Sunday, 26 September 2010


One of the things which caught our eye as we walked around the lakes of Straw's Bridge yesterday, was a large, black bird. It was swimming around and diving frequently after fish. It was of course a Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo). A common sight in Britain - and indeed over most of the world in one form or another - these goose-sized birds are famed for their fishing expertise. This one was difficult to photograph as it would dive below the surface every time I pointed the camera at it.
The Cormorant's plumage is rather special as it seems to be 'partially wetable' to assist in diving by reducing the birds' buoyancy. In some parts of the world, Cormorants are used by human fishermen to catch fish. Tame birds are taken out onto the water in a boat, tied around the neck with a chord tight enough to prevent the bird swallowing what it catches, then released into the water to chase the fish. They are very successful too - to which, anyone who has seen the HSBC advert will testify.
The hedgerows are becoming barer, especially after the few days of high winds this week. One plant which is probably at its best at this time of year has to be the Ivy (Hedera helix). Ivy is extremely important to late-flying insects as they start to flower in late summer and autumn, providing much-needed nectar for insects which would otherwise be bereft at this time.
I couldn't resist taking a picture of the sun glinting off the waters of the Nutbrook Canal. The light through the trees was almost magical as it sparkled through the darkness of the overhanging foliage.
A last splash of colour for today, from the fruits of a little-known tree of the British countryside. The Spindle (Euonymus europaeus) has curious, four-sectioned fruits which are very attractively pink coloured. It's common name comes from the fact that the very hard wood was used to make spindles for the wool making industry.
As attractive as the fruits are, they should be treated with care as they are very poisonous. Ingestion can result in liver damage kidney failure and even death.
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