Thursday, 31 May 2012


Malcolm and I took ourselves around the lakes of Straw's Bridge this morning.  With jumpers on again, following a dramatic drop in temperature, we managed to dodge the worst of the rain.  Our walk was rewarded by the sight of several families of Mallard ducklings.  Most of these little charmers are now large enough to fend for themselves but they're still sticking close to Mum and Dad.
The local wildlife group has spent much time and money restoring the margins of 'Swan Lake' and have created artificial, gravel 'beaches' in those areas which had been subject to the most erosion.  It has to be said, the ducklings seem to be very pleased with the results.
Along with the Mallard ducklings, there was also a pair of young Coots.  These too seem to be of an age where they're less dependent on their parents.   Their adult plumage is beginning to show through too.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Frogs and Cows

Despite the title, our short walk this morning didn't involve any amphibians or cattle.  We walked around the edge of the industrial estate close to our home, on our way to the lakes, affectionately referred to as 'Bogwashes'.  The 'cows' were in the form of Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).  Growing tall and thickly around the grasslands in these parts, it is a very common and well known member of Britain's Spring flora.
A closer look at the flower heads, reveals a flat-topped 'Umbel' of small, white flowers with rather unequal petals.  The petals on the outer edge are much larger than the other four.
In the grass, we found a few small insects with a name alluded to in the first part of today's title.  Looking rather like a ladybird, these are actually Black and Red Froghoppers (Cercopis vulnerata).
Froghoppers are well known in our gardens, as their nymphs feed on the stems of plants, whipping the sap into a froth called 'cuckoo spit', in which they hide.  This particular species however, has nymphs which feed on roots of plants and so are almost never seen.  The rather striking adults - among the largest of the Froghopper species - are found all over Britain.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


Still sunny and warm this morning, but with a few more clouds to help cool things down a bit.  so a few more pictures from our past walks.  Firstly from our walk up Shipley Hill the other day, the Old Hall site has a lots of ornamental shrubs and trees to delight the eye and among the best at the moment are the Berberis.
Spiny, and unapproachable, the bronze-green leaves provide a fine backdrop to the golden flowers, the colour of marmalade on a sunny breakfast table.
Hiding among the undergrowth are several patches of other yellow flowers.  Paper-like petals and feathery leaves mark these out as Welsh Poppies (Meconopsis cambrica).  The Welsh Poppy is the only native member of the Meconopsis family to be found growing in Europe,  most of the rest of the family originating from the Himalayas and China.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


More from our walk in the sun yesterday.
Close to where the spectacular Brooms were in full flower, there was a somewhat smaller flower trying to be seen.  Close to ground level and no more than a couple of millimetres across, the common Mouse-ear (Cerastium fontanum) is a member of the Carnation family but a little less showy.
On a much larger scale, it's always nice to get a good, panoramic view of your walk and yesterday's bright sunshine brightened up the scene beautifully.  Shipley Hill is looking very green and pleasant right now and the white-flowered Hawthorns in the hedges provide a few highlights.  After all the rain we've had, the grass is looking lush too, but if this hot, dry weather continues, we'll be back to 'square one' in no time.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

New Broom

Spoiled once again by the wonderful weather, we set out for a walk along the old Colliery lines and through farmland before returning home via what have become known locally as the 'Hex Pools'.  It was from around these pools that today's photos came.  There are several Broom plants growing along the footpaths here and they all seem to be flowering their hearts out at the moment.  Viewed against the hawthorn trees, also in full bloom, the bright yellow of this shrub looks gorgeous, especially in the strong sunshine
But, beating this plant into a distant second place as far as colour goes, was another Broom, but this one was in a class of it's own.  The bright yellow was flushed with a deep red and the stems were covered.
Once again, in this sunshine, it looked stunningly beautiful.  Breathtaking!

Friday, 25 May 2012


Our walk this morning, took us up Shipley Hill to the site of the Old Hall.  We descended the other side before returning around the bottom of the hill and crossing the wonderful meadow.
The grassland here is really something to see.  Standing un-mown, the grasses are about two feet high and dotted with Buttercups, Dandelions, Common Vetch, Sorrel and a host of other wild flowers.  Getting down to the grass level, you get a great view through it all.
Flowers of all shapes and sizes dot the undergrowth, but few are as odd-looking as those belonging to the Ribbed or Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).
Most of the Dandelions have now ceased flowering and are spreading huge numbers of seed from their 'clocks' in the breeze.  We have watched many birds in recent days, feeding from these clocks and at first sight it looks like they're not getting much of a meal.  But, if you get a closer look, you find that there is actually quite a lot of seed to be eaten especially if you are a Sparrow or Goldfinch.

Thursday, 24 May 2012


Still hot this morning, but no 'walk in the park' as we needed some shopping.  So, it was off to Tesco before returning to do a little gardening - Whew!  What a scorcher it was, clipping the hedge, sweeping the path and mowing the grass.
No walk, but something new from yesterday's walk around Mapperley Reservoir.  A very small, blue-flowered plant was found growing close to the reservoir and on closer inspection, the tiny flowers looked rather 'Speedwell-like'.
Not a plant I was familiar with, so the identification guide book came into it's own.  Turns out, there was a good reason for it looking like a Speedwell flower - It was a Speedell flower!  Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia).  Another new tick for my life lists.  Another New tick this morning too as a Holly Blue Butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) was flitting about in the Pyracantha in the back garden.  True to form, I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so no picture, but a beautiful little butterfly and a real joy to see.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Another hot day today, so we set out for a walk to Mapperley Village, then round the Reservoir.  We sat for a while in the shade with a coffee from the flask before returning through Mapperley Wood to see the last of this year's Bluebells.  Sitting on a bench beneath the trees with a coffee in hand, it was just perfect.  Hundreds of birds sang to us as we sat there - as well as the usual squabbling pair of Coots.
Turning our steps for home, we passed a few farmer's fields and one caught my eye for it's linear pattern of new-mown hay.
Some of the Acer Trees had lots of furry, black moths with very long antennae.  When they settled and you got a better look, they were very far from black.  Their wings shone with a metallic greenish bronze colour.  The ones with the long antennae were males after the shorter antennae'd females.  They have the rather tongue-twisting name "Adela reaumurella".

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


It was only the sky which was blue this morning.  Following such a long period of cold, wet and thoroughly unseasonal weather, it was so nice to be out and about for a walk today without jumpers, coats and gloves on. Our friend Jayne joined us too for our walk along the old colliery lines, to Mapperley village and back along Slack Lane.  Here, Malcolm was showing her out some local points of interest...
Through the woodland, the vivid blue of the Forget-me-not flowers shone in the shafts of sunlight filtering through the foliage.
 Always a favourite, Forget-me nots are delicate little flowers, but absolutely beautiful when seen close up.  Thankfully they are also quite common in these parts.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Known as Common Hawthorn, the small tree or shrub Crataegus monogyn is a well known sight in our countryside, but at this time of year it is of particular interest.  The spreading branches are full of frothy, white flowers and the air is filled with their scent.
Looking closer, the flowers start to reveal more than first impressions might suggest.  When the flowers first open, the stamens are tipped with red anthers.  These fade to a more earthy, brown colour.
As we walked along our usual path this morning, the combined, sweet, fragrance of thousands of Hawthorn flowers surrounded us - a welcome change to the smell of whatever the local farmer has recently been spreading on his land!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Shipley Hill

Treated to a much better day, we made the best of the good weather to have a longer walk this morning.  Off round Shipley Lake, down through the woods to Osborne's Pond and then on up Shipley Hill.  The sunshine was beautiful as it highlighted the fresh, young leaves bursting on the hillside trees.  We passed the Derby Lodge to the left and headed through the trees around the top of the hill ignoring the 'Tea Room Open' sign.
In the back garden of the Lodge, a couple of Azaleas were flowering brightly above the bluebells and made a colourful accompaniment to anyone having a coffee in the sunshine.
Further on, a Rhododendron added more colour to the path-side.  They always make a wonderful show at this time of year and viewed close up, they reveal all their markings, usually lost to the casual observer.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Once again, it was a bitterly cold morning, with a strong wind blowing and a few sharp showers to sting the face.  So, we just had a quick dash to Straw's Bridge and back.  But, half way along the track, my attention was grabbed by a stand of beautiful, blue flowers growing in the gloom of one of the old railway bridges which criss-cross the paths around here.  The plant in question (and in my view finder) has the common name Bugle.
Bugle (Ajuga reptans) is a member of the mint family and therefore closely related to Lavender, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, etc.  Well known in antiquity as a very useful herb, it was often called 'Carpenter's Herb' for it's ability to stop bleeding from slight wounds.  Nicholas Culpepper puts it under the mantle of "Dame Venus" and says...
"If the virtues of it make you fall in love with it (as they will if you be wise) keep a syrup of it to take inwardly, an ointment and plaister of it to use outwardly, always by you."
Very useful!  Pity it was no good at keeping out the chill this morning and having been caught in another shower - hail this time - we headed swiftly for home and a warming and 'medicinal' coffee and Brandy.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


As promised, more babies today.
Keeping their distance from the ducks, geese and swans at Straw's Bridge, were a family of Coots with four tiny chicks.
It is often said that Coot chicks are - shall we say - less than pretty.  That they have the sort of face only a mother could love, but I think that's being too superficial.  To my mind, they are every bit as beautiful as the ducklings.
The parents of these four little darlings were being very fastidious in their ministrations to their brood.  But adult Coots have a darker side to their nature.  I'm afraid to say they can turn against their young at any time and attack one or more of them, eventually killing their youngsters.  Lets hope these little ones have more tolerant parents - it looks like it at the moment.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


There was definitely a great 'aahh' factor this morning.  Sunny, but still chilly, we set out to check on the ducklings on the Straw's Bridge lakes and we weren't disappointed.  One family of ducklings were swimming about on the water, being looked after very well by both parents.
This little family soon got fed up with me pointing my camera at them and 'Mother Duck' took her brood away.
A slightly older family of ducklings were sunning themselves on the bank with their mother keeping an eager watch on them.
These little cuties were less worried about us getting close and sat still while I crouched down to get a good photo.  All together now.... "Aaaahhhh".
More babies to come....

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Growing Up.

After a night of heavy rain, there was little chance of getting much of a walk this morning.  So, after cleaning through the house (long over-due), we took the opportunity of a quick walk round the estate, keeping to the paths and avoiding the waterlogged ground.
So, just a couple of pictures from our recent walks around Straw's Bridge.  Firstly, a couple of juvenile swans preening in 'tandem'.
Still with some of their 'baby' feathers showing through the white adult ones, they were doing their best to rid themselves of their childhood apparel in order to look more grown up!  Seems we're all the same at that age.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Shipley Hill

Following the rather dismal weather forecast, we were not expecting to get much of a walk this morning - if any walk at all.  But as usual, the forecast proved to be rather less than accurate, so we set out in the glorious sunshine for a longer walk up Shipley Hill, round the top and down to Osborne's Pond before returning around Shipley Lake.  The most obvious thing this morning was the birdsong filling the air around the hill.  It seemed that every bird for miles around was singing it's heart out.  An absolute joy to hear.
Another joy, were the Horse Chestnut trees starting to flower.
I'm always delighted to see these gorgeous flowers close up.  Their white petals, some flushed with yellow and others flushed pink are often lost to us, being too high up in the tree to appreciate, but not these.
Taking a lower view, the ditches are all full of water now and the wet ground is ideal  for a rather colourful member of the cabbage family (another one - such a large family).  This bright yellow-flowered plant has glossy, dark green leaves and makes quite a show.  Called Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris) for some reason, it is at it's best at this time of year.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


Brighter and warmer this morning after a night of heavy showers and more water-logging of the ground.  so it was off to Straw's Bridge again, keeping to the tarmac paths and staying off the soft ground.  On the way, we noticed a large number of Garlic Mustard plants (Alliaria petiolata) growing along the paths.  One of the Brassica family, they are therefore closely related to cabbages and radishes.  Used in antiquity as a disinfectant and diuretic, the leaves can also be used in salads and pesto.
Another white flower found in profusion around these parts is the far more delicate-looking Great Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea).  Related this time, to Carnations, Pinks and Corncockle, this beautiful flower is suffering a little in the heavy rain of late.
Turning for home once more, a few Orange-tip Butterflies (Anthocharis cardamines) were found flitting about the Dandelions.  Usually fond of the Cuckoo Flowers which are in full bloom right now (another Brassica), it is only the male butterflies which display the distinctive orange wing-tips.  The females are more 'drab' and more like a small, 'cabbage' white butterfly.  This little chap was so busy feeding he, didn't seem to mind me pointing my camera at him.

Friday, 4 May 2012


Even colder than yesterday, it nevertheless stayed dry for our short walk around Straw's Bridge once more this morning.  There are still many flowers to be found in full bloom and a walk through Pewit Carr revealed lots of clumps of Bluebells, but with a difference.  For some reason, the Bluebells in the woods here, all seem to be flowering white!
A little further on, we found a few more clumps of white flowers, spilling from a neighbouring garden.  They are Three-cornered Leeks (Allium triquetrum).  Native to South-Western parts of Europe, these members of the Onion family, are beginning to colonise Britain rather like our own, native Wild Garlic.  They appear to be a welcome addition to the countryside with their large, white, bell-shaped flowers.
One last white flower for today and one which is abundant at the moment in the path-side scrub.  White Deadnettle (Lamium album).  Not related to Stinging Nettles, they are actually members of the Mint family and therefore more closely related to Lavender and (if you can believe such a thing) the tropical hardwood, Teak..!  Though you couldn't make fancy garden furniture out of this much overlooked little wonder.