"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

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Moths (Lack of!), Memorabilia and Garden Birds


GMS Week 5

The temperature ranged from 8.5 - 7.1 degrees centigrade last night when I ran the moth trap but when I opened it this morning there were absolutely no moths in there whatsoever!

Garden Birds

The wren has continued to build a nest in the hanging basket. Yesterday it made me laugh as it struggled on a nearby fence with a huge piece of what looked like soft plastic. It spent several minutes trying to manouevre the plastic in its beak and after many attempts finally managed to fly into the basket.

I did manage one day last week to get a few very record shots of it entering the nest with a feather. The photos were taken through a garage window as I sat half way up the garage so as not to disturb the bird.

We often see sparrowhawks in the garden but rarely see them actually catch any of the birds but this morning one was spotted on the lawn plucking feathers off what we think was a house sparrow.

Another record shot - taken through the kitchen window - the light was very poor and at ISO 800 I only got a shutter speed of 1/60th second so its not very sharp to say the least! The photo is cropped and I have adjusted the brightness and contrast on this one.

One or two stock doves are still visiting most days and one day I saw a pair of chaffinches - the male went straight on the sunflower heart feeder whereas the female hoovered up scraps below.

The male robin has been courtship feeding a female and house sparrows were collecting seedheads from the perennial bed and taking them into nest sites under the roof. I also spotted my first red-tailed bumble bee queen last week.

Memorabilia Fair

Now for something a little different - David and I popped to the Memorabilia Fair at the National Exhibition Centre for a couple of hours this morning. The Fair has hundreds of stands selling film and tv memorabilia, there are stars of screen, tv and sport if you want to queue up for autographs and photos and various talkstake place.

Darth Vader was inspecting the Storm Troopers as we were about to leave.

Jack Sparrow has spotted Darth Vader on the approach and is taking evasive action!

People were queueing up to have their photo taken on this Doctor Who set and there was a very life-like looking "Matt Baker" just out of the shot

A few more photos taken around the Fair - not labelled as I haven't a clue who some of them are supposed to be!! Although the Alien was very spooky.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Wildflowers in a Country Churchyard


Primrose and Violets

Lesser Celandine

A Churchyard absolutely full of Primroses

When I visited St Giles Church, Packwood, in February to look for snowdrops and follow in the footsteps of Edith Holden of "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" fame, I mentioned I would try and return in a month or so to look for Spring wildflowers.

It was so lovely, sunny and warm this afternoon that I decided to make my return visit.

The Church looks much better surrounded by blue skies than in the pouring rain when I last went!

The churchyard was breathtakingly beautiful today with clump after clump of primroses, hundreds of violets together with lesser celandine and speedwell.

A few photos below of the view that greeted me - sadly, the photos don't really do it justice but it will give you an idea of how lovely the flowers looked.

Primroses and Violets

Primroses and Lesser Celandines

Lesser Celandine

I am not 100% sure of the identity of this tiny white flower - there is an illustration of a very similar flower in the Country Diary which Edith Holden calls a Strawberry-leafed Cinquefoil but to me it looks like a variety of strawberry!

Edit - Many thanks to Temple Balsall Nature Reserve for identifying this plant as a Barren Strawberry (similar to Wild Strawberry but it bears no fruit)

Speedwell - my grandfather always used to call these "Bird's Eye Speedwell" as he said they resembled a bird's eye - not so sure about this now I am older! Much as I love wildflowers I am not a botanist so I haven't attempted to distinguish which species of Speedwell or Violets the flowers are!

The Churchyard contains over a hundred species of flower - some quite rare in this part of Warwickshire. Its really wonderful to see that, although the area round more recent graves is kept tidier, the rest of the churchyard is a real haven for wildlife with lots of overgrown areas, brambles and ivy tumbling over old tombs and gravestones.

There are even teasels right by the porch door.

Adding even more colour are flowers which have been planted on graves, such as daffodils and other plants which have naturalised.

A memorial to Graham Baron Ash and his parents, who were owners of Packwood House before giving it to the National Trust.

There are also a couple of interesting features on the church walls which I didn't get chance to take photos of last time due to the rain.

In the photo below you can see a Scratch Dial or Mass Dial. A stick would be placed in the central point to show by the sun the times for celebrating Mass.

These slits were used in the past for arrow sharpening when men and boys were expected to practise archery each Sunday.

Many church porches are large and covered - apparently in the past marriage ceremonies had to be conducted in the porch and not the church itself because the ceremony used the words "carnal sin"! Once married the couple were allowed inside the church for a blessing.

Lichens on a gravestone

and I found these catkins in the car park

I plan to visit the churchyard again as the year progresses to look for more wildflowers and it looks a good place for Spotted Flycatchers.

If you live in the area - it is well worth a visit to see the primroses and violets and it is very quiet, peaceful and tranquil there with just birdsong to keep you company.

The photos were taken with the Olympus E-420 using either the 14-42mm lens or the 35mm f3.5 Macro lens - I am still struggling with the focusing on the macro but at least today more of the photos were in focus so there are slow signs of improvement!