"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, 29 September 2011

Millennium Wood again and Autumn Garden Flowers

I was driving past Millennium Wood this morning so I stopped off for a quick walk. Still not a lot of bird-life to be seen just magpies and wood pigeons although I did add a carrion crow to last week's list!

I will perservere - it can only get better! It was a nice walk in the Indian summer sunshine before it got too hot and if I walk the circuit several times I might get a bit fitter and work off that daily chocolate bar!

I didn't have the camera with me so here's a photo from last week's visit.

And here's a few flower photos from the garden together with some autumn leaves taken over the last week

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Moths and Butterflies

Last weekend's moth trapping session produced 3 new species for the year - Black Rustic, Blair's Shoulder Knot and Lunar Underwing. I couldn't find any micro moths in the trap but there were several crane fly, an ichneumon wasp and red-legged and hawthorn shieldbugs.

Lunar Underwing

Black Rustic - the photo doesn't do this lovely velvety black moth justice

Blair's Shoulder Knot

Summary of Moths Trapped Saturday 24th September

7.00 p.m. until dawn
Minimum Temperature 13.8 degrees centigrade
15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Large Yellow Underwing x 5
Lesser Yellow Underwing x 2
Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x 3
Black Rustic x 2 New for Year
Blair's Shoulder Knot x 1 New For Year
Lunar Underwing x 2 New for Year

2011 Total Number of species = 91
(will I reach the century??!!)

As always if any of the above id's are wrong please let me know.

Small tortoiseshell and speckled wood butterflies were nectaring in the garden on Sunday - poor record shots below - in fact, you may need to click to enlarge to spot the butterflies! (I only had chance to take one photo of each as they fluttered over the garden fence as I tried to approach closer!)

Speckled Wood on Ice Plant

Small Tortoiseshell on Michaelmas Daisy

Spotted another chiffchaff in the garden yesterday. The bird feeders are fairly quiet at the moment ( a sure sign its week 1 of the BTO's Garden Bird Feeding Survey!).

A bumper pyracantha, rowan and whitebeam berry crop this year. The wood pigeons and blackbirds have already started on the feast. Regretfully, I suspect all the berries will have disappeared before the winter thrushes and waxwings arrive.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Blakesley Hall

Blakesley Hall, Yardley, Birmingham built c. 1590 by Richard (II) Smallbroke - one of Birmingham's leading merchants. The Hall was built in what was then a rural parish

I haven't been to Blakesley Hall (a fine timber framed Tudor Hall) since I took the children when they were little so I decided to pay it a visit last week. The hall and gardens have undergone a restoration since I was last there and there is now a visitor centre and car park etc.

Eighteenth century sundial and herb garden

I'm not sure if I like the sepia photo but I quite like the black and white.

Apart from in the Painted Chamber, flash photography is allowed but I found I got better results from using aperture priority and ISO 800 although the speed was very slow so the photos from inside are not very sharp. However, hopefully, they'll give you an idea of some of the rooms!

The Boulting Room where flour was stored and bread dough made

Cider Press in the Buttery

The kitchen was added to the Hall c 1650 - prior to this cooking would have been done in a separate building

The Hall - the table has been dated to around 1620 and is believed to be the same one that was listed in the 1684 inventory of the house and contents

The Great Parlour - used for dining and entertaining

The painted wall hangings show the Old Testament story of Joseph and his brothers and are based on seventeenth century painted hangings at Owlpen Manor in Gloucestershire

The Painted Chamber - the wall paintings date back to when the Hall was originally built. They were plastered over at the end of the seventeenth century and remained hidden until the 1950's and were discovered by chance when repairs took place to repair bomb damage from the 1940's.

The paintings would originally have covered all the walls, timbers and possibly the ceiling. Motifs include lilies, pomegranates and centaurs.

One of the rooms contained artefacts in display cases that had mainly been found in the house and grounds. I was fascinated by this clay pipe found in a rubbish chute as my great great great great grandfather, Noah (c.1770 - 1829), was a pipemaker of great distinction at Broseley, Shropshire. He specialised in the so-called "long pipes" (churchwardens and London straws) and supplied many of the London clubs and coffee houses. There is a pipemaking museum in Broseley which I would love to visit - unfortunately when we went to Ironbridge a few years back the museum was closed on the day of our visit!

The mummified cat and bird were a macabre discovery inside a wall at Hey Hall - a fifteenth century house in Tyseley. Objects like this were used to ward off evil spirits.

The Gallery (unusual in a house of this size)

View of the Herb Garden from one of the bedrooms

A mural in the Visitor Centre

I got told off for visiting on my own as Emily said how much she wanted to go back to the Hall. Her first question was - have they still got the magpie in a cage and yes, they have!

Interesting the things that are remembered from a childhood visit!

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Woodland Walk

Millennium Wood, situated on the outskirts of Marston Green Village, Solihull, covering over 10 acres, was planted with around 9000 trees and shrubs in 2000 to recreate habitats historically found in the area.

Trees and shrubs planted include Sessile Oak, Silver Birch, Rowan, Goat Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Elder, Holly, Guelder and Dog Rose. Gorse and broom occur naturally on the fine, sandy soil. The habitat is a mix of woodland, grassland and scrubby heathland.

I drive past this woodland area several times a week and when I was passing today I decided I would stop off and do a bit of "exploring".

Start of the Walk

It only took 10 or 15 minutes to walk round and today I only saw a few magpies and wood pigeons but I will certainly visit again as it seems to have a lot of potential for bird sightings. According to the information board, foxes are often seen and moles, mice and voles attract owls and kestrel. Blue, great and long tailed tits are likely to be seen together with blackbirds, sparrowhawk, great spotted and green woodpeckers and siskins are attracted to alder and birch seeds in the winter.

There were certainly plenty of ripe berries such as these on rowan

which might attract fieldfare and redwing in the autumn and winter.

I'm really glad I finally made the effort to visit and it will be interesting to see what bird species I spot in the future.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Moth Numbers are Dwindling

There weren't many moths in the moth trap last weekend so it didn't take long to empty. There were no new species for the year and most of the moths were Yellow Underwings! Large Yellow Underwing numbers are much lower this year compared to the last two.

Summary of Moths Trapped Sunday, 18th September

Minimum Temperature 9.8 degrees centigrade

7.00 p.m. until dawn

15w Actinic Skinner Trap

Lesser Yellow Underwing x 6
Large Yellow Underwing x 4
Common Rustic x 1
Setaceous Hebrew Character x 1

I will continue trapping until the Garden Moth Scheme finishes - you never know a Merveille du Jour may just find its way into the garden - I live in hope!!

Bird-wise the garden is fairly quiet at the moment with fewer birds at the feeders. It was great yesterday though to have a flock of 5 Long-tailed Tits feeding on suet balls and a fat-filled coconut half. A chiffchaff passed through on Monday.

Not many butterflies either -its been a poor year in the garden for these. The red admirals seem to have disappeared although I see a couple of speckled woods flying round the garden on sunnier days.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Festival of Scarecrows

The village of Lapworth held a Scarecrow Festival this weekend and we went along this afternoon to have a look round.

Lapworth is a pretty village with a rather interesting church which one of these days I will get round to visiting.

The Festival began in 2005 and this is the seventh with a theme this year of "Myths and Legends". As well as the scarecrows there was live music, refreshments, a craft fair and for children pony rides and bouncy castles. The money raised benefits local causes.

There were nearly 40 scarecrows but as some were in different areas of the village we didn't get chance to see them all so here is just a random selection of some of the ones we did see.

St George and the Dragon

There were a couple of Medusa's

Bill and Ben (Does anyone remember the childrens' tv show years ago? - it was one of my favourites!)

King Arthur and Queen Guinnevere


One of a group of Fairies

The Loch Ness Monster proved a popular theme

A reminder that it will soon be Halloween




We did see a superb straw dragon as we drove out of the village but even if there had been somewhere to stop the car it was surrounded by people so a photo would have been difficult.

According to the Festival programme scarecrows first appeared in ancient times - Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Japanese and spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and the custom was later taken to America.

We stopped off on the way home to go blackberrying. At first I thought we were far too late

but we did manage to collect enough to make a couple of apple and blackberry crumbles

I'm just about to set up the moth trap so hopefully there will be a return soon to more natural history related posts :D.