"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, 26 May 2013

Bluebells at Ryton Wood

I must admit we don't normally visit places on bank holidays as they are always so busy but we realised this weekend that we were in danger of missing out on the woodland bluebell displays so we decided to go to Ryton Woods - a place I have long wanted to visit. Luckily, it was remarkably quiet there and we saw very few people.

I'm not sure how much of the above sign you'll be able to read. Ryton Wood is a Warwickshire Wildlife Trust reserve which, together with 7 other large woods forms the Princethorpe Woodlands. They are the largest surviving area of semi-natural woodland left in Warwickshire today. Ryton Wood is an SSSI covering 85 hectares and has been returned to its current excellent state through traditional management practices. Parts of the reserve date back to the 11th century and it is Warwickshire's best site for butterflies.

We saw a lot of wildflowers - below Bugle

Emily was getting a good view of the Reserve from up here - lots of these tall "chairs" scattered throughout the wood.

The Bluebell

"A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes,
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.........."

by Anne Bronte

Greater Stitchwort

I spent rather a lot of time sitting on this wooden bench with carved animals. As usual when I stop to take photos or look at insects I turn round and find the family are hundreds of yards ahead of me. They had marched off along the path towards an adjoining country park in search of toilets and I hadn't a clue which direction they had gone in. So I sat on this bench as I knew it was the only place they could re-enter the reserve and I waited and waited and waited. Eventually they returned having, I suspect, downed icecreams!

We went in search of a large clearing I had been told about that was apparently a sea of blubells and soon found it - a beautiful sight.

We saw quite a few butterfly species - Brimstones, Orange Tips, Peacocks, Whites (too distant to id), Speckled Woods and my first Comma of the year. Sorry no photos they wouldn't stop still for long enough!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

A Mystery Pug and a "Happy Event"

Garden Moths

I put out the moth trap for GMS last night and, although there were no moths in there this morning, I did go outside several times last night (got very bored watching Eurovision!!) to check and potted three during the course of the evening.

Minimum Temperature was 5.0

First pug of the year is proving exceedingly difficult to identify even though for once its a nicely marked individual rather than worn. I think its probably a Mottled or Brindled Pug but I've gone over the id features again and again and am still not sure although I am leaning towards Brindled. There again it could be be neither of these! Even tried to get David to help as his close vision is much better than mine and he wasn't sure either.

Any help anyone can give would be hugely appreciated :) I'm taking part in a Garden Moth Challenge this year - I know full well I won't do that well but every species counts :)

Edit Thanks so much to Ben (see Comments) and Stewart (Twitter) for identifying this species for me - its a Brindled Pug

The other two moths were 0998 Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) - a small, common micro moth and new for year. Shown in photo below.

Plus another Many-plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) - 1288

Garden Birds

Yesterday, right on schedule!!!, we were greeted with the sight of 6 or 7 Blue Tit chicks just hatched on the nestbox camera. Sorry, it really is a truly dreadful photo but if enlarged you may be able to see a couple of open beaks!!!

Today we have counted nine nestlings. I suspect there may be tenth hidden away in there somewhere as we couldn't see any unhatched eggs today.

This year the parents seem far more assiduous which is good news. The nest seems to be better constructed and when incubating the female took huge care to completely cover the nest whenever she left it. In addition, and unlike previous years, the male is already bringing in lots of small caterpillars. The female also seemed to be fanning them with her wings this afternoon as if they had become too hot!


I forgot to mention in my last post that after visiting a location several times I finally managed to see a Peregrine Falcon. I knew they were at the site but I was over the moon to finally spot one.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Wildflower Survey, Swifts, Temple Balsall and Garden Update

I've registered with Plantlife to take part in their annual Wildflowers Count Survey. The data they collect from year to year will become part of a long-term data set from which they can begin to build up an idea of trends in common plant populations, particularly with reference to climate change and pollution.

My survey square is located in Solihull and the idea is to walk a 1 kilometre route and count the species of wildflowers (from a list of 99) that you see in a 2 metre strip each side of you. Only one visit to count flowers is necessary between April and September but you can do more than one count during this period if you wish.

Today's visit (as recommended by Plantlife) was a preliminary one to make sure the route you have planned is accessible and to make a note of the different habitats along the survey route.

My route started in the more formal part of Brueton Park - the top photo

and at the bridge I veered off to the left onto Brueton Park LNR - luckily there is a public footpath which follows the River Blythe along the route I wanted to take.

I've visited this LNR before and, although its only a mile or so from Solihull Town Centre, you could be in the heart of the countryside.

As usual I got sidetracked - this time by these Canada Geese and goslings - record shot (they were too far away for the lens).

Although I didn't count flowers on this trip you couldn't help but notice them. The smell of Wild Garlic was overpowering even though the plants were only just coming into flower.


and Yellow Archangel were in flower.

I'm not sure what this plant is - hopefully it will be flowering when I return shortly to do the actual wildflower count.

A male Orange Tip was nectaring - I love the licheny-type markings on the hindwing.

By sheer coincidence the path follows the River Blythe to Widney - an area where Edith Holden mentions several times walking in "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and "Nature Notes" so I am hoping that I will see some of the flowers she mentions and draws and I will be able to write another "Following in the Footsteps...." post.

On the way home I stopped off for a short while at Temple Balsall NR. This field adjoining the reserve was full of dandelions.

For years I've wanted to see the wildflower called Butterbur - I first noticed it in a Wildflower book I had as a child (Ladybird or Observer Wildflower book - I can't remember which) and its one of those flowers that has fascinated me ever since. I know it occurs at Temple Balsall so I was hoping to, at long last, see it in flower. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo below, I had missed the display and the flowers had gone to seed. Will try and go next year a month earlier!!

The hedgerows are full of wildflowers - Garlic Mustard (or Jack-by-the-Hedge),


Greater Stitchwort and

Red Campion is just starting to flower.

I popped to Shustoke Reservoir a few days ago (no photos it started to rain as I arrived) and was greeted by a wonderful sight of hundreds and hundreds of Swifts flying over the water. My first Swifts of the year and I also saw dozens of House and Sand Martins (again new "ticks" for the year).

Garden Update

I put out the moth trap twice last weekend but with minimum temperatures of 5.1 and 5.3 I suppose it wasn't surprising that there were no moths caught.

Mrs Blue Tit is still incubating and I think we may have a "happy event" this weekend! The robins are still feeding young which must surely be due to fledge any day now. There nest is in the same patch of ivy where the wren built a nest so I am not sure if the female wren will pick this nest. Blackbirds are also nesting nearby in a laurel bush.

I saw my first Speckled Wood of the year flying round the garden this morning.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Spring at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

It was a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon on Tuesday so as I was passing I stopped off at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens for an hour.

My Lady's Border

Very late this year but the Gardens had one of the best tulip displays I have ever seen there. Did you know that in the hidden meanings of flowers as revived by the Victorians Red Tulips are a Declaration of Love, Variegated Tulips symbolise beautiful eyes and Yellow Tulips represent Hopeless Love?!

There was a beautiful patch of "Bleeding Heart" in one of the borders near the entrance. I first discovered this lovely flower at the Gardens.

Looking towards Melon Ground

Auricula and Geranium Theatre by the Green House

Green House

Unfortunately I had managed to miss the best of the fruit blossom in the orchard but the grass was speckled with Cowslips.

Cowslips often used to be called "Herb Peter" or "Key Flower" because the nodding flower heads were believed to symbolise St Peter's bunch of keys. Cowslips have been used to make wine for centuries (although hopefully not these days!!) and children have used them in the past to make cowslip balls and May Day garlands.

"Then came the cowslip,
Like a dancer in the fair,
She spread her little mat of green,
And on it danced she.
With a fillet round her happy brow,
A golden fillet round her brow,
And rubies in her hair".

A Chanted Calendar by Sydney Dobell

Shakespeare referred to them in a fairy song from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

"The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see,
These be rubies, fairy flavours,
In those freckles live their savours...
I must go seek some dew-drops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear."

There was still plenty of blossom, however, on the espaliers.

North-west Pier

Unfortunately, the Extra Gardens were closed on Tuesday so I couldn't go and check on the Snakeshead Fritillaries by the Mirror Pond or look for Orange Tips in Nut Ground.

I did see some Orange Tips around the gardens and several Holly Blues and a few "Whites". None lingered long enough for photos though.

Green Alkanet

Looking along the West Claire-vole towards Castle Bromwich Hall

The Secret Garden

I heard one of the ladies in the Vistor Centre refer to Melon Grounds as a Secret Garden - the beauty of these Gardens is that there are "Secret Gardens" everywhere :)

Wood Anemones or Windflowers close their petals at night and in windy weather and, according to folklore, fairies curl up inside for protection having first pulled the petals around themselves! What a lovely story!! I don't think I shall ever look at a closed Wood Anemone again without thinking of a fairy inside :)

Another of my favourite flowers at the Gardens is Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis). One of these days I will buy some of these for our garden to join the Bleeding Heart plants

Parterre and Summer House

"Daffy Down Dilly has come up to town
In her Yellow Petticoat and her green gown".

Lady Bridgeman's Garden

The planting here varies from season to season and I think this Spring's combination of colours is just stunning. I took loads of photos but sadly none did this garden justice.

I was really thrilled to see a Nuthatch in one of the old trees in the part of the Gardens by the Hall. This is the first time I have seen this species here.

Lots of dandelions on grassy verges in the car park. Whenever I see Dandelions en masse at this time of year I think of my father collecting bagfuls years ago to turn into the most delicious Dandelion Wine.

For more information on the gardens please visit www.cbhgt.org.uk or click on their blog link under "My Blog List" on the right hand side of the page.