Tag Archives: Bluebells

“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

Contemplating My Navel

Literally the phrase is used to describe somebody who is spending too much time thinking about their own problems but with me, of course, it means something quite different.

We went up to the Bluebell woods today and they were still not quite ready for us, there are plenty of flowers but it is not a sea of blue yet

https://atrampinthewoods.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/286.jpgThat is good, it means that we haven’t missed anything. Our Bluebell woods are beautiful and you wouldn’t want to miss them.

BluebellsA lot of the wood still looks like this..

BluebellsThe flowers are there but they have a little way to go yet.

Bluebells

Bluebells

BluebellsThere are a lot of Bluebells in the hedgerows and tracks around the farm and they are a bit more advanced than this, probably because they get more sunlight.

Our hedgerows seem to retain a lot of the characteristics of ancient woodland,  which they would have been before they were turned into farmland and I see a lot of species that are regarded as “ancient woodland indicators” growing there. Maybe I will do a post about that soon. The Bluebell is one such species.

7This is a derelict Sweet Chestnut coppice and this is where we filmed the Boar. I know some much nicer Oak and Beech woods that will also be filling up with Bluebells and we will visit them soon.

So we struck out with the Bluebells, what are we going to do now?

I suggested to Fizz that we might go and contemplate my navel.

She looked impressed.

BluebellsYou probably won’t be much more impressed yourself it is not visually striking.

This is Navelwort.

NavelwortThese first two pictures were taken in February, when I first discovered it.

This is new to me and I have never seen it in flower. I had never even heard of it and that doesn’t happen to me very often so I have been watching it closely. I am very excited about my Navelwort.

NavelwortIt flowers in May and today I saw the flower spikes starting to emerge.

Navelwort

NavelwortIt looks a little bit strange, that is because it is a succulent. Succulents are plants with thick, fleshy leaves and stems that are specially adapted for storing water, like a cactus. They usually live in very dry places and we don’t have many native succulent plants, probably because the UK is a very wet place. This one is special.

Navelwort

NavelwortIt is edible and I have read that it has a very nice flavour similar to fresh lettuce. I haven’t ever tasted it and I will tell you why…

I have actually just been watching a video about edible Navelwort. It started with the presenter going on about what a rare find it was and he hadn’t seen one like this for years and then he ate it.

There is a basic rule when it comes to foraging, unless you are starving, don’t take things that are not abundant and don’t ever take the last one or even most of them. It is common sense.

The Navelwort that I have found is not abundant and most of what I saw in February has been eaten by animals. They don’t respect anything but then most of them are starving.

NavelwortAnother name for this plant is Wall Pennywort (It grows on stone walls) and the Latin is Umbilicus rupestris. It has medicinal uses but I haven’t really looked into that yet and these little flower buds are going to grow into tall spikes of flowers. I will show you when it happens.

NavelwortWell that is it for today. We did see a lot of other wildflowers and we romped about in fields of golden yellow but those are other posts 🙂

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

The Deer Hunter

Well, it took six nights but in the end we did get results from the trail camera.

I have lots of beautiful animals to show you tonight.
Deer Hunter Fizz(Deer Hunter Fizz)

But it is a beautiful day and we are not in a hurry to get to the woods.

Playing Ball

Playing Ball

Playing Ball

Playing Ball

Playing Ball

Playing Ball

The Winner!The Winner

Dog worn out, now we can get on 🙂

Here is some of the stuff that we found in the wood.

As soon as we found the camera I could see that we had a result. I can tell what animal has been at the bait. The ground was very disrupted and all of the bait had been taken (Peanuts, Raisins and Sheep Feed) except the bread. So no Boar but I guessed Deer. I was gutted that I couldn’t leave the camera out there but I had run out of batteries. The camera had died, it told me there were 189 videos but the last 50 of those were dud due to low battery power. No matter we got some good stuff.

Don’t despise the little Fox. I would be pretty fed up if I had found 189 videos of him but I didn’t. This is a beautiful wild animal that we rarely get a chance to watch.

There is actually a stack of food there that the Fox can eat, he is just being fussy. This video was from the night before the Deer turned up and there was plenty left for them. That is bread that he is playing with in the video, I put out quite a bit but I hid it under leaves.

The Bluebells are coming up. They are not early, they won’t flower until they are supposed to in April but they always make an appearance around about now. I love the way that they pierce the leaf litter.

Bluebells

Bluebells

BluebellsWe found a bulb that had been rooted up (we replanted it) I was surprised by how big it was.

Bluebell BulbI have heard it said that Boar uproot and eat Bluebells. I spent a long time looking for evidence of this in my Bluebell wood in East  Sussex and I never saw any evidence of Boar eating Bluebells. They had ample opportunity and so I conclude it is an untrue slur on the Boar.

This next leaf is Variegated Yellow Archangel. It is one that I want to write about for Easy Wildflowers (probably next) so I won’t say too much about it. The leaves are about now and are easy to recognise, they actually remain all winter.

Variegated Yellow Archangel

Variegated Yellow ArchangelThis is another one that will not flower until April, when it does it will look like this.

Variegated Yellow Archangel

Variegated Yellow ArchangelNow for something that will flower in January (I hope). This is Lesser Celandine. My first pictures last year were February 24th.

Lesser CelandineLook, flower buds. These could easily open this month.

Lesser CelandineOkay, beautiful wild animals now. Plenty of video, just watch what you like. I could watch them all night.


Come on then Fizz, it is a long way home.

Play Ball

Play BallMe and my shadow.

Me and my shadowThat’s enough of that 🙂

A Blue Day

Fizz took one look at the morning sky and confidently predicted a lovely day. She was right.

Blue DawnSo she had a lot of fun and we spent a long time in the fields practising our recall. She hasn’t quite got it yet. She tends to chase after the ball and then when she has got it she will sit down and wait for me to catch up.

What is the point in running back to him when he is coming this way anyway?

FizzAbsolutely beautiful weather, warm and still.

But that was at lunch time, by three o’clock the sun had gone down and it was cold and icy. It is still December.

DecemberSo I sat down to write about Bluebells, before we get onto flowers here is a little something for the animal lovers, this is a Bluebell Conch.

Bluebell ConchIt is a little Tortrix moth called Hysterophora maculosana.

I know that it doesn’t look much but it is rare. When I took these pictures in 2011 there had only been five previous county sightings in this century.

What was even rarer was to photograph it on the food plant, there was only one other photograph of a Bluebell Conch on a Bluebell in circulation at that time.

Bluebell ConchWell you know that I believe in sharing my pictures. I uploaded these to Wikimedia under a CC0 license, which basically means that they are free for anyone to download and use as they see fit.

Well, it is important, they are rare and people should see these things.

It is not like I created the moth! I just pointed my stick at it 🙂

Bluebell Conch

Bluebell ConchI do realise that sometimes I must annoy proper photographers but this was for the benefit of Humanity and to help people to love little  animals and flowers and my images adorn Wikipedia pages around the world, helping people to see the beauty in a little animal.

Mga sumpay ha gawas

Whatever that means 🙂

Here is my story of the blues… (It goes on a bit)

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, The Bluebell

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

As spring flowers go the Bluebell is a bit of a late starter. They begin to appear around mid April and by that time everything is in flower.

Primroses, Lesser Celandine and the Wood Anemones have all but gone. The Snowdrop and Crocus are a distant memory and many of the summer flowers are in full bloom.

My first Bluebell of 2014, this picture was taken on the 13th. of April.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Still Bluebells herald in the new year for me.

They are one of the first plants that I see as their tiny shoots break through the leaf litter.

Bluebells in January.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)We are still a long way from the warm scented woodlands of April and May but it has begun and it always makes me feel good to see the shoots.

What happens next takes a little bit of time but there are lots of other flowers to look at, the Bluebells signal the start of it.

Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell shoots (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) There is an absolute magic in a Bluebell woodland in springtime.

Magic Squirrel

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The colour is subtle, it isn’t gaudy, it fits and the scent hangs heavy on a dewy morning.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta is deeply scented,  it is lovely to walk in a Bluebell wood but our woodlands are under threat.

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)The threat to our Native Bluebell:

About half of all of the worlds Hyacithoides non-scripta are here in the UK. It is essentially a British flower and so we have a responsibility to preserve it.

The problem is the Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica. The two species have been isolated for about 8000 years but in the last 200 years gardeners have been introducing the Spanish variant and seriously, we are in danger of losing our flowers.

Usually when we talk about the threat of an invasive species we are talking about them encroaching on habitat and crowding our own species out. The threat posed by the Spanish Bluebell is different, It can pollinate native Bluebells to produce a very different hybrid species which can go on to pollinate more flowers. Once hybrids get into the woods the process is irreversible.

The Native Bluebell will hybridise with the Spanish Bluebell and the result is a hybrid called Hyacinthoides massartiana. The Hybrid is fertile and more hardy than the Native Bluebell and it is less fussy about it’s habitat. The hybrid is now much more common than genuine Spanish Bluebells but it shares many of the characteristics and it is very hard to impossible to positively separate the species and sometimes requires DNA analysis.

This is either Spanish or possibly a hybrid.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)The Hybrid shares characteristics with both parents but the characteristics from the Spanish side include a strong stem, so that the flowers are held upright and do not droop to one side, an open bell shaped flower and blue to green pollen, (once the pollen is spent the anthers will appear white). The leaves are broader than the native Bluebell and the Spanish Bluebell is unscented and Hybrids have a very weak scent.

Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana) Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)   Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana)   Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides massartiana) Hybrids can also look a lot like native Bluebells.

Please Note: The majority of Hyacinthoides non-sripta bulbs that are offered for sale are actually hybrids. You need a license to trade in Bluebell bulbs and there are very few licensed growers.

The Guardian, Digging the Blues.

If you want to buy native Bluebell bulbs then be sure to buy them from a name that you can trust. The licensed grower mentioned in the Guardian article above doesn’t sell to the public.

Vera Bluebell

I would trust The Royal Horticultural Society rather than my local market trader although he is a very nice man and I would certainly buy my Petunias from him and pretty much everything else.

There is no reason to ever plant shop bought bulbs in the wild.

How to identify Hyacinthoides non-scripta:

The easiest way to identify a native Bluebell is to look at the anthers of newly opened flowers. The pollen will be creamy white. It is important to look at new flowers, those at the top of the flower spike, as once the pollen is spent they all have white anthers.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)   Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) If the pollen is white then it is native, if the pollen is any other colour then it definitely is not native.

Other features to look for, the flower is long and tubular rather than bell shaped like the Spanish variety. The petals are strongly curled back at the tips and the stem is quite weak causing the flower head to droop to one side (but notice that the flowers do not all emerge on the same side)

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)As the flowers age the stem becomes more upright and it is common to see native Bluebells without the droop and less one directional.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)By the time the seed pods have developed the flower stem is completely upright.

27Another good way to tell the species apart is colour. Whilst the Spanish flowers introduced into our gardens come in a variety of colours from pink to deep blue the Native Bluebell is always blue.

Except when it is white.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)I have read a bit about how rare and unusual it is to find white Bluebells and I can only say that has not been my experience. I have regularly found them in woods all around Southern England and I can usually expect to find more than one in a given wood.

They are not that uncommon and they stand out, they are also quite beautiful.

White Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Hyacinthoides non-scripta is considered to be an indicator species of ancient woodland although locally they seem to grow in every hedgerow and field.

Bluebell flowers (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)They can increase by bulb division, they produce small offset bulbs from the main one but they spread very slowly and it may take decades for them to advance a few yards.

They also grow from seed but again that is a slow process, it takes about five years for the seed to produce a flower.

30The seed heads appear in late May when the flowers are spent and will remain in the woods for months. At first green they dry out to a papery brown shell before discarding their seeds.

31

32 33   34   35 36

Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Asparagales

Family: Asparagaceae

Genus: Hyacinthoides

Species: Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Bluebell woods (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)Wildflowers in winter.

(Please notice that I included a Bluebell Tortrix Dog in my last picture)

Now I have got to take her for a walk and it is a stinky, cold, windy day today.

And now it is raining!!!

Bluebell Woods

It was a blistering hot July day yesterday.

Any animal with any sense was lying down in the shadiest place they could find.

ShadeFizz was out in the farm fields with me and a couple of tennis balls and we were having a splendid game of “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.”

Lots of water and rest stops were required.

Fizz

Fizz

FizzIn fact there wasn’t very much else going on at all, just resting and drinking water, I needed a plan.

FizzI know a place where it is very cool and this seemed like a good day to visit. We are going to the Bluebell woods. Yes, to see Bluebells.

hadeThis is Sweet Chestnut coppice, well, it is what remains when the coppicing is abandoned.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceI am not a big fan of this type of woodland. Sweet Chestnut is not native to the UK and it supports very little insect life, almost none and without insects you don’t get many birds.

This tree is also the arboreal equivalent of Rhododendron. It has one of the largest leaves of any tree in the UK and casts dense shade. When the leaves fall they create a thick leaf litter that is toxic and inhibits the growth of other plants.

Even when Sweet Chestnut is actively coppiced there is very little Spring growth as you would find in native coppice woodland, just a thick blanket of dead toxic leaves.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceI do like coppice woodland, native coppice woodland is a wonderful wildlife habitat but it is important to know that not all coppice is the same. Hazel coppices well, Oak, Birch and Willow are the best wildlife trees that we have but diversity is the real important issue and the more species of tree a wood supports the more life it will support. Monocultures of non native species are an ecological disaster.

Having said that, some of my best friends are Sweet Chestnut as part of a mixed woodland it is welcome in my world. It has good nuts.

Sweet Chestnut CoppiceA Sweet Chestnut coppice is a nice place to visit on a sweltering summers day and a hard place to survive in.

The plants that do thrive here are the Spring flowers, Wood Anemones, Lesser Celandine and Bluebells.

We have come to look at the Bluebells.

This is all that remains of the Bluebells that carpeted the floor of this wood a couple of months back but this is an important part of the Bluebell story.

BluebellsThere is much more to Bluebells than the showy display of flowers in early May. The story starts with the tiny green shoots that pierce through the leaf litter in January and it ends here with these seed pods full of shiny black seeds that will be tomorrows Bluebells.

Bluebells

Bluebells

Bluebells

Bluebells

Bluebells

BluebellsWell, we didn’t come here to write the Bluebell story, we will do that on a cold January day when there is little else to gladden our hearts. Today we are just collecting some photographs.

Today looks like another scorcher, the plants are buzzing with life, there is lots to see and write about and Fizz and I need to get out there and work on our tans. 🙂

Rambling

You might want to come back tomorrow.

This post is just going to ramble on and on. I will tell you why. Fizz and I have been to some really nice places today and when we got back….

Present

Someone had bought me a bottle of whiskey for looking after Fizz while they were away. Hurrah!

We are going to go out in the fields and set a trail cam up in the hope of catching Foxes and then we are going to explore a bit of ancient woodland but there are jobs to do first.

I had to go and buy some food for the birds. I have an arrangement with my landlord, he has a farm shop that sells bird food among other things and I am allowed to help myself to feed the birds in the garden (and he says I can have the nuts for my Badgers but I don’t take much). While he was away I gave all of his bird seed to the sparrows. (they were hungry)

Bird foodI have bought a little half a coconut thing and my plan is to take his empty seed feeder down and put my coconut there and he won’t notice that there is no seed left.

I just needed a little bit of help from the Woodpeckers.

Coconut FeederAnd do you love Woodpeckers? I love Woodpeckers.

Coconut feeder“Of course! He has removed the seed feeder and put a coconut there to focus on the Woodpeckers. What a clever man and what lovely birds.”

I am considered locally to be a bit of a bird Guru but I am not and I have to go to bird experts all of the time for help. It just stems from one silly little thing. My landlord loves Goldfinches and almost as soon as we met we got talking about birds and he told me about this fascination, he had never had them in the garden but he knew some great places where we could go and see them. Goldfinches love sunflower hearts. He has got charms of Goldfinches in his garden now. I don’t actually like them that much myself, I mean they are cool and I am kind to all animals. i like the Dunnock and the Wren, tiny little brown things that you wouldn’t notice. Modest and beautiful.

Don’t worry about the Sparrows they are eating peanuts now and they pig the worms that I put out for the Dunnocks and Robins and the sunflower hearts that the Goldfinches love.

So that is the birds sorted, next we have to do the caterpillars.

I have got five of them now. Although the nettles seem to thrive I have noticed that after a couple of days the caterpillars seem to lose interest. If I give them fresh leaves they charge around like little monkeys, so, change the leaves.

First I have to make sure that nobody is about to moult or pupate.

Treacle-arium

Then so long as I am happy with the situation I just have to pop down to the florists and buy a new bunch of nettles.

Stinging NettlesThis is an Ouch Ouch Ouch moment for me. (“I will take you out in a minute, I just have to look after my bugs”)

I have to count them all off the leaves…

CaterpillarsPut the fresh leaves in…

Nettles

Then all that I have to do is watch them for about an hour.

I gave up covering them. Once they have found their leaves they are fine and don’t try and escape. There is just a little transition period when I disturb them and I have to make sure that they settle back in.

Small Tortoiseshell LarvaeWalkies!

There is something about nature that I find attractive. Plus Dogs need walking even if they are not your own.

FieldSo here is the Fox-cam.

FoxcamI surveyed this area a few weeks ago. I left the camera out for three nights and each night it returned sixty videos (The limit of the SD card) This is a bit of a Fox and Badger hotspot.

I have set the camera right beside an abandoned Badger sett that I think has been taken over by Foxes.Fox earthWhat I would like to get is daytime footage of the Fox. The Badgers opened up this outlier sett in March but they have moved into the next field. If we get some good weather soon we will go Badger watching. There are some nice Elm trees up by the new sett, they didn’t all succumb to Dutch Elm Disease.

We have to be a little bit careful with the Badgers because DEFRA are continuing with their pilot cull in this area. They are a bit cagey about exactly where they are culling but I think that we are safe because they send out sett surveyors first and we haven’t seen them.

They don’t ask for permission to kill your animals they just send you a letter telling you that their surveyors will be on your land at such and such time and there is nothing that you can do about it. They are rubbish at finding Badger setts though and our main sett is on a public footpath, I don’t think that they can shoot there.

The fields are lovely at the moment. My landlord normally lets them out for grazing in the summer and we have either sheep (short grass) or cattle (long grass) but just now they are being allowed to grow for the grass crop. They will be mown as soon as we get a bit of dry weather and some lucky animals will get to eat a wildflower meadow.

Fizz

Clover Red Clover Bluebell Forget-me-notThere is a down side to having such long grass when it is wet…

wet wet wetBut it is more of a down side when you are a midget.

FizzHappy midget.

FizzSo, rambling on, here we are in the forest and it is hard for me to put my camera down.

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppice

Chestnut coppiceThis is a derelict Sweet Chestnut coppice, we are in the woods behind the farm. The ferns are mostly Broad Buckler but there are Male Fern and Shield Ferns here as well. Much of the green on the floor is what remains of the Bluebells.

BluebellsThe Bluebells are quietly going to seed now.

Bluebell

Bluebell

BluebellThese seed pods will slowly dry and turn brown, then they will crack open showering shiny black seeds everywhere.

One of the things that I love most about the Bluebells is that the end of the Bluebells isn’t really the end of anything, it is the very beginning of summer.

Yew Tree

Well I better wind this up now and go and get my Fox cam, it was good whiskey.