Black Berries

This is not another post about blackberries, although I am very fond of eating them, and they do look good and juicy this year.Photo of blackberries

It is about the berries on the St John’s Wort. This is one of a large number of species of Hypericum.  It was also known as the “fairy herb”. The Greeks used it to ward off evil spirits, whereas Christians purified their homes by hanging up the plant on 24th June, St John’s Day.  Witches were thought to ride about on the Eve of St John the Baptist Day. The oils in this plant, when burnt on a bonfire, release a scented smoke not unlike incense. Leaping through this smoke was thought to protect the individual from witches.Photo of st john's wort flower

The yellow flowers give way to yellow berries. The plant is sometimes referred to as Tutsan,  thought to have originally come from the old French toute saine. This basically means cure-all, as herbalists used the plant to treat all manner of complaints. Recently it has been found to be efficacious in the treatment of mild depression, although it does reduce the effectiveness of other medication and the contraceptive pill.Photo of st johns wort yellow berries

As these ripen they turn reddish.Photo of St John's Wort red berries

Eventually they become black, which is how things stand at the present.Photo of black St John's Wort berries

Bimble on a Hot Afternoon

Tuesday 23rd August 2016 was a rare day in the UK. It was very hot and sunny. A walk to the River Wye was called for. Regular readers will be familiar with these bimbles from such classics as; Urban Bimble Part Three where we learned all about the duck pond, andPhoto of duck pond

the Castle Green, Photo of Castle Greenwith its squirrels, andPhoto of squirrel

Nelson’s Column, and

The clouds looked rather interesting so I thought I’d go black and white for a parting shot before we reached,Photo of Castle Green with Nelson's Column

The Victoria footbridge.Photo of the Victoria footbridge

I wonder what the gentleman is watching? Aha, swans.Photo of swans on river

I wonder if they will get a little closer.Photo of swans on river

Someone’s spaniel, doing what spaniels do.Photo of spaniel playing in river

Looking up from the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is peeking up above the greenery.Photo of Hereford Cathedral by river

A lonesome duck swims by some flowers.Photo of duck on river

Let’s check out the other ducks back on the other side of the duck pond. They look a bit hot and tired.Photo of ducks on duck pond

I think it is time for a rest under the cool shade of the weeping willow tree. I suspect this will be summer’s last hurrah before autumn sets in.Photo of weeping willow

Hoverfly – Eristalis …?

Today was warm and sunny with just a light breeze. This brought out the insects, including this drone hoverfly.Photo of hoverfly

They mimic drone honeybees so that predators will mistake them for an insect with a sting in its tail.Photo of hoverfly

Drone hoverflies belong to the genus Eristalis.Photo of hoverfly

The most common species in the UK is Eristalis tenax, but due to the yellow front feet I think this is Eristalis pertinax. I would be more than happy to have this confirmed or corrected by someone who actually knows this stuff though.Photo of hoverfly

Clouds with added Crepuscular Rays

Regular readers will be painfully aware that I cannot resist snapping clouds, and the UK certainly has a lot of them! Today was a very eventful day for clouds though.Photo of clouds in black and white

We had blue skies with billowing white cumulus clouds (possibly Cumulonimbus).

There were crepuscular rays to be seen. These are shafts of sunlight breaking through gaps in the clouds.Photo of crepuscular rays

Here are some more.Photo of crepuscular rays

And yes, it did rain.Photo of moody clouds

Finally as the sun set there were reverse crepuscular rays, the shafts of light appear to be converging in the opposite direction to usual. These are not to be confused with anticrepuscular rays which appear opposite the sun.Photo of sunset crepuscular rays

I Struck Gold!

Photo of bee on goldenrodHow fitting that during the 2016 Rio Olympics I should finally strike gold after my recent disappointment over a Golden Opportunity Missed. I refer of course to managing to get some photos of bees on my goldenrod.Photo of bee on goldenrod

Admittedly the bumblebees disappeared before I could get their mugshots, but the honey bees were going wild for the stuff. The many varieties of the goldenrod flower are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees during late summer.Photo of bee on goldenrod

Apparently, after feasting on goldenrod bee hives tend to smell of sweaty feet. However, it seems that it does make for very tasty honey.Photo of bee on goldenrod

So as well as being a bright and attractive flower in the garden, it is good for bees too.Photo of bee on goldenrod

I also spotted this solitary bee.Photo of solitary bee on goldenrod

Scalloped Oak Moth

Why go to all the trouble of setting up a moth trap when you can just wait for the moth to come to you?  Clearly there are lots of good reasons to set up a moth trap, but anyhoo …. I was visited by this scalloped oak moth, Crocallis elinguaria.Photo of scalloped oak moth

This moth will have spent the winter as an egg before hatching into a larva, that looks a little like a twig. The larvae feed on a variety of trees and shrubs, they will also eat smaller larvae.Photo of scalloped oak moth

It then turns into this night flying moth during July and August.Photo of scalloped oak moth

Yet Another Hedgehog Post

I wonder if it is possible to get bored with the UK’s favourite wild mammal? I certainly don’t! As hedgehogs hibernate during winter and are nocturnal, I feel I need to make the most of the short summer nights. There is just enough light left, when they first rouse themselves, to be able to take photos and video without annoying them with artificial light.Photo of young hedgehog

Here is one of the three hoglets. As it is growing it is taking on that pleasing and distinctively hoggy roundness. It will need to get good and fat ready for hibernation. If you have seven and a half minutes spare you can watch a video of it doing its best to fatten up here.

Summer Is Here

We were supposed to be getting a “Spanish plume” of hot air, but it has veered off course. However, we are still enjoying hot sunny weather at the moment. The Bulmers woodpecker sculpture was looking resplendent in the sunshine with a blue sky as backdrop.Photo of Bulmers woodpecker sculpture

I can’t look at him without yearning for a glass of chilled cider.Photo of Bulmers woodpecker sculpture

The trees are in their full blush of leaf.Photo of summer trees

This was how they looked earlier in the year.Photo of winter trees in fog

A little red helicopter in a big blue sky. I believe this is the air ambulance. It is a sobering thought that this is a potentially calamitous day for a family somewhere. None of us knows when we may need such a vital service. There is more information about the Air Ambulance Service and how to help them on their website.Photo of air ambulance helicopter

Blackberry and Apple

You all remember my funny shaped apple tree don’t you?Photo of apple tree in blossom

Well next to it I have a small bramble patch. This produces the most delicious blackberries which can be eaten off the bramble or combined with apples in a variety of tasty dishes. A better cook than me has some recipes on this site here.Photo of blackberries

Oh, but what is this? A blackberry thief! Doesn’t this blackbird look mighty proud of his daylight robbery?Photo of blackbird with blackberry

I can’t be too cross though, he fed it to his youngster. If you have thirty seconds to spare you can watch my YouTube video of him feeding this blackberry and later some wild bird seed to his spotty fledgling here. Photo of young blackbird

Male blackbirds seem to be very attentive fathers.  I think this young one will do well.Photo of male blackbird and young

Some other youngsters were out foraging under the apple tree this evening. Here are two of the three young hedgehogs that are currently snuffling around the garden.Photo of young hedgehogs

A dish of water and some food tempted some other garden visitors too.

You might also like: Blackbirds and Father’s Day, and Bramble Buzzers.

 

Perseids 2016

I have a feeling that I won’t be seeing any of the Perseid meteor shower tonight. You will find more information about how to see them herePhoto of cloudy sky

It has been predicted that this year there will be possibly double the usual number of visible meteors. This is because, and I quote from the BBC website;

“The Swift-Tuttle comet revolves around the Sun once every 130 years on average, leaving a trail of dust in its wake.

A meteor outburst is produced “when the Earth passes close to or through one or more of the dense dust trails produced during a previous revolution of the comet around the Sun,” according to the observatory.”

See also: “Persieds and Corpse Plants”

Wood Pigeons

The common wood pigeon, Columba palumbus, is the largest of the UK’s pigeons and doves. It is considered an agricultural pest, but has learnt that it can lead a happy life in suburban gardens, where they are thriving. The local term for them is “quist”.Photo of wood pigeon

I have to say that I am fond of wood pigeons, they seem so hapless and clumsy they always make me smile; whether they are bouncing wildly on a branch that struggles to take their weight, tripping over twigs on the ground, or waiting patiently behind a magpie in the queue for the water dish. Unlike most other birds it does not have to tilt its head back to swallow water, but can suck it right up.Photo of wood pigeon and magpie

They eat grains, seeds, buds and people’s cabbages. They lay two eggs and the male and female share brooding duties. They also continue to work together to rear the young. Newly hatched squabs are fed a type of milk that wood pigeons produce from special glands in their crops, another unusual aspect of this bird. Whilst they make excellent parents, their nest building skills are apparently questionable. This could explain the following.Photo of wood pigeon with peanut

While patrolling the garden around 4am to check that Dumptruck the hedgehog was okay (see “Hedgehogs Galore”) I noticed what I thought was a dove sleeping on the lawn. Funny I thought. I carried on my patrol intending to go back to it. I moved on to the other lawn, when I turned around I thought “what the heck?” there was the dove sleeping on this lawn, had it followed me and dozed off again? Nope there were two sleeping on two different lawns. Turns out they weren’t doves, but fledgling wood pigeons! They were pretty feisty too once I’d picked them up. I figured if I could walk up to them and pick them up, then so could the many cats that wander through the garden all night. I put them up into the California lilac shrub, but they panicked and flapped back to the ground. So out came the cardboard box again.Photo of wood pigeon chicks in box

After spending the night in safety I put them into the apple tree. Shortly afterwards an adult appeared to fulfill its parenting duties.Photo of wood pigeon chicks in treeLater I noticed that the adults had coaxed their young ones from the apple tree into the California lilac that I had tried to put them in the previous night.

Photo of adult wood pigeon

Note to self – must clean the windows!

They nest in the very tall conifer in next door’s garden, it has a beautiful clematis climbing up it. I wonder if the strong winds we have had recently knocked the nest tipping the young ones out. They don’t look quite ready to leave the nest as they are still tufty. Hopefully they will stay safe and continue to be looked after by their parents.

Hedgehogs Galore

The hedgehogs in the garden have been keeping me busy just lately. I noticed that one of the big hogs that I had nicknamed “Dumptruck” had a large cluster of ticks behind his ear. Photo of hedgehog with ticks

After some consultation with hedgehog rescues on Twitter and some Googling I learned that chemical treatments such as Frontline are poisonous to hedgehogs, so they would need to be manually removed. It is common for hedgehogs to have fleas and ticks, but a heavy infestation could cause anaemia or be a sign of underlying ill health. As dusk fell I waited by the feeding station, Dumptruck eventually turned up and was caught with ease (handled with gardening gloves due to the prickles). He spent a frustrating night in a box lined with paper, with a towel to hide under, plus food and water. The next day I took him to my local vets, The Laurels. I have been frequenting this surgery for many decades with dogs, cats, guinea pigs and lots of rats. Lately they have become accustomed to me turning up with cardboard boxes containing wildlife!Photo of hedghog being held

I purchased a tick removal tool which they showed me how to use. There is something rather satisfying about prising these blood suckers from our prickly pals. They then very kindly offered to do the rest. They removed over 30 ticks from the poor fellow! There were some around his face they couldn’t get to due his balling up and it didn’t seem worth the risk of a general anaesthetic for the remaining few, they will drop off when engorged. He seemed to be in good condition otherwise.Photo of hedgehog being held

He was then brought home and released where I had picked him up. He scuttled under some ivy to sulk. I am pleased to report that I saw him the following night “hogging” the pile of food while another hedgehog was curled up in a ball next to him, presumably Dumptruck has not been playing nice, as usual. He has a habit of barging other hogs.Photo of hedgehog being released

Meanwhile, some of the smaller adults and the 3 hoglets have been pottering around quite happily.

Special thanks to the Twitter account of Oggles Hedgehog Rescue. I’ll take this opportunity to remind people that they are running a photographic competition to raise funds, full details here.

Bats in my Belfry

I don’t actually have a belfry, but I do have bats. They have been regularly hunting in the garden for many years. I have managed to count at least three individuals at any one time, but there may be more.Photo of bat

I am making the assumption that these are pipistrelle bats, as they are the most common UK bat. Bats are protected and it is illegal to disturb them. Photographing them in their roosts or as they emerge would certainly count as disturbing them. These are urban bats and used to lights and they continued to hunt after I had used the flash to take a few photos. However, even we don’t like camera flashes going off in our faces so I wouldn’t make a habit of it. I am glad to say that it didn’t put them off and I took some video of them a few nights later, which you can view here.Photo of bat

The pipistrelle, Pipistellus pipistrellus, is the commonest of the UK’s 17 species of bat. They are also the smallest with a body length up to 4.5cm and a wingspan of up to 25cm, with reddish brown fur.Photo of bat

They are very agile in the air as they hunt insects using echolocation frequencies between 45 and 76 kHz. They can eat up to 3,000 insects each night.Photo of bat

Bat populations have declined dramatically in recent years. We can help to encourage them into our gardens by putting up bat boxes for them to roost in. We can also plant trees, shrubs and night flowering plants to encourage the insects that they hunt on.Photo of bat

For more information about British bats and how to help them the Bat Conservation Trust has a lot of information on its website.

Here is a much better photograph of a pipistrelle bat taken by someone else.

Photo of pipistrelle bat in flight

By Barracuda1983 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The Early Bird ….

As well as putting food out for the hedgehogs at night, I also put some for the birds first thing in the morning. This morning I was distracted by the striking sunrise.Photo of Sunrise

Then I heard a crunching noise and thought, funny – birds don’t usually crunch. I turned around and found this funny looking early bird getting the worm. Photo of hedgehog in dish

It is one of the three baby hedgehogs I have noticed around the garden recently. Presumably he was on his way back to bed and didn’t want to pass up this opportunity. Shortly afterwards he was still munching his way nonchanantly through the birds’ rations while 5 bemused magpies watched. I did put more out once he’d gone to bed.Photo of young hedgehog

Trees and their August Fruits

The horse chestnut tree is still looking mighty fine,  it has now swapped its flowers for fruits. Photo of horse chestnut tree

It is looking droopier than it was back in May, no doubt because the fruits are heavier than the flowers.

Photo of Horse-chestnut tree

Horse Chestnut Tree with May flowers

The young conkers on it are coming along nicely.Photo of conkers ripening on treeIts neighbour which I believe is a lime tree, also known as Tilia or Linden, has some fine low hanging fruits. These are not the edible limes that people slice into drinks.Lime Tree FruitsThe rowan tree has a splendid set of red berries, dazzling against the August blue skies.Rowan Tree Berries

And speaking of red berries, although it is clearly not a tree, the cuckoo pint’s berries have turned to a gleaming red.cuckoo pint red berries