30 Days Wild: Idea 21-Wildflower hunt

Through taking part in 30 days wild in previous days I was switched onto the Wildflower Hour. This has helped develop my knowledge of wildflowers and their names. While for many people this might not seem that significant. What’s in a name? But it does matter. If we can’t name plants, insects, birds we can’t monitor their decline. Without figures we can’t gain support for protecting species. That said I mainly just enjoy taking pleasure in the seasonal shifts from one flower to the next. Paying attention to the flowers and insects around us helps to cultivate mindfullness and improve piece of mind.

Getting out on even a short walk can find a good number of species. On just a short 100m stretch along the seafront I found a good variety of wildflowers along the grass bank.

The umbels of cow parsley out in large drifts.

Pretty little geranium/cranesbill seeding on the upper levels of the slope.

A battered dog rose attracting the pollen beetles.

A few patches of mallow.

Lots of snails out.

Further back from the seafront in a ditch there were a few yellow flag irises.

Reading the wildflower hour posts has helped improve my knowledge but a field guide is useful. I have a couple but it’s the wildflower key I go back to the most. A jewelers loupe was recomended when I started looking at IDing. it isn’t really necessary for most but it is interesting taking a closer look at the structure of plants.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my little wander. What can you find?

Follow me on Twitter.

7 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 7 Wildflower Hunt

Today is the last day of the Wildlife Trusts 7 days of Wild Christmas. It has been fun blogging daily again about our wildlife experiences, but it is time consuming blogging each day. So while my engagement with nature won’t stop the daily blogs will.

Moon Gazing

The day started early with Alice up at six. She is sleeping through on her own now most night so while it was an early start at least we’re not being woken up several times a night. As soon as Alice got downstairs she checked out the window. She is currently a bit obsessed with looking for the moon but lately, it has been too cloudy. So she was very excited to see stars and the moon this morning. We’ll have to spend a bit more time on astronomy rather than our usual biology studies.

New Years Plant Hunt

Today Alice and I got out for a walk to leave Amy to get on with some of her teacher prep. I haven’t done my New Year Plant Hunt for the BSBI so I thought today was the day. Last year we were up at Robin Hood’s Bay, so we saw no end of gorse. We headed out through the local park initially.

Alice was in a cheeky mood.

In the park, we found daisies, groundsel, and a small white flower I need to check up.

Alice told me the birds were singing and we managed to find the source of the singing.

We walked through town spotting a good spread of Winter heliotrope, a form of forget-me-not, and Herb Robert. I’m going to have to dig out the wildflower key to check it up.

Then we headed for home back along the seafront spotting another patch of winter heliotrope.

Not a massive number of species, but not bad for a walk just through town. Before I took part in 30 days wild I wouldn’t have known the names of most of these or even probably noticed them. So the fact that I can now name some of them shows some progress. It’s a simple joy spotting and being able to name elements of our natural world. Then by submitting my sightings I help contribute to the BBSI knowledge of seasonal shifts.

#WaveofWhales

The author Nicola Davies has called for a protest on Japan’s decision to resume whaling. She is requesting people send pictures, paintings and drawings to the Japanese ambassador to show opposition to this backwards step. I talked to Alice about the news story that whales would be killed and her answer was “Why?” A question I can’t really answer. Should you want an activity to do during the holiday this seems like a good activity to do with children and teach them responsibility for our world. Alternatively a good task for teachers when we return to school.

Post to be sent to Ambassador Koji Tsuruoka, Embassy of Japan 101-104 Piccadilly London W1J 7JT

Alice reading the snail and the whale

I was considering making seedballs today as got all the components ready, but after our walk, Alice just wants to colour and watch some Fireman Sam. As ever, Norman Price caused havoc. It really is time to look at pre-empting the trouble and look at getting Norman into a young offenders institute. At the very least Dilys should be getting monitored by social services for irresponsible parenting. I may get round to making seedballs later in the week but for anyone who fancies it here is a guide.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my return to taking part in the acts of wild. The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days wild will return in June. While I won’t be blogging the same quantity enjoying the natural world will still continue. From taking part in 30 days wild taking joy from nature has become pretty ingrained in my daily practice.

Follow me on Twitter.

7 Days of Wild Christmas-Day 1 bird feeding

Merry Christmas nature and garden lovers. I hope you are having, have had or are about to have a good Christmas day. This Festive period I am taking part in the Wildlife Trusts 7 days of wild Christmas. For many the festive season is a fairly depressing time. The days are dark and long, for some Christmas brings reminders of things lost. I find with each year I feel more and more distant from Christmas. I dislike the commercial excess of Christmas and the abundance of selfishness that many people develop as they sulk over receiving unwanted presents. The time I manage to engage with nature, gardening and getting outside helps relieve my spirits in this darker periods of the year.

But even for those who enjoy Christmas time engaging with nature can still bring much joy. The great benefit of much of what nature offers is that it is free. At a time people are getting wrapped up in the price tags and worrying they haven’t spent enough on someone nature offers a free burst of happiness.

I gain a lot of pleasure from the birds in the garden. Much wildlife comes into the garden just for the fruits on the trees. I do like to put out a bit more though to encourage more in. During these darker colder days it really helps birds to have easy access to extra food. It’s easy to forget to feed during the excitement of Christmas. But a few options will last a few days.

The suet tends to go fast. This feeder can be emptied in a day but it offers a good energy burst to the birds.

The fat balls last a few days meaning I don’t need to be out all the time replacing.

The same goes for the suet blocks.

The bird seed goes in a day but is one of the most popular feeders bringing in a great variety of birds.

Then from feeding regularly I get rewards like the ones in these photos. These were taken yesterday at my dad’s house where they also leave out plenty for the birds all year.

These charming goldfinch have been visiting regularly and that burst of gold and red is enough to bring joy to even the coldest winter hearts.

The starlings, while noisy, offer a great deal of beauty with the iridescence of their feather.

I hope you all enjoy your Christmas days and still find a bit of time out to appreciate nature. We have family time ahead now. Alice is at an age where she understands a bit more of what is going on. So I’m sure we’ll have a nice, if somewhat tiring, day.

Follow on Twitter.

An excited little girl

Dorset Holiday part 1

We have returned from a lovely week down in Dorset. One of Amy’s friends from her time working in Indonesia had offered us the use of her house while she was on holiday. This has worked out ideal as we then didn’t need to take bed guards and hundreds of toys for Alice as they were already there. That said, the car was still pretty full. Tiny peugeots are possibly not the best family holiday cars. This was the longest car journey we’ve taken Alice on at six hours. But she coped very well. We timed it well for her having a good nap on the way down and two stop offs. Only one section with a screaming child in the back. Alice enjoyed her service station stop offs. Everything is an adventure at her age.

The first proper day down we got ourselves in order with a trip to Aldi for food. We realised the weather forecast was rain for almost the whole week, so we stopped in sports direct and invested in waterproof trousers. This have been invaluable, keeping us dry, meaning we haven’t needed to worry sitting on wet benches or being splashed every time Alice launched herself  into a pudding.

Then a visit to Hengistbury Head where Amy’s friend was staying. Hengistbury Head is headland jutting out of the coast between Bournemouth and Mudeford. It has a variety of habitats including beach, heathland, grassland and shrub making it an area of scientific interest, a special area of conservation interest, a special protection area and an environmentally sensitive area. On a good day I imagine this is an amazingly bio diverse area with wonders to be seen. However the two days we visited were cold, windy and wet, so much of the wildlife was hidden away.

To get to the head you can go round on a land train or take a short ferry from Mudeford Quays. We opted for the ferry. Alice thought it was very exciting going on the ferry. It was her first time on a boat. There was lots of excited pointing at other boats and smiling at the other people on the ferry.

Along the headland are lovely little beach huts, some for renting.

We had a little amble along the headland with our host and her twins.

Alice loved jumping in every puddle on the way and searching for rocks.

While the wildlife was put off by the wind there was still plenty to interest me with shrubs and wildflowers for me to look up in my birthday present, the wildflower key.

We had a lovely time along the headland. I would love to return on a sunnier day. I expect we would have seen a lot of butterfly life more species of bird. Part two to follow, in which we see wild horses.

Birthday Treats

Last Saturday was my birthday. I had a nice relaxing day. Me, Alice and Amy got out for a walk and lunch. Amy has treated me to tickets for Bill Bailey later in the year, which I’ll enjoy. I’ve seen him a few times and he’s always been amazing. Alice bought me Paddington 2, which has to be one of the best family movies of the last few years. Then got Amazon vouchers from family.

On Sunday my sister and nephews came over to wish me well. We had glorious sunshine for a walk along the seafront.

Then we went to one of Amy’s sisters for tea where I received tasty beers and sweets for my birthday. Alice had a good play in the garden with cousins. This mainly involved her pushing them away any time they came close to her ball. She had a sulk about coming in for food. Once out she likes staying out.

Monday was spent waiting in for Ikea to deliver furniture. We are starting to create Alice’s woodland room. However Ikea added extra furniture and didn’t deliver the main wardrobe we’ve ordered. So we’ve got another day waiting in to see if they get it right.

Then Tuesday my parents got us out for a birthday lunch at Mr Moos. I had a rather delicious blue cheese burger and a Belgium Waffle with toffee ice cream for pudding. Alice enjoyed her first full ice cream to herself with lots of shouts for more when she finished. Amy enjoyed her orange marmalade ice cream. An ice cream fit for Paddington. The cows are on site at Mr Moos, but sadly they were out of the barn and couldn’t see them in the field. Alice was a little disappointed, so may have to take her out for a walk around the countryside.

With my Amazon vouchers I had bought a few small things for outside. A new birdbath. I’d gone for a RSPB one. I wanted a decent sized one, which meant a plastic or resin for the amount I’m willing to spend. The reviews had said it looked better than the photos, but I’m not convinced. It still looks cheap to me, but it a decent size with a good bowl for the birds to get in.

Then I’ve bought the wildflower key. This book is recommended as one of the best guides for identifying wild flowers in the UK. With my efforts for #wildflowersunday I’ve been gradually improving my knowledge, but a better guide will help.

For my other hobby, my photography, I’ve ordered a more padded camera strap. I only had the strap the camera came with and it aches on the neck if I’m carrying it round my neck for a while.

 

I also had some good news today that I have won another prize from Oldhouseintheshires I added a blog to the linkup entering into the competition to win a garden sign and garden vouchers. Check the link out for more garden blogs. Lots of interesting reads on there. With my meadow in my garden win and this I’m feeling pretty lucky.

Wildflower Hour-Lesser Celandine

This weeks wildflower contribution was lesser celandine (rannunculus ficaria). I found a patch growing in the shaded passageway behinf my garden, similar in nature to its natural habitat. This is a pretty common perenial growing in open woodland and along hedgerows. It is an early food source for bees flowering from March to May. while it grows in shaded spots it requires sun for the flowers to open.

As a part of the rannunculus genus this places it as a relative to varieties of buttercups, spearwort and crowfoot. It is quite low, forming clumps to a height of 25cm. The heart shaped leaves and small yellow flowers make it quite a pleasant sight at this poiny of the year when little is in bloom.

Poisonous if eaten raw it can cause livestock issues. It is native to Europe, but banned in some US states due to its toxic nature.

The poet William Wordsworth loved them enough to write three poems about them. When he died it was proposed a lesser celandine should be carved on his gravestone. However a greater celandine was carved by mistake.

Edward Thomas also used the lesser celandine as the subject of this poem.

Thinking of her had saddened me at first,
Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie
Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame,
A living thing, not what before I nursed,
The shadow I was growing to love almost,
The phantom, not the creature with bright eye
That I had thought never to see, once lost.

She found the celandines of February
Always before us all. Her nature and name
Were like those flowers, and now immediately
For a short swift eternity back she came,
Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore
Her brightest bloom among the winter hues
Of all the world; and I was happy too,
Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who
Had seen them with me Februarys before,
Bending to them as in and out she trod
And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream; the flowers were not true,
Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there
One of five petals and I smelt the juice
Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more,
Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.

While a common wildflower I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more on the subject.

Wildflower hour-Winter heliotrope

From my New Years plant hunt I found winter heliotrope. It apparently favours damp spots such as river banks, damp meadows and woodland. I found it on a cliff edge with strong winds, so there you go.

It has small mauve flowers, rather delicate in nature. It apparently has a pleasant vanilla scent, but Alice on my back I didn’t go close enough to check. It can be grown in the garden, but can quickly become a pest as it spreads vigorously. As a non-native invasive species much of the advice on it is connected in to other plants considered pests such as bindweed and Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsalm. It spreads by rhizomes (underground stems) spreading out to form clumps of leaves out competing other native species.  It flowers November until February, while the foliage is evergreen remaining all year.

Winter heliotrope

Originally from North Africa it spread through Europe before making its way to Britain. It was introduced formally in 1806 grown as an ornamental in gardens and some churchyards. So far only the male form is present in Britain.

So looks like I’ve gone for another non-native invasive species. I need to try an find something native for future. Advice is given here should you wish to remove it from your garden.

If you haven’t checked out the proposed nature book swap check out the blog. Looking for expressions of interest until Next weekend when I will look at sending out details for people to swap books.

Follow on twitterFollow on twitterFollow on twitter.