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Saturday, 31 October 2015

It's a good year for autumn leaf colour

These photos are from last Sunday when we had a gloriously sunny day without a cloud in the sky - that's been pretty rare this month. And so we went for a walk to check out the leaf colour in our local area.

These first trees really 'popped' from a distance - but I'm not sure what kind of tree they are. This was at a free range poultry farm nearby and it has lots of these trees in the paddock fronting the lane; some of the leaves were very dark caramel and some were mixed colours as you can see in the photos below. They look like they might be some kind of oak, but not any oak that is native to Europe. They could be oaks from another continent, possibly N. American Red Oak? I also saw one planted by the car park of the Chinese restaurant that we went to earlier this week, so they are obviously ornamentals of some sort. If anyone recognises the species, please tell me as I am very curious.

I think this is one of those naked neck cockerels - not a patch on Randy for handsomeness. They are such bizarre looking creatures!

This is just along the road from the chicken farm which is at a high point for round here with a view - OK it's not much but we don't have many hills of any size with views over the countryside, and often views are from places where it's not easy to stop the car to take photos, more's the pity. 

Back again to the track we call the Melodious Warbler Walk. I'm finding it interesting to see how it is changing with the seasons, wildlife included. I can't wait to check it out in the spring and early summer next year as I know it's so good for wild flowers and butterflies. But now it's all about the trees and the leaf colours.

I tried my best to get the cows framed but it wasn't really to be and there was an annoying bramble in the way.... and the cows wouldn't pose in the right place like I asked them to!

Old trees and young colourful trees in the distance - more about that further down this post.

The end of the track and the field edge opposite has been planted with colourful species. I had thought that the dark purple leaves were euonymus as I have seen them planted elsewhere, but in fact were coloured bark dogwoods. They've been left to grow tall as shrubs so the bark isn't coloured (you need to prune them regularly for that), but they still have great autumn leaf colour.

The red coloured shrubs are a Viburnum of some sort, with attractive berries. It might be V. opulus, which has pretty flowers in spring and would be a good garden shrub, but I have to stop buying new plants as I can't cope with what I do have! My next garden, maybe.

Can you see the lone apple? This 'hedge' had a mix of oak, sweet chestnut, dogwood, viburnum, field maple, wild cherry and hornbeam or beech, plus others. The majority of pretty colours come from these fairly recent plantings around the fields as our local council sells mixed saplings cheaply in order to encourage regeneration of the field margins. So many of the old, original trees which are native to this particular area have disappeared over the years from the field margins, so it is great to see these colourful trees and shrubs which provide berries, fruit and nuts and shelter for the wildlife. Also many of the native trees around here don't colour up like this but tend to go a dull rusty brown, like oaks and many other native species. Similar plantings have been done along by any newish roads that have been built or widened in the last twenty years or so, so it adds a lot of interest to the countryside, with blossom as a bonus in the spring. It makes road journeys much more interesting at certain times of the year.  

A typical scene showing new planting and big old trees - it's cattle country around here, both beef and dairy, so cows are everywhere.

Unfortunately the next day was forecast to be sunny as well but as soon as we went out for another walk around the lake I featured a few posts ago, the sun disappeared. But here's a pic of me with my hair highlighted looking more like me again!

It's Halloween and I don't have any pumpkin photos, but if you celebrate I wish you a fun filled day and evening!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

October colour in the garden

These are all pictures taken between 10th and 25th October. The leaves are turning rapidly now, yet the annual flowers just keep on providing an amazing blast of colour which is so needed during the many gloomy days we've had this month. Lets hope the frosts keep away as long as possible!

Now we are near the end of the month there are very few butterflies, dragonflies or bees around which is rather sad, but that is how it goes - all the more to look forward to again next year when the cycle of life starts all over again. 

A tatty Wall Brown on a Cosmos flower.

I actually managed some 'proper' gardening, athough it took me about three weeks on and off to complete this bed - first we gave the yucca a serious haircut which allowed light and moisture in under it, then K dug out tons of plants that I didn't want which had self seeded here. I hand removed bucketfuls of creeping weeds like buttercup that had taken over during the summer, and removed dozens of bluebell and snowdrop bulbs. Then after adding lots of home made compost and leaf mould I started the fun job of planting. 

I'd splashed out and bought a variety of different heucheras, and interspersed them with self seeded stipa grass, and the larger grass here is a divided up Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' which had practically disappeared under a shrub elsewhere. I hope it gets a new lease of life here. I also split and replanted my one remaining heuchera - all the other ones I've planted over the years have disappeared - I think they didn't like the competition from the self seeded plants which shaded them out. Finally I replanted the snowdrop bulbs along with a mix of early flowering narcissus bulbs. After doing all that to such a tiny bed I realised I would probably not get to doing much more this year as it seemed a mammoth task for me, so my other much larger overgrown, weed infested shady bed around the corner may have to wait until spring. Or next autumn!

New shady Heuchera bed.

One of my favourite plants with so much interest in the leaf colours and shapes.

Annual flowers in the veg patch are still looking like this at the end of the month!

I really did find this duck feather next to these pretty leaves.

But then I 'cheated' and put some acorns here.

Self seeded Verbena bonariensis in the veg patch,
which was still attracting butterflies earlier in the month.

And more self seeded annuals.

Blackbirds love the berries of Cotoneaster franchetii.

I think this is a Ruddy Darter, still around mid month.

Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum).

Veggies still growing like crazy!

Cosmos flopped over hiding the messy looking courgette
plants which are still producing!!

More pics of flowers in the veggie patch.

Annuals on the left and perennial Bidens on the right, which flowers until harsh frost stops it.

Dill and Verbena bonariensis.

Shrubs and trees looking colourful.

Liquidambar styraciflua starting to turn.

Fallen leaves - the bright coloured ones are from wild Cherry.

Beautiful Forest Pansy.
Cercis canadensis aka Eastern Redbud.

Forest Pansy again.

Dahlias are still going strong.

A now rare sighting of a bumble bee!

Health update

I'm fed up as not only am I in and out of a depressed lethargic state where I have little interest in gardening, cooking or really doing anything much at all, but on top of all this the neuropathy in my hands and feet/lower legs continues to get worse. I can now barely type so what you see here has had twice as long spent amending the gibberish that spouts from my barely feeling fingertips, even though I have resorted to looking at the keyboard now whilst typing (I'm a touch typist which means I don't have to look). 

Everything I touch seems to put pressure on my fingers - eating food which requires cutting is difficult as cutlery feels extremely sharp, trying to crack walnuts is uncomfortable because the shells are sharp so I can only do a few at a time and many everyday things are becoming harder. Fiddly things are becoming impossible and K has to help me. Metal, glass and china even at room temperature feel very cold to the touch. Plus I keep dropping things and the last few days I've thrown both a drink and sugar all over the place, not to mention dropping my toast which of course fell jam side down! 

Walking feels bizarre, like my shoes are made of concrete, but it's not eased when I put my feet up. I have patches on the soles of my feet which are completely numb now. My balance is affected so photography is more difficult as I can't stand very still and I have to keep looking to see where my fingers are on my camera as I just can't feel anything properly. I am living in fear that I will end up unable to do anything - and if I can't take photos then what will I do? Thankfully I can still operate my mouse without any problems and use my stylus for tapping out text on my kindle so can keep in touch via social media and blogs that way. It's just that this is such a new thing to deal with which is so extremely weird - I've been through pain, nausea, exhaustion etc and we all know what they feel like, and even temporarily losing my sense of smell and even taste during a cold, but semi losing the sense of touch is just bizarre, so that makes it harder to deal with, I think.

I've got to try to look on the bright side, which is hard, because I have a silly, possibly irrational, feeling that if I get all defeatist, then the cancer will come back. We did get out for walks the last two days to enjoy the autumn colours (more photos to come), and I went to the hairdressers Friday to finally get my hair highlighted again, so mousy brown is no longer looking back at me in the mirror! Feeling a little brighter in myself at the moment and our 23rd wedding anniversary is tomorrow, so we are going to the all you can eat Chinese buffet. At least I have a healthy appetite and I'm still putting on weight, though I shall want that to stop at some point!!! :-)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Guess what I found in my moth trap? *smug grin*

Just wondering how much longer I can milk being deserving of finding exciting new species before people want to kill me :-) - I reckon until the end of year at least! But for the special moth you'll have to wait until the very end of this post, as I'm going back to 20th Sept for these first moths. 

I found some interesting moths that night but only a few species the next few times I put the trap out, as the night temps were dropping to about 6C. However there are actually quite a lot of moths that it is still possible to see at this time of year; it was surprising when I started looking into the world of moths to discover that there are a number of late autumn moths and even winter moths that fly during the cold months, though presumably only when conditions are right, i.e. not freezing or pouring with rain. So this is a hobby that can be done all year round.

These are the species I found on 20th Sept which I have managed to ID. Many of these were very flitty and I could only get pics in the specimen pots which I have not yet washed out, so there are many scales from other moths in them. I'll get round to doing it one of these days!

This next moth is one of my favourites which I've found three times now - you can't really appreciate its subtle but pretty markings until you get close up with your camera lens, as to the naked eye it is just a pale looking moth.  It's not suprising it bears the name of The Delicate.

From UK Moths site: "Wingspan 36-43 mm.

A migrant species, appearing most commonly on the south and south-west coasts of England, usually between August and October, but also sometimes earlier in the season.

The adults vary in colour from very pale yellow to almost orange.

It is considered that some of the earlier migrants during the year may breed in Britain, giving rise to autumn adults, but the larval stage is not well known due to its nocturnal and retiring nature."

The Delicate (Mythimna vitellina).

The Delicate (Mythimna vitellina).

This is the only Sallow species that I have come across so far, although I've seen a number of them.

Centre-barred Sallow (Atethmia centrago).

I have found the Wainscots a nightmare to ID as many are very similar, but this species stands out and is very attractive.

L-album Wainscot (Mythimna l-album).

A very tatty Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula).

At least this is one of those species with unmistakable markings which is easy enough to ID with the naked eye!

Autumnal Rustic (Eugnorisma glareosa).

Autumnal Rustic (Eugnorisma glareosa).

The following three I believe are the same species, only they come in a variety of different colours. Ragged Robin posted a group of them in many different colours on this 2014 post here so I am hoping she will help to confirm if these are in fact that species. They were trapped on 27th and 28th September.

Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa).

Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa).

Lunar Underwing (Omphaloscelis lunosa).

Moving on to 17th October and the only time I've put the moth trap out this month. Some interesting new species again.

UK Moths has this to say about this next species, the Flame Brocade:

"Formerly resident in Sussex, becoming extinct there in the late 19th Century, the species is now resident only in the Channel Islands and elsewhere it is only an immigrant.

Adults have appeared, usually at coastal light-traps along England's southern shores, mainly from Hampshire westwards.

The normal flight period is October and November, most immigrants turning up in the former month.

The caterpillar feeds on low plants such as buttercup (Ranunculus) in the early stages, later preferring such species as ash (Fraxinus) and privet (Ligustrum)."

I found seven of these in the trap!
Flame Brocade (Trigonophora flammea).

The next two I am not 100% sure of my ID.

Beaded Chestnut (Agrochola lychnidis).

Black Rustic (Aporophyla nigra).

And now we come to the Very Special Moth. I was halfway through going through the egg cartons in the moth trap before I did a double take noticing this rather large moth sitting on the wooden side of the box. I knew what it was immediately and was over the moon....

Can you guess what it is yet?

I think this might give you a clue..... :-)
Yes, it's a Clifden Nonpareil!!! (Catocala fraxini).

To some the Holy Grail of moths is this species; to others it's the Merveille du Jour (I'd love to see one of them too) and for others, perhaps the Death's-head Hawkmoth, which I'd really love to see. But the Clifden Nonpareil is a moth whose name I have been familiar with for many years, well before I got interested in moths or even really interested in butterflies, so that makes it all the more special to me. The larvae of this species feed on Poplars, of which there are plenty around. The wingspan is male 84-100 mm, female 98-112 mm! This article in the Independent newspaper sums up the sighting of this moth perfectly.

I even managed a selfie with my moth when it escaped!

More pics.

Close up of its face and proboscis.

Starting to show those beautiful blue underwings.

Back in the box with the egg cartons prior to release in the evening.

When I released the moths at dusk the CN flew into my Horse Chestnut tree and sat there for about five minutes - it then flew off into the darkening sky looking just like a tiny bat. What a fabulous experience and privilege it was to meet this most sought after moth!