Primroses and this time there were signs of life.

PrimrosesThere were the first tiny flower buds showing and I thought, “At last, it is happening.”

Primrose BudI started to take some photographs.

Primrose BudThen a little message appeared on my screen, “Built in memory full.”

What!

Fizz! You stupid, stupid dog, you have forgotten to remind me to put an SD card in the camera. What were you thinking of?

It had taken us thirty minutes to walk out there, what I had seen was captivating, there was no choice but to walk back to the farm, pick up a card and come back out.

By the time we got back the English weather had kicked in.

I should warn you that I use bad language in this next video (quite mildly) but you shouldn’t watch it if you are under twenty one.

That was yesterday and I missed the Eve of Spring. If, as a team we had a bit more fortitude then I still think that we could have got the pictures but I was outvoted.

So today I can show you what I failed to capture yesterday.

Yesterday there were no Primroses in flower and today I found two.

The first that I found was a pin.

Pin PrimroseThe second was a thrum.

Thrum PrimroseIf you don’t know about Pins and thrums then I wrote it all down on Easy Wildflowers and you can read it here The Primrose it is a sexy story.

But that is not the thing. I have photographed thousands of Primroses, they are lovely and I am very pleased to see them.

I don’t believe that I had ever noticed before how very beautiful and unique the buds were. They have taken my breath away and also made my day, year, life complete. How could I have missed this?

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose buds

Primrose budsThese are very much not the best shots that I will get. I am taking these pictures under very difficult conditions. I hope that they will give you an idea of what I am looking at 🙂

The pup and I moved on, that happens when you throw the ball.

Further along this track I have been watching for Tussilago farfara, the Coltsfoot. I found it today.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

ColtsfootAgain, if you don’t know the story of this extraordinary little flower without leaves then you can find it on Easy Wildflowers here The Coltsfoot.

Some of you may be aware of my obsession with self portraiture and earlier in the day I had a go in the mud.

Me

meI was quite pleased with the results but still felt that I could do better and then the hail started.

FizzMy idea was to stand my dog in the hailstorm and take a picture of myself reflected in her eyes.

She wasn’t overly supportive at first.

FizzSomebody call the Humane Society!

Shut up, you’ll be famous.

It kinda worked.

Self PortraitWell, that’s enough fun with animals, this is my flower post.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Senecio vulgaris, The Common Groundsel

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Groundsel might be a bit of a hard sell. It is not everybody’s first thought when choosing a favourite wild flower.

Regarded as a weed by many it is a wild flower native to the UK, I will show you how to identify it.

(It’s native range extends throughout Eurasia and North Africa and it is naturalised in many other places including North America)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Common Groundsel is a member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family,

The flower head is made up of dozens of small disc florets (flowers) like the centre of a daisy, without the white “petals,”

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The lack of ray florets (“petals”) helps to distinguish this species from it’s close relatives Heath Groundsel (S. syllvaticus) and Sticky Groundsel (S, viscous)  which do have ray florets with the appearance of petals.

The flower head is contained within a cylinder of green bracts called an involucre. These are not sepals each individual flower inside the flower head has it’s own sepals.

There is a second outer ring of black tipped bracts at the base of the involucre,

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Inside the cylinder of bracts there is a dense cluster of small flowers. Each flower sits on top of an ovary which will become the seed. At the top of the ovary there are a series of fine white hairs these are the sepals and they will become the parachute that will carry the seed away. Through the centre of the sepals runs the long white tube that is the corolla of the flower (Coralla is a word that is used when the petals of a flower are fused together)The corolla opens out into a small flower with five yellow lobes.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As each flower opens the  style emerges. The style has two yellow lobes, this is the pollen receptive female part of the flower and it is connected through the corolla to the ovary. The flower also has five stamens, the male pollen producing part, these form a tube around the lower part of the style and as the style grows through them it collects pollen.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Common Grounsel is extremely self fertile. It can flower throughout a mild winter, when there are no pollinators about and still produce seed. The plant is very short lived (about five weeks) but in that time it can produce thousands of fertile seeds.

When the seeds are ripe the green bracts open to reveal the seed head.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Now the flowers that served to pollinate the fruit have done their job they will fall away from the seeds before the seeds disperse.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As the corolla tubes fall away all that is left is the seed with the white sepals that now become the pappus or parachute to carry the seed away on the wind.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The plants ability to produce thousands of seeds at any time of year coupled with it’s preference for disturbed ground make Groundsel a particular pest to gardeners.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)(Common Groundsel seedling)

However, whilst prolific the plant has a very shallow root system and is easily removed through weeding.

The shape of the leaves is best described with a photograph.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) The leaves can be quite smooth but they are often covered in long white hairs.

These hairs also often cover the stems beneath the flowers and they are often described as cobwebby, they do sometimes give the plant the appearance of being covered in cobwebs.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)   Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) The Latin Name Senecio is derived from the word “Sinex” which means “Old man,” It is a reference to the wispy white hairs of the pappus.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)The common name Groundsel comes from the Old English “Grundeswylige” and means “To swallow the ground,” a reference to the plants ability to cover large areas, quickly.

Other common names include Common Butterweed and Ragwort.

In the UK at least Ragwort is a misnomer because that name belongs to another plant, Jacobaea vulgaris.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)(Common Ragwort)

Ragwort used to be known as Senecio jacobaea and the two plants are closely related. Common Groundsel contains some of the same alkaloids that make Ragwort poisonous to livestock.

Small quantities of Groundsel ingested over a period of time can cause irreversible liver damage.

However there are few reported cases of Groundsel poisoning in livestock, it is only really a threat when feed such as hay bales become contaminated.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)As a plant for wildlife Groundsel has some value. There are a few moth species that utilise it as a food plant including the Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) and the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). There are also several species of beetles and flies that eat it.

I suspect that these interactions are under reported given the known value of Common Ragwort and the very similar qualities of the two plants.

Small birds also eat the seeds which are very often available mid winter.

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asterales

Family: Asteraceae

Genus: Senecio

Species: Senecio vulgaris

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)

Common Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)Wildflowers in the Springtime 🙂

Little Bo Peep

Little Bo Peep has lost her Sheep and doesn’t know where to find them…..

It’s a good job that I’m here then.

FizzYou search the hedges, I’ll look down the Mole hills.

FizzAny luck yet?

FizzShut up Fizz. She is not going to be down a Mole hill!

She might be.

FizzAnd so it goes on…. we lose our Sheep and then we find them. It is a good job that I have got such a clever tracking dog.

Lost SheepFor anyone who hasn’t seen her in action here is a quick video demonstration of Fizz’s awesome search and retrieve skills.

You just have to have faith, if you are lost then she will find you.

Well it rained all day today and I don’t have much to show you. This is one of my flower posts that I wrote yesterday.

Viola reichenbachiana, The Early Dog Violet

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)There are three little violet flowers called Dog Violets in the UK, they are the Early Dog Violet, The Common Dog Violet and the less common Heath Dog Violet. They can all hybridise and so telling them apart isn’t always easy but they do each have distinctive characteristics.

As it’s name suggests the Early Dog Violet flowers first, about three weeks before the common one. I took this next picture on March 16th and as you can see the flowers were already well established.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)I didn’t see a Common Dog Violet last year until March 30th, so if you see a Dog Violet early in March it is probably this one but you don’t have to guess.

The Dog Violet has a spur behind the flower and with the other two species the spur is lighter than the petals. The Spur on the Early Dog Violet is darker than the petals.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)For comparison this next picture is a Common Dog Violet with a much lighter spur and the Heath Dog Violet is also lighter and quite yellow.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)The other easy to spot difference is with the markings on the lower petal. These lines serve to direct insects to the nectar and they are much less pronounced on the Early Dog Violet.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Again for comparison this next picture is a Common Dog Violet, The Heath Dog Violet is vividly marked like this too.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Okay the difference is relative and not always easy to spot if you don’t have another flower to compare with but bright, intense markings would immediately make me look at the spur.

The Early Dog Violet,  Viola reichenbachiana.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)V. reichenbachiana is a bit of a mouthful. It is named after a German Botanist, Heinrich Gustav Reichenbach, who specialised in Orchids. He has actually got about a dozen different flowers named after him but someone must have felt that he needed a Violet.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Violets have a complicated reproductive strategy that isn’t really relevant to identifying the flower but it still makes for an interesting read. The best explanation that I have found on the web is here.

http://cronodon.com/BioTech/violaceae.html

That article goes some way to explaining why the inside of a violet looks like this.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Basically the Violet has two different types of flower. The open flowers that we are familiar with are specially designed to achieve cross pollination.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Violets are hermaphrodite and capable of self fertilisation but the open flowers are carefully designed to avoid that, however the majority of seed produced is self pollinated. To achieve this the Violet produces another sort of flower. These are small flowers that will never open, they are self fertile. They appear as the plant matures and they are actually responsible for most of the seed production.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)The plant seems to go to a lot of trouble to try and cross pollinate when it doesn’t really have to but it is thought that even a small amount of cross pollination benefits the gene pool.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Early Dog Violet has a long stem bearing a single flower.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)The leaves are heart shaped with finely scalloped edges.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana) Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)   Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)   Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana) It grows in shady woodlands, hedgerows and coppice. It is native to the UK, more common in the South and almost absent from Scotland.

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Violaceae

Genus: Viola

Species: Viola reichenbachiana

Early Dog Violet (Viola reichenbachiana)Wildflowers in winter.

I am sorry that there wasn’t more to this post today but it was just a very dull day at the office. Tomorrow we are going to resume our Big Game Hunting and maybe film a Troll 🙂