Hawthorn- there is a bumper crop of Haws, Hawthorn Berries, this year as the photo’s show. These berries have been used as herbal remedies since at least the ancient Greeks, and probably far longer. They are high in anti-oxidants and are still used by some to treat stomach-aches, stress and sleep-problems. Hawthorn has long mythic associations, and our Celtic ancestors believed the trees to be protected and inhabited by Faery Folk, representing
places where time passes differently to our own. Isolated trees were not cut down, for fear of invoking the wrath of the Faery Queen. The site of Westminster Abbey was once called Thorne Island after the stand of sacred Hawthorn trees there. The berries can be made into jellies, and I have just seen a recipe, on Countryfile’s website, for Hawthorn Gin. We might give it a go. Makes a change from Sloe Gin. Conditions: Grey and drizzly. Temperature: Max 10 Min 9C.
Harlequin Ladybirds- you may already have experienced the latest inundation of Harlequin Ladybirds. Thought to have benefitted from this hot summer, the populations are increased at this time of year by thousands drifting in on mild winds, from Asia. The most invasive species we have at present, this ‘invader’ first appeared in the UK in 2004- in ten years it has spread to areas which it took Grey Squirrels a hundred years to inhabit. Harlequin Ladybirds, on average larger than our 46 native species, and in a variety of patterns and colours and spot-numbers, have brown legs, and as such are distinguishable from the black-legged native species. They also reduce native Ladybirds, by out-competing for their aphid-food and by eating their eggs. Hibernating inside, unlike native Ladybirds, they give out a pheromone as the cooler weather arrives, which helps them detect other Harlequins, and gather in numbers inside our houses, and outbuildings. They do little harm though they may stain furniture and can deliver a small bite, which is harmless to all except a few who may have an allergic reaction. Conditions: Rain and strong winds arriving through the day. Temperature: Max 18 Min 17 C.
On a nature photography note, autumn mornings, when the sun-light strikes from a low angle, is an exciting time to try photo’s. Here are a few from this week, back-lit, that is pointing the camera towards the low sun. If you find the photographs are too bright, just limit the light coming in, either by shooting at a higher speed or by shooting with a smaller aperture (higher aperture number = smaller aperture), or both, until you get the contrast you are looking for. Or set your camera on ‘bracketing’ and take a few shots and choose the one you like best. If you don’t ‘do’ speed and aperture, or you just point and shoot on automatic, then point towards the brightest thing in the
Back-lit Dandelion Clock
Back-lit Dandelion Clock with morning dew
Back-lit, morning light on spider’s web
Back-lit Spider’s Web, morning light
photo, half press the shutter button and keep it pressed down while moving the camera to the composition you want. This should help reduce the glare of light in the photo. Conditions: A warm, sunny day after a cool, wet one. Temperature: Max 17 Min 11 C.
Shaggy Ink Caps– lovely to see these easily identified and edible fungi on my walk today up Broomham Lane, Catsfield- you can find them, commonly, in parks, on verges meadows etc. Also called ‘Lawyers Wig’, for obvious reasons, they emerge like white bumps, and grow into cylinders with shaggy skins, but quickly grow up and open into umbrellas, which equally quickly begin to disintegrate, becoming black and liquified (see photo’s). If you want to cook them, and they are tasty sliced and fried gently in
Emerging Shaggy Ink Caps
Shaggy Ink Cap- at the edible stage
Shaggy Ink Cap, stages of growth
Shaggy Ink Caps- turning ‘inky’
Shaggy Ink Cap
butter, you have to pick them young, when they are white and cigar shaped, before they open, and also get them pretty quickly to the frying pan! People did, and some still do, let them liquify and use the liquid as ink. Conditions: A beautiful sunny day Temperature: Max 18 Min 10 C.
Since we are off to the Sheffield Tree Festival later, amidst talks between Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Tree Action Group, it seems appropriate to feature one of England’s iconic but threatened tree species. Introduced from Turkey in the 16th Century, the Horse Chestnut was widely planted in public spaces and large estates but there are fears that this all-year round beauty, from the early sticky buds, and beautiful ‘candle’ blossoms, to the Conkers so many of us grew up gathering and playing, to the stunning bare trees and trunks of old specimens, there are two attacks on Horse Chestnuts. A moth, spreading from Greece and Macedonia, is destroying leaves before many Conkers have had time to fully develop. And a fungal infection, reported only 4 times in 2000 but affecting around half of all our trees by 2007, damages and weakens the trees themselves. We were lucky to have found
Conkers, Lincolnshire, 2018
Horse Chestnut trunk, Herstmonceux, East Sussex
Horse Chestnut, Herstmonceux castle
Damaged Horse Chestnut leaf
some lovely Conkers in Lincolnshire last week. Conditions: Still and blue-skied. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.
Whether in huge flocks of 100-plus last week in Lincolnshire, or in small ‘Charms’ of half a dozen on our garden feeders all week, we are getting plenty of viewings of the beautiful Goldfinch. There are still juveniles in immature plumage, which show the beginning of the black and white ladder-back and the gold wing-flash but lack the red, black and white head markings. Goldfinches were often used as caged birds, due to their beauty and liquid song, and were heavily persecuted up until the 1930’s, so their apparent increase over the last few years may be deceptive- they are still recovering previous levels and are also being drawn more into gardens as farmland and scrub produces less of the seeds they rely on. In the wild they need thistle, ragwort, groundsel and dandelion seed but better food mixes for garden feeders,
Immature Goldfinch, lacking the bright head-markings
Large flock of Goldfinch, feeding on fields in Lincolnshire
Large flock of Goldfinches, Lincolnshire
including sunflower and fat, have helped the population levels and certainly the visibility of this small, native finch. Numbers rise over summer months but ringing suggests many migrate south, even into Continental Europe over winter. Conditions: A balmy spell of autumn weather. Temperature: Max 19 Min 13 C.
The Red Admiral, known in earlier times as the Red Admirable, has scarcely appeared in our garden this year but was feeding in small numbers on the heavy crops of Blackberries along the Chesterfield Canal this week. While there is a small resident population in the UK, and an increasing number of Red Admirals overwintering as adults, as our climate changes, the majority migrate to our shores in spring, from Eastern Europe, and then breed here. Because numbers are swelled by migration, the numbers in any year fluctuate greatly. This beautiful, unmistakable large, strong-flying Butterfly loves feeding up on fermenting fruit like these imbibing Blackberry juice. Conditions: Cool, wet and then sunny. Temperature: Max 13 Min 7 C.
Red Admiral feeding on fermenting Blackberries
Surprisingly heavy crop of Blackberries given the dry season