This is not another post about blackberries, although I am very fond of eating them, and they do look good and juicy this year.
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.
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.
As these ripen they turn reddish.
Eventually they become black, which is how things stand at the present.
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, and
the Castle Green, with its squirrels, and
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,
The Victoria footbridge.
I wonder what the gentleman is watching? Aha, swans.
I wonder if they will get a little closer.
Someone’s spaniel, doing what spaniels do.
Looking up from the other side of the bridge, Hereford Cathedral is peeking up above the greenery.
A lonesome duck swims by some flowers.
Let’s check out the other ducks back on the other side of the duck pond. They look a bit hot and tired.
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.
Today was warm and sunny with just a light breeze. This brought out the insects, including this drone hoverfly.
They mimic drone honeybees so that predators will mistake them for an insect with a sting in its tail.
Drone hoverflies belong to the genus Eristalis.
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.
Trees sway rustling leaves
hedgehog snuffles nervously
the moon glows proudly
I am pleased to see that the tall birch trees are still standing after today’s gales.
Although I don’t think the rain has finished with us yet.
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.
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.
Here are some more.
And yes, it did rain.
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.
How 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.
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.
Apparently, after feasting on goldenrod bee hives tend to smell of sweaty feet. However, it seems that it does make for very tasty honey.
So as well as being a bright and attractive flower in the garden, it is good for bees too.
I also spotted this solitary bee.
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.
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.
It then turns into this night flying moth during July and August.
August 18 2016 will see the rise of the Full Sturgeon Moon. Native American tribes named it thus as the full moon in August coincided with the best opportunity to catch sturgeon.
Perhaps someone can tell me why it is that my golden rod flowers shimmering in the sunshine, were covered with bees and butterflies; that is until I returned with my camera? All I managed to photograph was a hoverfly that wouldn’t stop hovering and common greenbottle fly.
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.
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.
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.
I can’t look at him without yearning for a glass of chilled cider.
The trees are in their full blush of leaf.
This was how they looked earlier in the year.
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.
You all remember my funny shaped apple tree don’t you?
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.
Oh, but what is this? A blackberry thief! Doesn’t this blackbird look mighty proud of his daylight robbery?
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.
Male blackbirds seem to be very attentive fathers. I think this young one will do well.
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.
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.
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 here.
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”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
After spending the night in safety I put them into the apple tree. Shortly afterwards an adult appeared to fulfill its parenting duties.Later 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The horse chestnut tree is still looking mighty fine, it has now swapped its flowers for fruits.
It is looking droopier than it was back in May, no doubt because the fruits are heavier than the flowers.
Horse Chestnut Tree with May flowers
The young conkers on it are coming along nicely.Its 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.The rowan tree has a splendid set of red berries, dazzling against the August blue skies.
And speaking of red berries, although it is clearly not a tree, the cuckoo pint’s berries have turned to a gleaming red.