Nature Notes September 2021


   These two ‘baby’ blackbirds were regularly fed on the lawn just outside the porch window but now their parent has clearly told them that they must feed themselves now. You’ll often see them following their parents around, pestering for food.

    Baby blackbirds usually leave the nest before they can actually fly, so they hop and scramble their way around trees and bushes. They can be vulnerable from predators at this time, but you should resist the temptation to ‘rescue’ them. The parent bird can do a much better job .At one stage the babies also look larger than the parent but I think that is because of their feathers which are still slightly downy and also once they start flying they will use up more energy using up some of their fat reserves.

   I have been thinking of other attachments but they are just countless. The fact is that all living organisms including humans are dependent on each other and on their environment too for their lives– the rocks, water, other plants, other insects, other invertebrates and mammals. Currently human kind seems not to understand this at its peril

Brimstone Butterfly

   The brimstone butterfly is long-lived compared to other butterflies: It can live for up to a year in its adult form. The adults travel to mate in the spring, and fertilised eggs are laid only on the underside of buckthorn or alder buckthorn leaves. Their caterpillars are completely attached to this shrub and will eat no other food though the adults take nectar from various plants.

   There were many brimstone s around this year though I scarcely see much buckthorn but there must be. I will definitely plant more.

Buckthorn. The berries eventually turn black. Buckthorns  grow on calcareous soils but alder buckthorn prefers acidic soils so brimstones are catered for on either soil type, Amazing!

Spring Bulbs

   Plenty of catalogues are coming through the post now urging us to buy bulbs for the spring and later for the summer.

    Many gardeners are making an effort to plant for pollinators but the pollinators themselves need food too. There was a time when honey bees for example used to hibernate for the winter but that does not happen now. Bees and other insects are often on the wing whenever there is a period of warm weather even in December, January and February. Often they find it hard to find food and waste valuable energy in their search and subsequently they die. It occurred to me that planting plenty of bulbs would not only provide much needed colour at this dull time of the year but also provide valuable nectar and pollen for bees in particular honey bees and solitary or bumble queen bees that have just left their winter homes to gain some energy before starting their life cycle

    Bulbs are relatively cheap to buy with many new varieties of colour and shape. They come up year after year and often proliferate if conditions are right. Most are single flowered as well so that food is easy to access. Examples would be crocuses, tulips, scillas, fritillaries and daffodils. It is better to buy aconites, snowdrop and bluebell bulbs ‘in the green’ that is just when they have finished flowering. Tulips also grow well in pots which is useful in a small garden or if there are odd spaces to fill.

Easy access to pollen and nectar from the crocus and tulip

  Crocus tomassiniana is a large purple crocus that naturalises very readily

A Butterfly Quiz

   These are butterflies that you may well see in your garden. Can you name them? This year has been a struggle for butterflies because of our record breaking weather that included the coldest spell in April for 60 years and the wettest May in 50 years. This would have a knock-on effect for summer populations. Butterflies are excellent indicators of the impacts of climate change writes the charity Butterfly Conservation.

 The answers to the quiz are at the end on nature notes.


Book Recommendation

Bugs Britannica by Peter Marren and Richard Maybey

   As with the first two books in the series Flora and Birds, Bugs Britannicais is not a biological guide but a richly-illustrated cultural one, seen through the eyes of writers, musicians, artists and naturalists – from the great Tudor naturalist, Thomas Muffet (father of Little Miss Muffet) to Irvine Welsh’s talking tapeworm in Filth – as well as contributions by ordinary men and women who are fascinated by creepy-crawlies and sent their stories of bugs to the authors. It is a book to browse through and just wonder at the photography and sheer depth of knowledge of the authors and why bugs should and do matter to us.

   The book is structured along a roughly evolving route, from simple cell life-forms – amoeba, worms, crustaceans- to bugs we all might recognise – spiders, butterflies, bees – plus bugs that inhabit water.  

End Piece

‘Through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the

Clothes we wear and the medicines that heal us,

Humans are inextricably linked to plants, but

Because we have become disconnected from

Nature we’re often guilty of taking not giving

Back. It’s vital that we redress that balance.

This is a quote from

Great Oaks from little Acorns Grow is the Oak Project’s second public art commission in its 2021 programme by Manchester-based artist Charlotte Smithson at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London from 21 – 26 September 2021.

Early signs of autumn to come

Haw (from hawthorns) berries just ripening a favourite source of food for many birds and the sloe (from blackthorn)

Answers to quiz

A  Speckled Wood.  B.  Ringlet.   C  Brimstone.   D.  Peacock.  E.  (Common) Blue.  F.  Painted lady

G.  Red Admiral.  H. (Small) Tortoiseshell

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