Tag Archives: Wildlife

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.




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.

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.


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.



Pick Puck or Pickle

Nah, Pickle isn’t an option.

It has been a month since we had a proper Robin update, the last one was Valentine’s Day. I asked you for suggestions for a name and said that when I got him eating out of my hand we would have a poll to choose the best one.

Today we raised the bar (by about two and a half feet) and he needs a name. Bear in mind that this is an important decision because after three months of hard taming, he is family now and he will be appearing here, as much a part of my day as walking the Dog.

If anybody has got Facebook then I ask that you just ignore any name suggestions that Fizz may post. I am not going to call him Flighty or Misfit. They will be chums.

Today started just as any other. He waits outside of my door for me to open up and start feeding him, that is usually about six thirty at this time of year.

European RobinHe has been eating out of my hand for a couple of weeks but he likes to eat at ground level and that involves me getting on my knees and stretching my arm as far as I can.

I feel like an idiot.

European RobinI have been trying to get him to approach me from the hand rail and today he accepted that, I haven’t had to get on my knees since.

You can see that he wants this worm.

European RobinYou big, brave, little bird.

European RobinAs soon as he had done it once that was it, problem solved.

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinAll of the pictures in this post were taken today, he is a hungry little bird.

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinNow he needs a name. The names on my list were suggested by you after my February 14th post, except for the last two, I decided to allow Fizz a little input. The poll is open for one week and then we will know who he is.

He is getting very confident and cheeky and I do like a rude bird. He has given me a lot of pleasure today and he will do so tomorrow as well.

European RobinI know that there are people who would prefer it if he was  a vegetarian. I am feeding him live Wax Worms. It is just necessary at the moment to win his confidence. His natural diet is live insects and he would eat them anyway, by feeding him commercially grown animals I am saving the lives of hundreds of valuable native insects. I will talk to him about lifestyle options when we know each other better and probably after the chicks are fledged.

The other thing is  that today was just a lousy day for photography. I thought that if I left this post a couple more days then I would get much better pictures but the post is about today.

I will do the better pictures, I will do both. When the sun shines I will have all of the opportunity in the world and he will sparkle.

European Robin

European RobinWildlife in the Spring 🙂

It’s Botany! It’s not Walkthebloomin’Dogany!

It is hard to write a nature blog in January. Today I have been focussed on botany but for all of her admirers I will start you off with a little walkthebloomin’Dogany.

Fizz has a new game. I throw the ball and she chases it. Then, when any proper Dog would bring it back to me with a wagging tail, Fizz lies down and waits for me to catch up and tickle her before she will give it up.


Is that what your Dog does?

No! I didn’t think so.

We went up to the wood today to see if the Lesser Celandine was going to flower in January. No chance. The flower buds are there but they haven’t grown at all.

Lesser CelandineI am not really surprised, it didn’t flower until late February last year and although I am hoping it will be earlier this year, I didn’t really expect it to be a month earlier.

Now I will just show you this little fungus that I found. This is Scarlet Elf Cup.

Scarlet Elf CupIt isn’t a great example so I am not really going to write about it. I know where we found it and I will look out for better samples. It is a nice splash of colour in an otherwise drab post.

Scarlet Elf CupAnother wildflower that is on the cusp is Dog’s Mercury

Dog's MercuryThese are not the flowers but the buds, they are not ready to open yet.

Dog's MercuryThe most exciting thing that has happened to me in the last couple of days (Shut up! Fizz!). The most exciting thing has been finding these beautifully marked leaves of the Arum maculatum.

Wild ArumIt is quite common to find blotched markings on the leaves of Wild Arum but when I came to write about it, I kind of let that information slide. I didn’t have the photographs to illustrate it, so I left it out.

I leave a lot of stuff out of my posts for exactly this reason. Nobody ever comments, “Hey Col, you didn’t show the development of the seed pods.” I didn’t have the pictures but I am aware of what I leave out and I will get the pictures next time around.

Wild Arum

Wild ArumThis is the youngest Arum maculatum that I have ever photographed.

Wild ArumToday I wrote about a wildflower with evergreen leaves, well evervariegated leaves and I will show you in a minute. I had to delve back into my picture from last year and I found a lot of good stuff for this flower, that I had taken last January.

While I was there I had a look at what else I was doing last January and these next pictures are from exactly a year ago.

It is quite funny really, regular readers will understand what I mean. It seems that the season dictates my actions. A year ago today I was messing about in the woods.

Rotten Apples

Trail CameraI was pretty sure then and still think so today, that although it is indistinct, that is the print of a Wild Boar.

Print..and I got a lot of Fallow Deer.


Fallow DeerThe other thing that I found amazing, exactly one year ago, guess what was in the garden?

Long -tailed TitsYes! Bumbarrels! They hardly ever visit but at exactly the same time last year.

BTW. This time last year the weather was a lot worse than it is now.


WetSo today I wrote about a wildflower called Variegated Yellow Archangel. I know that it is a bit of a mouthful and the Latin doesn’t help. I am writing about it now because it is evergreen and although the flowers are a long way off you very well may see the foliage now. It is quite distinct and easy to recognise.

Before I show you the variegated variety let me just show you this.

This is our native Yellow Archangel.

Yellow Archangel

and the Non-native.

Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum, The Variegated Yellow Archangel.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)Variegated Yellow Archangel is a type of Dead-nettle. Also known as Garden Archangel, it is a close relative of our native Yellow Archangel looking quite similar but with variegated leaves.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)It is a garden escapee having been introduced into this country in the 1940’s and first recorded in the wild in the 1980’s.

It was introduced as a ground cover plant as it has attractive variegated leaves that are evergreen or semi-evergreen. It spreads by runners and covers areas quickly.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)In the UK it is considered to be invasive and a threat to our ancient woodland plant species but just how invasive it is remains a question still unanswered.

This Archangel doesn’t seem to be having a great impact on our ancient woodlands. It seems to prefer the woodland edge and not to be spreading into the woods. My own observations are of Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemones and Bluebells growing freely amongst Variegated Yellow Archangel and the plant does seem to be restricted to the edge.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)The seed produced by the plant is said to be infertile and this limits it’s ability to spread into new areas. Most commonly, when it is introduced into a new area it is the work of man, either deliberately introducing it to beautify our woodland or through the dumping of garden waste or soil. New plants can arise from just a small piece of root.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)Summer leaves appear to be mostly green, marked with silver but winter foliage is often quite red.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)However the colour can vary quite a lot.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)The leaves are quite hairy on the top surface and less so underneath.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)That is the winter foliage, in April the flowers arrive.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)Like other Dead-nettles the flowers grow in whorls around a square, central stem with the lower ones opening first.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)The petals are fused into a corolla that forms a tube with a hood above the opening and a three lobed lip. the central lobe of the bottom lip is striped with orange markings.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)The hood is quite hairy.  Under the hood there are four stamens, two long and two short.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)In the centre of the stamens there is a downward pointing spike. It’s purpose may be to trigger the release of pollen when it is touched by an insect. The flowers are a source of nectar and pollen.

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum) Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)   Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)   Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Lamium

Species: Lamium galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum

Variegated Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. Argentatum)Wildflowers in winter 🙂

Botany Schmotany!

FizzThere is an Angel looking over you. That flower is poisonous. Spit!

Bambi’s Not Dead!

Well I don’t think that she is.

We are just back from another day of Boar hunting We had seventy three videos on the card. Seventy two of them were of the same Fox.

It is not that I don’t like foxes, especially the shy and secretive country fox. You can’t get away from them if you live in town but eighty per cent of the UK foxes live in the countryside and nobody ever sees them.

It is just that I was hoping to see a Unicorn 😦

It was a nice bright day today but very blowy and we played “The Hat Game” all the way up to the wood.

The Hat GameThe wood was nice but then….

The WoodI spotted these leaves.

Lesser CelandineThey are the first leaves of the Lesser Celandine.

Last year I spotted leaves like this in the middle of February and then within a week they were in flower.

When I came to write about Lesser Celandine for EW I read that there is a very short time between the first leaves appearing and the first flowers and as I thought that I had witnessed and photographed that I put it in my post.

Now I will have to rewrite that bit because what I think really happened was the leaves appeared in early January (and I didn’t notice them) and six weeks later the flowers came.

Lesser CelandineI could be wrong, maybe these will be in flower next week and I will eat my hat 🙂

Lesser CelandineOn the way back from the woods we stopped to photograph the Aspen trees.

AspensYou know Aspen trees don’t you? If not then watch this video that I made last summer. The Oak that I turn to look at half way through was just behind me, I put it in to show that it wasn’t a windy day. Aspen live in a world of their own and they are beautiful.

Well, that’s about it except for the flowers….

But wait I have one more thing to show you. The seventy third video. It was actually the very first video on the card but the only one not to feature a Fox.

Wait for the second animal, it’s the next best thing to a Unicorn.

Cardamine species, The Bittercress (Hairy and Wavy)

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)There are two closely related species of Bittercress. They look superficially very similar and share the same properties. There is not a great deal of difference between the two species and many people will be content to know them simply as Bittercress.

They are both members of the Mustard family, they are both edible and generally they are both regarded as a weed by gardeners.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta) is a small winter annual, the leaves are green during the winter months and it flowers in early spring.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)The flowers are small (2-4 mm across) with four white petals.

The plant is characterised by the seed capsules that emerge from the centre of the flowers.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)Reddish at first they turn green as they ripen. The seeds are arranged inside like peas in a pod and the pods burst explosively throwing the seeds far from the plant. The seeds germinate in the autumn and winter as green leaves.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)It is characteristic of the Hairy Bittercress that the seed pods often rise well above the flowers.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)The stem of Hairy Bittercress is smooth and not hairy.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)Stem leaves are long and thin. There are not many of them.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)Most of the leaves are around the base of the plant and these are rounder than the stem leaves.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)The definitive difference between Hairy and Wavy Bittercress is the stamen count.

Hairy Bittercress has four stamens.

Hairy Bittercress, (Cardamine hirsuta)Wavy Bittercress, (Cardamine flexuosa) has six stamens, a small difference but it is indicative of species.

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)Wavy Bittercress is a biennial or perennial. It has the same characteristic seed capsules as it’s relative but they tend to be less conspicuous and seldom grow above the topmost flowers.

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)It has fewer basal leaves.

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)Unlike it’s “Hairy” relative the stem of Wavy Bittercress is hairy.

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)These differences can be quite subtle, the only real way to be sure of the species is to count the stamens.

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa) Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)   Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)   Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)These two species of Bittercress are both native to the UK and they can hybridize, making any distinction very difficult. They can also hybridize with another close relative, the beautiful Cardamine pratensis. (I would call that “getting lucky”)

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Brassicales

Family: Brassicaceae

Genus: Cardamine

Species: Cardamine hirsuta
Species: Cardamine flexuosa

Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa)Wildflowers in winter.

Oops! I think we shot Bambi.

I am not sure how well this post is going to work. Visibility was poor today. It is day two of our Wild Boar hunt and we can’t just stay indoors. If you want to be a Big Game Hunter then you have to be brave.

On the way I want to go and take a photograph of the Elm Trees that we looked at yesterday but we can’t remember where we left them.

Fizz in FogEventually we do find them. I knew that they were in the corner of the field, I just wasn’t sure where the corner was.

Elm TreesNow to find the woods and the camera.

Foggy Doggy(Foggy Doggy)

We found a hedge and followed that.

HedgeIn the end we found the wood and I did get lost in the wood  but then we found the camera.

WoodI was in two minds about leaving the camera out there for another night. I thought we could just go up there and have a look.

What we found was thirty seven videos on the card. Some of the bait had been taken but not all of it. I had baited with raisins and bread. Raisins are invisible and smelly and I had hidden the bread under leaf litter, I could see that some bread had been exposed but not eaten so I didn’t expect to find Boar videos. (We can’t view them until we get home) I suspected Squirrels but decided to leave the camera out for one more night.

We got thirty five videos of Foxes, poor quality and not worth looking at and then this…

I can see what it isn’t. It isn’t a Fox or a Boar. I thought maybe an Alsation Dog or a Big Cat.

It could be anything really but it’s not. It is a Fallow Deer in it’s grey winter coat. Can you tell that it’s grey?

Well I am just going to say that the weather was against us today. The camera is still out there and maybe we will have a clearer night tonight.

Now cast the fog from your mind.

Lamium purpureum, The Red Dead-nettle

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)Known as Red Dead-nettle in the UK, the flowers range from pink to purple. Other names include Purple Dead-nettle and Purple Archangel and are perhaps a little more descriptive.

The Dead-nettles are so called because although they look a bit like Stinging Nettles they have no sting.

The flower is best described as a corollla, this is the name that we give a flower when it’s petals are fused together to form a tube.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)The opening of the flower has a top “hood” petal and two lower “lip” petals.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)Under the hood there are four stamens, two long and two short and a style with a two lobed stigma (not shown)

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)The stem is square.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)Leaves are heart shaped with small, regular toothed edges and hairy. Towards the top of the plant they can appear quite purple.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)   Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)   Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) In the UK the flowering season can start as early as February and last until November. In fact this year I took my first pictures of the flowers on the second of February. This makes them very important to wildlife.

Another name for this Dead-nettle is the Bumblebee Flower they are rich in nectar and pollen and much loved by insects.

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Lamiales

Family: Lamiaceae

Genus: Lamium

Species: Lamium purpureum

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum)Wildflowers in winter.

A Beautiful Orange Theme (Slime Alert!)

It is going to be orange because the next flower that I am going to write about is not called the Orange Pimpernel.

I do know some very pretty orange things, like the Small Copper butterfly…

Small Copper Butterflyand of course I know cute things…

Like, “Puppy with an Orange ball.”

FizzToday I thought that we could do “Interesting Things” instead.

So to start us off, this is a Blushing Bracket fungus.

Blushing BracketIt is an attractive fungus and it is quite orange.

Bracket Fungus

Blushing BracketDaedaleopsis confragosa is a polypore fungus, that means that it doesn’t have gills on the underside, it has pores and this species has quite big pores.

Blushing Bracket undersideThe reason it is called a “Blushing” Bracket is because it is easy to make it blush.

To be sure of success I enlisted the help of an ex military man (22 years Airborne) for this short video, just the sort of fellow you need to make a bracket blush. (I didn’t have any sailors around.)

(and it worked)

Blushing Bracket.That is the bracket, what I really wanted to show you was something that I found eating it.

Leopard SlugI know that I said that I wouldn’t do cute but I just can’t help myself. This is absolutely my favourite slug. What’s yours?

It is not exactly orange but the pictures have an orange feel about them.

So what would you like to know about Limax maximus? I mean first, what would you like to know first? 🙂

Leopard SlugIt is a friend to gardeners. It doesn’t eat living plants but feeds on dead plants and fungi, it is also carnivorous.

Like it’s namesake the Leopard, it prowls the garden hunting down other slug species, that would damage your plants, and eating them. (Top speed, six inches per hour)

(Wikiwotsit lists it as being a major agricultural pest in the US but if you follow the notes you will see that they have got their species mixed up.)

Just to tell you a little bit about slug anatomy, the colourful, saddle like structure behind the head is called the mantle and that houses all of the vital organs. The rest of the slug is just one big locomotive muscle, what you might call a foot.

Leopard SlugThe slug has a breathing hole on the right side of it’s mantle called a pneumostome.

Leopard Slug pneumostomeThe organs coming out of it’s head are called tentacles, it has four of them which it can retract.

The top pair are it’s eyes and the bottom pair are for smelling.

Leopard SlugFinally on anatomy, you have probably guessed that slugs are related to snails. They are both Gastropods, in fact a slug is just a snail without a shell but Limax maximus does have a small internal shell.

You can see it best in this next picture it is the small white lump at the back and base of it’s mantle.

Leopard SlugI can’t show you it’s mouth parts they are concealed below it’s pretty face but at least you can see why I like it.

Leopard Slug

Leopard SlugLeopard Slugs have a fantastic and unique sex life that I haven’t had a chance to photograph yet. David Attenborough did some great film for the BBC that doesn’t seem to be available any more but I am sure that if you were to search for “Slug sex videos” you would find some more information. (that is how I stumbled upon them)

Leopard SlugSo now, an orange wildflower.

Anagallis arvensis, The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)The Scarlet Pimpernel is a beautiful little wild flower of meadows and waste land,

But.. Your eyes do not deceive you, it is orange, it is not scarlet.

It should be noted that the English word “Orange” comes from the fruit of the same name and the fruit and colour were not known here until the sixteenth century.

So the Scarlet Pimpernel is a lovely little orange flower, with a purple centre and bright yellow anthers. There is also a naturally occurring blue variety but that is more common in Mediterranean countries and rare in the UK.

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)The flower has five stamens surrounding a single style.

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)The stamens are covered in small white and purple hairs. It is thought that these might serve to attract insects as the flower does not produce nectar.

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)The leaves grow in opposite pairs, they are oval with smooth edges.

Scarlet Pimpernel leaves (Anagallis arvensis)

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)The flower has several common names such as the Shepherd’s Weather-glass and Poor Man’s Barometer that relate to it’s weather forecasting abilities.

It closes at night and opens late in the morning but it will only open in full sun and as soon as it clouds over the flower closes again and forecasts rain.

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis) Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)   Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)   Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)


Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Ericales

Family: Primulaceae

Genus: Anagallis

Species: Anagallis arvensis

Scarlet Pimpernel flower (Anagallis arvensis)

Wildflowers in winter.

Ring of Fire

Red AdmiralCan you see the ring of fire that inspired my title?

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red AdmiralThis is my butterfly from a few days back, the first of November. It is a Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta. Not really a British butterfly at all it is a summer migrant, flying in from Southern Europe and North Africa in the spring and early summer and returning home in the autumn. Well that is how it used to be.

If you Google for the UK Red Admiral you will learn that very rarely it will overwinter in the extreme south of England. Well that is also how it used to be.

FizzYou have got a little something on your nose there.

This might turn into a post about climate change. If I asked you for your childhood recollections of October 24th , say from the 1960’s you probably would not remember anything specific but if I changed that date to November the 5th… People in the UK would have no trouble at all recalling that exact day, forty or fifty years ago. It is Bonfire Night.

I don’t have any specific memories of my own childhood birthdays but I can recall the excitement of bonfire night fifty years ago. It was a night of duffle coats and scarves and woollen gloves. Sparklers,  red faces in the firelight and baked potatoes, it was cold.

I have just been reading on the RSPB website that Red Admirals can be seen until October and very rarely into November. When Fizz and I go out this afternoon if the sun is shining we will see Red Admirals. It isn’t rare any more and they will overwinter here in Gloucestershire.

Times have changed and winter is warm.

The last few days the weather has been really fantastic here. Well, it has been cold, with lots of sunshine but we have also had sudden downpours of very heavy rain and then hailstones and then more sunshine. It is very lively and I am really enjoying it.

It is nice that it is cold enough to wear a coat out and that is useful when the rain comes over but I have not even thought about wearing gloves yet, it isn’t that cold.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red AdmiralI have chosen my butterfly photographs today to focus on that ring of fire, I think that it is lovely 🙂

10I am going to be keeping a close eye on the insects as we head toward winter. A friend has been asking about Dragonfly sightings. The Migrant Hawker is often seen well into November and I might do a post about that one soon. I would like to see one for myself.

There are some really good Dragonfly spots around here but we need a sunny day and I need Fizz to get a clean bill of health. I am pretty sure that she is not in season and a mistake has been made, that is good because I can take her to public places but I need her owner to confirm that and that she is happy for me to take her out.

The second dog in this video, Buddy, is a male. Can you see why I don’t think she is in season?

There is just nothing in her behaviour to suggest such a thing.

FizzSo you sort yourself out and then we can go and look for insects. Okay?

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

Red AdmiralI apologise for my absence over the last couple of days. A prolonged power cut meant that I lost most of yesterday but also I have had a lot to do getting the farm straightened out for my landlords return 🙂

I will be around to visit you shortly.

With Fizz.


Little Snake

Okay I know that I am on dodgy ground here. Many people hate snakes with very good reason.

This post is in response to one that my good friend John Suchled wrote on his blog “Scattered Words.” He wrote about the need to keep the yard tidy and about Tiger Snakes. John lives in Australia.

In many parts of the world snakes can and do kill people. If you live in such a place you might think that it would be nice to live in Ireland (no snakes) or New Zealand (no snakes). I like living in England. We have three snakes and they are not dangerous and that is better than no snakes at all in my book.

In England we can enjoy and love our snakes.

We have a Smooth  Snake but I don’t have pictures of this one. The Smooth Snake is extremely rare and it’s distribution is limited to a few select parts of the country. It is non-venomous and you will be very lucky to see one.

The Grass Snake is another non-venomous one.

Grass SnakeI am told that it is often confused with the Adder, presumably because it is snake shaped, it doesn’t look anything like an Adder. The general appearance is of a long thin grey snake. It has a distinctive yellow collar and the pupils of it’s eyes are round.

Grass SnakeThen there is my favourite the Adder.

AdderThe Adder is a Viper and it is venomous. There have been fifteen recorded deaths in the UK from the last 150 years. Pussy Cats are more dangerous than Adders. The last death from an Adder bite was recorded nearly forty years ago. The bite is painful and the effects in an adult can last for several months, children recover quicker for some reason. Herpetologists refer to being bitten as being “tagged,” an occupational hazard. A bite is very rarely fatal but you should seek medical attention. The most common treatment is to observe you for two hours and then send you home. There are anti-venoms but they are only administered in extreme cases.

Often the snake will not envenomate. It bites without injecting venom because venom is a limited resource.

This is not a dangerous animal. The one thing that you should never, ever do is to TRY TO PICK IT UP.

The most common reason that people are bitten is because they tried to handle the animal. There was a case here in August that made the news, a man was seriously bitten three times by an Adder that he had picked up.

I don’t know why anyone would do that, possibly if you had mental health issues and saw something bright and sparkly in the grass…

This post is about the day that I tried to pick up an Adder.

I wasn’t exactly unaware, in fact I had been living with these snakes for several years, I had researched them and thought that I knew them well. I just had one more important lesson to learn.

I had bought a piece of woodland in East Sussex and the reason that I chose that patch was because on my first viewing I saw two Adders in a clearing in the wood. I had never seen an Adder before. They were exotic and beautiful, like something out of the jungle. They were also the reason that I bought my first camera.

About 120 acres of woodland had been split into smaller plots and sold to private owners as amenity woodland. It was a little piece of paradise. Almost as soon as we moved in we were contacted by local foresters who wanted the Oak. Playing on the naivete of the new owners, experts assured us that proper woodland management entailed the removal of the Oak that until now they hadn’t been able to touch.

It was an obvious scam. The Forestry Commission were handing out grants for the restoration of the Sweet Chestnut Coppice. There was no restoration being done. A coppice is not a place it is a way of life, it requires regular cutting over a period of many years and it is not profitable do continue doing this. With a grant for the restoration and with the Oak contained within the forest it became profitable to go in and do it but once only, there would be no grants or Oak next time.



OakCol, why don’t you love and respect the Forestry Commission?

We have history.

My little bit of paradise was destroyed, well everything around it anyway.

The biggest threat to our Adder population is Human disturbance and as the extraction and processing of the Oak increased my snakes started to disappear.

A few years into my ownership snakes had become thin on the ground. There is a particularly good time to look for Adders, the two weeks either side of May Day, this is their breeding season and they are focused on the task and much less wary of Humans. Some people say that this is the only time that you will see them.

I had been searching the land for several hours without success when walking back along a path that I had only just come along I spotted a little baby Adder.

AdderSadly it was dead. It lay there completely motionless. A spider crawled over it. I was absolutely gutted that the only snake that I had been able to find was a dead baby.

I didn’t feel comfortable photographing it, hardly a triumph, it felt a bit disrespectful.

Adder(remember that I told you that Grass Snakes have round pupils)

Somewhere in my fuddled brain a thought was forming and I swear it was unconscious, I was just wondering what had killed it, I couldn’t see any marks.

AdderWithout thinking I did the most stupid thing.

Okay it wouldn’t have killed me but even the little ones have venom.

What made me so mad with myself was that I knew, other people may be seeing a snake for the first time but it was already embedded in me not to approach them or cause them stress and never to pick one up.

But this one was dead. Lesson learned.

Here is Fizz demonstrating what she will do the next time that I am attacked by a snake.


FizzNo you will not. When we meet a snake I shall pick you up and carry you to a place of safety.

If you live in the UK and you are lucky enough to come across one of our native snakes then you are seeing something wild and beautiful. Don’t approach it and don’t cause it stress. Take a photograph so that you can remember that special moment and let it go on it’s way.