I H8.1 You!

(Not you, him, her or whatever)

This is a post about something that has been frustrating me and causing me immense grief over the last couple of months. I have wanted to write about it but it isn’t really related to nature, at least it wasn’t but now I have dug up a relative.

Black Bryony This is the male flower of the Black Bryony. There is a female flower but I haven’t found it yet, that has also been a small frustration in my life but that is nature and it is something that I love. I don’t love my computer.

Black Bryony In fact I am planning to murder my computer.

Black BryonyIf anyone has done murder and gotten away with it then please leave a comment, it would help me immensely and I wouldn’t tell anyone but anyway I think that I have come up with the perfect crime.

Black BryonyThat is a picture of Black Bryony berries and it took three attempts to upload it because my PC is constantly disconnected from the Wi-Fi, Oh! and also those are deadly poisonous berries.

My computer has a little, slidey, in and out thing for DVD’s and it will eat whatever I give it 🙂

This is Spindle…

Spindle Um…. The berries are poisonous.


Honeysuckle(Disconnected again)

Lovely flower. Guess what the berries are?

HoneysuckleThe Arum Lily…

Arum Lily(Disconnected)

No come on, try and guess my interest. (Absolutely deadly)Arum LilyHolly, obviously.

HollyI am a good cook, my Poison Pie is to die for.

Ivy is good.



Now I have heard about Bill Gates, he is one year older than me and worth roughly 73 billion more than me and I have heard that he is a good man but I am Lord Tusk, beloved of the faeries and I will execute his machine if Windows 10 doesn’t work.

I don’t have any berries at the moment, it is too early in the year. I have subscribed to a Windows 10 download at the end of July, by then the berries will be out.

After I have done murder I will buy a tablet that doesn’t use Windows. That is the plan.

Woody Nightshade is good 🙂

Woody Nightshade

Woody NightshadeEat your pie, Computator, it’ll put hairs on your chest 🙂

Sweet Peas?

Well they are Fabaceae (The Pea family) and they are sweet….

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot TrefoilThis is Lotus corniculatus, the Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

There is a patch of common land between myself and the local village that is absolutely covered with this lovely little pea and it is a very special place.

This is not just a pretty little flower… It is so much more than that.

Bird's-foot TrefoilThis is the food plant for some of the most beautiful insects and it is just because of this little flower that this little patch of common will soon be the best of places.

Common Blue Butterfly It is the main food plant of the Common Blue Butterfly (Polyommatus icarus). By food plant I mean that it is one of only a few plants that the caterpillars are able to eat. So the butterfly lays it’s eggs on Bird’s-foot Trefoil. The butterfly and the flower go hand in hand.

(Female and then male pictured below)Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue ButterflyAlso the Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena filipendulae)…

Six-spot Burnet and another little day flying moth called the Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica) so called because it can often be found in the company of Burnet moths.

Burnet CompanionThey are all here for the same reason, there is Bird’s-foot Trefoil growing here.

Bird's-foot TrefoilSome people view it as an invasive lawn weed and some people like astroturf. I understand that. It is not quiet or uniform and you do not have control.

The flowers bring insects and they attract birds and it can be a terrible mess of stuff going on but…

If I won the lottery this is what I would have. I would get my Mac on and I would be in my element… Taking pictures of the little animals.

Six-spot Burnet

Common Blue ButterflyAnd the good news is that nobody needs to win the lottery, you just  have to find it. It is in the fields now 🙂

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Menageries a trois, and other concerns…

This is a bird update.

House Martins:

House Martin

For those unversed in the ways of the world a  “Managerie a trois” is what the French call it when three animals try to share the same nest. I am pleased to report that Helen and ‘Arold have chosen a more respectable path.

This is now a happy nest.

I am pretty sure that we don’t have any hatchlings yet but we do have eggs. The nest is never left unattended, they seem to be taking the incubation in turns and every two minutes they swap places but that is about all that is happening on the Martins nest.

We solved the New Potato problem. We left a note saying, “More potatoes tomorrow.”

The Robin:

European Robin

This is going well. I put my new feeder out a couple of days ago. At first no bird would approach it but they were interested and hanging about the area.

On the second day I saw Robins hanging around. I took food from the feeder and threw it on the ground for them and they got it.

They have accepted the feeder.

My plan for the next couple of weeks is just to try and create an association between my presence and food.  They will see me filling the feeder and having it so close means that I can continue to take food from the feeder and toss it to them when I see them about.

My presence?

They eat my presents 🙂 We are a bit away from gifting live Wax Worms.

Later I shall be mean and only offer a few worms when I open the door. The bravest bird will learn to take them while I am still there, if he doesn’t the others will get them and Robins are very brave little birds.

The Swallows:

Barn Swallow

I sometimes think that the others aren’t even trying, like they don’t want to be famous. Rosa is a star. She breaks my heart, she makes me laugh, she is just tough competition for any other bird that wants to be on this blog.

The little ones are still fluffy. I can see four chicks in the nest but at this stage they are small and downy, so there may be a fifth.

Hey, Here are Rosa’s babies… Go full screen to see how sweet they are.

These birds are working hard to feed their chicks. Unlike most of the other garden birds I can’t help with the feeding, they have to catch their dinner on the wing but they seem to be doing a good job of it.

It is a busy life being a parent. Things have to be constantly brought into the nest and things have to be taken away. I would not recommend going full screen on this next one unless you are either a naturalist (Somebody who likes to take their clothes of outdoors, when Al isn’t there) or if you just want to get back on your children and gross them out a bit for what parenthood involves.

Well that video tells me that the chicks are being well fed and neither adult is shirking from their parental duties.

The yard is full of Swallows with little white packages in their beaks, looking for suitable targets, I presume and that will probably be the first sign that we see of the House Martins hatching. For now the Martins are still frantically gathering mud. Building extensions and brightening up nurseries. It is not just our pair that are late, they all seem to be.

House Martins

Germander Speedwell

A little bit of flowery stuff 🙂

Germander SpeedwellThere are quite a few different Speedwells about just now and telling one from another can seem a bit daunting. The little blue flowers of different species can look very similar.

One day I will write a post about all the different types that I know and point out the differences, that will be a long post. Today I am just going to write about the Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys.

Fortunately Germander Speedwell has a unique identifiable feature that separates it from all of the others..

Germander Speedwelland we will get to that in a bit.

First the flower.

Germander SpeedwellGermander has multiple flowers growing from a single main flower stem on their own little stalks. This kind of arrangement is called a raceme and it helps to separate Germander from say, Persian Speedwell that just has one flower on each flower stem.

Germander Speedwell:
Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell

Persian Speedwell (Veronica persica)
Persian SpeedwellQuite a few Speedwells flower on racemes so that alone isn’t enough for a positive ID but it helps.

I usually look at the leaves first. They are a good indication of species as many of the Speedwells have quite distinctive leaves. In the case of the Germander they grow in opposite pairs.

Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell I suppose that I could tell you that “The leaves are in opposite pairs, triangular and crenate, sessile or with short petioles,” etc. etc. (Wikiwotsit) but I don’t think that kind of gobbledegook helps  anybody, they simply look like this.

Germander Speedwell

Now we come to the unique identifiable feature.

Germander Speedwell has two lines of hairs on opposite sides of the main stem, it is the only one of our Speedwells that has this feature and is is quite easy to see with the naked eye.

Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell It is only the main stem that has these two distinct lines of hairs, the flower stems have hairs all around them but if the main stem has this feature and the flowers and leaves fit then you have found a Germander Speedwell and nothing else 🙂

Germander Speedwell

I like it when flowers can be this positive about their own identity. It makes life easy.

Germander Speedwell

Germander Speedwell

I VOTED (Little “thumbs up” icon)

Well this time I had something important to vote for and I did know that my vote would be counted.

Fifty five years ago in Nineteen Hundred and Sixty we had a vote to determine Britain’s national bird. Some people are trying to pretend that didn’t count but it did.

This year we had a new vote to elect our “first ever” National Bird. I voted back in March, the polls closed on May  7th and today they announced the winner.

I won.

That is not really what this post is about.

There is a hole where my Robin used to be.

RobinI am surrounded by beautiful birds, I am like the Hugh Hefner of Gloucestershire in an ornithological kind of way. (They don’t have to wear bunny suits) but it is not enough. I miss him.

Now I don’t think that I have picked up many new readers since starting this blog and so you will already know what I am talking about but just in case…

Last December I noticed that every time I opened my door there was a Robin outside, singing his little heart out.

I thought to myself, “I could tame this bird.” and I did, it took me three months.

Robin By March it was eating out of my hand.RobinBut it wasn’t just that. The bird knew me, it would wait outside of my door for me to get up in the morning and as soon as I opened my door it would bounce onto that green hand rail. It sang to me all of the time. It was my friend, like Fizz is my friend and not like any other bird that I had ever met.

Around about now Fizz was starting to get a bit funny. She was keen to point out that eating out of my hand wasn’t a proper trick.

EatingAnyone can do eating.

Just when everything was going perfectly the bird disappeared. I don’t know why but it was probably related to the season.

There is a hole where my bird used to be and the Swallows and Martins can’t fill it.

This post is marking the day that I started again.

There is no Robin outside of my door this time and so it might take a little longer. I have bought a little feeder and hung it just outside of my door.


Behind the feeder, that green mess is a grape vine, I see Wrens, Dunnocks, Mice and sometimes Goldcrests there. I want Robins. I have to bring them back into this area, there are plenty in the back garden.

I don’t always get what I want but I try. I have the patience of the hunter.

Watch this space.

RobinAlso I am absolutely with the little children on this one, if you cannot have what you want at first then you should kick and scream and hold your breath until your face turns blue. We only live once and second best isn’t good enough 🙂

If you are determined and focused then you will achieve your goals.. I think. These days I have quite little goals, I already did the bigger ones 😉


Buttercup’s End

Yesterday they started cutting the fields. Don’t be sad, it is part of the natural cycle of the farm. They are just coppicing the Buttercups.

Buttercup coppicing

Buttercup coppicing

Buttercup coppicingThe Buttercups will grow back bigger and stronger than ever before but they won’t look like this again until next May. Coppicing them now allows light to reach the floor and it starts a whole new spurt of growth with different flowers that wouldn’t otherwise stand much chance.

Those fields were full of all kinds of wildflowers, not just Buttercups, there were clovers and speedwells, Dandelions, Dock and all sorts of grasses and now they are going to feed animals. I am glad that they are using the fields in this way, it is much more interesting than just grazing them all year round.

These fields will be allowed to grow again and they will be cut again in the late summer and by then they will look just as full as they did yesterday with a whole different selection of flowers. Clover will fill them for a while that is another beautiful thing to see.

For now though, Fizz and I had the big responsibility of enjoying every minute of the day and we tried really hard to do just that 🙂



She is what they call a “Companion Animal” but that is just another way of saying “Toy Dog.”

I consider myself to be “Young at Heart,” (Some people say, “In his second childhood,” that is not so kind but I suppose it amounts to the same thing. Young people think their marbles are so important but once you have lost them you forget that you ever had them and anyway they just hold you back)

“Young at Heart ” knows exactly what toys are for 🙂

Companion Animal

Companion Animal

Companion Animal

Companion AnimalI used a little Dog there to illustrate the extraordinary beauty of the fields, as they were last week. Did you see how I did that?

Companion AnimalI did take a few photographs of a serious botanical nature but…

Common Sorrel

Common SorrelThey are for elsewhere, mostly we just played.

Second Childhood? Oh yes, bring it on.

Fizz and I have a new habitat to explore today as we struggle on with our serious botanical research, one where we won’t keep losing our ball 🙂

I will let Fizz have the last word.

Misumena vatia (It’s Spiders!)

Aaargth! It’s another white one!

Misumena vatiaThis Spider is driving me nuts.

This is Misumena vatia. In Britain we call it the Crab Spider but in North America where the Goldenrod grows it is known as the Goldenrod Spider or simply the Flower Spider.

This spider is an ambush predator, it hides on flower heads and waits for it’s prey to arrive.

It has the ability to change colour to match the flower it is hiding on and they do come in beautiful golden yellow. All I ever find is white ones.

Misumena vatia

Misumena vatia(Well they can’t do pink, obviously)

The closest that I have ever come to a golden spider was in May of last year. This one does look a little bit jaundiced.

Misumena vatia

Misumena vatiaI have tried taking them and placing them on a yellow flower but they don’t change colour for me they just run away.

I suppose the thing to do would be to get myself a nice yellow pot plant and keep it in a cage on my windowsill and then add spiders. (I am probably going to do that next)

I don’t feel qualified to write about Misumena vatia without being able to show it’s amazing colour changing abilities.

Yesterday I found a white one.

Misumena vatiaIt wanted to embrace me and I thought  well, why not?

Misumena vatia So I offered it the hand of friendship.

Misumena vatia I sympathise with everybody who has a fear of Spiders.

It isn’t an irrational fear, it is a very sensible fear. All over the world there are Spiders that can give you a very painful bite and some that can kill you. Everybody should have an instinctive fear of spiders.

A lot of people in  Britain have this same fear so I think that it must be imprinted within us from birth, some primitive memory passed on genetically.

There are no dangerous spiders in Britain, very, very few have strong enough mouth parts to even pierce human skin. (The Natural History Museum has a short list of those that can, if you want to worry about it UK Spider Bites 🙂 )

Misumena vatiaThis beautiful lady won’t bite me. This one is a female, the males are tiny, only about 5mm across and that is another challenge for me, find a male spider)

Misumena vatiaAnyway I can’t pinch this one. It wouldn’t have been the hand of friendship if I intended to abduct the creature, it would have been a trick. I will put it back now.

Misumena vatia

Misumena vatiaAnyway, I haven’t got my yellow flower yet.

Misumena vatia Take care little animal.Misumena vatia

Squabbling Martins

This is just going to be a quick post about the Martins.

Fizz and I are spending most of our time out in the fields because all around us the fields are being cut now and we just want to enjoy the long grass and wildflowers while we have them, I will post about that in a bit.

There isn’t a great deal going on in the Martins nest but there are some funny things happening that I want to put on record.

Most of the time it is like this.

There is normally at least one bird in the nest and a lot of coming and going. I am guessing that they have got eggs but none hatched yet.

I don’t know how easy it will be to follow what is going on when they do hatch because unlike the Swallows this all happens indoors. I am expecting the chicks to become impatient as they get older and start putting their heads out, looking for mum and dad’s return. We will see.

House Martin

There is something strange going on, something that I don’t understand yet.

At this stage I would expect them to be paired up, nest established, eggs laid (The Swallows have got hatchlings) They should all pretty much know what’s going on and how things are going to pan out this summer.

There is quite a lot of squabbling going on around the nest.

I have had to slow this video right down to be clear about what is happening here, there are three birds involved and one of them is being pulled out of the nest by the nose.

I have seen this sort of action at least three times already but only caught it on film once.

House Martins are social birds and normally nest in small colonies of at least four or five nests. This is the only nest on this side of the house but there are Martins all around the farm and not very far away. They should get on well together.

If anyone knows what is going on then please feel free to comment.

I think that I heard the words, “You Hussy!” being cheeped but I lost the sound when I slowed down the video 🙂

Rosa’s Secret

I spent a good part of my day today filming the Martins. Not a lot is happening. One bird is staying in the nest a lot and I think they have eggs but no evidence of new life yet.

Much as I want to watch the Martins this year it is very hard to ignore the other beautiful birds that are nesting just below.

Barn Swallows mate for life and they return to their old nests, sometimes. I am just going to believe that these are the same birds that left here last September, the birds that gave me so much enjoyment last year.

So here is a quick recap of what happened last year.

Fred and Rosa had three broods. The first was five birds and I watched and filmed them grow in the nest.

Barn SwallowsI was able to watch them take their first flights and then they were gone.

Barn SwallowsThe second brood was not so successful. They all died and Rosa was distraught.

There was a call that she had made when she was encouraging her chicks to take their first flight. Calling her babies to her. I had previously only heard this on the day that they fledged but now it became her constant lament. It went on for about two weeks and she just cried all of the time.

There was a problem. I had picked up two dead chicks from under the nest and removed them. It soon became apparent (from the smell) that there was at least one more still in the nest that she couldn’t throw out. The nest was uninhabitable.

They went to work and they built a new nest on the opposite side of the passage.

Barn SwallowRosa had her third brood and it was just one chick. I don’t know if this was the right thing to do but she was happy again and it was so nice to see her happy and not to have to listen to her constant wailing. I think that Fred was relieved too.

The problem with a third brood is that even the second brood has a hard time with the migration, they have less time to prepare than the first brood. Her single chick fledged and that was in September and they all left just days after he had learned to fly.

I have since learned that not all of the Swallows go all of the way to South Africa. The RSPB report that a significant minority overwinter in Southern Europe so maybe he made it, we will never know.

She’s back.

And unlike the Martins she has got something in her nest. It is too little to see yet…

The first bird that you see on the nest is the female, that is Rosa. The second bird is Fred. The white sac that Fred removes from the nest is the evidence that they have at least one egg hatched.

Who’s a clever girl then?

You should really watch this next video full screen, just to see Rosa’s reaction to her hatchling.

Fred however is not so perfect.

The birds separate during the migration and in Rosa’s absence Fred has picked up a little something. I don’t think Rosa has noticed yet.

Again go full screen to see what is running around on Fred’s back.

Most birds suffer from some sort of ectoparasite. Most of them are so small that you wouldn’t know to look at the bird. These are quite big and Fred is going to have some trouble keeping them a secret from Rosa.

I know that it is a bit “yuk” but we are scientists and we have to observe these things and learn from them 🙂

BTW I don’t know what they are yet. If anybody does please tell me.

Edit (The next day): I think that I may have identified the parasite as Louse flies, Crataerina hirundinis and I am adding tags to this post in the hope of drawing more authoritative comment 🙂


Or Woody Nightshade. I am talking about Solanum dulcamara.

I didn’t find it here on the farm  until September last year and by that time all that I had to photograph was the fruit.

Woody NightshadeI have been watching and waiting since then and today the first flowers opened.

Bittersweet flower bud

Bittersweet flower

Bittersweet FlowerIt is a typical Nightshade flower with the petals turned sharply back and the stamens are actually held in place like that with a glue that the plant produces. If it doesn’t produce the glue they go all over the place.

This next picture is a Black Nightshade flower, Solanum nigrum (It is called Black Nightshade because the berries are “Black” not the flower 🙂 ).

Black Nightshade flower

Back to Woody Nightshade.

Each petal has a small white spot with a green centre at the very base of it’s inside surface. These spots are exposed when the petals turn back.

Bittersweet flower

Bittersweet Flower

Bittersweet Flower

Bittersweet FlowerThe leaf shape is often described as variable and confusing. It is not that bad really, they look more or less like this….

Bittersweet LeafAs you get toward the tip of the vine they start to develop either one or two little lobes at the base.

Bittersweet leaf

Bittersweet leaf

Bittersweet leafAs you might expect from a Nightshade the berries are poisonous (Not all Nightshades are poisonous, Black Nightshade is grown as a food crop in many parts of the world and I have just been reading that it is grown as a food crop in North America. Suit yourselves 🙂 )

Woody Nightshade is poisonous.

Bittersweet BerriesIt is not excessively poisonous but there are records of children dying after eating the berries, so how poisonous does it have to be?

But what I am getting at is that unless you have some severe reaction, one berry won’t kill you, if you want to know what they taste like. I have read, from people who did want to know, that they are bitterly disgusting and I am prepared to accept that.

That is the reason that people don’t normally die from eating them. You have to eat a lot, thirty, forty or more, so you would have  to hate yourself to keep on munching after the first one.

Bittersweet fruit

Bittersweet fruit

Bittersweet fruitSo that is it for Solanum dulcamara for today. I am sure that I will watch the fruits develop through the summer and write about it again later in the year.

There are some other fruits that I only discovered after the flowers were spent. Black Bryony is almost ready, I am just waiting for the female flowers, the males are already open. Also the Guelder Rose, that is not going so well, I have lost it but expect to find it again when it flowers 🙂

Nature notes from the Forest of Dean