Monday, 2 November 2020

2nd NOVEMBER 2020

Leaf shadows on trunk of tree in Autumn. 2nd November 2020.
Leaf shadows on trunk of tree in Autumn. 2nd November 2020.
What have I seen today?

That which I enjoyed the most were the shadows of leaves on the trunk of a tree.

When I first moved to Halifax (in West Yorkshire) I found a site where you can type in your post code and it will tell you the air quality. Halifax is a very busy town with lots of lorries and buses and cars. I anticipated the score would be low; a sad contrast, I expected, with the air I was used to in Dorset where I had lived right by the sea. But no. It came out surprisingly high. Pretty healthy stuff. I was pleased; but puzzled.

Autumn  Woods, Mount Pellon, Halifax, West Yorkshire. 2nd November 2020.
Autumn  Woods, Mount Pellon, Halifax, West Yorkshire. 2nd November 2020.

A few days ago I went on a short journey into Lancashire to visit The Forest of Bowland. It isn't a 'forest'  in the usual sense of non-stop trees - but it is very beautiful. On the way home I was entertained to see that the notice which announced I was re-entering Calderdale (this part of West Yorkshire) had a description written on it. Calderdale, it turns out is 'Ruggedly sophisticated'. My new image! The best of all worlds. I really am not sure about the 'sophisticated' bit but 'rugged' it certainly is. So rugged, so up and down, with so many steep drops in inconvenient places - there's plenty of room for trees where houses simply couldn't be. They are frequently in 'cloughs', the local word for a steep sided valley or ravine. Sometimes, often, you don't know they are there but these trees must have a huge impact on our air quality.

Autumn woods, Mount Pellon, Halifax, West Yorkshire. November 2nd 2020.
Autumn woods, Mount Pellon, Halifax, West Yorkshire. November 2nd 2020.



This morning, I was pottering around in the Mount Pellon area of Halifax - and that's where I saw the leaf shadows . . . and lots of autumn trees!

Path in woods under tall railway arch. 2nd November 2020
Path in woods under tall railway arch. 2nd November 2020









I also went under this huge arch belonging to a disused railway line.

Seedling on mossy wall. 2nd November 2020
Seedling on mossy wall. 2nd November 2020









And back up in the light . . . found this seedling growing out of a mossy wall. This seedling is almost as amusing as the 'ruggedly sophisticated' slogan because it has the air of being the kind of seedling that would want to grow into a really large plant if only it weren't sticking out of a wall . . . and if only it were a different time of year . . . and . . . it looks like a squash seedling, though perhaps it's a sunflower. Can anyone say?

Tiny white toadstools. Possibly Ivory Bonnet (Mycena flavoalba). 2nd November 2020

This afternoon I went out to look at a patch of tiny toadstools. They are spread over an area about two foot square, are white and each one is only about a centimetre across. You can see how small they are by comparing them with the size of the sycamore leaf. I put them on iSpot and a couple of people have already suggested they are 'Ivory Bonnet' (Mycena flavoalba). They are probably right - though I thought the tops of 'bonnet' fungi tended to be more pointy than these.

Tiny white toadstools close up. Possible Ivory Bonnet. (Mycena flavoalba) 2nd November 2020
Tiny white toadstools close up. Possible Ivory Bonnet.
(Mycena flavoalba) 2nd November 2020

Well, that was today! I hope you have had a good day too.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

1st NOVEMBER 2020

I don't know how it has come about that it's so long since I last posted. Here we are at the beginning of November and England is about to enter another 'Lockdown'. Not that this will have much of an impact on the way I live. I've continued to live very separately, grateful for the wonderful countryside around and the interesting area of town I live in.

For some reason it seems like the beginning of June - June when I did a post nearly every day. I can't work out exactly why this is but I think in part it's because of the very definite change in season - the winds and the rain are beating the leaves from the trees at a tremendous rate - and partly because the idea of a lockdown makes one more intensely aware of one's immediate surroundings.

So here's a little update on a small part of what's happening in the very tiny area immediately outside my front door. I put it that way because as usual, the smaller the area one examines, the more there is to see.

Harlequin ladybird on flower pot with groundsel. 1st November 2020.
Harlequin ladybird. 1st November 2020.
Let's start with the wildlife. Ladybirds are still moving around. Here a harlequin is exploring a pot containing a groundsel plant that I've been watching over the summer. Groundsel is a very common 'weed' in England; probably familiar to most readers. However, I doubt many have really paid much attention to what it's like, what it does, how an individual plant behaves. I would encourage everyone to put a pot of earth outside their door and see what happens - an empty pot with earth. In England at any rate it's almost inevitable that a seed will land there. Let it grow, see what it is, examine it. If it turns out to be a nettle, you might want to pot it on, let it grow to its full height, watch it flower. Or it might be something you have never come across before.

Snail hibernating in wall in Halifax, West Yorkshire. 1st November 2020.
Snail hibernating in brick wall.
1st November 2020
In the short wall that separates me from my neighbour, a snail has taken up residence for the winter. I was going to move it but it's further in than it looks so I'll let it be. When it comes out of hibernation and begins to wander around, I'll probably relocate it to a distance as I am not tempted by the idea of letting it feed on the vegetable seedlings I will put outside my door in spring. I say 'to a distance' because snails have an annoying homing instinct. One year I painted numbers on the snails that I removed from my garden - on their shells with typewriter correction fluid. They kept coming back. Each time I removed them further away until I found the distance from which they would not return. Number "2" was specially persistent.

Harts Tongue Fern in wall in Halifax, West Yorkshire. 1st November 2020.
Hart's Tongue Ferns in brick wall.
1st November 2020

The hart's tongue ferns in the wall are thriving. I still feed them every so often with the fluid from the Hozelock Bokashi digester which arrived via Karen. I've lost count of how many there are now. I've also poked leaves from other kinds of ferns in some of the cracks - waited till the spores on their backs were ripe and in they went. Whether they will grow or not . . . that will be another adventure. (Incidentally, a couple of leaves have appeared all by themselves which I think are probably of an ivy leaved toad flax. I hope so. I like that. Unfortunately they are on the most shady part of the wall so may not thrive.)

Pink geranium in pot and lemon balm in pot on doorstep. Halifax. West Yorkshire. 1st November 2020.
Lemon Balm and Pink Geranium in pots on steps.
1st November 2020.



On the steps to my door I have four pots. Here are two - the lower step has lemon balm, the upper one a geranium. They are getting bedraggled - but it is November!

Pot marigold heads after flowering. 1st November 2020.
The demise of pot marigold flowers and beginnings of some seeds.
1st November 2020.















On the other side of the step from the geranium is a pot marigold from Mike. I had hoped it would produce seeds but it isn't doing too well on that front. On the other hand, a couple of seeds which I planted in another pot at the same time but which didn't immediately germinate have now come up and look quite sturdy so I am hoping they will over winter well and flower early next year - the Sofa-Flying Calendula connection will continue!

Bulbs in pot under earth, hidden by sycamore leaves to keep them warm. 1st November 2020.
Pot with bulbs under earth concealed by fallen sycamore leaves.
1st November 2020.
Also in pots, ready for next year, I have alliums, tulips and daffodils. I can't remember which are in which pot but never mind. It will be fun to see what happens. I have been piling sycamore leaves on them to keep them warm when frosts come. Sycamore leaves take ages to get soggy and flat and keep blowing away - but the moment will no doubt come when rain will win and turn them into a soggy blanket for the bulbs which are not really as deeply beneath the surface of the soil as they would probably like to be.

Seedlings in earth. 1st November 2020.
Seeds coming up in earth.
1st November 2020.

There are similar bulbs in the tiny patch of earth outside my house. I sowed some nigella (Love in the Mist) and cornflower seeds to see if they would come up with a head start and keep the marigolds company over-wintering. Some seeds are germinating. Whether they are seeds I've sown or more petty spurge I don't know! I've scattered fox gloves (I don't think they are fox gloves) and aquilegea there too . . . we will see . . . or perhaps not see if they get eaten or drowned or frosted . . . ! ! !

Cyclamen seedling. 1st November 2020.
Cyclamen seedling.
1st November 2020

Back to pots; a couple of years ago I bought red and white and pink cyclamen from a garden centre and put them in my window boxes. Only one has survived. However, they dropped seeds which grew and I have transplanted the results into pots. This is the most advanced of them.

Common Orange Lichen on small twig. 1st November 2020.
Twig with common orange lichen.
1st November 2020






And finally - look what the wind blew in. Here's a little twig with common orange lichen on it (Xanthoria parietina). It landed behind one of the pots on the door step and I placed it on the wall between me and the street to take its photo. The little metal lumps are the remains of railings. I expect they were sawn off during the second world war. The government collected up railings from the fronts of people's houses to melt down and use as part of the 'war effort'. I don't think many, if any, were actually used. Maybe it helped people feel involved. I don't know. I wasn't there. But all over England there are these sad little stumps, constant reminders of futility.

The lichen's lovely though, isn't it?

Link

"So What Really Happened to Our Railings?"  On London Gardens Trust website.


Connecting with Nature Notes on Rambling Woods.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

A LADYBIRD SUMMER

It wasn't very many years ago that I first came across a ladybird larva - that particular one was a purple and black spiky little monster on a honeysuckle bush. And now I have come across ladybird pupa for the first time - funny little bright blotchy lumps stuck to flower pots and rubbish bins. And I've become more aware of where ladybirds are - surprising places like snuggling in lumps of sheep's wool on barbed wire fences. Here is a selection of observations from the last few months.

First is a seven spot ladybird (27th June 2020) on a dying plant in town. I wonder what it is doing there. I've peered into the photo looking to see if there are aphids for it to eat. No. I worry about it retrospectively. Why was the plant dying? Had someone poisoned it? Would the ladybird die too? What is it about ladybirds that we can't help feeling drawn towards them? Concerned for them. I really like coming across hover flies but I'm never tempted to invest them with personalities in the way I am with ladybirds.

Seven spot ladybird on dying plant in town. 27th June 2020.
27th June 2020

Here's another (on the 8th August 2020) on the food waste bin outside my house - a harlequin I think. The council provides us with several different kinds of containers to throw things away in and each is a place to find ladybirds . . . and ants! If you zoom in you will see it has a thread attached. These threads are everywhere. I don't know what they are.

Harlequin ladybird on food waste bin. 8th August 2020.
8th August 2020

The next day I came across a strange cluster of at least three seven spots (I think) settled together in a bundle of sheep's wool. It's a warm sunny day. Why are they there?

Seven spot ladybirds clustered in sheep's wool on barbed wire fence. 9th August 2020.
9th August 2020

I'll zoom in for you on this one.

Seven spot ladybirds clustered in sheep's wool on barbed wire fence. West Yorkshire. 9th August 2020.

On 28th August I come across a ladybird pupa (harlequin?) fixed to the outside of a steamed up car window. I think the white feathery bits are where it is attached. This attachment is quite firm. I had to remove another from a plant pot so I could wash it up and it was quite an effort. It may well have been a mistake to move it. Apparently they can flip up on these 'hinges' to avoid parasites. Trying to learn things from the internet leaves one very patchy. The inside of one of these bright little lumps is more or less liquid as it is formed into the more familiar beetle. How can it know when to flip up? How can it 'know' anything? I'm hoping some expert will tell me in the comments so I can change this text from bewildered wonder into proper information!

Harlequin ladybird pupa on steamed up car window. 28th August 2020.
28th August 2020

I'm going in date order through the year. It's not till the 31st August 2020 that I photograph a harlequin larva - the kind of creature that has turned into the pupa with the soup inside. Like the ladybird in the second picture it has a mysterious thread attached. It's on the big wheelie bin (with the ants). Do click on the picture to enlarge it. It is a most extraordinary creature.

Harlequin ladybird larva on wheelie bin. 31st August 2020.
31st August 2020

And on 2nd September 2020 - another (harlequin?) pupa in the hinge of the wheelie bin lid.

Harlequin ladybird pupa in hinge of wheelie bin. 2nd September 2020.
2nd September 2020

The pupa stage lasts only three to twelve days. How can the miracle of changing from a little spiky monster into soup and then into a ladybird happen in such a short time?  If I were a real scientist I would probably start breaking them open to see what is happening but I am not. And they are real creatures.

Something else puzzling me. Earlier in the year there were thousands, possibly millions of aphids, in the sycamore trees. I'm not coming across them now. What do ladybirds eat in the autumn?

I ask Google. According to Nature's Calendar ladybirds eat scale insect, mildew, plants and pollen - it depends what variety they are. On the National Insect Week page about the seven spot it says they eat each other. Oh joy! Why did I ask?

Last year I read a book about octopusses, squid and cuttlefishes. (Other Minds - The Octopus and the Evolution of Intelligence by Peter Godfrey-Smith.) It was very disconcerting. On the cover there's a quote from a review in The Times newspaper. "Fascinating and often delightful". Fascinating. Yes. Delightful? No. Horrifying. So many of the fascinating facts seem to have been discovered through interference in their lives. Why do we want to know about creatures to the extent that we will mutilate, torture and keep them captive? One octopus, kept in a tank, would damage equipment and squirt people. Good on him / her! I say. (I'm getting cross.) (Read it and see.)

Incidentally, I'm getting cross too about the push to build electric cars. To make enough batteries we, we humans that is, will need to dredge the sea floor for cobolt. So . . . we've worked our way through fossil fuels which have taken millennia to create, harmed the atmosphere as we've burned them up, and now we're moving on to something else to dig, scrape, desecrate. Meanwhile, I enjoy using my laptop which is made from metal and plastic. And I drink tea (transported across the world) from a mug made from clay (dug from the earth and which, when it breaks, will be finished with). And I am glad I was born in this century - because the horrors of the industrial revolution are over and I can reap its benefits without having to labour in a mine or a pre-unionised factory. Oh, it is so difficult to be moral!

I would like to visit other countries. I'd love to see the world. And maybe one day I will. I'm fascinated to know how other creatures function too - octopuses and ladybirds alike. But we have to curb some of our desires to push forward. (How do we know which ones? To what extent?) Some of you have been kind enough to say that reading my blog brings you hope and peacefulness. We need that. You also enjoy looking at the little things you find here; things you might otherwise pass by. May I encourage you too to look at the little things around you. Try looking in the hinges of your rubbish bins . . . in fragments of waste caught on fences and walls . . . these ignominious places. Because there are wonders there to rival the octopuses. Miracles of little monsters which turn into soup then re-form into spotty beetles.  (What are all those spikes and colours for?) (Unanswerable question!) I have not been outside the UK in nearly ten years. And before that . . . it was about twenty years. Those visits were important. In England there's a lot of hardening; a lot of narrowness. We, as a nation, seem to be getting frightened of everything that isn't 'us'. And we are being more and more tempted into a slim idea of what 'us' means. If we travelled more, maybe we wouldn't be so frightened of what's 'beyond'. So there's the tension. Can we travel enough that we can learn to love our neighbours but little enough that we don't destroy the world? Can we be curious about our fellow creatures without feeling compelled to harm them? Can we be happy to stay at home? Can we be content to look without 'knowing'?

We need to know lots.
We don't need to know everything. Ladybirds on the RHS site.

Links UK - more than 40 kinds
Nature's Calendar - the ladybird page
Learn About Ladybirds - BBC Breathing Spaces
Life Cycle of Ladybirds - on the Ladybird Challenge (Help discover the balance between 7 spot ladybirds and their parasite Dinocampus coccinellae)
Harlequin Ladybirds on the RHS site.

Links USA - around 140 kinds

URBAN TOADSTOOLS AND A PENNINE MOTH

Blogger has changed the way blogspot posts are formatted and it's now much harder to set the pictures beside the text. It takes ages. I first posted this article yesterday and find the pictures went skee-wiff in the emailed version. This is very annoying. I could have been distinguishing between poisonous and edible mushrooms. The re-arranging of the text might then have had serious consequences. As it is, it doesn't matter terribly but I've changed the layout to alternating photos and text and am re-posting, hoping the words and pictures stay together better this way. Apologies to those who will now be receiving this twice.
There is one change in the text. The toadstools have grown over night so I've changed that the largest is two and half inches across to four inches. It may change again. An evolving post.

Top view of toadstool A. 11th September 2020.
11th September 2020

A mixture of life challenges and photographing too many images has prevented me from posting over the last couple of months. I think I'll solve this by showing some of the things I see without necessarily feeling obliged to say much about them. Just sort of 'dash-em-off without thinking'. I'll begin with some toadstools. (Should one call them toadstools?)

The underside of toadstool A, 11th September 2020.
11th September 2020

The largest is about four inches across.

This is what they look like underneath.

They are growing on an urban lawn which is regularly but not closely mown.

I don't know what they are called.

Do you?

Toadstool B. 11th September 2020.
11th September 2020

This is another toadstool, nearby. It may be the same kind at a different stage of growth. I don't know.

Toadstool B from the side. Halifax UK. September 11th 2020.

This is it from the side.

Fox Moth Caterpillar. Bridestones Moor. September 11th 2020
Fox Moth Caterpillar.
Bridestones Moor.
September 11th 2020

And here is a Fox Moth caterpillar which I came across on Bridestones Moor yesterday. It's about two and a half inches long. It was crawling across the path in a very exposed landscape - rocks and grass but no trees about 1,400 feet above sea level. A tough environment.

Here's a link to a page about its life cycle. The site is based in Cornwall and I'm in Yorkshire but the Fox Moth is quite widespread in the UK. Not that I think I have ever seen either the caterpillar or the moth before. It's interesting how the photos on the link show how the male and female moths look very different from each other.

How are you doing?

(Could the toadstools be Amanita rubescens - Blushers?)

There's more about Fox Moths on the UK Moths site. (When you get to the page you can click on the separate photos for more info.)

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

TREE FOLLOWING - AUGUST 2020

The top of a large sycamore (sycamore?) tree. August  7th 2020.
The top of the right hand tree. Heavy with leaves. 7th August 2020.
I'm feeling overwhelmed by the trees I'm following. Initially, it felt fairly simple. These two trees are sycamores. They are immediately outside my front door. All I had to do was look at them, photograph them, post about them. So why overwhelmed?

Leaves on what may be a sycamore tree.  7th August 2020.
7th August 2020.

To some degree we can blame it on the Coronovirus. It is overwhelming - so everything is overwhelming. Even small things. I can smell gas in the cellar and am waiting for someone to find if there is a leak. One thing after another! At one point the bath, the shower and the handbasin in the bathroom were all out of action: broken or leaking. Shielding etc. have made it harder to get things mended. A train is on fire in Scotland. Floods in Scotland have floated cars in a hospital car-park overnight and when the water receded they landed on each other's roofs. I am not in Scotland. It is sunny here in Halifax this morning. But there hasn't been much sun. The skies have been almost constantly over-cast even though it's summer. Then there's Beirut - and all the calm and sensible people who live there somehow coping while I am overwhelmed by trees.

Trunks of the right hand sycamore (?) tree. August 7th 2020.
Trunks of the right hand sycamore (?) tree. August 7th 2020.
Trees can seem so BIG!
Their canopies another world. A world we can peer into but hardly touch.

Last month I took photographs so I could post about them - then didn't. I couldn't stop finding more and more to see in these trees, and more to think about. I was heading the same way in August. I peer through the branches and see what appear to be millions of creatures living there. Ladybirds, lacewings, little black flies. Between them they are a whole universe of beings. Then there's the way the two trees muddle their branches. Which tree is which? And are they even sycamores? Maybe one is some kind of maple? I'm sinking in the shapes of the seeds, the texture of the bark, the colour of the leaves, their possible names in Latin!

Seeds (Samaras) on sycamore or maple. 7th August 2020.
The winged seeds of sycamore and maples are called 'Samaras'.
(I call them 'keys' or 'helicopters'.)
So I was in danger of stopping again. Right. Take myself in hand. There will need to be a short fleet of posts. It won't fit in one.

Are you finding this too? That there are so many big things wrong with the world that even simple things seem difficult? I find I can only do things if I do them in small bites - and then celebrate. Hurray! I just swept the floor! Hurray! I just walked upstairs and back down again! Hurray! I am managing to post daily on my other blog Message in a Milk Bottle. (I really enjoy taking these simple and unconnected pictures.) Hurray! I've just written a Tree Following post for August!

tree-logo

ARE YOU?  Click the tree design to find out more.



Linking with Nature Notes at Rambling Woods.
And to Our World Tuesday