Monday, 22 October 2012

Seasonal Splash: Fungi and Fern

We wandered through a wood near Aldeburgh, and found this Fly Agaric ...

... in the trees. I did not know that the spots fall off as the toadstool ages.

This was (to me) a far less attractive fungus ...

... it was about the size of a football, and someone or some thing had prised it apart.

Just for a change ... a photo of the bracken.

I am finding this species of toadstool quite a bit in Suffolk ...

... but have yet to work out what it is!

Another unidentified species ... to date!

I wonder who had split these in half ... squirrels (we saw one nearby), slugs or fungus-gnats?
WARNING: these fungi may be poisonous or dangerous for humans.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Home Patch: Harlequin Ladybird

This is the first Harlequin Ladybird (or Ladybird of any kind for that matter) for weeks, possibly since 9 August. I wonder if I have been missing them or whether there have been very few around. This one was walking along the frame of our French window yesterday.

As usual, I have logged it on the Harlequin Ladybird Survey site. I think it is Harmonia axyridis spectabilis.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Seasonal Spash: Late Dragonflies at Snape

I visited Snape Maltings a few days ago ...

... and saw a Little Egret in the water ...

... and was surprised to find a few late dragonflies (Darters) beside the sponsors' names.

This one was basking in the muted sunshine on the boardwalk.

This is the view from said boardwalk, looking back to the concert hall ...

... and here are two more dragonflies!
Common Darters, apparently, can be seen as late as December ... so there may still be more to see. We watched a few Emperor Dragonflies at Flatford Mill last weekend, but they were far too quick for the camera!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Beautiful Birds: the Spoonbill in North Norfolk

Spoonbill (same family as Ibis)

Back in mid August 2012, we made our first visit to RSPB Titchwell Marsh on the North Norfolk coast. It is a splendid reserve, with good paths and hides. I had very much hoped to see a Spoonbill - a first for me - and we were not disappointed as there in among the geese, Avocets, Little Egrets and other wading birds were nine Spoonbills. What magnificent creatures they are! There is a newly established breeding colony a short way along the coast.

You can see a photo of 19 Spoonbills on the Titchwell lagoons here. You can read about the travels of a ringed Spoonbill here and here.

I have been meaning to post these pictures for a while! It is always a thrill to encounter a 'new' species for the first time!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Seasonal Splash: Constable Country

A few large raindrops started falling as we wandered around Flatford ...

... but these did not trouble the Mute Swan ...

... or the Canada Geese.

These rosehips provided a welcome splash of red ...

... and the willows were turning yellow and gold.

A tranquil Stour scene (this electric boat is rather different from the 'John Constable' Lighter!) ...

... and another tranquil scene. I love the way the reflection makes the bill a deeper orange!

The last of the House Martins were so busy stocking up on the many midges ...

... that this one nearly missed his photo opportunity!

Bridge Cottage, Flatford ... quintessential Constable Country ...

... Flatford Mill.

It is always a joy to see Long-tailed Tits ...

... and plump Chaffinches ...

... and Cormorants.

The rain passed over and we enjoyed some stunning autumn light.

Mallard: time for a swim?
... definitely not!

The beautiful blues of the female Mallard

I really look forward to coming here to the Wildlife Garden in butterfly season ...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Seasonal Splash: Bryony Bracelet (or Tiara?)

Bryony berries ... of the Black or White Bryony variety?

On our way back from Oxburgh Hall last Saturday, we took a detour around Thetford to enable us to visit the remains of Weeting Castle. We parked by the church (what a gem - photo below!) and there behind us was a hedgerow bejewelled with Bryony berries.
St Mary's Church, Weeting ...

... and the adjacent remains of Weeting Castle. Notice the flint: the Grimes Graves flint mine site is only a couple of miles away.

What a stunning autumnal display ... in complementary colours! 

Beautiful they may be, but they are also HIGHLY TOXIC.
Black Bryony [Tamus communis] is more abundant in the south of Britain than in other regions. Itlacks tendrils, but climbs in a clockwise direction unlike White Bryony. I wish I had taken a photo of the leaves as these help with identification. White Bryony has tendrils and belongs to the marrow family: Black Bryony is related to the yam. I understand that frugivorous (fruit-eating) birds will be attracted to these berries in the latter part of the year ... but they are very poisonous for humans.  

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dragonfly Days: Oxburgh Hall

We spent a few hours at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk on Saturday, a magnificent moated building with a priest's hole and other fascinating features. The Hall, built in 1482, is probably best known these days for the 'Oxburgh Hangings', embroidered by Mary Stuart and Bess of Hardwick.

I first encountered these hangings or 'tapestries' when I was a child, and they have intrigued and delighted me ever since. Mary and Bess copied many of the wonderful creatures from sources like Konrad Gesner's Icones avium omnium, published in Zurich in 1560. Many of the hangings are now in the V&A, but Oxburgh has a magnificent selection. 

I enjoyed seeing the panels of the dolphin and the unicorn, but the mole particularly caught my eye. He was described by the needlewomen as 'mold[e] warp' (I can't remember whether there was an 'e' after the 'd'), a term I knew from Alison Uttley. I had not realised that this synonym for 'mole' goes back to Middle English, with a parallel in early Saxon language as 'moldwerp', meaning 'earth-thrower'. Since the true mole was not found in Palestine, the references to the 'mole' in Leviticus, among the list of unclean animals, may in fact signify a similar creature, perhaps the mole-rat or the weasel. Henry IV is referred to as the 'moldwarp' in Shakespeare's King Henry IV, Part I

It is not difficult to imagine Mary entertaining herself during her days of imprisonment in some of the stronghold houses of England by sewing these 'wild and wonderful' creatures and plants. 

You can see pictures by following these links ...
The season is changing fast, but I spotted a couple of dragonflies (?rather old Common Darters), making the most of a spot of sunshine near the blackberry bushes.