All about yellow

Back at beautiful Batsford Arboretum today . The trees were stunning , this Beech tree was amazing so straight and extremely tall .

I love the shade and feel of walking under Beech trees , the crunching of the Beech nuts underfoot and the soft green light from the canopy.

It was all about the yellow as far as the insects were concerned today. Planted down the steep slope on the opposite bank to the stream are large areas of this bright yellow flower. It is tall with hundreds of large Daisy like flowers which are insect magnets.

There were large numbers of honey bees and bumble bees. Some of the bumble bees were huge and you wonder how they actually fly !

Butterflies were flitting and landing on these golden platforms . Red Admirals were common.

And plenty of meadow browns.

These yellow banks were where last year I spotted a hummingbird hawk moth but none today .

Bank voles and brambles

It’s rather warm but no sun it’s close and heavy. A walk was needed after working hard in the garden.

The brambles are loaded with blackberries , people are already picking. I think that some blackberry jelly should be made this year the berries are huge.

These blackberries are just around the corner from my house by the post box.At the bottom of the hill they are amazing. Each year people turn up with step ladders and containers and set to work on this blackberry bonanza.

Further on on this walk a small furry creature darted our in front of us. Standing watching it continues this in and out behaviour for 4 more sorties. It was a bank vole.The photo is not very good it seemed to be in constant motion.

Bank voles are food for lots of predators and are on the first step of many food chains. The bank vole has this chestnut colour whereas the field vole is more sandy coloured.

The brambles made a great hiding place for the vole , hopefully it feasted on blackberries for pudding !!

Planting flowers for moths

We have been planting plants this year specifically to attract more insects including moths.

I have planted lots of nicotiana ( tobacco plants) I have grown the tall Nicotiana sylvestris but have just read that the tubes are too long for most native moths apart from hummingbird hawk moths and the immigrant convolvulus hawk moth. Hopefully some of these will find these amazing flowers.

In the garden we also have Buddleia and the tall Verbena bonariensis plants that offer nectar for moths.

Here is a list to attract moths to your garden as well as other insects.

  • Honeysuckle
  • Campions
  • Pinks (dianthus species)
  • Sweet Williams
  • Evening primrose
  • Hebe
  • Clematis
  • Hemp agrimony

The convolvulus hawk moth (Agrius convolvuli) is a migrant to Britain. It cannot overwinter in this country but is often found in large numbers in the south and east of Britain and has been found in the Shetland isles. It is a night flyer with a very long proboscis so can reach the nectar in the nicotiana flowers. In the day it rests on surfaces such as walls and trees. The larvae feed on convolvulus .

I hope this migrant will find its way to my front garden and the wonderful Nicotiana sylvestris.

Thistles crowning hills

These thistles appeared as we reached the top of a steep Devon hill climbing up from the cove below.

They crowned the top of the hill in a purple Frosting.

They all seemed to be facing towards the sun and the sea.

The bees and butterflies were busy in this flowery patch.

Below the cove and beach were beautiful.

Wild ponies appeared from the bracken on the cliff edge paths.

The walk from the beach up over the hills , through the thistles was amazing. Devon is calling for more exploring and discovery.

Wild strawberry carpets

Wild strawberries (Fragaria vesca)are tiny blood red spots in the undergrowth. They were growing in large numbers forming polka dot carpets in the woodlands around Agatha Christie’s summer home along the banks of the river Dart.

Wild strawberries have glossy trefoil shaped leaves which have toothed edges. The fruits are tiny and bright red. The wild strawberry is part of a famous William Morris textile design called the ‘strawberry thief.’

The design shows thrushes stealing wild strawberries from his garden.

A great memory of mine is of a fantastic field we would visit on a summer Sunday afternoon with my grandparents. It was possible to lie in the field with flowers above you with crops of wild strawberries below to eat. Tiny sweet bursts of flavour.

There were plenty of strawberries in this Devon wood , all that was needed was some clotted cream and maybe a scone !!! ( it was Devon..)

Snails and their trails

After rain over night the snails were out in force. They were climbing up trees all around the lake. Slugs were criss crossing the paths below.

It’s amazing the variety of colours and sizes of snails that are usually hidden away. Tomorrow if it is still damp I am going to count these molluscs , I’m sure it will be hundreds.

Some trees have snails all the way up their trunks as well as the unbellifers being full of snails, often smaller and paler.

I like to imagine the snail above is climbing for a better view of the river Nene !

River Dart glimpses

Driving along the winding Devon roads the river Dart catches the eye as you pass by. Eventually we found a place to stop , scramble down and investigate the river.

Shallow and fast flowing with rapids and waterfalls the dart races by. The trees and plants, roots and moss make a magical feel to the river banks.

The first bank we scrambled down was obviously full of water in the winter and when there is heavy rainfall Liverworts were covering the rocks.

This river is home to otters and dippers , we didn’t encounter any today. We did have a great visit to the otter sanctuary near by which was fantastic

The river Dart was with us throughout this Devon trip . At Dartmouth it meets the sea , seagulls were busy feasting on flying ants and fish and chips !!

Dartmoor encounters

A walk on Dartmoor today , great views and weather.

There were plenty of ponies around and some very inquisitive cows.

The heather and gorse were in flower with tiny yellow cinquefoils below.

I like the photo above it’s a gorse patchwork of colour repeated across the moor.

We were trying out the new lens to photograph birds using a tripod.

This stonechat was just too far away to be a perfect photo but was fun to watch.

The bird below was more successful but I’m not sure what it is , we will be looking it up later. I think it may be a young bird.

We are learning new things every time we use the new lens. Hoping to increase knowledge of photography and birds. It’s definitely enjoyable learning !!

Any ideas to identification please comment .

Devon rocks !

Fantastic beach in Devon , Scabbacombe, hardly anyone on it , a mile or so to walk to, but really worth the trek .

This beach was made from tiny pebbles rather than sand. The rocks and larger pebbles were beautiful colours.

Shales and schists at the top of the beach weathered and smooth.

The large stones are full of fantastic layers and quartz veins.

In the area of waves the pebbles literally shine as if varnished .

The water was a good temperature for a walk along the shore and a up to the knee paddle. It was clear and full of seaweed .

A wonderful beach to explore.

Yellow hammer singing

We walked along a sunny path on the top of Devon cliffs yesterday. The hedge was to the left and barley to the right, this beautiful bird was perched singing .

This is a yellow hammer (Emberiza citrinella) The one in the post is a Male with a distinctive yellow head. They are often spotted like this one sitting on a post or perch singing. They eat seeds and insects.

When in flight the white tail feathers can be seen. These birds have declined in number and are on the red list. The UK population fell by 54% between 1970-1998′ the main factor is thought to be overwintering survival and a lack of seeds to eat.

Strategies to support ( taken from rspb) yellow hammers are :

    Maintain short, thick hedges and ditches with wide margins for nesting.
    Flower-rich margins are better for insects than grass margins.
    Do not trim hedgerows before September, as the late nests of yellowhammers are the most important for overall productivity.
    Ensure there is at least one good seed food source throughout the winter.


Read more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/farming/advice/helping-species/yellowhammer/#dogqfItuxlGzGkLC.99

A super bird .