Archive for April, 2011


A long-tailed tit with a beakful of food for the babies in the nest...

A few weeks ago I blogged about the nesting activities of the long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus) in our garden.

Happily I can report that they are still there in the bush, undisturbed by a couple of recent short but noisy building projects nearby.

There now seem to be young in the nest, judging by the huge number of tasty worms and insects being airlifted in by a few relatives, constantly throughout the day.

To me the tits do resemble little helicopters as they wait their turn on a nearby Cotinus and then hover nearby before dropping vertically into the middle of the upright conifer bush. It’s probably their long tails that give that impression, especially when they are changing direction.

I am now watching out for the little ones to leave the nest…

Here’s my earlier blog post about the nest-building

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Hawthorn in flower in the garden in April 2011

It’s April and the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) has blossomed early this year, along with many flowers in the garden. Apparently this is because of the very hard midwinter followed by a very mild spell in February and March. In April we have had glorious sunshine for most of the time.

Hawthorn is also known as “may” because it does usually come into bloom in that month and the country hedges foam with the white flowers. It is also fragrant and you can smell it through open car windows as you drive through country lanes.

But the hawthorn is not the only flower in my garden that has a frothy appearance. There seems to be a theme going on in nature at the moment – lots of tiny flowers and sometimes an unexpected and heady perfume. Here are some other delicate delights from my garden…


Delicate cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) in the shade...


The Choisya ternata (Mexican orange blossom) also froths...


Green on green - little flowers of Euonymus alatus - this tree's main attraction is its autumn-red leaves...


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A pretty blue-black Phymatocera aterrima on the Solomon's seal in my garden today...

Many years ago we planted Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) in the civilised part of our shady garden, but within a few years it was in a mess. Every summer all the leaves would be eaten to shreds by the larvae of the Solomon’s seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima). To me they looked like the caterpillars of a butterfly.


An image of sawfly larvae on Solomon's seal, by Andrew Steele - click on the picture to go to his Photostream...

Now all those cultivated plants have disappeared but many have re-established themselves in the deep shade on a bank under trees – it is after all a native variety. I saw one such this morning and spotted beautiful blue-black flies on them, moving around quite quickly over and under the leaves. I guessed they must be the sawflies, although I had never recognised them in adult form before.

Funny how a species can become so entangled with a particular host…


My Solomon's seal is currently in flower...

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Pelargonium, April 16, 2011

I was so pleased with this picture of a pelargonium that I decided to give it its own blog post. It’s so wonderful and velvety.

Serendipitously, when I googled “red velvet” to find a suitable image to go with it, I discovered something I had never heard of – “red velvet cake”. It seems to be something common in the USA and Canada but not here in the UK.

Here are some recipes


Red velvet cake - click on the image for another recipe, from How Sweet It Is...

And here’s another image of the pelargonium (sometimes known as an old-style geranium).


Another view of the pelargonium...

For more of my flower pictures, click here.

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New hazel leaves (Corylus avellana) - added later: actually it's a hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

The other evening the spring sun was low in the sky and I couldn’t resist taking some back-lit pictures of new leaves on the street trees of the city.

I have already written about wonderful autumn leaves but they are also at their most glorious when they first open in spring.


Leaves of lime or linden (Tilia)


New growth in a beech hedge (Fagus sylvatica)


Very high up, the crown of a magnificent copper beech (Fagus sylvatica purpurea) with new red leaves and flowers visible

It’s interesting seeing those flowers on the (more…)

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Forward to the past - interstellar communication visualised by David A Hardy in 1972

This is a sudden posting, prompted merely by reading that Saturn is in opposition throughout the next few weeks, making it at its brightest to the naked eye.

So it’s a good time to recall the small telescope I owned in my childhood and to retrieve from my shelves a book called Challenge of the Stars (published by Mitchell Beazley in 1972 – although mine was a cheaper edition from Book Club Associates).


Challenge of the Stars by Patrick Moore and David A Hardy (1972)

The book is by Patrick Moore and illustrated by David A Hardy, whose images deserve some plaudits, I reckon, as I now realise they are the pictures I still have in my mind’s eye when I visualise the planets of our solar system. More about Hardy later…

Those were the days when a great Planetary Grand Tour of the outer solar system was still on the cards, in a decade when the gas giants were in a conveniently close alignment and could be used as gravitational slingshots to help a probe on its way after taking close-up pictures.

Patrick Moore enthused (more…)

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