Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Odds and Ends

I noticed this morning, that the page hit counter for this blog, has just topped a quarter of a million. Time for a celebratory something or other I think!
Just a few pictures today, from recent walks around the area, starting with a little bit of exotica which turned up at Straw's Bridge a few days ago. Standing among the more usual Mallards, Canada Geese and Swans, was a pair of Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca).
Not surprisingly, it is a native of North Africa and was brought to the UK in the 18th century as an ornamental addition to many a lake on a grand estate. Eventually, it was added to the official British breeding bird list in 1971 and numbers have reached about 1100 breeding pairs.
With the Summer racing past at a frightening rate, the hedgerows have started to bear fruit in great profusion. Among the most colourful and numerous at the moment are those belonging to the Guelder Rose.
These, growing along Slack Lane have an almost waxy appearance as they shine deliciously red in the sunshine.
Finally for today, a couple of fine views across Mapperley Reservoir. When the weather is calm and the sky is blue, you get some wonderful reflections on the water.
It makes for a perfect spot to stand a while and take in the peace and quiet - until a tractor roars past flicking slurry from it wheels and rather spoiling the effect!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Bur

At last this morning, we managed to get a walk around Shipley Park in the sunshine.
Many of the wildflowers have taken a bit of a bashing with all the recent rains, but the stately Burdock plants are still looking good with their purple flower heads. Looking like a thistle, these members of the daisy family provide lots of nectar for the bees and hoverflies.
The name comes from the sharp, hook-like burs of the flower head which snag almost anything which comes into contact with them. They even latch on to the ridges of your finger prints.
Another 'bur' this morning, came in the guise of a stand of Branched Bur-reeds which have been planted in the old canal near 'Vole Bridge'.
Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) is a native plant to the British Isles and can be found growing in fens and watercourses almost all over the country. It is quite tolerant of eutrophic habitats where waterways are overly enriched with nutrients from farm run-off - an increasing problem in the UK. For this reason, it is often found along riverbanks which are grazed by cattle.
While we were walking with Jayne a few days ago, we found a large quantity of hairy caterpillars on some young willow and silver birch trees. As they were new to me, I took a photo or two to identify them later.
They turned out to be the larvae of Buff-tip Moths (Phalera bucephala), a common species in the UK.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Fearsome Sight

Yesterday, our good friend Jayne came to join us on our walk. As usual, the weather was a little unpromising, so, with umbrellas as insurance, we set out for the 'farm walk.' The paths are fringed with the statuesque forms of Angelica at the moment, their purplish stems contrasting nicely with heads of frothy, creamy flowers.
A common wildflower, this member of the carrot family was cultivated widely in the past as a vegetable. The stems were eaten raw and the leaves would be boiled into broth or stews.
I'm sure we can all remember those short strands of candied angelica stem, bright green and horrible-tasting, which adorned many a special-occasion-trifle in the 1970's.
Having manged to avoid any rain, we headed home for coffee, before Jayne took us out for lunch as an early celebration of my fiftieth birthday - which is looming ever closer! As we tucked in to our fish and chips and glass of Shiraz (all very delicious), Jayne thought it would be a good idea to snap Malcolm and me at the table, so that I might appear on this blog for possibly the first time. BAD IDEA. I have always hated having my picture taken - and now it's obvious why! Despite appearances, I hadn't already finished off one bottle of wine and was well on the way through a second - sadly, It's just my usual, fearsome countenance!
So, thanks Jayne for the lovely lunch and birthday greetings. But please, don't take any more pictures of me - it scares the horses!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Nature's Bounty

Recent bad weather has rather curtailed our jaunts about the countryside and it continues to be cool, breezy and showery. But, all the rain has meant a bumper harvest of Blackberries, so Malcolm and I have been out this morning for the second time already this season, to gather some of nature's bounty.
I think this is the first time we've been out so early to pick these delicious fruits and the size and sweetness of them this year, has been wonderful. Already we've had four breakfasts, six bags in the freezer and another large bowl-full in the fridge.
Tearing ourselves away from the Blackberries, I've managed to add a couple of new 'ticks' to the life list recently. Both newly-identified species, were plants which could have been dismissed simply as 'Dandelions' but closer inspection revealed them to be quite different. The first was a low-growing plant called Autumn Hawkbit (Leontodon autumnalis). The Latin name Leontodon actually means Lion's tooth - in French, dent-de-lion, gives us the derivation of the word 'Dandelion.'
The second plant is much easier to distinguish from a Dandelion. Standing a good four feet high and covered with tiny, sticky-ended hairs, this is a Perennial Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis).
Like the Hawkbit, this is also a member of the Asteraceae or Daisy family and well worth another new 'tick' on the list.