Thursday, 30 July 2009

rain free hour

it stopped raining just long enough for these butterflies, the gatekeeper or hedge brown, to get out and about without being struck down by torrents of rain and a howling gale. Summer? There are also lots of red admirals about.

Friday, 24 July 2009


some of the insects out in the sun today. The red admiral must be brand new or an immigrant and is showing the lovely blue tracery on the edge of its wings. Not sure whether the middle photo is a wasp or a bee (one of the cuckoo bees, Nomada) or some sort of horse fly. Shield bug at top attacking windscreen/shield.

ps the middle photo is neither a bee nor a wasp but a gaudy imitator, a sawfly from the Tenthredinidae family. It is amazing how many hover flies and sawflies imitate bees and wasps. We are slowly getting to grips with this, no longer will we call any old striped insect a bee or a wasp.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

cotehele - traveller's joy

the Tamar at Cotehele (a few miles south of home), and below, traveller's joy (or old man's beard), a wild clematis, with a soft vanilla scent. The name is reputedly relatively recent (John Gerard in 16th century) but it is such a striking plant I find it difficult to think it did not have earlier names. The dry winter stems were smoked (hence boy's bacca and shepherd's delight). It had no use in herbal medicine and seems to have been valued for its habit of climbing through hedges by the side of roads, and providing shade.

goldfinch - the one that got away

I have just fledged. It is not my fault I can't tell double glazing from the mouth of a cave. Thank you for keeping me warm. See you. And off it (a juvenile goldfinch, not a chaffinch as at first identified) went.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

very small guys

Spot found these minute white, semi transparent mushrooms growing under a fallen tree. He has no idea what species they are.

Eden images

images from one of our regular trips to the Eden Project .

my hand too

the giant seed pod

meadow flowers

that horsey look

and pigs in domes

Friday, 10 July 2009

don't throw sticks

There was an item on our local news tonight (see link)about advice from a vet not to throw sticks for dogs in case they catch them in the air and the stick sticks in their throats. Cassie would like to speak to him about gratuitous advice and dog rights. Try throwing this one.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

a roll in the hay

no matter, it's that time of year again, time for a roll in the hay and a roll on the hogweed if you can get it.

two variable longhorn beetles. The female is much larger than the male. The larvae live in tree stumps and dead wood.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

the last of the summer wine 2

Hemp agrimony, the third of the tall hedgerow plants with large flat or daisy like flowers to appear after meadowsweet and valerian, and before orpine. The forest of long white styles is characteristic of this plant which is much favoured by butterflies as summer goes on. Named eupatorium after Mithradates VI Eupator, King of Pontus in 120BC.

pink hogwash

a spotted longhorn beetle on some pink hogweed (it is usually a greyish white). Hogweed seems to attract a wide range of unsavoury types including horse and other biting flies. The better class of umbellifer attract butterflies and bees. Why?

the last of the summer wine

this tattered and exhausted butterfly is the end result of days of flying about in the sun, avoiding birds, rain, and high winds. I am not even sure what type of butterfly it is. One of the brown family (meadow or hedge).

Looks like I feel these days, and how Spot looks at his best, ragged.

Monday, 6 July 2009

AC Grayling

some of the thoughts of AC Grayling, philosopher and mordant wit.

A human lifespan is less than a thousand months long. You need to make some time to think how to live it.

The democracy of blogging and tweeting is absolutely terrific in one way. It is also the most effective producer of rubbish and insult and falsehood we have yet invented.

I am putting together a secular bible. My Genesis is when the apple falls on Newton's head.

I spent the first 13 years of my life in Zambia. In Africa you can't walk in the countryside and think. You might be eaten by a lion. You have to read instead.

My mother was a straight-up-and-down racist of a very marked kind. She used to laugh at the shopping lists the cook would try to copy out. It would never have occurred to her to teach him to read.

I would imagine Jesus was a kind of Jewish reformer. If you were looking for an equivalent to the figure you dimly perceive through the gospels it would probably be a Richard Dawkins.

I'm a vegetarian, but I wear leather shoes. Some people say that's a contradiction; I say I'm doing my best.

I used to be a terrible hypochondriac when I was young and a great reader of medical dictionaries. One day I realised that I was not actually frightened of terminal illness but of not getting done the things I wanted to get done.

I recently retraced on foot a famous journey that William Hazlitt made from Shropshire to Somerset to visit Wordsworth and Coleridge. I spent two weeks slogging through nettle beds before I realised the bastard had taken the coach.

When I was 14 a chaplain at school gave me a reading list. I read everything and I went back to him with a question: how can you really believe in this stuff?

I'm passionately in favour of legalising heroin and cocaine. But I despise people who depend on these things. If you really want a mind-altering experience, look at a tree.

I don't believe in killing animals, but I think President Obama did a justifiable thing in swatting a fly. Flies spread disease.

I have enough faith in statistics to know there must be conscious life on other planets.

Initials can be useful to hide behind. I once heard Jonathan Ross on the radio asking Kirsty Young who she had coming up on Desert Island Discs. When she mentioned "AC Grayling" Ross replied: "Oh, I know her."

Science is the outcome of being prepared to live without certainty and therefore a mark of maturity. It embraces doubt and loose ends.

I'm not sure it is possible to think too much. You don't refresh your mind by partying in Ibiza.

Life is all about relationships. By all means sit cross-legged on top of a mountain occasionally. But don't do it for very long.

Every professor of philosophy needs a nine-year-old daughter. Mine has a habit of saying, "Daddy, that is a very silly idea." She is always right.


Liberty in the Age of Terror, by AC Grayling, is published by Bloomsbury, 12.99


thanks to BRIAN CHAMPNESS, raconteur, author and authority on Bose

Sunday, 5 July 2009

silver washed muscovy damselflies

These three pictures show a wild muscovy duck (or an escapee), a white legged damselfly, and a silver washed fritillary (male qv) feeding on bramble flowers in a glade in the woods. The white legged damselfly is uncommon (see link) but there were a lot about this morning, you can see the white leg grasping the head of the grass. We disgraced ourselves by rushing up to see what someone with a very large camera was photographing ... he was not much pleased to see his specimen fly away, and he didn't seem to want to take dog photographs, and he may not have much sense of humour. Mind you we were less intrusive than the little boy with the butterfly net.

more from the Tamar valley AONB

Inspired by the nightjar walk, we decided to explore the Tamar trails created by TV AONB. We started at Bedford saw mills and walked down to the Tamar and then up and down the trail that follows the river. The first photo shows a giant hogweed. It is described as an aggressive and nuisance invader and it is irritant to the skin, but nevertheless it is very impressive. The sheep are grazing in meadows of Blanchdown farm Unfortunately this means you cannot walk along the river bank at this point.

The water in the stream below has stained the rocks a vivid green I suspect this must be due to minerals washing out of mine workings higher up the valley. The foliage also looks an unnaturally bright green and that always makes me suspect that there are high concentrations of metals in the soil. (Is this the explanation, see link )?

nightjars and glowworms 2

Eventually, in the late dusk, we heard the unmistakeable and eerie sound of the nightjars "churring", and then very briefly we caught sight of one flitting through the trees with the characteristic wings up flight as it chased its prey of large moths. They went on chirring through rain, a distant thunderstorm, and a firework display laid on by the Horn of Plenty (which, I think, used to be the mine captain's house and is now an incredibly expensive but very fine restaurant and hotel). By this time, of course, it was so dark we wouldnt have been able to take a photograph of one even if it had landed on our hand. So the best substitute is the RSPB link where you can hear the amazing churring call. On our way back, stumbling through the dark we came across some glowworms. Sad to say we have never seen a glowworm before. As this blog is a mainly a pictorial account of our life, Spot insists that I include the photograph of the glow worm's the green bit on the left. A case of nature imitating William Scott (see earlier blog).
So we would like to thank Richard Hibbert, bird expert, and Ruth Davies (the AONB information officer) for a very special and enjoyable evening.

nightjars and glowworms

We went on a bit of an expedition last night. Under the auspices of the Tamar valley AONB (the man in the picture on the link is Furgus Parsons, who owns Spot's grandmother, lurcher Bracken, and Cassie's brother Byron, and he made our wonderful walnut dining room table), we went for a trip to the site of the Devon Great Consuls mine, once the largest copper and arsenic mine in the world (and probably the galaxy).

The site is like something from Mars, a great arsenical spoil heap in a barren landscape.

The ravaging of the landscape by the aristocracy has had the one serendipitous effect of creating a heathland habitat suitable for the elusive and mysterious nightjar. And even the toxic spoil tip has been used by sand martins as a nesting site. It was too dark to capture the martins as they flew in and out of the small holes in the side of the tip.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

floral butteflies

the yellow flower at the top is meadow vetchling, the lower and rather exotic picture is of a poppy (not wild as far as I can tell).

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

lack of punctuation

the air is full of butterflies especially ringlets and meadow browns, possibly because grasses have grown exceptionally well this year. This colourful specimen is a comma, showing only its upper wings (the eponymous mark is on the other side).