"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

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Books, Trilobite fossils, Big Butterfly Count, Sleuth Bears and a Church

I haven't done a book post for ages so just a catch up of recent reading.

As always I really enjoyed the next in the Vera Stanhope series by Ann Cleeves

Trilobites are my favourite fossils - they were just amazing creatures and every so often I re-read this book by the superb Richard Fortey. If you are interested in fossils, geology and the history of life his books are well worth reading.

I do have a small collection of Trilobite fossils which I have blogged about in the distant past but here a few photos of my favourites.

Trilobites lived during the Palaeozoic Era from the Cambrian Period ~545 million years ago through the Orodovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous and Permian Periods until finally becoming extinct around 250 million years ago. They survived for a total of 300 million years.

Trilobites were arthropods and during their time on Earth thousands of species evolved. The shells were made of calcite and the body divided into three portions along their length and crossways hence the name tri-lobite. The head is called the Cephalon, the tail the pygidium and the body the thorax. They moulted several times during their life time as they grew. Many species had eyes although some were blind. Their eyes were made of calcite composed of elongated prisms of clear calcite and each prism worked as an individual lens - a type of compound eye.

Trilobites are very common in the Wenlock Limestone of Dudley in the West Midlands and they became known as the "Dudley" Bug and even feature in Dudley's Coat of Arms. Around Carmarthen in South Wales the tails of a species from the early Ordovician are so prevalent and distinctive that they are called "petrified butterflies" and were associated with legends in connection with Merlin.

Back to books.........

I bought this book because it kept showing up on Amazon lists of books recommended for you. Not overkeen to be honest although it might make good holiday reading.

I think the book below is the best so far in the Poldark series. (Another re-read).

This book tells the story of how the author who had a successful career in London in the 1980's working in an advertising agency gave it all up to live on a small island called Soay off the Scottish coast. Would definitely be recommended reading if you were seriously thinking of living in such a place with so few other residents and facilities. I enjoyed it immensely although don't think I would be following in her steps.

Another unputdownable Ruth Galloway mystery - I just love these books. Trying to space them out a bit as I don't want to get to the end of the series!

Another enjoyable Vera Stanhope book.

The second of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. I find these books really charming and delightful as is the heroine and I think this story was even better than the first. Will definitely be continuing and reading more.

Big Butterfly Count

I am sure many of you have been taking part in Butterfly Conservation's annual Big Butterfly Count. It continues until the 6th August. I have done a couple in the garden seeing Large White, Holly Blue, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral. The first Green-veined White appeared and it has been a good year for Skippers in the garden but neither were seen during BBC!

Gatekeeper on Majoram - a great herb to grow as bees and butterflies love it.

Southern Hawker seen in the garden during one of the butterfly counts - this species has bred in the garden pond in the past.

I decided to do the third butterfly count on a brownfield site. When visiting my mother I have seen a deserted garage site (the building was knocked down a few years ago) which has been colonised by buddleia. In the end I wasn't sure where to park and, although you can access the site, it is surrounded by concrete bollards and wire fencing to keep travellers out presumably and I was a bit worried I might be trespassing so instead I visited a nearby brownfield site occupying the car park and grounds of a deserted pub, which closed about 9 years ago, and has proved good for butterflies in the past.

I always find it amazing how quickly nature takes over when man leaves!

I am not sure if the pub was actually demolished or whether it is somewhere in the centre of all the trees and shrubs. To be honest I always feel apprehensive in places like this when I am on my own so only stayed on the perimeter rather than exploring.

There was plenty of Ragwort but I didn't see any Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

It was hot and sunny but I saw surprisingly few butterflies - Holly Blue 1, Large White 4, Small White 1 and Red Admiral 2.

Plenty of thistles going to seed - hope they attract some goldfinches and

bramble was everywhere with ripening blackberries.

Lots of bees on the buddleias.

Sadly, loads and loads of dumped litter and broken glass. This makes me so angry - why dump it here - there is a Council Tip about a mile away!!!!

Big Sleuth Bears

A few years ago Birmingham created a Big Hoot Owl Trail where you could see Big and Little Owl sculptures dotted all around the city. If you'd like to see the posts I wrote at the time please see here and here

This year they have come up with the idea of The Big Sleuth in aid of Birmingham Children's Hospital. This is a trail of Big and Little Bears all painted by artists in conjunction with community groups, businesses and schools. I popped into Sutton Coldfield the other day to see the Bears there.


When out and about I have rather missed Osborne and Tennyson so meet "Timothy the Intrepid" bear :) I am not sure if he will become a regular on the blog - haven't yet made up my mind!

Three Little Bears


Kingsey Standing of Bearmingham


and my favourite Honey Bear.

Timothy pleased to meet another cousin :)

Lovely display of flowers.

I was also rather hoping to see the inside of Holy Trinity Parish Church perched up on a hill and overlooking the town centre. The church has connections with Bishop Vesey a 16th century bishop and benefactor of Sutton Coldfield.

The church website describes it as an open church (whatever that means) but the main door was well and truly locked so I had to make do with an exterior view only!

These stone carvings (normally seen on churches) were on a house I walked past on my way back to the car park.

Photos taken by me with the Canon bridge camera SX50 HS. The card holder is still playing up on my Olympus dslr and I suspect I will have to send it away for repair.

Fossil photos were taken some years ago with the Olympus (before I realised a white background somewhat affected the exposure!)


Deborah RusticPumpkin said...

I'm trying to expand my reading, and love that I can get a free sample to test a book out before committing to the purchase.
I think Honey Bear is my favourite too, and Treasure is waving to Timothy!
Butterflies ~ my goodness, what a worry that you didn't find that many on that site {which I agree, nature doesn't take long to reclaim the land} and I can add that butterflies are noticed by their overall absence from my garden this summer ~ and the same is reported on an American friend's blog I follow too. Very worrying cause for concern.

Ragged Robin said...

DeborahRusticPumpkin - Thanks so much. Yes, that is a good feature of a Kindle and one I ought to use more! I do love the kindle for fiction as I already have far too many books! but not so keen for nature writing and non-fiction.

Timothy waves back to Treasure! :)

Very worrying about lack of butterflies - will be interesting to see results of Big Butterfly Count.

Rosie said...

We've seen very few butterflies in the garden this summer. I did see a comma on a rhubarb leaf a couple of days ago. Those bears are lovely, i was lucky to see the one at the Lapworth Museum. Looks like Timothy enjoyed making friends with them all. I love all the authors you have been reading and am always waiting for their next books. We have the Trilobite book too and a few drawers full of trilobites in the fossil cabinet. Great to see some of your collection they are fascinating aren't they?:)

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks so much. Lack of butterflies seems a common theme and worrying :( I will try and go into Solihull and get some bear photos there - not sure about Bham City Centre as it is not my favourite place (these days it is so easy to get lost and parking expensive!). Perhaps they will display them all in one place at the end of the summer as they did with the owls. I haven't been to the Lapworth museum since it was renovated - really must go again one day :)

Glad to speak to a fellow Trilobite enthusiast :) A fossil cabinet sounds a good idea - most of mine are in boxes :( My son bought me a new Trilobite from The Fossil Cavern in Shanklin which he has put away for a bday/cmas gift. I love all my fossils but my other favourites are amber with inclusions :) It is good too that you can buy fossil jewellery these days - fairly inexpensive - the fossil shop in Yarmouth has some.

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Also meant to add thank you so much for introducing me to the delights of the Ruth Galloway and Ann Cleeve books and also Maisie Dobbs. I look at your book lists regularly for ideas!

Coquetnaturelover said...

Very interesting post! I've got my other half into your blog - he's really into fossils too! Thanks for the book reviews which have given me some ideas for holiday reading. Love the butterflies. I think buddleia is classed as a 'weed', (largely because they spring up by motorways and on waste ground) but I planted two in my garden as the bees and butterlies just can't keep away from them as you say. I have a blue one and a white one. I hope there have been lots of entries in this year's butterfly count. It's not been so sunny here in the northern hills but I've seen plenty on the north east coast where it is warmer and drier.

Ragged Robin said...

Coquetnaturelover - Thanks so much also for getting your other half to read the blog - hope he enjoyed the fossils.
Have a look at the books on Amazon if there are any you are interested in and it will give you a better idea which might appeal to you the most and people's reviews :)

Yes, I think you are right about buddleia but bees and butterflies as you say adore them. We have several although interestingly the white one does not attract insects anywhere near as much as the purple ones.

I think Butterfly Conservation are hoping to beat previous year's totals (according to their twitter feed!) - will try and do one more before it closes depending on weather!

Toffeeapple said...

Honey bear is my favourite too; hello Timothy!

Such a lack of butterflies here too, all I have seen is Small White, Large White and male Brimstone. There were a few LBJs at the window but too fast for ID. I am worried.

I share your anger when people are too lazy to use the proper dumping places.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thank you and Timothy says hello back :)

Looks more and more worrying re: butterflies. I noticed too when we went to Oversley Woods a month of so back looking for Purple Emperor that there were far less butterflies about than seen in previous years :( Although having said that there were a lot around at Marsh Lane.

Fly-tipping is just awful especially the idiots who drive miles into the countryside to dump - surely there is a council tip closer!!!

amanda peters said...

Lovely post with plenty of interesting reading, I do love the Trilobite fossils, a cabinet would be good so you could see them. I do like finding fossils, we can get some nice ones in lime stone sometimes.
Great selection of books too.

I have seen quite a few butterflies this year, probably not the best year, but just the odd one in the garden. Wet, cold and wind not helping !!!

Think we all love the honey bee bear, they do a similar thing in Skipton and Settle.

Nice looking church, just a shame so many of them have to be locked now...
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda - just love fossils and the thought that they are millions of years old and a window into a past world :)

Current weather definitely not helping butterflies!

Interesting to hear of similar trails near you :)

A lot round the Birmingham area and North Warwickshire seem to be closed with just the occasional open day. A lady did pull up in a car clutching some flowers as left but time was running out as I had to pick up my son and only had half an hour left. I thought if I got talking to her and she could let me in I wouldn't have enough time for a decent look round so I didn't bother going back. If I plan to go ahead will contact them first to check if and when it is open.

Pete Duxon said...

firstly well done on the Bee-eaters! Never seen one in the UK did in Madrid!!

what happened to Osborne and Tennyson? you were missing them? and hello Timmy!!

Bovey Belle said...

I can see I am going to have to visit Carmarthen Museum again and check out their Geology section. I vaguely (VERY vaguely) remember something about those butterfly trilobites, but it's a long time since we went around the Museum (will go in tomorrow). I will try and take photos. I used to volunteer there, when mum was alive, so they should still remember me.

Loved the bear trail (Honey Bear is my favourite too), nothing like that round here.

I will be jotting down a couple more authors and glad to see there is a new Vera book I've not read. I read Harbour Street earlier this year.

Lovely post.

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - thanks so much. Osborne and Tennyson now safe in storage box (bedroom being redecorated!) Have a whole shelf left of cuddlies, mainly daughter's old ones, that may have to go to charity shop :(

Timmy says hello back :)

Bovey Belle - Thanks so much and special thanks if you can go the museum (as long as you feel well enough!) and get some photos of the butterfly trilobites would love to see them.

I am sure you have lots of lovely things round by you that we don't get here!!! :)

I get a lot of author ideas off you and Rosie from "Corners of my Mind" :) Lovely to see what others read.

Pam said...

I've found Butterflies have been a bit hit and miss in the places you expect them to be this year, very odd? An interesting post, aren't fossils just fascinating!

Ragged Robin said...

Pam - Thanks. It is strange and worrying about butterflies - will be interesting to see results of Big Butterfly Count and all the other butterfly surveys when they are published. Yes, I love fossils :)