Friday, 31 July 2015


This morning's walk, took us along the old West Hallam Railway tracks and what we like to refer to as the 'Farm Walk'.  The wild flowers along the old railway lines, are superb now, but it was what was sitting on one of the Creeping Thistle flowers, that caught my attention. A Southern Hawker Dragonfly (Aeshna cyanea).
One of the most common species of Dragonfly in the UK, this is an impressive animal, measuring about 3" long, with various pale blue spots and stripes on its abdomen.
This specimen was looking a little worse for wear as it was missing part of its left-hand, rear wing, probably as the result of an encounter with a predator of some kind.  It was also rather lethargic and unwilling to take to the air, even as I pointed my camera closer to it.
Despite seeming to have a  'smiling' face, they are fearsome predators, catching other insect species on the wing as an adult and, as a nymph, feeding on tadpoles and other water-born invertebrates. Truly a Dragon if ever there was one - but still rather beautiful.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


Only one subject for today's blog entry and one which Malcolm suggested as we walked through Mapperley village this morning. The field of cattle and especially the calves which were resting in the sunshine.
This mixed herd of cattle, both adults and several youngsters, were being rather vocal as we passed, eagre as they were, to be in contact with another herd some distance away which was mooing back at them with some gusto.
These little calves however, were taking it all in their stride and making the most of what little sunshine was on offer, following the dismal weather we've had lately.
With their large eyes, long lashes and pink, wet noses, they looked extremely photogenic laying in their field. This pair seemed to be inseparable...
All tagged with their bright yellow 'ear-rings', they made a handsome sight this morning.

Monday, 27 July 2015


The countryside is filled with yellow right now. Among the most common flowers to add their yellow colouring are those belonging to the Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris).
This is a well-known plant which can be found growing on the country's highways and byways all over the place. It goes by several common names, most of which are rather less than polite - so here goes... Known a s Stinking Willy, Stinking Nanny, Stammerwort and even Mare's Fart!
A member of the Daisy family, it gets most of these names from the nasty smell of the leaves. It is very popular with bees, butterflies and a wide range of pollinating insects. The orange and black stripy caterpillars of the Cinnabar moth find them irresistible too - as can be seen in the background here.
Another yellow flower to be found around these parts at the moment is the Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata). Not so common as the Ragwort, this is a member of the Gentian family and is more-or-less at its northern limit in the UK. These are to be found growing in the old gravel car-parks of Shipley Woodside, holding their bright yellow petals on top of glaucous stems and leaves. Beautiful!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


A stroll along the 'Farm Walk' this morning, revealed a plethora of winged creatures, as well as a few which have yet to grow their wings. The Ragwort flowers are in full bloom and it was on these that most of the insects were to be found. The first was a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus). In fact, there were hundreds of them flitting about on the flowers this morning. Very common in the UK, they are extremely beneficial too. Their larvae are predators of aphids and the adults are prolific flower pollinators.
The next little flutterer was a Gatekeeper butterfly (Pyronia tithonus). Another common species, the name comes from them being frequenters of gaps and gateways in hedgerows. They spend much of their time (as this one was) with their wings spread, basking in the sunshine.
The third insect was found on the Ragwort once again. This one however, had not yet developed into a winged adult. This is the caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth (Tyria jacobaeae). The bright yellow and black striped colouration, indicates that it is very unpalatable to those creatures which might want to make a meal of it. The foul taste coming from alkaloids in the Ragwort plants on which they feed.
Finally, a buzzing thing which was very busy on the flowers of the Creeping Thistles. This Honey Bee was so busy, it didn't seem to notice me poking my camera lens into its affairs - or if it did, it didn't care too much!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Welds and Caps

With such an abundance of flowers to enjoy at the moment, it's often tricky to chose what to photograph. But two have certainly caught my eye over the past week or so. The first going by the curious name of Weld (Reseda luteola). This plant is closely related to the fragrant Mignonette and has been used as a source of a rich yellow dye for at least 3000 years, possibly longer than Woad. It's also thought that it was mixed with the blue dye of Woad to produce Lincoln Green - supposedly, Robin Hood's colour of choice.
The second flower to mention is a much smaller and less obvious. Found growing around some of the fishing points around Mapperley Reservoir, this is a blue flower called Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata).
The attractive little flowers are rather hairy like many other members of the Mint family, to which this belongs.
The scientific name 'galericulata' means 'hooded', in reference to the individual flowers having a hooded appearance. The leaves can be dried and either made into a tea or smoked in a pipe, as an anti-anxiety drug.  Just the thing I need..!

Friday, 17 July 2015


Two plants with 'meadow' in their names, are in full bloom right now. Firstly, the spectacular, blue flowers of the Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense).
These are growing close to Mapperley Reservoir and are present in abundance. as the plant ages towards the end of Summer, the leaves and stems will darken and turn red, adding to the spectacle. But for now, we can just appreciate those wonderful flowers.
The second of our 'meadow' themed flowers can also be found in great numbers growing around the reservoir, but is almost everywhere else where the ground is moist. This is the Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).
Huge quantities of frothy, cream-coloured flowers fill the air with a delicious scent at this time of year. Indeed the flowers were once used as a 'strewing herb', literally strewn across the floors in houses to freshen the air and make your average medieval home a little more pleasant to live in.
Here those lovely creamy flowers are competing with the white umbels of the Hog Weed along the footpath at Mapperley Reservoir.
Not only a feast for the eyes, but for the nose too.

Thursday, 16 July 2015


It's amazing what turns up in the back garden from time to time. Often, these interlopers take the form of insects and a couple of days ago, I found this, hiding under the watering can rose.
Following some extensive searching on-line, I think I have identified it correctly as a Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae).
Common and widespread in Britain, it is a frequent visitor to urban gardens. Their larvae feeding on many of our garden plants. Two years ago, we had a caterpillar of this species in the garden...
... but this is the first adult I've seen.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


The countryside is filed with Damselflies at the moment. as we walked around the lakes of straw's Bridge this morning, there seemed to be hundreds of them flitting about. This one obliged by settling on a leaf for me to take its photo.
It turned out to be a Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans. Common in Britain, they congregate around rivers, lakes, ponds and canals and are tolerant of slightly polluted water. This species is most easily identified by the sky blue eighth segment of its abdomen.
The lakes were looking beautiful this morning, despite the rather overcast conditions.
Its all looking very green right now...
And the resident Mute Swans were still on the look-out for food from anyone who ventured by.

Thursday, 9 July 2015


Don't worry, this blog post does not have anything remotely reptilian about it. The snake referenced in the title is the name of a rather intriguing little insect called a Snake Fly (Raphidia notata).
On our walk this morning, we stopped for coffee at the Mapperley Reservoir picnic area and this little charmer, was found already occupying our bench when we arrived - so we shared the seat.
Snake Flies are supposed to be fairly common in the British Isles, but this is the first I have ever seen - so another new 'tick' for the list. About an inch long, they feed on aphids, scale insects and a host of other garden pests, so they are a good friend to the gardeners among us.  There are four species of Snake Fly in the UK, three occurring on conifer trees, and this one which prefers Oaks. This one turned out to be a female as it has a long ovipositor or egg-laying tube, looking like a sharp tail sticking out of its abdomen.
Despite Malcolm's suggestion that I should squash it, we left her still sitting on the bench when we continued on our walk.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Country Colours

No walk this morning, as we had other things to do, but I thought we'd have a few more pictures of our recent walks around the area.
Along the old railway lines, where much improvement work has been done over the past year or so, the wild flowers are spectacular. Without a doubt, the most numerous are the Ox-eye Daisies.
In some places, they are just breathtaking...
particularly when set against a backdrop of Red Campion.
Growing tall and proud along the fence-line are several Great Mullein plants. Statuesque and beautiful, they too, make a wonderful display.
These spikes of large, yellow flowers, contrast with the grey, velvet-like hairy stems and leaves.
These flowers are popular with the bees - as well as with us!

Thursday, 2 July 2015


We start the new month, with some 'common' flowers from our recent walks around Shipley Park. Starting with an exceptionally pretty little flower to be found along the old railway lines - Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea).
Small and rather delicate to look at, this is a common plant (as the name suggests), found growing in fairly dry, gravelly conditions and is a member of the Gentian family.
I have mentioned the Common Spotted Orchids several times in recent days and have posted a few pictures of them growing in the meadows around these parts. A couple of these delightful plants have taken root in our front garden, one of which had started to flower. Unfortunately, this flower spike was broken off  recently - we think by a passing cat or dog. Disappointing as this was, it did give us a chance to get a closer look at the individual flowers as it stood in a glass of water on our windowsill.
Lastly, a plant which is easily overlooked but is still rather common. The English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum) is a succulent plant which hugs the ground closely and grows among stones and pebbles, making it even harder to spot.
The succulent leaves are often tinged with red as in this case, making them slightly easier to see, particularly when growing among the grey stones of this old car park.