Saturday 25 September 2021

The White Rose County

We have just returned home from North Yorkshire feeling refreshed and invigorated having neither seen nor heard any worldwide news during the entire time that we were away.

                We clambered over the moors,
explored the Coastline, 
viewed the romantic remains of Rievaulx Abbey,
visted several attractive small towns, hamlets, and quaint old fishing villages.
Learnt more about
Captain James Cook as we walked in his footsteps when he was both man and boy. There was once a time when pioneers and navigators, who bravely sailed off into unchartered and dangerous waters to the other side of the world, were revered, but not so today.  My understanding is that Cook is now considered to be persona non grata in several of the places that he visited during his three long, dangerous voyages between 1768 and 1779.
On our last evening we noticed just how magical the leaves in the hotel's long driveway looked silhouetted against the golden corn swaying in the field beyond.   
When we left home our sunflowers were still reaching up forever into the sky. We were very late in getting around to planting their seeds and wondered whether they would ever flower.
But on our return home we were finally rewarded with flowers. They have grown so tall that it is only possible to capture their faces courtesy an upstairs window.
Currently we are enjoying some lovely balmy "Indian Summer" days.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Mainly Birds Part 2

Early in the morning the following day we visited Slimbridge WWT founded by Sir Peter Scott, only child of Antartic explorer Robert Falcon Scott. 
My husband met Peter Scott in the 1970s. They were both attending a conference in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia, drawing up a convention for the protection of the Red Sea. Scott was representing the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and they shared a car and driver for the duration. In every spare moment Scott worked in his sketchbook recording the beautiful fishes and birds that he saw whilst visiting the different locations. The Saudi hosts were fascinated, as was my husband. He was a very modest and unassuming character and fun to be with.
Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus roseus is the largest of all the flamingo family. It is found in Africa, India, the Middle East, and Southern Europe. When we drove through the Camargue several years ago we saw a large flock of these flamingos. When they took to the air, I remember thinking how much they resembled Dyson vacum cleaners!
There are six different species of Flamingo at Slimbridge. 
A pair of Orinoco Geese from S. America. I assumed that this was a couple of males preening one another, but in fact these geese are momomorphic - the males and the females look the same.
Cranes - Grus grus
Cranes were wide spread in the Uk upto 1600 but they were sadly driven into extinction through wetland damage and hunting for food. Now, happily, they are a great success story. Flocks of them can now be found breeding across several areas of the country including N.E Scotland.
If you would like to read the start of a success story from Slimbridge regarding the small Spoon-billed Sandpiper please read here. I wrote about its threatened demise 9 years ago.
Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia
Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
The number of birds to be seen at Slimbridge could fill a book. The previous post began with our own familiar British Mute Swan, so I will conclude with a glide pass of four other species of swan. There are only 7 species of swan and the two I have left out are Whopper swans, who have yet to arrive for the winter at Slimbridge, and the Trumpeter swan from North America.
Coscoroba Swan - Coscoroba coscoroba
This swan comes from South America. It is the smallest swan in the world and is often mistaken for a goose with its short neck and waxy red duck bill.
This swan is really cute with its red bill and matching pair of red legs and feet.
The Black Swan - Cygnus atratus is a large swan which breeds mainly in the SE & SW regions of Australia. With its black, almost velvet like plumage, red bill with a pale bar and tip, greyish/black legs and feet it is a handsome bird.
The Black Neck Swan -
Cygnus melancoryphus is the largest native waterfowl in S. America. It has a large red knob at the base of the bill and white stripes running behind the eyes. My husband saw a group of these in a lagoon in Tierra del Fuego alongside a flock of Chilean Flamingos. They were in a dramatic snowy landscape with a backdrop of the Andes - a sight that he will never forget.
Lastly the Bewick's swan -
Cygnus columbianus bewickii

Two species of swan come to the UK each winter: whooper swans migrate from Iceland and Bewick's swans make the journey from Siberia. They both have yellow and black bills and can be difficult to separate. Bewick's swans have more black on their yellow-and-black bill than the Whooper swans, and are the smallest swan species to visit the UK.
Every autumn, Bewick’s swans face a dangerous migration to the UK from northern Russia. Along their 3,500km route between the breeding and wintering sites there are predators, fewer wetlands and the risk of hitting power lines, but if they don’t migrate, they will be caught in the ice and snow of an arctic winter. In spring, they do it all again when they fly back to Russia. It is of great concern that the rapidly changing climate of the Arctic will affect them. Hopefully by late October early November at least 200 Bewick's Swans will have arrived back at Slimbridge for the winter.

 Bewick's Swans by Floodlight -  
 Sir Peter Scott
Bewick's Swans are named after Thomas Bewick (1753 - 1828) the English wood-engraver and natural history author.
This engraving of a Bewick's Swan was done by his son Robert Elliot Bewick in honour of his father.

Saturday 4 September 2021

Mainly Flowers - Part 1

When youngest son and his wife came to stay we spent most of our time out of doors, "birding". Our son is a teacher and an artist who loves nothing better that being out walking in the countryside spotting birds and animals which feature on 99% of his linocut prints. 

The first day we set off along our local canal in the valley below where we live with high hopes of spotting a Kingfisher. 

Our first encounter was with this large family of Mute Swans - Cygnus olor - mother, father, and their seven cygnets. Mute Swans are commonly associated with romance because of their stark white beauty, graceful swimming, and the fact that they mate for life. 

But by late autumn/winter, and once the cygnets have turned white, their parents will drive them off to search for their own breeding territory somewhere other than on their canal.

 You can't go far in this country without a Robin - Erithacus rubecula putting in a friendly appearance.

There was plenty of this orange Balsam Impatiens capensis growing along the edge of the water, and although it is very pretty, rather like its bigger cousin, the Himalayan Balsam, it is a threat to our native plants. Their popping seedpots catapult their seeds far and wide. Both plants were brought into the country by Victorian plant hunters who didn't realise the consquences of their actions.
There was an abundance of Teasels - Dipsacus
fullonum growing along the edge of the canal, and I began to wish that I had picked some as they could look really stunning in a stoneware studio vase. However, their seeds are greatly loved by several birds, especial the goldfinchs, so best to leave them where they are.
Hemp-Agrimony - Eupatorium cannabinum, its dense flower heads have protruding stamens. Surprisingly this plant is not related to Hemp or Agrimony. It's flowers are pollinated by bees, but it is also greatly loved by moths and butterflies too.
Common Bulrush Typha latifolia
Great Bindwind Calystegia sepium was growing prolifically - if only my Blue Morning Glories Ipomoea indica, both members of the same family, would grow like these. This year my Morning Glories were quickly gobbled up by some small creatures in the garden before they even began to bud.  
A Kingfisher was spotted flying rapidly over the water which pleased our son, but it was far too quick for an image to be captured on a camera. 
Mainly Birds Part 2 to follow............

Thursday 2 September 2021

This Week I had a.......

birthday. Why do they keep turning up so quickly? As a child they took forever to arrive.

We went out during the morning and on our return home found that a long cardboard box had been delivered to our porch. It was very shallow, only about 3cms deep. I opened it and found that it was full of flattened, crushed fresh flowers. Inside was a note which read "hush, we are sleeping - please wake us up gently by following the instructions, and by tomorrow we will have awakened" !!!

And thus they did.

I admire the ethos behind this card received from one of my beautiful granddaughters. 

1. I love the Foxglove illustration - it is one of my favourite wildflowers.

2.The paper is made from 100﹪ recycled materials.

3. It is compostable.

4.The card is embedded with lots of seeds which includes eleven different wildflowers.

5.Wildflowers are good for bees, and good for us.

In the Spring I need to moisten it, and cover it over with a layer of compost keeping it inside until the seeds germinate. Once the seeds are established it can go outside in a sunny spot - watch this space to see what happens next year. 

For a special treat we visited a lovely garden lying at the foot of the beautiful Malvern Hills. It was really lush and colourful, we loved it. I will show more of it another time.

Afterwards we had a date at a charming hotel built during 1904 in the fashionable Arts & Crafts style prevelant during that period. 

Here we enjoyed a delicious Champagne and High Tea treat.

When we finally departed from the hotel we were pleased that we had eaten just a light snack for our lunch.