Geese under the moon

The moon was a slither tonight. It was almost dark at 7.15pm when we decided to have a walk around the lake.

It has been a wonderful day of blue skies but there is definitely a cool nip in the air and that was true tonight. The sky was rather lovely over the lakes.

Although it seemed to be a calm time almost time for sleep there was an awful lot of noise and activity from birds.

The Canada geese were gathering in large numbers and it seemed they were discussing which direction to fly off for the night. They seemed to fly off in groups heading in different directions over a 15 minute period.

If you look carefully in the photo there are large groups of geese. The video below is of them making noise and then leaving.

In the background of the video above the trees there are a second group of noisy birds, a great flock of rooks getting ready to roost.

Much quieter were the Moorhen family, mum and two chicks also moving towards nest for the night. I love the way moorhens move.

As we finished the loop around the lake blackbirds were flitting through trees and robins were hopping along the posts and ground. There was a lot of activity.

The sky was wonderful, hoping for a fine day tomorrow to do some exploring !

Conkers everywhere

Conkers are laying glossy brown under trees all over. Horse Chestnuts are not native to Britain, they were introduced in the 1600s.They do not feature strongly in our woodland but they are found across the country.A horse Chestnut in the spring covered in fantastic candelabra shaped flowers. The buds ( sticky) followed by the delicate leaves are beautiful in Spring followed by these gorgeous flowers. It is a tree that has a lot to offer the eye !

The first ever game of conkers that was recorded was in 1848 on the Isle of Wight. The game was played before this but with cob nuts.

The conker still in its case above was found yesterday in a field opposite the botanic gardens in Cambridge. There were plenty of conkers to be collected however a large number were safe as they had landed in cow pats!

When you first collect a conker it has a wonderful Varnished quality almost glossy . This quickly goes as it dries, these conkers from yesterday varied in size and shape , I fancy the flat one at the front , this is the one I would have soaked in vinegar or dried especially for a game of conkers.

The world conker championships are held in the village of Ashton in Northamptonshire and has been going since 1965.

I love the spiky cases of conkers , this one from yesterday looks like a bronze sculpture I sat it on the mantelpiece.

Horse Chestnuts are a common sight,’there are estimated to be 470,000 tree across the country.

Conkers are not fit for human consumption but deer ,cattle and horses do eat them. People put them in wardrobes to deter moths and in rooms to chase out spiders. Who knows if this works, it seems unlikely.

Horse Chestnuts are suffering from a pest at the moment called the leaf miner moth. The larvae of the moth burrows into the leaves , they become dry and brown and eventually are killed. You will have noticed some trees have gone brown very early in the year because of this.

These larvae were first observed in Macedonia in 1985 and then in London in 2002 . They are spreading 40-60 km a year.

Although it does not affect the health of the tree it does cause damage to leaves and makes the trees more susceptible to other diseases.

Another problem facing the horse chestnut is bleeding canker. This has increased in the last five years. It can affect any age of tree, mature trees can be disfigured. Younger trees can be killed in 3-5 years.

Let’s hope that the trees win out against these threats and continue to grace the countryside with their wonderful canopies of flowers and harvest of conkers in the Autumn.

New features on Nature Table Explorer

I love exploring and writing this blog , discoveries and travels shared are great fun.

Today I have updated the website and added some new pages to the menu at the top of the page.

I hope you enjoy them.

Click on menu and you will now find:

  • An updated about page with contact details
  • Explorations magazine- this has information about issue one and the launch and follow up activities. This will be updated with information about further issues.
  • Explorations newsletters- this has digital copies of the newsletters published to read or download.
  • Wild flower year– this is a page I’m excited about.I will be posting flowers with their dates as I discover them throughout the year.
  • Events– this page has all the dates for newsletters and magazine publication. It also has dates for contributors to the magazine. As there are more events with naturetableexplorer.com they will be listed on this page.
  • Schools and groups- this page will be added tomorrow with school and group materials and offers for talks and activities. There are examples of workshops that have been delivered on this page. I am available to work with groups and schools of all ages and abilities.

I hope this will add a new dimension to the blog linking it with the magazine and encouraging more people to become part of EXPLORATIONS either through the readers pages sending in stories and photos or by sending in articles and ideas.

Issue one is available to buy via PayPal at £5.20 which includes postage and packaging. Issue 2 is out on December the 5th. I’d love you to be involved with issue 3 , email all ideas and contributions to

naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com

Remember EXPLORE MORE!

Cambridge Botanic Gardens in the rain.

The question this morning was will we or won’t we?

Visit the botanic gardens , shall we risk it or not ?

We did, getting out of the car we felt rather smug , no rain what was all the fuss about. As I walked back from the ticket machine the heavens opened!!

Well we are here now so off we went exploring boots on, waterproofs zipped up.

The first encounter was with this lovely moorhen, at first the rain seemed of no consequence but as it got heavier it headed for a cave of plants in the stream bank.

Cambridge Botanic Gardens are a fantastic place to explore with brilliant planting and habitats and a range of glasshouses.

In issue two of EXPLORATIONS there will be a feature about travelling the world in these glasshouses.

Today the weather gave the gardens a fresh green hue and it was surprising how many flowers were still in full bloom especially in the bee borders .

These geraniums were even more beautiful in the rain.

At the end of the glasshouses there is a shady area full of ferns , tree ferns and two wonderful cork oaks.

Another feature of the rain is that it identified some wonderful spiders webs all horizontal sheet webs in a large area of plants. The delicate spiders were hanging under the centre of each web.

They were very difficult to photograph as the webs were across these pointy stems.

After a warm up cup of coffee we headed back to the car , passing a perfect weeping willow , like a painting.

Explore more … even in the rain !

Seed harvest

This is a great time of year to harvest seeds for next year.

A packet of seeds is expensive and often contains very few seeds. If you have grown plants this year collect the seeds and grow your own collected seeds.

A few simple steps to ensure success

  • Wait until the seed heads are ready and ripe.
  • Choose a day when it is really dry.
  • Tap the seeds into an envelope
  • Seal and label
  • Store in a dry cool Place until spring.

If you have a larger seed head you can put a paper bag over the whole flower head tie a rubber band around and then hang up in a dry place.

Cosmos seeds are really easy to collect and the flowers are great all summer attracting insects.

The seed heads at the top of the article are from Nicotiana sylvestris each little brown pot shaped seed pot contains hundreds of seeds .

I am waiting to harvest sweet peas seeds and purple french beans.

A quick walk around the garden shows lots of seed collecting targets.

Poppy

Wallflower

Campanula

Mallow

Acanthus

Lupin

Sunflower

I have already collected marigolds and others so hopefully there will be plenty of colour next year with no expense !

Bean tree beauty

I love Indian bean trees , I am always pleased to see one . Yesterday after a short walk from Baker Street underground station I came across a fantastic specimen.

Feeling very lucky I found two trees last week in a garden centre reduced from £60 to £5.49 . I have one and my Mum has one. We are both looking forward to when they spread their branches , flower and produce their beans !

These are the heart shaped leave of the young tree in my garden glossed up by the rain.

The Indian bean tree ( Catalpa bignonoides) originates from North America. This is the southern bean tree from Alabama, Georgia,Louisiana and Florida. The Northern bean tree (Catalpa speciosa) originates from the mid west. Here are some bean tree facts:

  • Heartwood of catalpa was used in the manufacture of railroad ties in the past. Today, catalpa is used for the manufacture of fence posts, beams, furniture and millwork in North America.
  • Catalpa is also known as cigarette tree.
  • Catalpa is sometimes used as tonewood in guitars.
  • It is planted to stabilise soil as it has an extensive root system.
  • The roots are poisonous.

This tree is always a delight, great leaves, beautiful flowers and interesting seed pods. I am going to collect some seeds next time I see one and try and germinate them.

Rain and more rain

It has felt unusual to put on my waterproof, I can’t remember the last time it had a trip out!

Some of the rain over the last few days has been spectacular, noisy and refreshing. The garden has a new lease of life and has re-greened at the end of it’s growing year.

The spiders webs were hung with jewels and weighed down by these water gems.

In the garden berries became elongated and varnished with the downpours , making them shine and catch the eye.

The fig tree seemed to soak up the moisture and it perked up the olives.

The olive tree is covered in a huge crop this year but alas we don’t get enough sun for them to ripen.

Water sits on the surface of leaves and plants in different ways, the waxy or sometimes hairy stem and leaf surfaces hold the water in droplets.

This spider web was attached to the gutter by the front door, amazingly it was stabilised by two long silk threads rather like guy ropes which were about three metres long. They are amazing engineers, the rain certainly doesn’t stop play for them.

Robin encounter

I had an up close and personal encounter yesterday with a robin.

As I was sat having a cup of coffee the robin came to investigate what I was doing( hoping I expect for some crumbs)

I only had coffee but the bird remained for five minutes gradually closing in. I think if I had offered crumbs it would have happily hopped on my hand.

The average lifespan of the robin is only 13 months , if they survive past this they can live a lot longer.

Robins hold a special place , they seem so tame especially when digging in the garden or as yesterday when there may be some crumbs in offer. Their song is often the first heard in the morning and late in the afternoon. It is easy to imagine that these friendly birds as characters , I loved the blackberry farm series as a child and postman Joe was a robin who I loved!

Magazine stories

I have had a great two weeks promoting Issue 1 of Explorations the magazine of Nature Table Explorer.Firstly through a talk to the inner wheel which was really enjoyable . The second event was a stand at a local Waitrose which helped to make lots of connections and give me new ideas. I was helped on this stand by two enthusiastic friends who were great.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Explorations it is available via PayPal at naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com for £5.20 which includes postage in the UK,email for charges further afield .

I am gathering articles for issue 2 at the moment and I am always looking for articles, photos or ideas. Please send any of these to naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com.

In Issue 2 there will be a new feature of a readers page for letters, questions and finds. Please become part of the project, spread the word about our wonderful world and remember ….EXPLORE MORE !

A sneak peek of Issue two in its early stages

Caving wasps

We had a walk followed by an ice cream today at a super garden nursery that specialises in olive trees called the Olive Grove near Barnwell Northants. It is a great place to visit.

They have some lovely apple trees which were loaded with fantastic crops.

The wasps had taken advantage and had formed an ‘apple cave ‘ with in and out doorways. They were feasting on the sweet pulp. We could actually here them eating.

There were several wasps inside coming and going through the front and back doors they had created.

It was a fascinating activity to spend time watching.