Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Flowers For Wildlife

Of course, most of the flowers we enjoy looking at are there, only to attract insects in their various forms. Among the best for this purpose, are those belonging to the thistle family - really, the Daisy family. Spear Thistles are both large and colourful and as such, they attract a huge number of insects. They are particularly popular with bees and hoverflies.
Much smaller, but also popular with insects, the Common Centaury - a member of the Gentian family - is delightful to us but provides food to many smaller insects.
The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have sown  several areas of Shipley Park, with a mixture of wildflowers specifically for producing seeds to feed the birds in winter.
These colourful meadows are full of Corn marigolds, Cornflowers, Chicory, various members of the Pea family and a host of others. The benefits are twofold. They will of course, provide seeds for the birds, but not until the insects have done their bit and pollinated them. What you might call a 'win-win situation.'
Around the lakes of Straw's Bridge, the Ragwort, Purple Loosestrife, Water Mint and Teasels are full of pollinating insects. Most are very common, but the Water Mint plants also play host to the wonderful little Mint Leaf Beetle which is much more scarce and therefore, difficult to find.
One more picture from Straw's Bridge, showing (with a little digital bloom), the colourful summer display which is only there for the insects!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Rained In

In contrast to recent conditions, this morning started out dull and wet. So, as we appear to be rained in for the moment, I thought I would post some more pictures of the flowers from around Shipley Park. Starting with a single patch of Feverfew which was found growing alongside the old car parks of Shipley Woodside.  A member of the daisy family, this plant has been used for many hundreds of years in traditional medicine, to alleviate the symptoms of headache and arthritis.
More colourful and abundant is the Canadian Goldenrod which is just starting to come into full flower.
 This is another plant which is very popular with insects, especially the bees and hoverflies.
A plant which you do not want to get to know too intimately is the very poisonous, Hemlock. Just one specimen of which can be found growing close to Pewit Carr....
... close to the wonderful and fragrant meadow filled with Meadowsweet.
At this time of year, the Rosebay Willowherb is coming into its own.
Know around the world as Fireweed its tall spikes of bright pink flowers are well known to most of us and as such, often ignored or overlooked, but they really do reward closer inspection.
Outnumbering all other plants, the grasses of Shipley Park have been ripening in the recent warm summer sunshine.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Chase Again

We found a suitable site for us to sit for a while and eat our lunch. Malcolm had made cheese and tomato sandwiches (delicious), which we ate in the sunshine, surrounded by trees.
Soon, it was time to start walking back to find where we'd left the car. We took a different return route which wound its way along a wide path with mixed woodland either side of us.
By now, it was getting very hot and the scent of pine resin and sound of Gorse seeds popping, filled the air as we trudged along, hoping we were heading in the right direction.
Here and there, evidence of pine logging lay along the paths, with warning signs telling us not to climb on them.
We soon returned to more familiar sights and more open areas of the heath where Heathers added splashes of bright purple to the sides of the paths.
The little cup-shaped flowers of these Bell Heathers were proving very popular with the bees.
By this point, we were very nearly back to where we started, so with one last look out across the Chase, we returned to the car for a well-earned rest and cup of coffee from the flask.
Despite the frustrations of an incorrect walk guide, it had turned out to be a lovely walk and a great day. We will definitely be back one day.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Cannock Chase

Yesterday, Malcolm and I decided to take a trip somewhere new to me and where Malcolm hasn't visited for many years. So we set out, with picnic and flask, to take our daily walk around Cannock Chase. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty sits in the county of Staffordshire and consists of swathes of natural deciduous forest, conifer plantations and lots of open heath.
We parked at the Glacial Boulder Car Park, named for the large Glacial Erratic used to mark the place.
Onto the walk itself and as we emerged through the trees, the vista opened up before us. Here, looking North, in the direction of Uttoxeter.
Bilberries were fruiting in great profusion around this area and Silver Birch trees provided a little shade on a very hot day.
We set off, turning downhill towards the Sher Brook.
Soon realising that the direction I had printed off, were of no use whatsoever, we carried on regardless and soon crossed the brook at some picturesque stepping stones.
Then, up through some mixed woodland...
with a few very large and impressive specimen Fir trees.
Leaving the woods, and crossing the A513, we took the path over the river Trent.
Reaching the village of Little Haywood, we decided to turn around a retrace our steps to find somewhere to stop for our picnic.  More to come tomorrow...

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Round The Lakes

With the breeding season all but over, it was nice to see a few youngsters about as we walked around the lakes of Straw's Bridge the other day. As usual, the Coots were getting bad tempered with their offspring but there were also some delightful little ducklings picking through the scraps left on the ground for them.
Most of this year's ducklings have nearly reached maturity by now, but these still had a little way to go.
The edges of the lakes are showing lots of colour still, one the most resplendent plants being - as always - the Purple Loosestrife.
These spikes of purple flowers are always popular with bees.
Splashes of yellow are provided by Ragwort plants - also very popular with pollinating insects of all kinds.
More scarce, but no less cheerful is the Marsh Woundwort which grows in small numbers near another of the lakes of Straw's Bridge.
This particular plant was accompanied by the similarly coloured Creeping Thistle and the creamy-white trumpets of Hedge Bindweed as well as the ubiquitous Stinging Nettles.
A stroll around the lakes of Straw's Bridge, may not be the longest of our usual walks, but it certainly rewards the small effort.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Colours of Summer

The Summer countryside is of course, full of colour. Around Straw's Bridge a few days ago, we were pleased to see a young Grey Wagtail by the side of the lake. Lacking the brighter colours of the adult, it was nonetheless lovely to see and was beginning to show signs of the characteristic yellow underside, which will make it stand out in adulthood.
While at Straw's Bridge, we also  encountered the bright colours of the Purple Loosestrife.
And the similarly coloured Knapweeds were opening their flowers for pollinating insects to feed on.
On almost every Ragwort plant, the unmistakable form of Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars were to be seen, their bright, stripy colours advertising their unpalatable nature to anything which might think of eating them.
Vast swathes of colour adorn the banks of Straw's Bridge.
At Osborne's Pond this morning, the summer colours were also in evidence. Again, Purple Loosestrife was lining the edges of the water...
but here, they were accompanied by the pale pink of Hemp Agrimony and the creamy-white of Angelica.
The Angelica was proving very popular with Bumblebees. All very colourful!

Friday, 7 July 2017


We are particularly lucky to have lots of really beautiful wildflower meadows close to where we live. Among the best are those around Pewit Carr. Earlier in the summer, the meadows were filled with Orchids, but now, the orchids have all but finished, the Meadowsweet has taken over.
A member of the rose family, Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is covered with frothy, creamy-white flowers and has the most wonderful scent.
Not only popular with us, it is also very popular with insects - particularly bees.
Vast stands of Meadowsweet adorn the edges of almost all the lakes of Pewit Carr and Straw's Bridge. These were growing in abundance nearby, at the side of the Manor Floods.
Much larger flowered, is the Great Bindweed (Calystegia sepium). These large trumpets grace the hedgerows round these parts every summer and they're just coming into their own.
The meadows of Shipley Park are beginning to turn golden brown as the grasses ripen in the sunshine.
Among all of this, the Creeping Thistles and Hogweed are thrusting their heads above the surrounding sea of grasses and on many of these flower heads, bright orange-red beetles can be seen feeding on the pollen and nectar. They are of course, Soldier Beetles
There was a new tick for my invertebrate life list yesterday. A green-eyed fly was sitting on a Creeping Thistle flower around Straw's Bridge as we passed. It turned out to be a Twin-lobed Deerfly (Chrysops relictus.) The females suck mammalian blood and can give a painful bite while the males feed on flower pollen. So I'm hoping this was a male!