Friday, 28 June 2013


As promised, some more pictures of those wonderful orchids today.  The Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) are, as the name suggests, the most common orchids found in these parts.  The name 'Dactylorhiza' means 'finger root' and is in reference to the way the tuberous root system resembles a hand with the fingers pointing down into the soil.
In most places, these gorgeous plants are found growing individually among the grasses, but in a few spots, they can be seen in groups of three or more flower spikes.  Where this occurs, the flower spikes tend to be much larger than those growing in isolation.  These for instance were the largest we've seen yet.
Just to finish with the orchids for today, I couldn't resist another picture of those delightful Bee Orchids.  What little stunners they are.

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Only one thing to report this morning, that of the positive orchid-fest we encountered as we walked around Shipley Park.  We thought we would see if the Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) were in flower yet and were not disappointed.  A plethora of Bee Orchids awaited us.
Finding any orchid is always something to make your day, but when you see thousands, gathered together in one place, it's a day to remember.
It may have something to do with the unusual weather conditions this year and the very late spring, but we have never seen so many orchids as there are this season.  Bee Orchids are not rare in Britain, but their distribution around the country is rather 'hit-and-miss'.  where they do appear, they can be very common - as indeed, they are here.
The scientific name 'Ophyrus' comes from the Greek word for eyebrow, while 'apifera' means bee and refers to the bee-like lower lip of the flower.  In an effort to get itself pollinated, the flower resembles a female bee to entice a male bee.  It also emits a chemical signal, making it almost irresistible to the poor male bee who thinks he's in for a good time, buts get nothing for his trouble.
There will be more orchids to come - you can be sure of that.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Things have bee somewhat hectic these past few days, so it was nice to get out for a good long walk again this morning.  We did manage to get a short walk yesterday and chose a different route for us, taking us along the old and disused Nottingham Canal.
Opened in 1796 and mostly closed in 1937, the stretch closest to us is now a rather beautiful nature reserve.  The water is full of fish and weed and there are thousands of water lilies too.  In parts, some of the old lock-gate infrastructure is still visible and although the gates have long gone, there are plenty of small footbridges to stand on in order to admire the views along the water.  On a fine, sunny morning, there can be few things nicer.
We spotted Pike in the water, Coots and Moorhens, both with young and a family of Mallards, again with young, swimming about the lily pads.  Close by, a Grey Heron was keeping his eye on us as we passed and hundreds of Swallows and House Martins were feeding on the flies which buzzed around the canal.  Sadly, our walk was all too short and we soon had to get back to the 'real world'.

Friday, 21 June 2013


Looking closely at our Pyracantha, I discovered plenty of bees, hoverflies and 'true' flies flitting about the myriad flowers.  Among these, one particular Greenbottle (Lucilia caesar) caught my eye.
Commonly known as one of the 'Blow Flies' the adults feed on nectar and pollen, while their larvae feed on various carrion.  The maggots are notorious in areas with sheep farms as they often feed on the living flesh of animals, getting in when the adults lay their eggs on open wounds.  Despite these somewhat undesirable habits, the adults nonetheless look quite spectacular as the sunlight glints off their shiny bodies and their reddish-brown composite eyes.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Following on from yesterday's Orchid-fest, we continue with some views across the meadows and the flowers which share the name.  First, the Meadow Buttercups (Ranunculus acris).  I have mentioned these quite often over the last few weeks, but really, we have never seen so many as we have this year.  The meadows are full of them.
Peeking out above the Buttercups of this particular meadow were a small herd of cattle almost lost among the yellow blooms.
Keeping the meadow theme, we then came across a large patch of Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense).  These beautiful, blue geraniums make quite a show among the grass and are certainly very popular with the bees and hoverflies.
Just to finish today, some more of those Meadow Buttercups, but this time, interspersed with some more orchids.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Just one word describes this morning's walk - Orchids!
I was just saying yesterday, how the Bee Orchids are not yet in flower, but this morning, as we walked through Shipley Park, on towards Cinder Hill and Mapperley Reservoir, we were treated to the sight of innumerable orchids flowering in the meadows.  The most abundant at the moment are the Southern Marsh Orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa).  Among the Buttercups, they make a wonderful show.
Closer in and the true beauty of these flowers becomes more obvious.  Their spotted 'throats' and pale purple colour stand out among the fresh green of the meadow.
Identification of orchids can be problematic at times as members of the same species can often appear quite different.  Southern Marsh Orchids for example can be all colours from these purple ones, through pink to pure white.  Close by, some more Southern Marsh Orchids were displaying this variation.
With the Southern Marsh, there were also several Common Spotted Orchids (Dactylorhiza fuchsii).  These too vary enormously from plant to plant, making life difficult when identifying these little beauties.  No problem with these though.
No doubt there will be many more pictures of orchids to come, so keep watching!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Farmyard Animals?

It occurred to me this morning, just how many plants growing in our countryside, have been given common names which relate in one way or another, to farmyard animals.  I give you Ox-eye Daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) for a start.  This large expanse of Ox-eye Daisies, was growing on the old over-spill car parks around Shipley Lake.  Malcolm and I went to check if the Bee Orchids have started to flower, but we were too early.
To continue with the bovine theme, we have seen already this year Cowslips and Cow Parsley and we must not forget the Oxlip.  Then we move on to the Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), a stately and rather beautiful member of the Carrot Family, like the Cow Parsley.  This Hogweed flower head was being attended by a small moth which I have yet to identify.
Other farmyard interactions include Horsetails and Horse Radish, Sheep's Sorrel and Goat's Beard.  The list is long.  Then we have the more domesticated animals, particularly the canine variety including Dog Rose (Rosa canina).
Dogs occur everywhere with things like Dog's Mercury, Dog Violets and Wolfsbane.
This morning, we also saw a spectacular plant with a bird's name - the Orange Hawkweed (Pilosella aurantiaca).  Curiously, this plant also has a common name which harks back to the dogs.  It is sometimes known as Fox and Cubs.  The vibrant colour of this flower almost takes your breath away in the sunshine.
Well worth a longer walk this morning to see this particular beauty.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Yellow Flag

Our walk this morning - trying to avoid the weekend cyclists - took us around the nearby farmland and along part of the derelict Nutbrook Canal.  Along the old canal, the wet ground provides the perfect growing conditions for the delightful Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus).
The name 'Pseudacorus' refers to its resemblance to the Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus), but the Sweet Flag has no such bright flowers - although both grow in the same water margins and wet ground.
Yellow Flags have been used as water treating agents as they are able to take up heavy metals and other pollutants through its root system.
In stark contrast to the beauty of the Yellow Flag, nearby, we found a particularly nasty-looking creature crossing our path.  Now, I can't stand spiders, but even I was fascinated by this large and scary specimen.  Having trawled the web (no pun intended) and various books, I find it's a Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) and a new 'tick' for my invertebrates list.  Still makes me shudder!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Swan Lake

After a couple of days of poor weather, we managed to get out and about again this morning for a walk around to Straw's Bridge and what is locally known as Swan Lake.  We wanted to check up on the Mallard ducklings and were pleased to see that they were all doing very well.  The Moorhens were also doing well, but no chicks for them I'm afraid.  This one is busy trying to be invisible among the Water Mint.
Among the wild Mallards, we have acquired a few escaped domestic ducks.  These are much larger than the 'native' ducks and their deep and guttural quacks are easily heard among the quacking chatter of the rest.  Most of the escapees are white, including this slumbering individual.
Back home and I took advantage of the dry spell, to mow the lawn and plant out the runner beans, these will no doubt provide a good meal for the slugs and snails, long before they provide any beans for us!  Our garden - and the house too for that matter - seem to be full of spiders at the moment.  These tiny baby Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) were bunching together for safety on our patio doors a few days ago.  Lets hope they keep to their name and stay in the garden!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Odds and Ends

Stuck in this morning due to the falling rain, here are some more pictures from our recent walks.  Growing on the ground along the old West Hallam Colliery railway lines and desiccating in the sunshine, there is a large quantity of something called Reindeer Lichen (Cladina portentosa).  Able to withstand the drought of these arid areas as well as the wet of heaths and moorland, this is a very versatile lichen and has a strangely attractive look as it carpets the ground.
Atop Shipley Hill, as well as the delightfully colouful Rhododendrons and Azaleas there are a few Larch Trees (Larix decidua).  These deciduous conifers are covering their branches with bright green new needles and look fresh in the sunshine.  along with these needles, the cones are appearing too.
These cones, looking rather like tiny, green bee hives are the female flowers of the Larch and are accompanied by the much smaller, red male flowers, which in these pictures, are not quite open yet.
It's always worth while taking some time to look closely at tree flowers.  Often held on branches high in the air and too far away to be appreciated, when you get the opportunity to look at them at eye level, they reward you with a surprising beauty - even when they are not of the more 'conventional' flower design.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013


Close to Mapperley Reservoir, there are a few Aquilegia plants growing in among the trees.  Commonly called 'Columbine' which comes from the Latin for Dove and is a reference to it's petals which are supposed to resemble five Doves in a circle, perhaps sipping from the top of the flower.  There are Blue ones, which are the closest to the true species type Aquilegia vulgaris...
and there are white ones which are perhaps a little more 'showy', but all are rather beautiful.
I mentioned the Mountain Ash trees in yesterday's post, so I thought a close-up picture of it's flower head would be in order.  It's amazing how so many trees and shrubs have such similar arrangements of flowers.  These for instance look very similar to the Hawthorn flowers and the Blackthorns too.
One last flower for today and it's a beauty.  The Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) isn't a plant you will see every day, but when you do, it's always well worth it.  The blue of these flowers - which resemble large Forget-me-Nots - is so vivid, it can almost look as if they had been painted. Sometimes called Dyers Bugloss, it's name derives from the Old Spanish (and by association from the Moorish) 'alcaneta' a diminutive form of the word meaning Henna, a more well-known Dyers plant.  Not a native to the UK, it is a welcome addition all the same.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


From our walks around Shipley Park over the last week or so, we have been afforded some lovely views, so I thought it only good manners to share them.  To start with some views across open farm land towards Mapperley Woods and Shipley Hill.  The first shot, taken through the hedge of Hawthorn and, in the foreground, a small Mountain Ash or Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).
More Hawthorn is visible in the next picture and not only in the hedgerow closest to us, but also in the woodland edge across the field, all in full bloom with millions of small, white flowers
Millions more small, white flowers are to be seen in the foreground of the next picture, but here, they are of the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).
While on the subject of 'Cows', the herd of Holstein cattle which populate the nearby fields, were also rather photogenic as they enjoyed the sunshine and fresh, Spring grass.
A few were more inquisitive than the others.

Friday, 7 June 2013


The pea family or Fabaceae as it is correctly known, is a vast one, in fact the third largest after orchids and daisies.  Originally the family was known as Leguminosae and we still refer to many members of the family as 'legumes'.
In the wild, we have a number of species of legume and here are just a few from our recent walks around the area.  The first is a very common one called Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium).  scrabbling among other flowers and grasses along the pathways, the purple/blue flowers are beginning to open now.  Very common in almost the whole of Britain, it grows up to an altitude of about 2,700ft, but mostly in lowland, un-grazed grasslands.
A smaller and lower-growing pea is the Bird's Foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).  Sometimes called 'Eggs and Bacon' because of it's flowers which start in bud form, a red or orange colour before opening to a bright yellow.  This plant prefers to keep close to the ground and rarely reaches more than just a few inches tall.  Even more common than the Bush Vetch, this little plant is known to grow in all but the most acidic places and up to about 3,000ft in Britain.
Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) was originally grown in Britain as a fodder crop and the species is split into three sub-species in this country, of which only the sub-species 'nigra' is a true native.  Again, common, it is found in dry and sandy conditions as in the case of this individual - complete with attendant ants.
Lastly, the smallest of my selection, the Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre) is a ground-hugging, diminutive plant and carries it's flowers in small 'balls' of 20 -30 individual flowers at the end of its scrambling shoots.  This little pea grows to an altitude of a little over 1,000ft in parts of Derbyshire, funnily enough, not too far from where we live!
Where would we be without peas?

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Not so many words today, just a collection of some of the best colour around at the moment.  Starting with the azaleas on Shipley Hill, Yellow...
and Orange...
The yellow is echoed by the Buttercups...
as well as the Goat's Beard...
Creamy white Guelder-rose flowers are opening too...
Some strangely coloured Hawthorn flowers too, certainly NOT the normal white ones here...
Lastly, the diminutive, but equally colourful Wood Forget-me-nots.
The colours speak for themselves I think!