Saturday, 27 September 2008

Teasel and Darter

Teasel was named from the use, in times past, of its spiny heads to 'tease' out the separate fibres of wool before spinning or to raise the pile or 'nap' of finished cloth.
Children have used the heads to make toy hedgehogs and sometimes makeshift hairbrushes.
It is common on waysides and rough ground and by water throughout much of the British Isles. It is also widely picked for flower arrangements.
I took this photo last week on one of my foggy walks to Rodden Reserve. I like the arrangement of leaves that create a heart in the centre.

Like its name suggests, this darter is common and sometimes abundant throughout England, Wales, Ireland and is sporadically found in much of Scotland.
The flight season in mild autumns has been known to last through November and in rare instances December.
This one was most obliging in perching on a post at Rodden Reserve last week, after the fog had lifted.

Friday, 26 September 2008


Meet Poppy, the new addition to our family. Our previous cat, KT (Katie) died a few months ago at the grand old age of 15. She is well missed, but we decided that we wanted to give another cat a home with us.
Poppy is about 4 months old and came from the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). She is an adorable but MANIC little kitten. She runs up our full length curtains and all our furniture and up us too! She likes to settle on our shoulders and drape herself around our necks (pretty tricky if you're doing the washing up at the time!) (-:

As yet she has to stay indoors until she has had the operation to stop her getting pregnant which is a couple of months off yet. She already loves to look out of the windows at the outside world though!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Vapourer moth

This lovely moth spent the day on my conservatory window a few weeks ago.
I looked it up in my recently acquired book Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland. The drawings are by Richard Lewington and I can't praise them and the book enough. I thoroughly recommend it.
The Vapourer moth is apparently very common though this is the first one I've ever seen. I guess I haven't been looking for moths that long! This is a male as the female has only rudimentary wings and is flightless and is a light grey-brown in colour.
As this moth was resting on my window I was able to get a nice photo of its underside as well.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The private life of the Dunnock

The Dunnock is, on the face of it, a shy, mouse-like small brown bird. Most of the time it shuffles around on the ground slipping in amongst the tangle of shrubs and hedges, hence its other name of Hedge Sparrow.

However, it does have another side when it comes to its sex life! It's mating system includes a good deal of partner swapping and embraces polygyny (two females with a single male), polyandry (a female with two or three males) and polygynandry (two or three males sharing two three or four females).

It has one of the sweetest of songs usually sung from a prominent perch and is one of the first songs to be heard when warmer weather comes in early spring.

This particular bird was creeping about in my flower border and seems to be going through a moult so isn't looking its best. When they are in tip top condition, there are very smart in an understated grey and brown way.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Hips 'n Haws

During the second world war, rose-hips came into their own in the form of rose-hip syrup, whose taste wartime children can recall as vividly as dried egg!
They are high in Vitimin C so when the war disrupted the usual sources of the Vitimin (citrus fruits mainly) the Government in 1941 under the Ministry of Health initiated a scheme of voluntary collection. The syrup was made by mincing, stewing and then crucially straining through a jelly bag the hips to remove prickly seeds, then boiled again with sugar and reduced to a syrup.

On a personal note, my Mum told me that during the war she and her family used to ride on their bikes out of London into Buckinghamshire to spend the day collecting rose-hips. Her Mum would then make up the syrup as my Mum was too old at 12 to be able to get it via the Ministry of Health scheme.

Apparently it is still made commercially today.

Haws are berries from the Hawthorn tree. Local legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain with 11 other desciples some time between AD30 and 63. He travelled to Glastonbury in Somerset and thrust his staff in the ground where it took root and grew to become the original Christmas flowering thorn.
Young Hawthorn leaves are often the first wild green leaves that children eat and was universally known as 'bread and cheese'. Here is a quote from Flora Britannica "We would pick the red berries and green leaves in autumn - the leaf the bread, the berry the cheese".
Apparently these are only just about edible, not something I've tried myself!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Slow Worm release at Rodden Nature Reserve

A while back Frome Area Wildlife Group (FAWG) who manage Rodden Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Frome were contacted by Michael Woods Associates, Ecological Constultants with a view to releasing some Slow Worms that needed to be moved due to a local development going ahead on the site where they are located at present.
The consultants did a survey at Rodden Reserve to ascertain whether there were already Slow Worms on site. It seems there weren't, so the release is going ahead.
Yesterday I met up with Georgie, the lady involved in the release to take some photos.
The following 4 photos are of a sub-adult.

These next 2 are of a young Slow Worm.

To date, 20 have been released with hopefully many more in the next few weeks.
Slow Worms are in fact legless lizards, but are often mistaken for a snake and consequently killed although they are completely harmless. They hibernate underground from October to March. Mating takes place in April and May and from 6 to 12 young are born in August or September. Young Slow Worms take about 3 years to mature. They can live longer than any other lizards, one in captivity has reached it's fifties! That is very unlikely in the wild as they have many predetors including frogs, hedgehogs, adders, rats and kestrels.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Sky Watch Friday

We've had some misty foggy mornings here in Frome, Somerset the past few days (see my previous posts). This SWF photo was taken yesterday morning while walking round my local nature reserve. Not that you can actually see much of the sky...... (-:

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Some birds at Rodden Reserve

Over the past few days I've had the opportunity to take some bird photos around Rodden Reserve.
There was a lovely family of Grey Wagtails which seem to hang around the Mill House area of the reserve. They are lovely graceful birds though slightly misnamed as they are so much more than just grey!

This was one of many Robins singing their beautiful pure song.

This Moorhen shot is not the best in the world, but they're so seldom seen in flight that I was pleased to get this shot in the foggy conditions.

This Whinchat was passing through on its migration south to Africa.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Spider spinning.

We've had three dry days in a row (yipeeeee), so that gave me another opportunity for a walk around my local reserve. This morning I enjoyed watching this extremely rotund spider (Araneus quadratus) spinning it's web. I can't say I particularly like spiders, specially when they're indoors with me, but I quite like to see them outdoors.
Here are some photos of it building its web for the day.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Rodden Reserve ramble part 2

The foggy theme continues today. One of the things that made walking around the reserve special the last couple of days was the autumn song of several Robins (one of the few birds that continues singing for most of the year) and watching a beautiful adult Grey Heron ghosting around the lake. I also heard a snatch Winter Wren and Chiffchaff which was an added bonus.

Here are some photos of some birds that I took while wandering around, the mistyness makes the photos seem grainy which I quite like.
Grey Heron looking for a meal

in flight

in a dead tree

tracks in the mud

Robin on the bridge

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Rodden Reserve Ramble part 1

The last couple of days, I've taken an early morning walk around my local nature reserve. Both days have been misty or foggy, very atmospheric.
Today, the whole place just seemed to be smothered in dew covered cobwebs. It was quite magical. There must have been at least a gazillion spiders sharing my morning with me, at a safe distance! (-:
Here are some photos though they don't do justice to the peaceful atmosphere while walking around this small reserve.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Sky Watch Friday

Todays photo was taken from the entrance to the local nature reserve where I help out with the management (Rodden Nature Reserve). This is on the outskirts of Frome and was created by the Supermarket that wanted to build their superstore there. See our website at to find out what has been seen on the reserve.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Picking up pots.

Today, Chris and I went to Meon Pottery near Petersfield in Hampshire to pick up some pots that we'd ordered earlier this summer. It was an hour and a half drive one way, but well worth it as we're really pleased with our choice. These particular pots are replicas of ones made in the early 1900s at Compton Pottery.
The pair are called Scroll pots.

The single one is called Celtic.

The Pottery is run by two men on the outskirts of the pretty village of West Meon. Here are some photos of the pottery itself. They make to commission as well as do speculative work.

When we got home, we planted up the Celtic pot with Heather and violas for our little sitting out area. Charlie the Cockerell was keeping a careful eye on the proceedings!

The other two Scroll pots will be potted up later.