Friday, 26 August 2016

Melanism

There has been a strange-looking pigeon to be found flying around our garden lately. While it is undoubtedly a Woodpigeon, it doesn't look quite like the others.
It would seem that this bird has a genetic mutation known as melanism, where there is an excess of melanin produced making the feathers (and probably the skin if you were to be able to see it) much darker than normal.
The opposite of melanism is leucism, where an animal loses much of its colour and appears whiter than normal - not to be confused with albinism which is completely different. Leucistic animals can have problems with camouflage as they tend to 'stick out like a sore thumb' and as a result are often predated rather rapidly. Melanistic animals by contrast, are often at an advantage as their darker appearance can actually help with camouflage. Certainly, this individual seems to be in no immediate danger.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Hot

We've had something of a mini heatwave over the last couple of days. The heat was pegged back a little this morning by a cooling breeze which kept things a bit more comfortable as Malcolm and I walked around Shipley Park. It was certainly very nice as we passed by Mapperley Reservoir.
Surprisingly quiet for the time of year, we walked on through the village and along Slack Lane, passing the six Poplar trees which dominate the sky line in these parts.
Standing so tall and straight, they make you feel rather small, particularly when looking up at them.
A little further along the lane, we were struck by the sight - and sound - of no fewer than eight Buzzards circling around in the warm sunshine. It was rather tricky getting a photo of them all as they were too far away and milling around but seven of them (believe me, they are there) managed to get in this photo.
At the side of the lane, there were several patches of Great Willowherb adding a touch of pink to the scene.
By now, it was getting rather hot, so we headed for home and a little bit of shade.

Monday, 22 August 2016

49

It's my 49th birthday today so Malcolm's mum took us out for lunch - very nice it was too! We did manage a quick walk this morning before we went out but it was threatening to rain, so we didn't hang about. So here are a few pictures from recent days, walking around Shipley Park.
As always at this time of year, the edges of the pathways are dominated by the tall and statuesque forms of Teasels...
Their small, but numerous flowers, are loved by a great many insects, especially bees and hoverflies.
A good indication that summer is coming to an end is the emergence of Angelica flowers. Also tall and stately, they are too are a great favourite with bees. Their umbels of creamy white flowers are always covered with insects eagre to feed up on the nectar within.
Around the lakes of Straw's Bridge, another favourite of the bees is also in full bloom right now. Water Mint is very common growing around the margins of the lakes and is always frequented by bees, hoverflies and it seems, any number of other flying creatures. The flowers are quite beautiful too, especially when seen close up!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Chicken

This morning, Malcolm and I were joined on our walk by the ever lovely Jayne. As we strolled through the woods which surround Mapperley Reservoir, our attention was caught by a large fungus, growing on a dead tree stump.
Among the green of the woodland, this bright orange and yellow growth looked like scrambled egg or as Malcolm observed, melted wax. Whatever it was, it was new to us, so a search on line was needed to identify it.
After a short internet search, it turns out be called Laetiporus sulphureus or Chicken-of-the-Woods - less commonly, Sulphur Shelf. A Polypore fungus, it has no stem or cap like many fungi, but is considered to be fairly common in the UK, USA and most of Europe.
Edible when young - as this specimen is - it is supposed to taste of chicken (hence the name) but needs to be cooked and only eaten if a clear liquid can be extracted from it. It is also popular with various deer species.
So, a nice walk with good company this morning and a new 'tick' for the life list too. Not bad for one day!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Farmland Views

Walking around Shipley Park at this time of year, you are accompanied by the sweet smell not only of the hedgerow flowers, but also the newly mown hay. On the wildlife trust's fields, the cropped grasses are being cropped ever closer by the sheep which are taking advantage of the fresh shoots.
This mixed flock were all spread out across the fields the other day instead of flocking tightly together as they usually do.
Some had given up on the short grass and were taking advantage of the un-cropped grasses at the filed margins. Here, the grass was tall enough to almost hide the sheep.
The views across Shipley Park are quite glorious in the sunshine. From beneath the trees on Shipley Hill, we looked out across the lake in the direction of Nottingham.
It is difficult to imagine as you stand in this spot, that we are sandwiched between two cities with a combined population of over half a million!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Late Summer Flowers

A sunny morning today found Malcolm and I taking our walk along the trail to Mapperley Village. The paths are lined by a plethora of late summer flowers of varying size, shape and colour. among the smallest are the Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea). The tiny pink flowers showing up in contrast to the yellow of Perforate st. John's-Wort and Birdsfoot Trefoil.
Growing tall among these plants, the large flowers of Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) are a paler yellow and a naturalised species brought o the UK in the 1600's.
In the damper areas and beside the reservoirs and waterways, the pink, feathery flowers of the Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) are always a good sign that summer is coming to an end. A strange-looking flower, but very popular with the bees and hoverflies.
The warm sunshine brings out the scent of another late summer favourite. Walking along by the old Nutbrook Canal, the frothy flower heads of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) fill the air with a heady perfume which is why they were once used as a 'strewing herb.'
The flowers would be picked and sprinkled among the rushes on the floors of houses to fragrance the air. A sort of Medieval 'Shake n Vac.'

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Some Gall

As always at this time of year, the trees and hedgerows are beginning to show signs of attack, not just from delinquent children with nothing better to do than to break off branches and pull up wild flowers. The attack I refer to is from much smaller assailants like mites, flies and gall wasps. Oak trees are always among the worst affected - and infected. The results can be quite attractive as in these small Cherry Galls.
These galls are produced on the underside of oak leaves by a small wasp called Cynips quercusfolii. The wasp lays its eggs in dormant oak leaf buds and the resulting wasp larva causes a reaction in the leaf making the tree produce the 'cherry' within which, the larva grows before maturing in the autumn when the leaf drops to the ground.
For now, they just look rather attractive on the leaves.