Thursday, 30 June 2016

#30DaysWild in Hats

I have to say that the WildLifeTrust's #30DayChallenge has been tricky this year due to unrelenting workload and rain. I didn't get out to nature reserves this time but I noticed and appreciated the nature around me as I went about my daily routine, here in Uckfield and around the office that I visit in Birmingham.

The met office post shows that rainfall has been significantly higher than usual - it was about 125% in Birmingham and Sussex but this doesn't tell the full story of sulky skies that make photography a pain rather than a pleasure.

On a lighter note, flicking through my photos from the Wild Life Trusts' #30DaysWild I realised that the weather conditions had tested my collection of hats to the limit!

June 2nd - Shivering on Watford Junction Station.
At the beginning of the month it was still very cold so I was still wearing my woolly beret.

5th June - The sun popped out for the 2nd part of Garden BioBlitz.
Just a few days in, when doing my BioBlitz, a brief sunny spell meant that I needed my battered old gardening hat.

11th June - Getting hotter
Hotter sun means a bigger hat!

14th June - I'm wearing a waterproof tweed cap for a reason.
Then the rains came down and went on, and on, and on.

19th June - This is a bit more like June.
By the 19th, things were getting back to normal, changeable English weather with some weekday sunshine alternating with weekend rain.  I was in Birmingham for the last few, grey days and I will write these up later.  I've enjoyed finding nature as I go about my daily business and will continue enjoying MyWildLife.

Monday, 27 June 2016

#30Days30 Drawing to a close

We are getting close to the end of the Wild Life Trusts' #30DaysWild. Having been out and about on Saturday, I was busy in the garden on Sunday and working at home on Monday.

Day 26 - Tiny things in the garden

Before starting work in the garden, I took a tour round, camera in hand.

Hedge Woundwort
Wool Carder Bee - gathering plant hairs for her nest.
The best thing I saw was a Wool Carder Bee gathering hairs from a Lambs Ears plant.  Last year I read a post about this species of bee, which mentioned that it harvested hair from this type of plant. A few days later, I saw the plant on sale and bought it. I put it in it next to the path so, if the bee turned up, it would be easy to photograph. The first time I saw a Wool Carder Bee was during this year's Garden BioBlitz.

The BWARs Information sheet for the Wool Carder Bee says that it:
  • is one of the largest British solitary bees
  • has one generation per year, which flies from June to August
  • the male is larger than the female
  • Nests are constructed in existing aerial cavities, such as beetle holes in dead wood in addition to artificial sites such as cut bamboo canes
  • It uses the hairs that it collects to make brood cells.
I watched her collecting hair from the underside of a leaf into a ball. I saw her fly in the direction of our Camellia but then I lost her. This happened twice.

Crab spider, lying in wait.
Day 27 - Leaves from our trees

After a busy day working, I packed up my laptop and went outside just as the sun went in.

Leaves and immature fruits from our trees.
At first I was not really sure what to do for the day's #30DaysWild. Then I started looking at the shapes of the leaves on our trees. We have a wonderful variety of trees in the garden, some of which support a terrific variety of life.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

#30DaysWild Today's News, Tomorrow's Cage Lining

My last post was about taking a lunchtime walk down the Regent's Canal in London. Over the last few days the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild Challenge has given a welcome relief from the depressing referendum campaign and the wrangling afterwards. Conversely it also got me thinking about what the referendum result will mean for the green spaces and wildlife I love.

Day 23 - A good day for snails

June 23, White-Lipped Snails (plus one) on our path.
It was wet on Thursday, the day of the referendum. When I went to get my newspaper, I found many colourful snails on the path.  Later in the day, I looked up from my laptop and watched a female blackbird collecting small worms and other food from the edge of the grass.

Day 24 - A worrying day

I woke up to the news that my country has voted to leave the EU. This has been the most vicious poll of any sort that I have ever known. After months of argument, there has been much heat and little light. There is literally blood on the floor.

View North towards and beyond Buxted.
I found myself gazing out over the countryside to our North and wondering what would become of it without the EU protection that reduces development round Ashdown Forest. Will some other protection be put in its place or will the view be engulfed in development?

Craig Bennet (Friends of the Earth) tackles this in his Guardian article. He says "About 70% of our environmental safeguards and legislation is European".

I am hoping that some will be replaced with home-grown versions but, of but there is no guarantee. Mr Bennet then goes on to point out that ...

'... during the campaign, it was Nigel Farage that finally said the words I’ve wanted so many politicians to say for so many years; “Some things are more important than the economy”. '

Obviously Mr Farage wasn't talking about the Environment. No-one was. So I personally feel the need to keep an eye on the situation and be prepared to fight (or at least write letters!) to protect our precious green spaces and wildlife.

Day 25 - Today's News, Tomorrow's Cage Lining

Yellow Corydalis on an Tower Ride wall.
On Saturday, I cut down Tower Ride to deliver used newspapers to a person who uses them for lining animal cages.  I found lovely Yellow Corydalis on the walls.

Poppies on Uckfield High Street
Just across the road from Tower Ride, there are poppies peeping over the edge of a wall.  While I photographed them, a lady walked by, saw me taking photos, looked at what I was photographing, and said that although she walked by every day, she hadn't noticed them. We chatted about enjoying wild flowers by roadsides and we went our separate ways.  I dropped the newspapers off and thought about the animals pooing and weeing all over stories of division and angst. Let's hope that we soon remember that, in the words of Jo Cox, the MP murdered during the referendum campaign "We have far more in common than that which divides us".

Friday, 24 June 2016

#30DaysWild Canal in the Capital

After seeing the clouds start to gather on the previous night, I wasn't surprised to open the curtains to another sulky grey sky. On the 22nd of June and the 22nd day of the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild,  I left Uckfield to head into London because I needed to visit our office in Kings's Place, near King's Cross.

Yellow Corydalis in front of traditional hanging tiles.
Wednesday gave us another sulky sky but, scurrying up our own high street to the station, I found bright yellow flowers tucked away next to traditional hanging tiles.

Regent's Canal, London - Coot.
After travelling by train and tube to Kings Cross station, I walked into work, pausing to look over the Regent's Canal.  I was pleased to get a close view of a coot sitting on its nest but dismayed to see it surrounded by litter.

King's Place - Seed sculptures.
Kings Place always has artworks on display. Today there were seedhead sculptures displayed in recesses in the exterior walls.

Viewpoint and artificial islands at the edge of Camley Street Natural Park
At lunch time, I took a walk along the tow path. As the canal swings to the North, I stepped onto a boardwalk to bypass some building work. I was able to look right down into the river and see thousands of tiny fish.  Looking across the canal, I could see the edge of the London Wildlife Trust's Camley Street Nature Reserve with the Viewpoint floating platform and artificial islands.

Canada Geese and goslings on an artificial island.
One of the islands was occupied by ducks and another by geese with goslings.

St Pancras Lock.
I enjoyed many interesting scenes are walked up to the railway bridge, where Eurostar trains dwarf quaint canal boats and a huge new development is growing up round a spruced up gasometer.

Young heron on an artificial island.
On my way back, I followed a group of people along the board walk. As I was passing the artificial islands, the oddly primeval shape of a heron descended. I'm pretty sure it's a young bird. It seemed a bit inept and clumsy and didn't look entirely finished.  The group and I spoke briefly about places we had seen herons and then I returned to the office. On the way back I saw a heated argument between a couple talking about Brexit and migration.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

#30DaysWild Getting Grumpy about the Rain

This has been the most unrelentingly awful June I can remember. The sulky grey skies and incessant rain seem to mirror the attitude of a country in the grip of an incredibly ugly European referendum.  In the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild Challenge people are making the best of it with a lot of jolly posts about children splashing around in puddles and talk of dancing in the rain. I feel like I'm the only one that's being grumpy about the weather. It's not just because it's spoiling my photos and fun. Homes are being flooded, crops damaged and wildlife harmed.  Early in the month our blue tits fledged just two youngsters - presumably down to the difficulty in collecting caterpillars.  Most days there has been relatively little visible insect life because of the difficulty that bees, butterflies etc. have foraging in this ghastly weather. 

Day 20 - Undercover Robin

First thing in the morning I found the deer poo that told me we have had an overnight visitor. The day's rain was unrelenting.

Look carefully and you can see a robin sheltering from the rain.
A robin hid from the rain under the bird-table roof. You can only just see it, but it totally nailed my attitude to all the rain and lousy light we've had this June. 

Day 21 - Glimpses of blue

Another day of dull wet weather

Bumblebee taking advantage of a short respite in the grim weather.
Busy bees took advantage of a brief burst of watery sunshine later in the afternoon.

7:20pm - Cirrus Clouds in a cobalt sky.
By 7pm I was desperate for something to photograph for #30DaysWild. The grey had cleared away so I took a photo of the sky.

9pm - Beautiful but slightly ominous.
After sundown it was lovely hearing the church bells and blackbirds singing while the light faded.

9:25pm - The grey creeping back on angels' wings.
As the sun dropped, the clouds greyed - a harbinger of things to come.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

#30DayWild Do you know how fast antlers grow?

On June the 20th I started the day with all the enthusiasm that a wet Monday morning deserves. Heading out to get my daily newspaper I saw a pile of deer poo on our path. As excited as a kid on Christmas Eve, I glanced across at our Bushnell Trail camera, hoping it had caught something in spite of the constant rain.  After the day's work and meetings were done, I grabbed my the camera from the tree and downloaded the photos. 

My favourite visitor is a Fallow buck. He shed his antlers a few weeks ago and on his recent visits it's been interesting to see how quickly they regrow.  The photos here cover the period from April the 12th to June the 20th.  Times on the photos are in GMT. Add one hour to get BST.
April 12th - Antlers present and correct!
May 17th - Antlers gone.
Just 2 weeks later - his new antlers are nearly as long as his ears.
20 more days - the antlers are just over twice the length of his ears.
I don't know exactly when the Fallow buck lost his antlers but, in just over a month, they grew from nothing to twice as long as his ears.

I am currently doing the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild challenge. For other blogs see MyWildLife.

Monday, 20 June 2016

#30DaysWild Using my senses

I've been taking part in the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild challenge and have found that really using my senses is becoming a habit. I've been seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting nature all around me.  

I had just spent a few days working in Birmingham and, in my spare time, had explored the area around the office and hotel. Walking back through Uckfield, I was pleased to see that East Sussex Highways had mown just the edge of grassy bank alongside Southview Drive leaving the Spotted Orchids and other flowers to thrive.

On Friday the 17th and Saturday I was just snatching sensations as I rushed by but I spent much of Sunday working in the garden immersed in nature.

Day 17 - Touch

Finding Pine Cones in my jacket pocket.
I put my hand in my jacket pocket to get my work pass out and touched the rough, knobby surface of a pine cone I had collected while in Birmingham.  There is something very #30DaysWild about finding a pine cone in your pocket!

My letter on the right-hand side of the page.
I was pleased that the Sussex Express had published my letter about mowing the grass verges.

Day 18 - Sight

Campanula and Beech Hedge.
As I rushed into town, I enjoyed seeing the intricate patterns made by campanula around the feet of a beech hedge.  While I photographed it, I could hear rooks calling and the distant sound of drumming as Spiritus practiced for a local event.

Day 19 - Sound, Scent and Taste

Listening to the hum of bees on a cotoneaster bush.
Just before I crossed the road to get my paper, a loud hum attracted my attention. Dozens of bumblebees were feasting on the tiny blooms of a Cotoneaster plant.

Herbs and other scented flowers in the garden.
I spent the morning gardening and, while tidying herbs in the sundial bed, I disturbed a tiny frog. Once I had finished my hands smelt of lavender, thyme and wild marjoram.

Tiny alpine strawberries.
When I finished, I rewarded myself with the taste of sweet, tiny alpine strawberries that have spread themselves throughout the garden.

Friday, 17 June 2016

#30DaysWild Drawing Breath

It's Friday, which is as good a time as any to draw breath and round up my Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild moments.

It's been a week of grim news, starting with the appalling gun attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, USA and ending with the murder of Jo Cox, an MP who had campaigned for the most vulnerable people on the planet. It was a relief to be able to dip into the #30DaysWild Twitter stream, which is full of cheerful pictures of wildlife and people engaging with nature.  For more, see MyWildLife, where bloggers describe their #30DaysWild adventures.

Day 10 - Taking advantage

Starlings taking advantage of the short grass - Uckfield garden.
I was a little sad, when our grass was cut, to lose the buttercups and pretty grass-heads but our local starlings were quick to take advantage, searching the ground for leather jackets and other treats.

Frothy white blossom of Robinia - Uckfield garden.
Later in the day, I took advantage of a spare moment to listen to the buzzing bees and look up at the frothy white blossom of our Robinia tree, which is now at its best.

Three-cornered leek - destined for a salad.
After work, I foraged in the garden and took revenge on a garden invader.

I wrote about Day 11 in my post about my visit to the Hempstead Meadow Nature Reserve.

Day 12 - A rainy Sunday

Early in the day, I was looking out over the garden, when I heard the laughing call of a green woodpecker.
laughing woodpecker
flies under darkening skies
to feed hungry brood

As it was raining for much of the morning, I spent some time going over my Bioblitz results.  I was surprised by how much I had found out by simply observing the creatures in my garden and then looking for identifications in Facebook groups etc.

Day 13 - More Rain

Water gurgling into the water butt.
Monday I grabbed a moment to put my head out of the front door and listen to birds singing in the rain and water gurgling into the water butt. 

Day 14 - Flowers on the way to Birmingham

Spotted Orchids by the side of the road. 
The previous evening, I had become concerned about articles and letters in the local press complaining about the unmown verges. I dashed off a letter to the local paper praising the mowing regime that had preserved Orchids and other flowers. The sight of them brightened a dull morning.

Fern and a glimpse of bunting from the Queen's birthday celebrations.
I also found wall bellflower, yellow corydalis and ferns clinging to the town's old walls.

Ox-eye daisies at Ashurst Station.
I travelled up to Birmingham, running in and out of the rain.  Looking up from my work, I saw many wild flowers from ox-eye daisies at Ashurst station to purple Fox gloves smothering embankments.  Shortly before Coventry, I glimpsed a field full of red poppies.