"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Local Birding and Three Delightful Books

Marsh Lane NR

Determined to get back into a routine of visiting Marsh Lane NR more regularly, I paid another visit last Thursday afternoon.

I walked along the causeway path towards Oak Hide.

Although its only August, the day felt very autumnal and many berries are starting to ripen.


Blackberries - I wish I'd had a container with me to collect some but we will visit to our usual blackberrying spot in the next week or so and we collected a container full from the garden this afternoon.

A family of Chiffchaffs were feasting on these elderberries - fattening up for their migration soon.


and Alder cones are forming.

There weren't many butterflies around - I spotted just one Common Blue and a few "Whites" fluttering in the distance.

There were plenty of these Flesh Flies around

I spent quite a lot of time chasing dragonflies up and down the path - do they ever stay still?! This is either a Common or Ruddy Darter - probably the former. I was hoping to confirm the id when I cropped the photo but most of the features needed aren't that clear.

Many Common Blue damselflies were flying around on the path to Railway Copse - in exactly the same location as my last visit.

Umbellifer flowers were covered in bees, wasps, flies and hoverflies - this looks like a Drone Fly to me. Thankfully the Hoverfly id book has now arrived which will hopefully help with hoverfly id from now on :)

I popped into Oak Hide hoping to spend some time looking for waders until I spotted these dark clouds approaching and decided it was probably time to beat a hasty retreat to the car.

In fact, 5 minutes after I left the reserve the heavens opened and I drove home in torrential rain.

The birding highlight of the visit was a pair of Linnets seen on my way back to the car by the crop field. I knew they occurred on the reserve but this was the first time I had seen them there.


I thought I would just mention 3 delightful books I have read over the last few months which I would highly recommend.

I first discovered the magical world of Matlock Hare last year - the very talented authors Phil Lovesey (who writes the stories) and his wife Jacqui who illustrates the books have created an incredibly imaginative world based on a Hare called Matlock and Winchett Dale. In this story Matlock's Dale is threatened by a mysterious stranger and the only way he can save the Dale and all his friends there is by taking a dangerous journey along Trefflepugga Path

This unique magical world even has its own vocabulary - don't worry there is a glossary!! and is full of the most whimsical and colourful characters. There are lots of twists and surprises in the book and its a great read. For more information on Matlock's world please visit www.matlockthehare.com

For years I have enjoyed reading Paul Evans' Country Diary column when it appears in the Guardian so I couldn't wait to read this book. Its a real gem - delightfully illustrated by Kurt Jackson and full of rich, descriptive prose. The book follows the year with beautiful prose poetry pieces of varying length following a theme of colour starting with yellow in the Spring, followed by White, Pink, Blue and finishing with Brown. Notes inside the front cover say "Herbaceous is gardening with words. It is a book of audacious botany and poetic vision which asks us to look anew at our relationship with plants and celebrates their power to nourish the human spirit".

At times it is not an easy read but its a book I return to again and again and Paul Evans poetic prose describing a dandelion is just sublime. I will never look at a dandelion flower in the same way again! An intriguing, thought-provoking book with human stories interwoven into plant descriptions with a beautiful sense of time and place.

Denys Watkins-Pitchford or "BB" wrote more than 60 books about the countryside and stories for children including "The Little Grey Men" which in 1942 won the Carnegie Medal. "BB's Butterflies" tells the story of his life long mission to conserve the Purple Emperor butterfly.

The book is illustrated with BB's colour illustrations, monotone scraperboard drawings and photos. It includes extracts from many of his books, letters he sent and magazine articles. The book is charming and one to treasure and return to again and again. In fact, when I read it for the first time I rationed myself to a few pages a night as I just didn't want to finish it!

I always tend to have several books "on the go" at any one time - reading some poetry each day together with one non-fiction and one fiction book.

I've just started to read The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane and already find I can't put this exquisite book down.

You will probaby have noticed I have the Kindle version of this book. Actually this is the type of book where I would far prefer to have a proper book version but I do find my Kindle very useful for fiction in general.

I am still in the middle of a major decluttering exercise here at home but now I have reached my books progress has ground to a halt because basically I am finding it very difficult to get rid of any of them. I have 1000's and now the floor to ceiling bookcases covering one wall in our bedroom are full they are starting to take over other rooms in the house. I've come to the conclusion that most of the non-fiction and reference books are staying put which means I have to "prune" fiction titles dramatically! The "classics" and books I know I will read again are back on the bookshelves but then I have books in 3 piles - those which I may read again or have sentimental value are in storage boxes (not an ideal situation because D wants to read Charlotte Grey which I think is in a box somewhere but I haven't a clue which one!!), then there is a massive pile which I can't make my mind up about and yet another pile of books which I keep telling myself have to go bit by bit to the Charity Shop. Hence, from now on fiction is being bought via the Kindle!

And just before I finish (sorry this is turning out to be a much longer post than I envisaged) the next fiction book I am about to start is the next in the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman.

I just love these books - my grandfather came from Herefordshire and we spent many happy Sundays when I was a child visiting the "black and white" houses in villages in the part of Herefordshire where Rickman sets his books.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Garden Biodiversity - 365 Challenge - Part 4

Just a little update on how I'm getting on with my attempt to see 365 species that have arrived in or colonised the garden naturally during 2014.


I haven't added any new bird species to the list since Swift in May but we often get surprise visitors around this time of year as passing migrants stop off so there is still chance to add a few more birds to the list - hopefully!!


Finally, a bat sighting a

Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)

I did spot a mouse running across the garage floor a few evenings ago but it moved liked greased lightning so I have no idea whether it was a House Mouse or Wood Mouse. We have set up one of those humane live traps but so far haven't caught anything. From past experience :( its Wood Mice that are naive enough to visit the trap whereas House Mice don't but I suspect B will be clearing out the garage one weekend very soon so I may yet get an id.


Lots of species flowering in the wildflower meadow and in pots but I am being very honest and not counting these so the only species added are:

Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) - in the front garden so I have counted this one as its well away from areas we have planted in the back garden

Lesser Hawkbit (Leontodun taraxacoides)

Broad-leaved Willow-herb (Epilobium montanum)

Bryophytes and Fungi

Still have quite a few species to identify!


None added - wish I could find a toad - I haven't seen one in the garden for years


Two species of Caddis Fly have been added - Stenophylax permistus and Cyrnus flavidus
These can be hard to id even though I often catch them in the moth trap so am not sure how many more I will be able to get to species level.

Large Rosesaw Fly - (Arge pagana) I may have mentioned this one in the last update? But frantically trying to get the post finished before I have to get the tea on so I haven't time to check!

Turnip Sawfly (Athalia rosae)

Flesh Fly (Sarcophagus carnaria) - a very pretty looking fly but with some rather horrible habits. Unlike most flies they are ovoviviparous depositing hatched or hatching maggots rather than eggs on carrion, dung or open wounds on mammals. At times like this I am very glad we no longer keep pet rabbits with all the worries of Fly-strike every summer.

Sawfly - Macrophya albo annulata


I am getting really interested in hoverflies - there are so many in the garden (sadly many too small and quick to take photos which means most will probably never be identified). Golden Rod and Cosmos flowers are proving a real magnet to them at the moment. For id I've been using one of the 2 Collin insect guides I have or a free booklet given away with BBC Wildlife Magazine many years ago but I've just treated myself to Britain's Hoverflies : An Introduction to Hoverflies of Britain by Ball and Norris. I just hope it doesn't arrive in the post on a Saturday - some women sneak clothes, shoes handbags etc. into the house with me its books!!

Species added recently include

Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus)

Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)

Dead Head Fly Myathropa florea


Species Added include:

Cuckoo Bee (Coelyoxis sp) another one I may have mentioned last time?

Field Cuckoo Bee (Bombus campestris)

Honey Bee (Apus melifera)

Other Invertebrates

Common Green Lacewing (Chrysopera carnea)

Common Backswimmer (Notonecta glauca)

Miridae nymph

Its proving difficult, in fact, impossible in some cases to get some insects down to actual species level. So do I count them or not? Well, as this is just a fun challenge I am doing on my own, I have decided that I probably will although I expect purists will frown! If I was taking part in an organised challenge such as Garden Moth Challenge I wouldn't count them though!

Dragon and Damselflies

I'm really disappointed in the lack of Dragon and Damselflies in the garden this year. Blue damsels and hawker dragonflies have bred in the pond in the past but this year I haven't yet seen one damselfly and the few Dragonflies I have spotted have disappeared from the garden by the time I get outside.


Several species were added in July:

Green-veined White (Pieris napi)
Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Comma (Polygonia c-album

Gatekeeper (Celastrina argiolus)

I did see a Skipper species on a lavender plant but by the time I got close enough to try and id it it had flown off never to return :( Just to be perverse I am not counting this! as I really should be able to get butterflies down to species level.


Not surprisingly, most of the additions to the 365 list have been moths - apologies if you've seen some of these photos before.

Cabbage Moth (Mamestra brassicae)

Clay (Mythimna farrago)

Garden Grass-veneer (Chrysoteuchia culmella)

Scalloped Oak (Crocalis elinguaria)

Double Square-spot (Xestia triangulum)

Dun-bar (Cosmia trapexima)

Marbled Beauty (Cryphia domestica)

Codling Moth (Cydia pomonella)

Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor)

Bird's Wing (Dypterygia scabriuscula)

Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria)

Bird-cherry Ermine (Yponomeuta evonymella)

Sycamore (Acronica aceris)

Rustic (Hoplodrina blanda)

Common Rustic Agg

Sallow Kitten (Furcula furcula)

Marbled Minor Agg

Small Fan-footed Wave (Idaea biselata)

Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella)

Common Footman (Eilema lurideola)

Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)

Scarce Footman (Eilema complana)

Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata)

Orange Swift (Hepialus sylvina)

Small Phoenix (Ecliptopera silaceata)

Flounced Rustic (Luperina testacea)

Straw Underwing (Thalpophila matura)

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (Noctua janthe)

Small Dusty Wave (Idaea seriata)

The total to date now stands at 216 species. To stand any chance of reaching 365 I really do need to put out the moth trap more often. I've only trapped once in August (we've had rain most nights and, although, the 15w actinic runs "cold" and doesn't need a rain guard I do worry about the electrics). In addition, opening a trap with lots of drowned moths in soggy egg-boxes is not pleasant :(

I have got dozens of photos of species still to be identified such as micro moths, worn macros, spiders and flies but that will be a job for the autumn/winter when hopefully there will be more time to work on them.

If I am honest I don't think I will reach 365 but I am having a lot of fun and it's encouraged me to try and id and study a lot of insect groups I am not familiar with such as saw-flies. Its fascinating too to see just how many species use your garden and how they all interact. I have certainly become a lot more observant!

Sorry for lack of italics for the scientific names - I can never get italics, bold or links to work on the very basic blogger I use. One of these days I'll pluck up courage and switch to the newer version which D tells me is brilliant!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Visit to Packwood House Gardens

I had a trip out last Thursday afternoon with a friend to visit Packwood House gardens. We were really lucky with the weather as rain had been forecast but we were able to spend several hours walking round before the skies darkened, thunder rumbled and the rain arrived.

Packwood House was originally built in the sixteenth century but the interior was restored by Graham Baron Ash in the 1920's and 1930's with the aim of recapturing its original 17th century style.

The East Court

The Walled Carolean Garden

The Yellow Border (which is crammed full of perennials combining pink, yellow, lavender, carmine and scarlet following Loudon's mingled style) was probably at its best a few weeks ago but it was still full of colour.

Rose Bays

The Sunken Garden installed by Baron Ash in the 1930's

Roses growing by the house

Borders in the centre of the garden - full of perennials and grasses

The Raised Terrace - this is probably my favourite part of the garden and this year was looking even better than usual - if that's possible!!

This is a Chocolate Scabious - I'll be looking out for one of these to buy.

This year a collection of follies have been constructed around the grounds and garden - unfortunately we only had time to see two in the Yew Garden. These follies are known as the Hive and are a group of small-scale huts by artist Hilary Jack made from remnants of reproduction furniture and wood collected from the estate. The artist is paying tribute to work carried out over 100's of years by gardeners at Packwood maintaining the gardens and flower borders and going backwards and forwards to sheds and huts for their tools.

Part of the famous Yew Garden which represents the Sermon on the Mount

The Kitchen Garden is a delight and well worth a visit. Lots of companion planting so flower borders are mixed in with vegetable patches.

The Teddy Bear's Picnic

Not sure quite sure why this photo is upside down but I am sure you can see what it is!

I treated myself to a plant called Echinacea Razzamatazz which has glorious pink flowers. Thanks for sharing the visit J - I hope you enjoyed the gardens as much as I did.