Category Archives: Mammals

“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

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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

A Walk in the Woods

C’mon, let’s go for a walk.

Sticky WillyThat’s Sticky Willy, (Goose Grass or Cleavers) growing in amongst the Ivy, I thought that it looked pretty.

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellThis is the tiny Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellI came along this track to photograph the Early Dog Violets but the wind was blowing so strongly today that I couldn’t really get any decent shots.

Early Dog VioletWe will have to come back to them on a quieter day. It doesn’t matter much because in a bit we are going to find another Violet,

Fizz want’s me to go out into the farm fields, I think that she has something planned and as that just happens to be on the way to a wood that I want to visit, I agree.

Up until today nectar has been in short supply and I have been searching these fields for signs of any flower. That has all changed.

All over the field are little splashes of colour. Small and isolated at first this is the start of one of nature’s Spring spectaculars.

Dandelion

Dandelion

Dandelion

DandelionSoon these fields will be a sea of yellow flowers and there will be more nectar than you can shake a stick at.

So this is what Fizz has been up to, she has brought me up here to see the Sheep.

SheepTen Sheep is all that we have left now, the other twenty six have gone to market. They were Blue Texels and they have been sold as breeding stock rather than stock cubes, they will be happy in their new home.

This was the scene from my kitchen window last Wednesday, very early in the morning.

SheepThere is a story about how those Sheep came to be in the orchard.

A few days earlier the farmer and a friend went up to the fields to get the sheep in. They drive around in Land Rovers, tooting their horns and driving the sheep before them but it hadn’t gone well, the animals panicked and ran everywhere and it was a right kerfuffle.

The farmers wife had seen me walking around in the field being followed by thirty six Sheep, so he asked me if I thought that I could bring them down and sure enough they all followed me right into the orchard, where he was able to sort them out.

He said that it was amazing and he had never seen anything like it and that from now on I was “The Pied Piper.” I think that it is pretty cool to surprise somebody who has been working with animals all of his life. (I just used my loaf 🙂 )

Plans

Whisper, whisper, whisper…..

This is the “treat” that Fizz has organised for me. She knows that I am down in the dumps about losing my Robin and she knows how much I like to have little animals eating out of my hand.

Ha Ha! Thank you ladies 🙂

Sheep

Sheep

SheepSo anyway, as I said, we are on our way to a wood that is up behind the fields. I am going to see the Lent Lilies.

On the way to the wood we found our second Violet of the day. These are Sweet Violets.

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets

Sweet Violets

Sweet VioletsThey weren’t very perky it was not a very nice day today. There will be better pictures when the sun shines.

Sweet VioletThe leaves in that picture above are mostly Lesser Celandine, the Violets are growing through it.

That wasn’t very perky either, it likes the sun and closes when it’s overcast.

Lesser CelandineThis next picture is the leaf of the Sweet Violet. (a lovely little round thing with a scalloped edge)

Sweet Violet leafEventually we did get to the wood and the first thing that we saw were these signs of activity.

Boar tracksThis is where Wild Boar have been turning over the soil looking for food and all around were the sweetest little tracks.

Boar tracks

Boar tracksRegular readers will know that a few weeks ago I put a trail camera up here to look for Boar and as soon as I found them I retreated.

What we got on camera was four animals walking across the screen. That told me quite a lot. It told me that they were females, the males are solitary and also the time of year told me that they would be having their litters soon. I felt then, that it was best to leave them in peace and especially not to draw attention to them.

Now I am just going to “Go off on one!”

This is the front page of this weeks local rag.

The Yellow PressUnder the main headline it says,

“Now the boar have tasted blood, what’s stopping them attacking a young child?”

The first lines are,

“CHILDREN’S lives could be at risk, following wild boar attacks and the killing of new born lambs.”

The article continues on page three saying “They attack in packs. If one begins to chase, the rest will follow.”

In case you don’t know that is absolute garbage. Nobody has ever been hurt by a Wild Boar since they were reintroduced here more than twenty years ago. They have never attacked anybody, not even a scratch and they don’t hunt children in packs 🙂

This fear and hatred is what I have to protect my animals from.

People who live here in the Forest have the right as commoners to let their animals loose to roam around. It is a trade off, they avoid the expense of renting land but the sheep are uncared for and they will lose some.

These are lambs born in the wild.

Forest LambsI know that our Sheep require a lot of looking after. These free ranging Sheep wander onto the roads and they get involved in accidents, some of them don’t make it, they are not cared for but as I say, it is a trade off, they will lose a few but they will avoid the expense of owning or renting land.

At the very end of the article and deep inside the paper it says,

“The Forestry Commission has received reports of three to four new born lambs being killed by boar, but not “in packs” and there is no first hand witness testimony.”

If that is the case then why print such rubbish on the front page?

Boar tracksI think we should put the camera back up there now, for a bit.

Lent Lilies, I saved the best for last.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Wild Daffodil (Doesn’t eat children)

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild Daffodil

Wild DaffodilThank you Fizz.

Fizz🙂

He’s Got Wandering Eyes

And that’s me being nice about it.

Grey SquirrelAnything with a pretty face… I will tell you about her later. (I have put her up a tree)

FizzHe was looking a bit fragile today so I thought that we could go on a nice walk to see some flowers, he likes flowers.

Lesser Celandine

Lesser Celandine

Lesser CelandineThat was his Lesser Celandine.

FizzHe says this next one takes his breath away.

I thought that was the smoking. (How can something be beautiful when it doesn’t even have big brown eyes?)

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwell

Common Field-speedwellThat one is his Common Field-speedwell and I am glad that I am not called a “Common” anything.

Cute DogOne more and then we will get down to business 🙂

This is the one that he is prone to put in his mouth. It is Coltsfoot.

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot

Coltsfoot“Everything is beautiful, in it’s own way… la..di..da..di..da,” except for this next one.

Now I like a drink as much as the next puppy (but I wouldn’t mind if you got me something a bit better than mud)

FizzThe thing is that I can hold my mud and I don’t go making a donkey of myself with every floozy who bats her eyelashes at me.

Okay I will tell you what happened.

She was leaning on a lamp post at the corner of the lane…

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Oh me, Oh my…Grey SquirrelCor Blimey! Ain’t you the pretty one.

So I was just wondering…..

Grey SquirrelHow fast can you get up that tree?

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Quite fast then.

Faster than me as it turned out.

Grey SquirrelWatch it Mate!

Grey SquirrelSo all’s well that ends well. I just have to sit here now forever.

Grey Squirrel Fizz

If I had a Goldfish…

It’s your fault.

That DogAll of this mud is your fault. There is mud everywhere.

FizzI don’t feel any compulsion to be fair, I just want to photograph beautiful things.

My camera doesn’t work very well in the winter. One day I will catch these birds in the sunlight.

Female Bullfinch

Female Bullfinch

Male Bullfinch

Male BullfinchThat is my pair of Bullfinches. They have been here for nearly two weeks now, surely they will stay and nest?

We had new species arrive last year that we had never had before, particularly the Goldfinches, because I changed the feeding a bit. There is no reason why we can’t add a few more species this year.

I am a bit worried that they will go when the buds start to appear.

This one is new for this year too.

Coal Tit

Coal TitIt’s a little Coal Tit. We didn’t have them last year but there are lots of them about just now.

This next one is proof positive that I can’t take pictures in the dark but I have to record this. It is a Zombie Robin.

Zombie RobinIt seems strange to me that the birds are moulting now when we are at the start of the breeding season, you would expect them to be in their prime.

I missed some good pictures of a male Robin displaying to another male this morning. He had his head thrown right back and his chest all puffed out and he was bouncing toward the other bird before chasing it off. There are a lot of Robins about in our garden at the moment, far more than there should be. I have only seen four together at once but none of them were Zombies and I think that there are at least six around the back garden and possibly another pair in the yard around the side, including the one that I am taming.

Maybe they can live quite close together when there is a lot of food. They do scrap around the feeder but they only chase each other, I haven’t seen any serious fighting yet.

Anyway, as I can’t take photographs because of Fizz and all of the rain and mud…

FizzI have decided to give you something else to think about.

A couple of days ago my landlord asked me to have a look around his pond, something had been making holes.

Hole

Hole“What do you think that is,” he said.

“That’s  a broom handle, mate. Somebody’s been poking a broom handle in your grass.”

Well the holes are about one inch in diameter, pretty round and they go straight down.

He thought that they were being made by an animal and he wanted me and my nature detective dog to investigate.

I put the camera out and filmed it and it is indeed an animal and it is not big enough to wield a broom.

I don’t exactly know what it is yet and I thought you might know.


You will probably have to go full screen to have any chance of identifying it and even then the image isn’t very good but then I am not very familiar with these little animals. This video is slowed down to half speed, they are fast little animals.

I have a feeling that the holes might be a better indication of species and the video just confirmation.

All of the holes are around the edge of the pond. This is a garden pond and it has a liner so I am not expecting underwater entrances such as a Water Vole would make. There is a much larger natural pond just a few yards behind this one.

Hole

Hole

Hole

Hole

HoleIf I had to guess then I might say Bank Vole but I really don’t know much about that species. I have a feeling that the size of the hole might be indicative. They are pretty uniform holes and there are about a dozen that I can see.

C’mon Mudface, let’s go and get muddy in the mud, mud, mud.

MudfaceIf I had a goldfish then I wouldn’t have to wash my kitchen floor again tomorrow and there wouldn’t be branches of Gorse and worms all over my kitchen table.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Ulex europaeus, The Common Gorse

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Also known as Furze or Whin, Common Gorse is a spiky shrub of the Pea family, It bears bright yellow flowers.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Gorse buds:
Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

The structure of a Pea flower:

Like other members of the Pea Family the calyx of Ulex europaeus is made up of five sepals but these are fused together.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)When the calyx opens it splits into two halves, a top lip and a bottom lip, giving the appearance of just two sepals.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The flower has five yellow petals and the petals have names.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The top petal is called the “Banner” or “Standard” petal. The two petals that form a boat like shape, bottom, centre are called the “Keel” petals and these house the stamens and style. Either side of the keel petals are the “Wing” petals.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The reproductive parts of the flower are initially hidden within the keel petals and it requires the weight of a large insect, such as a bee to land on the keel and expose the stamens and style, when this happens a small cloud of pollen bursts from the flower.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Inside the keel there are ten, partially fused stamens and a central style.

(Gorse flower, petals removed)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The seed pods of Common Gorse are quite small and they develop within the brown remains of the petals. Each pod contains two or three seeds that are relatively heavy and fall close to the parent plant.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The spines on the Gorse are modified leaves.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The spines have been developed to protect the plant from being eaten but a lot of other species have learned to take advantage of the protection offered.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Adders, Grass Snakes and lizards all take advantage of the cover of Gorse as do many small mammals. The dense spiny growth also makes an ideal nesting site for many birds but it does not just offer protection from predators. Gorse is evergreen and in the winter months it offers valuable protection from the elements.

The Dartford Warbler, an insect eating bird that does not migrate, could not survive our winters without Gorse for shelter, it is dependent on the plant.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Gorse flowers produce a lot of pollen and so they are a valuable food source for bees.

When it comes to nectar the scientists can not agree on this one, some very reputable sources say that Gorse does produce nectar and many others say that it does not. My take on this could be that it obviously doesn’t produce nectar in any significant quantity or there would be no dispute.

However, it is worth remembering  that until 2013 Wood Anemones didn’t produce nectar and then they found the nectaries. See my post on Wood Anemones for more on that one. Science just doesn’t know everything about everything.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)There are a number of moths and other invertebrates that also rely on Gorse. One example is the Gorse Case-bearer Moth (Coleophora albicosta) which overwinters in a silk cocoon inside a Gorse flower, the larva emerges and eats the seeds of the flower and then lives inside a case made from the sepals of the flower.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)It is not just wildlife that benefits from Gorse, it has been a valuable crop to us as well.

The soft, coconut fragrant flowers are edible and have been used as decoration and flavouring but it is the tough spiky foliage that we really prize. It is very nutritious and available all year round and has been grown as animal fodder, particularly for horses. They can’t eat it as it is, it has to be milled and there were Gorse mills built for this purpose.

Gorse was also grown as a fuel. The woody stems burn with a lot of heat and produce little ash.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)There are three species of Gorse native to the UK. The other two are Western Gorse (Ulex gallii) and Dwarf Furze (Ulex minor).

Common Gorse grows to two to three metres and it’s main flowering period is from January until July (Although it can be found in flower at any time of year)

Dwarf Furze as it’s name suggests is a small plant growing to about thirty centimetres (12 inches) and flowering from July until September.

Western Gorse is also quite small, not making more than about forty centimetres (16 inches) and again flowering from July till September.

Common Gorse has small bracts growing at the base of the flower, between two-four mm long. They do exist on Western Gorse but less than one mm long so if they are noticeable it is almost certainly Common Gorse. Although often these bracts remain attached to the calyx and are not so evident.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Common Gorse in the hedgerow:

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Fabales

Family: Fabaceae

Genus: Ulex

Species: Ulex europaeus

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Wildflowers on a wet and muddy winter’s day 🙂

One Man and his Dog

Today Fizz and I were tasked with fetching the sheep down from the top field.

SheepdogA well trained sheepdog is such a joy to watch.

There is a connection between a shepherd and his dog. It starts with choosing the right animal. You need to select a dog that is intelligent and active but most of all it must be eager to please. I would love to show you how this works but…

Obviously I am stuffed 🙂

If Fizz understood every word that I said she would still do the exact opposite. That is her impish sense of fun and playfulness.

In this video I am employing a different sort of connection and half a loaf of bread.

Well it works just the same. Having kept her on the connection for the first half hour I then had to take her somewhere else for a bit of exercise.

FizzHere is a short Robin update.

I am pretty sure that my (soon to be) tame Robin is a male.

The male and female European Robin look just the same and you can’t tell them apart by appearance but they don’t always act the same.

This Robin always takes two worms and then he flies off. He eats the first one. Yesterday when I made this video I was surprised to see him almost a full minute after he had taken the second worm, he still had it and he was flitting around with the worm in his beak and he was managing to sing. Eventually he disappeared under a car with another Robin. I think that he is taking the second worm as a gift and that he is courting and that would make him a male.

Since making this video he has become even tamer and now he sits with me while he eats the first worm  and then takes a second and flies off. What a nice little Robin 🙂

I will need a lot of worms when they are raising their brood.

Well it has been typical winter weather here and there hasn’t been a lot to see. I could show you some pictures of Haircut. When she came back from the beauty parlour I was careful to keep her clean for the first  hour but then a dog has got to be a dog…

Fizz

Fizz

Fizz

FizzThere was a short moment in February when she looked almost pristine but you had to be quick to catch it. She is by nature a mucky pup.

FizzGorse is flowering nearby and it isn’t on Easy Wildflowers yet so yesterday I went out to collect some pictures.

I don’t want to spoil you too much because Gorse will probably feature in my next post but it looks like this.

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

Gorse

GorseOne last little Robin update, this video was made just a few minutes ago.

On with the wildflowers, this one is in flower now and that is probably how it will be from now on 🙂

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)

Lamium album, The White Dead-nettle

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)Description: It looks like a stinging nettle with white flowers.

That is a reasonable description, it does look like a stinging nettle but the two plants are not related. Urtica dioica, the Stinging Nettle is a member of the Urticaceae or Nettle Family and White Dead-nettle is a member of the Mint family.

Unlike the Nettle family the Dead-nettles don’t  have a sting.

You can’t really confuse the two plants, the flowers are the give away and they start to form almost as soon as the plant appears.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)(White Dead-nettle in February)

Like other Dead-nettles Lamium album has a square stem.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The leaves grow in opposite pairs.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The leaves are described as cordate (heart shaped) to ovate (oval with a tapering point). They are deeply veined with a net pattern and the edges are toothed. They are also covered in soft hair on both sides.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The flowers grow in whorls around the stem and above a pair of leaves.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The flower is tubular, opening up to a hood and a three lobed lower lip.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)Under the hood are four Stamens, two long and two short and just below the anthers you can see the white style with a two lobed stigma.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The White Dead-nettle is described as having a three lobed lower lip, It has a large central lobe, the two outside lobes are the very small tooth like projections either side of the central lobe in this next picture. They are fairly insignificant.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)The white flower has small green markings at the centre of the  bottom lip.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)Newly emerging flower buds are protected by a five pointed calyx.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)White Dead-nettle is native to the UK, Europe and Asia and naturalised in many other parts of the world.

It is a valuable wild life plant providing a good source of nectar early in the year. It is very popular with bees and is sometimes known as the Bee Nettle. It is the food plant for a number of beetles and moths, including the Golden-Y Moth, the Rivulet, the Burnished Brass and the Speckled Yellow.

Speckled Yellow Moth(Speckled Yellow moth)

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album) White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)   White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)   White Dead-nettle (Lamium album) White Dead-nettle is edible. Only the youngest leaves are good to eat raw in salads. Once it starts to flower leaves can be steamed or added to soups and stews.

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Lamium

Species: Lamium album

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album)Wildflowers in winter.