Saturday, 30 June 2012

Home again

Malcolm and I got back yesterday evening after a few days away in Cornwall.  We have been staying at the Hotel Victoria in Newquay and can heartily recommend it.  We also seem to have been rather lucky with the weather.  although mostly overcast and a little dull, the sun has also shone a bit and we have avoided all the violent storms and downpours which have blighted large parts of the country over the past few days.
There will, of course, be lots of photos to be posted during the next day or two, but until I get them sorted out, here are a couple to be going on with.
Firstly a general view of Porth Beach with swathes of Hart's-tongue Fern, Wild Garlic, Navelwort, Pellitory-of-the-Wall and a host of other wild flowers.
Another view from the Porth Beach area takes in the headland of Trevelgue Head.  This photo was taken from Porth Bridge which links the island of Trevelgue Head - an Iron-age settlement - to the mainland.
The settlement was of major importance over 2000 years ago.  It protected a harbour which was probably used for export of local tin and minerals.  Burial mound sites litter the surrounding grasslands and a series of ditches and banks have been excavated in the immediate area.  Apart from all that, it's just a beautiful place to be.
More to come...

Sunday, 24 June 2012


For the last few days, our fat-ball feeder in the tree, in front of our house, has been assaulted by young Blue Tits, Sparrows, Great Tits, Starlings and anything else looking for a nutritious and free meal.  Yesterday afternoon however, things took a step further.  Amid much twittering, scolding, fluttering about and general melee, Malcolm came to me and said "have a look at what's in the tree."  Thinking to see the usual Woodpigeons, Magpies, Collard Doves, etc.  I was surprised to see this little charmer...
It's the first time we've seen a Squirrel in the tree and apart from the fact that it was undoubtedly a contender for the title of 'cutest little creature in the world', we are not spending money on bird food, simply to feed the squirrels.
That having been said, there's no denying he was a sweetheart!

Saturday, 23 June 2012


For some time, we have been watching a young fox who has taken to visiting our garden late in the evening, to 'hoover up' the bits of fat-ball which have been discarded by the birds.  I have been trying to capture a good photo of this gorgeous creature, but as it only seems to appear when it's getting dark, the task has not been an easy one.  To date, this rather blurred example, taken in the gloom, through a rainy window, is the best I have been able to achieve.
Staying with the 'Fox' theme, we were delighted to find Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) in both Mapperley Wood and Shipley Hill the other day, in full flower.
Stately and graceful, these plants certainly have what might be called 'presence' in the shady areas under the tree canopy.  The Bees also like the deep, nectar-rich flowers and spend a lot of time pushing their way into the colourful tubes.  Foxgloves have recently been reclassified and put into the same family as the Plantains and Speedwells.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Flaming June!

This morning, we are, yet again faced with a wet, miserable day.  Temperatures are about 10 degrees below where we would ordinarily expect them to be and things don't look like changing for the better any time soon.  Flaming June indeed!
But are we downhearted?  Not really, we still have lots of pictures taken on previous, warmer days.  Starting today with what we hope is a promise of better to come, the flowers on the Blackberry Bushes.
A very common member of the Rose family, these will be brightening up the hedgerows all over Britain right now.  Hopefully, with all the rain we're getting, when they start to produce fruit, they will be numerous, large and juicy.  Just right to fill the freezer again!
Around these hedgerows there are also 'proper' Roses.  Dog Rose and Shrub Roses are adding their colour and scent despite the dreadful weather.
Some a little pinker than others, would surely grace any garden.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

More Orchids

Yesterday's 7 mile hike didn't only reveal the whereabouts of the delightful Bee Orchids.  As we tramped up the grassy slopes near the Shipley Park Visitors' Centre, we encountered many other 'spikes' of orchid flowers.  Among the best were those belonging to Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).
The flowers of this beauty are rather variable and can be almost any shade from a very pale pink, to darker, purple hues.  The spotty 'throat' of the flower acts as a kind of  'landing strip' to pollinating insects and can be better appreciated in a closer view.
The most common orchid around these parts is - as the name would suggest - the Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).
Both of these orchids share the family name 'Dactylorhiza' meaning finger-root which refers to the tuberous root system resembling the fingers of a hand.
Go on then.... one more picture of the Bee Orchids.  This one shows how Bee-like the flower can actually appear.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Since learning some time ago that Shipley Park was home to Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera), Malcolm and I have been on the look-out for them - without success.  However, I recently read that a member of the local wildlife website had seen lots of these delightful little orchids and after contacting him with a request for directions, we were ready this morning to set out to search again.  The directions from Mr. Jim Steele proved to be spot-on and we didn't have to search long before we found them.
These hardy Orchids grow all through the winter, producing a rosette of green, lanceolate leaves from which the flower spike appears in spring - and what flowers they are!
The three pale pink sepals have a green vein running along their length, but the most obvious part of the flower has to be the lower part known as the labellum.  This has evolved to mimic the markings of a Bee, thus attracting male bees who misguidedly try to mate with the flower and as a consequence, the flower gets pollinated.  A beautiful symbiotic relationship.
More pictures to come - you can be sure.  But for the time being, many thanks to Jim at Erewash Valley Wildlife for the directions.  Click the link to visit the site.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What a View

Malcolm and I took ourselves off for a walk around Shipley Hill this morning.  The sun shone, the birds were singing and all was right with the world - especially with views like these.  Here, looking ENE across Shipley Lake in the direction of Nutall and Hucknall.
In the next picture, looking South towards Kirk Hallam.
On top of the Hill, the remains of Shipley Hall were looking good in the sunshine, surrounded by the beautiful and well-maintained gardens.

Saturday, 16 June 2012


The weather has taken a turn for the worse again and we got a little damp this morning on our quick walk to Straw's Bridge and through Peewit Carr.  The newly-fledged Blue Tits which have very quickly discovered our fat-ball feeder, seem to be oblivious to the inclement conditions.
The pictures are little blurred because they were taken through a rain-spattered window and in rather dark conditions, but the pale yellow faces of these little darlings is still quite clear to see.  What a pair of sweethearts!

Friday, 15 June 2012


The weather this morning hasn't been as bad as the forecasters had promised.  Over night, we certainly had our fair share of rain and the flow of water in the Nutbrook was evidence for that.  But at least we managed to get a walk out to Straw's Bridge - mostly in the sunshine.  A couple more pictures from yesterday's walk to Osborne's Pond this afternoon.
A couple of weeks ago, we were alarmed to see a mother Swan and her family of (I think) seven cygnets, stuck in the overflow channel of the reservoir.  The adult was finding it impossible to scale the concrete 'weir' so the tiny cygnets had no chance.  A call to the park rangers however, sorted the problem and a temporary set of 'steps' have since been made to allow any unlucky waterfowl to scramble back up to the reservoir.  It was good to see that the swan family is still in evidence and that the cygnets - although now reduced to four - are doing well.  Yesterday, they were enjoying a few crumbs being thrown in from near the fateful overflow.
As always, 'mum' was keeping a close eye on her progeny....
... At the same time, we were being eyed with curiosity by a couple of Mallards on the bank.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Today, Malcolm and I made the most of a rare, warm and sunny morning, to take a walk around Shipley Park towards Osborne's Pond.  Wonderful to see the blue sky for a change and the sun was warm on our backs as we wandered across the delightful meadows on the Northern side of Shipley Hill.  The grasses are growing green and lush, making a fantastic wildflower meadow.
Getting down to a more 'grasshopper eye view' the Buttercups, Vetches, Sheep Sorrel, Docks and Clovers look absolutely magnificent and the grasses add an architectural quality to the scene.
Speaking of Buttercups, further along the path and just before we reached the path at the top of the hill, there was a plethora of these golden beauties, waving in the breeze.  Down at this level, you are aware of the buzzing of thousands of insects among the flowers too.

A wonderful morning for a walk!  Looks like we shall not be getting out tomorrow, if the forecast is correct.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


A walk, this morning, around the lakes of Straw's Bridge.  The sun shone for a change and it turned out to be quite warm.  So, it was a delight to see the Daisies (Bellis perennis) all in flower on the banks of Swan Lake.
As well as these well-known little daisies growing among the grass, there were lots of their taller cousins, the Ox-Eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare).
Also known as Dog Daisy, Margarite and even Moon Daisy, it is a perennial herb and rather common in the UK.  Apparently, the unopened flower buds can be picked and pickled and eaten as 'capers'.  Perhaps we'll give it a go!

Saturday, 9 June 2012


Despite the appalling weather of the past few days, the birds don't seem to have suffered too badly.  Indeed the fat-balls in our feeder are still being eaten at a rapid rate and yesterday, there was a family of House Sparrows on them for most of the day.  The young Sparrows are quite capable of feeding themselves now, but they still like mum and dad to feed them when they can get it.  Through the glass, amid the gloom and in the wet, it was not easy to get a good picture, but this one seems to give the idea.
Two little darlings, sitting among the Hawthorn flowers, were being fed by their poor, put-upon mother.  Bless their little hearts!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Rain, Rain, Rain

The title says it all.  It's still raining!  Cool, wet and windy today but we braved the foul weather to do a little shopping in town.  This gives me the opportunity to post a picture of a moth which was found in our garden and which has been providing me with a good deal of trouble as I've tried to identify it.
I eventually managed to put a name to it as a Melanic form of a Scalloped Hazel Moth (Odontopera bidentata f. nigra).  Usually, Scalloped Hazel moths are a rather pale, greyish-brown with a dark spot on each wing and a whitish line across them.  The melanic form however, being so much darker over-all, makes life a bit more tricky.
There is a theory that these darker forms of various moths have declined in recent years following the clean-up of our atmosphere.  When chimneys all belched soot and factories filled the air with dirt, almost everything was covered in black filth.  Buildings were blackened, tree trunks were blackened and as a result, the melanic forms of these insects, were beautifully camouflaged against them. Having cleaned up our act, buildings have been cleaned and tree trunks have lost that sooty black coating, making the darker moths stick out like a sore thumb.  This of course has made them more vulnerable to predation.
Result.....fewer melanic - or dark form - moths.  To add further weight to the argument, melanic form moth numbers have decreased more dramatically in the industrial north than in the south of the UK.  Makes sense!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


No walk today as we had other things to do, so a couple of pictures from a previous ramble.  On the day we trekked up Shipley Hill to view the wonderful Rhododendrons and Azaleas, our route took us through the woodland around the base of the hill.  Here, amid the Pines, Chestnuts, Hawthorn and Ash, there are a several old Beech Trees.  One or two of these have been felled and on one of the hulking carcasses, a cluster of fungi were growing.
Now, fungi are not really my area of expertise (if anything can be described as such), so it took a little searching the Internet to discover that these rather attractive fungi are in fact Branched Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus cornucopiae).  They were rather more common in Britain at the height of the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic, slowly devouring the dead bodies of those stately trees.  since then, they have had to restrict themselves to the rotting bulks of Beech.  they certainly seem to like the fallen Beech trees of Shipley Hill.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


With the whole country going Jubilee crazy this weekend, there are flags appearing all over the place.  Attached to cars, house-fronts, garden fences, etc.  So, with all this flag-waving in mind, I thought "if you can't beat them, join them."
Our walk this morning took us around the local farmland and a short part of the old Nutbrook Canal and it was the canal which gave us the Flags.  Yellow Flags to be specific.
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus) is a common, waterside plant in Britain and at this time of year they add colour to our wetlands almost all over the country.
The scientific name 'pseudacorus' relates to the 'flag' bit of the common name.  There is a reed-like plant which grows in much the same environment as the Iris, called the Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) and although not related to it, the Iris has been given the scientific name meaning 'false acorus'.  Where the name comes from is of secondary importance when faced with the beauty of such a wonderful flower.  This is one flag which should be fluttering all over the country this Jubilee Weekend.  Certainly, the rather out-of-focus Bee in his picture thought so...

Friday, 1 June 2012


Despite the dull weather this morning, our walk up Shipley Hill was a joy.  Once more, the birds were singing their hearts out and although overcast, it was still warm a 'muggy'.  Up on the hill, around the site of the Old Hall, the Rhododendrons and Azaleas were doing their best to brighten up the day.  In fact, it could be described as a riot of colour.
The Yellow Azaleas were surrounded by the most heady fragrance.
In places, two or more bushes were growing together giving the impression of having several colours on the same plant.
If the sun had been shining, the colours would no doubt have been even more 'glowing', but who could complain about this...?