Tag Archives: nature

“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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There’s No Sun Up In The Sky

We are being battered this morning. The wind is bashing things about. The old farm sheds have a lot of loose corrugated iron and the wind can always find it and bang it about. Rain is crashing noisily against the glass in my windows.

Margaret has just rung me (She is Fizz’s owner) and she said, “I want to keep Fizz in this morning, she is going to the beauty parlour today.”and she went on, “I left it as long as I could because I thought it was still a bit cold but I can’t leave it any longer.”

Why? What’s wrong with Fizz?

FizzWell in my experience women have a finer eye for this sort of detail than men do and anyway it is not very nice out.

I may not even walk her today and if I do I won’t take my camera. It is not because of the bad weather but I always feel guilty waiting for her to come back from the beauty parlour.

It must cost a few bob and they go to all this trouble to get a lovely clean, tidy dog and the moment she gets home we go out and roll in mud. I might let them enjoy their clean dog for one day.

I walk Fizz more to give her the stimulation and interest than to exercise her, she could run around on her hamster wheel if she needed exercise. I expect that she will find three hours at the BP stimulating enough for today.

So what to do?

I am going to talk about Bluebells (we will be going to see them soon)

When I was out finding new Speedwells I noticed a few other flowers about. There was a lot of Bugle.

BugleBut this is really such a nice flower that it deserves a post of it’s own (when the weather is better)

BugleThe other thing that I saw a lot of was The Enemy.

Hybrid BluebellThis is not a Bluebell. Well it is not a Hyacinthoides non-scripta, a native British Bluebell.

It doesn’t really look anything like a Bluebell, it is not the same shape. This is a hybrid of the Spanish Bluebell and a sweet and innocent English Bluebell that was seduced because of her innocence.

The key to telling the species apart is normally given as the pollen colour.

Come here you! Show them!

Hybrid Bluebell

Hybrid BluebellThis is what The Natural History Museum has to say,

“The easiest way to tell the difference between native and non-native bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen.

If it is creamy-white then the bluebell is a native.  If it is any other colour, such as pale green or blue, then it is definitely not native.”

These are native.

Hyacinthoides non-scripta

Hyacinthoides non-scriptaSo what is this?

Hybrid Bluebell

Hybrid Bluebell“If it is creamy-white then the bluebell is a native.”

No Sir. You are wrong.

Growing in amongst these obvious hybrids there were a lot of white hybrids.

Hybrid BluebellI searched every flower and there was not a trace of blue or green pollen to be seen, every single one was creamy white.

Once upon a  time these flowers would have been shot as spies, they are out of uniform but they most definitely are not Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

Hybrid BluebellThis is what a white native Bluebell looks like.

Hyacinthoides-non-scriptaThe enemy is at our door and it seems that in many cases they are becoming smarter than us. More vigilance is called for.

Photos of a newly shorn Fizz will be coming up soon 🙂

Educated Fleas

I thought that I would take Fizz up in the fields and take her picture in amongst the Dandelions…

Fizz

FizzBut I became distracted.

This is St Mark’s Fly (Bibio marci)

St Mark's FlyWe call it that because they all emerge around about the same time, April the twenty fifth and that is St Mark’s Day. They are a little bit late this year.

These first picture are of the male. He has large eyes and clear wings, also very long back legs that hang below him in flight. Last year I searched in vain for a female of the species. They look quite different.

The problem is that the adults only live for about a week and as they all emerge at the same time there is very little opportunity to see them.

St Mark's FlyAnd there she was, distracting me… I forgot all about Fizz.

St Mark's FlyShe has small eyes , she is a little bit longer than the male and has dark wings.

St Mark's FlyBut even though she looks so different I am quite confident that this is the female of the species.

St Mark's Fly

St Mark's FlyI have heard it said that the male has such big eyes so that he can find the female and that is quite believable. I had a lot of trouble finding her.

The Dandelions are beginning to fade now.

FizzThe Buttercups are just starting to appear.

As soon as the Dandelions go these fields will fill with Buttercups.Buttercup

ButtercupIt looks like these fields are going to be grown for silage again this year, the grass is already too long for Sheep. That is good because for a few months we will get long grass and lots of wildflowers and all of the associated insects.

I will leave you with the firework display called Ribwort Plantain.

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

Ribwort Plantain

 

Forget-me-do’s

Myosotis sylvaticaThere is very little point in holding on to the past. What is gone is gone.

Today I am in the best place that I have ever been in my life. It is completely peaceful here, full of birdsong and the scent and colour of wildflowers. I am letting go of all that used to be, that was hard work 🙂

So my overly sweet and pretty little friend, you are a Wood Forget-me-do.

Myosotis sylvaticaIt is not always easy to get Forget-me-do’s to species, the Wood Forget-me-do is very similar to the field variety.

Myosotis sylvaticaA British pound coin has a diameter of 22.5 mm (about the size of a wedding ring, I guess)These flowers look about 7-8 mm across. (Three to the pound) Field Forget-me-do’s are about half that size 3-4 mm. These flowers are also quite flat.

The shape of the calyx pushes the petals of the Field flower up making more of a cup shape out of it.

Myosotis sylvaticaThe calyx of the field variety is almost bell shape with the tips of the sepals closing to a point. The wood variety is more linear with an open end.

In both cases the individual flower stalks are about twice the length of the calyx. That pedicle length is key to separating some of the smaller species and so it should be noted.

Myosotis sylvaticaLocally it is in flower now and you can see it in all the more open hedgerows as you walk into the village (dodging the devilish little lambs).

The large flower of the Wood Forget-me-do is the source of most of the garden varieties.

Myosotis sylvatica

Myosotis sylvaticaGoodbye whatever your name was, I am afraid that it has gone again. I do remember that you were a very pretty little flower.

Myosotis sylvatica

Hanky Panky

Ha! I have heard it said that “the Devil makes work for idle hands,” maybe he does, I don’t know about that. Today we are going to talk about Monkey Business, of the botanical kind.

I just want to mention the star of today’s show.

NicholasPretending to be Old Nick himself, this beautiful little innocent is one of our ASBO lambs. Born into the wild, this one has survived. I just met him about an hour ago and I was struck by his inner beauty.

I wish he was mine 🙂

Let’s talk about flowers (and hanky panky)

Primroses are lovely.

PrimroseNo question about that.

The Cowslip is so tall and strong.

CowslipHandsome even, that is just another word for beautiful.

Cowslip

CowslipBut…

Should we leave them alone together?

I don’t know how much that you know about the birds and the bees but if you leave Primroses and Cowslips alone together then there is a very fair chance that they will get up to Hanky Panky.

False OxlipThis is a flower called the False Oxlip, real Oxlips are very rare and a species in their own right. A False Oxlip is the result of a liaison between a Primrose and a Cowslip. We are not here to judge.

False Oxlip

False Oxlip

False OxlipIt seems to me to be a very beautiful offspring.

His mum was not what I would call a looker.

ASBO mumBut I noticed his sister.

SisterBeautiful animals.

Playing with Butterflies

It is a miserable one today. A cold wind has blown in from somewhere and brought lots of cloud with it.

It is a good day to demonstrate my Butterfly handling technique. They will be at my mercy.

The poor little things can’t do anything about it, they need sunshine, they need to be warm to fly and they will be very lethargic today.

The first butterfly that we found was a female Orange Tip.

Orange tip butterflyThe first trick is the weather. I have been out at two o’clock on a sunny afternoon and can not get anywhere near them. I am already very close to this one and she would have flown away if she could, she is too cold and I can do what I want with her.

Now. You must not touch her in any way,  only she may touch you. She is very easy to break and we are big and clumsy.

Just put your finger right in front of her, minding her antennae and legs and just depress the flower a little bit.

You can talk about politics or the economy but not war, it has to be gentle depression.

As the flower gives way under her feet she will step forward onto your finger and once her front feet are on you can just roll your finger under her and you have her.Orange tip Butterfly I don’t exactly have this one where I wanted. I wanted her on my finger tip for display purposes but she has crawled onto my knuckle and I can’t move her. This will do.

Orange tip ButterflyIt is a butterfly Fizz.

It is a butterfly Fizz.

Orange tip ButterflyI have picked this one up because she was in deep shade, I am going to move her into the sunshine. As soon as she feels the sun she will open her wings and bask and she will fly away. It will only take about two seconds for her to warm up enough to fly so I have to get lucky with my photographs.

Orange tip Butterfly

Orange tip Butterfly

Orange tip ButterflyAnd she has gone.

The pictures aren’t great but never mind we will try again later.

You can only do this with the white ones (any of the whites). This little Speckled Wood was flitting all over the place, a little bit of cloud doesn’t bother him.

Speckled WoodIt is simply because white reflects light and heat and dark colours like brown absorb it and the Speckled Wood warms up much easier than the Orange Tip and flies on much cooler days.

I have never been able to approach or pick up a Speckled Wood, or any of the other dark ones. Sometimes they will land on me by chance and of course if you raise them as your own you can release them but that is as good as it gets.

Now I am just going to leave the butterflies for a moment because I have noticed the seed pods of that flower she was sitting on and I want those photographs. It is Garlic Mustard.

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

Garlic MustardThank you for indulging me, I needed those photographs for my files.

I have just noticed another flower.

Have you ever wondered where Primroses go when they die?

Hmmm… a small lack of floral compassion perhaps?

Anyway I have and I care. I want to know. So I am choosing a nice female plant with pin flowers…

PrimroseI am going to perform a couple of autopsies on her dead sisters.

Primrose

Primrose

Primrose

PrimroseVery interesting, this is how we find things out.

Perhaps if I sewed them back together and passed electricity through them, then I could reanimate them. Now which bit went with which?

Back to the butterflies and we have found another Orange Tip, this one is a male.

Just in case there is anyone in the world who wonders how I can tell the male from the female. Well, it is only the male who actually has orange tips to his wings (On the inside). With a few years of practice and an element of expertise in this field absolutely anyone can tell the difference.

Orange Tip

Orange TipI am not going to try and pick this one up. He is as docile as the female was and I could do what I wanted but….

Okay he is in the shade but the whole world is in the shade, the sun is behind a cloud and we are in the open this time. Plus I would much prefer to photograph him on a plant than in my hand. This time he is on Cow Parsley.

Cow Parsley is absolutely brilliant and provides a mass spectacle to rival the Bluebells. It really is beautiful but we will do that in a bit.

What I am going to do is stand beside him and wait for the sun to come out again, it will take twenty five minutes and then I will fail 🙂

There is a reason why I like to do this sort of stuff alone. Sometimes if I am waiting for a bird or animal I might wait for hours, I sustain myself by imagining the shot that I might get if everything works.

I like to walk with other people and talk about flowers and nature and stuff but I don’t try and take photographs. I have tried and they always say, “Go on, get what you need, I am happy,” but I can only get guilt, maybe I will do it once for twenty minutes or so but then when I want to do it again, I just can’t.

Nobody just wants to stand and look at me for hours on end… almost nobody.

This is the reason that I work with an Air Head. (I couldn’t have a better companion/assistant)

She understands the importance of botanical research, she understands my interest in  entomology, she understands that big game hunters have to make a living just as butterfly collectors do and she will make any sacrifice. She is priceless.

PricelessOh dear, he is staring at a bush again. I think that he is looking for his marbles and we just have to wait.

(He never finds them)


Best Dog in the world, that one.

Here we go.

Orange Tip

Orange Tip

Orange TipThat’s a fail. I have taken much better pictures than that. Never mind, the Dog got walked.

I will have to wind this up now or my daily post will take two days to write. Take care.

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 🙂