Tag Archives: Nature

Wordless Wednesday: Swan Pond

Swan_on_pond
Swan on the pond

J Peggy Taylor

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: What’s This?

Zooming in on photo details can sometimes play tricks on our brains. “What’s this?” we ask. Can we guess without more context?

Here are my zoomed-in photo subjects for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. Nature was my muse … as she so often is for my photos 😉

1. What's this zoomed-in image
1. What’s This?
2. What's this zoomed-in image?
2. What’s This?
What's this zoomed-in image?
3. What’s This?

Next week I will create a post showing the original photos, so you can see my zooms in context!

You can join in the fun and see what others have spotted for “What’s This?” on Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

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Greater Stitchwort's starry flowers

Let’s find out ‘What I’m going to be when I grow up’! The plant quiz answers.

Last Monday I posed a little plant quiz here on Oak Trees Studio … the plants were mainly flowering woodland plants that had not yet quite flowered. A few of my keen-eyed readers have had some fun puzzling over the photos and trying to work out “What I’m going to be when I grow up”. Everyone correctly identified some of them and came close on others. Here are the plants in their more usual flowering glory, complete with their names.

Mystery wildflower No.1

This one was definitely going to be a member of the thistle family, but which one?

Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustra

The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland
The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland

We see lots of these tall and rather slender thistles growing in our damp woodlands.

Mystery wildflower No.2

The best clue I could find was its muddy habitat – this one likes its feet wet. I love its Latin name! I always think it should be a Roald Dahl character.

Brooklime Veronica beccabunga

Brooklime - the puddle flower
Brooklime – the flower that likes to grow in puddles

Here’s a closer shot of those beautiful blue – but rather shy – flowers …

Brooklime flowers
Brooklime flowers

We find lots of Brooklime growing on one of our favourite woodland paths – we call it “the muddy path”!

Mystery flower No.3

This strong-growing umbellifer with its large hairy leaves grows ubiquitously in our area, along roadsides and woodland rides. Perhaps it is not quite so common in other parts of the country, though it evidently reminded some people of other members of the umbellifer family.

Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

Hogweed flowers with hoverfly
Hogweed flowers with hoverfly

Mystery flower No.4

This delicate woodland flower is almost bursting into flower in our woodlands now. It is a plant with two common names – it probably depends where you live as to which name you know it by. One quiz entrant named it as Wood Avens and that’s its main name in my wildflower ID book so there we are. It’s delicate bright yellow 5-petalled flowers don’t last long and soon turn into hooked reddish seedheads.

Wood Avens (or as I know it, Herb Bennet) Geum urbanum
[and would you believe it! I can’t find any photos of it just at the moment! photo will follow! … fortunately they are almost flowering now! :)]

UPDATE: 15th June 2015 ~ After our woodland wander this weekend – here are the photos I promised🙂

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) seedhead
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) – red hooked seedhead

Mystery flower No.5

This was the easy one that everyone spotted. The trifoliate leaves and those fluffy pinkish buds were a give-away, weren’t they?

Red Clover Trifolium pratense

Red Clover on the Railway Meadow
Red Clover on the Railway Meadow

… and here’s a closer view of this Summer meadow stalwart.

Red Clover flower
Red Clover flower

Mystery flower No.6

This flower has those small and shiny, spoon-shaped leaves with serrated edges on quite solid, straight stems. Its flowers form as dimpled buttons then burst open with sunny radiance in late Spring and early Summer. Many people will have a version of this flower growing in their gardens.

Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare

Oxeye Daisy flowers with gorse
Oxeye Daisy flowers with gorse

We find Oxeye Daisies growing along some of our old railway paths but they are equally at home along our woodland rides too. I love their sunny flowers.

… and finally – what was that mystery seedling?

At this time of year, the large seed leaves of these tiny seedlings are just beginning to be overshadowed by the first true leaves of this popular forest friend. The woodland floor is dotted with these curious seedlings as they form a mini-forest of their own among the feet of their super-sized parents.

Beech Fagus sylvatica

Beech seedling at the foot of a Beech tree
Beech seedling at the foot of a Beech tree

… and here are our beechwoods in their cool luxurious Summer greens.

Summer Beechwoods

At the end of last week’s quiz post I mentioned how the Beech seedling’s over-sized seed leaves reminded me of an umbrella and how the leaves of the parent tree can make a useful umbrella when caught in a sharp Summer downpour. Here are our younger boys in their Beech tree ‘rain shelter’ when we were caught out in one such Summer rain storm a few years ago.

The beechwood drenching and 'rain shelter'
The beechwood ‘rain shelter’

Thank you to everyone who took part in my little plant quiz and for all your comments. It’s been fun finding the photos of the plants in flower … even though Wood Avens seem to have slipped through our usual enthusiastic level of photography of woodland wildflowers! Ah well, another trip to the woods is going to be needed to remedy that soon 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Birdwatching toddler

Are you ready for the Big Garden Bird Watch?

Do you live in the UK? Can you spare an hour to watch the birds in your garden next weekend? 24-25 Jan 2015 is the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch.

The annual Big Garden Bird Watch is the world’s largest wildlife survey, organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds here in the UK. The survey provides a really useful snapshot of the birds we are currently seeing in our gardens. Now in its 36th year, the data from the Big Garden Bird Watch builds up with all of our results each year. Hundreds of thousands of us across the country will spend an hour of our choice over the weekend watching the birds in our gardens. Around half a million of us counted 7 million birds last year! It is so easy to take part, many of us drink tea and eat biscuits at the same time 🙂

To do the survey, all we need to do is record how many of each bird species we see in the garden at any one time. You can record the birds you see directly onto the RSPB website.

Most of us will see our common UK garden birds – but if you aren’t too sure about identifying the birds you see, there’s help at hand on the RSPB website. Here on the What to look out for page you’ll see the birds that most often visit gardens, along with information on the kind of food they prefer and whether they’re the acrobatic type that hang on bird feeders or if they’re more likely to be seen down on the ground. There’s also the Bird Guide that can help you out with any less-common species.

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

Bird populations are a good indicator of wider wildlife health in our countryside, so as a keen nature watcher I always like to take part in this survey. If you can spare an hour this weekend to help find out how our feathered friends and other wildlife are faring, please visit the RSPB’s website here and register to take part.

Our 10 jackdaws were the only entrants from us for last year’s Big Garden Bird Watch. After we’ve done our survey this weekend I’ll let you know which birds we see this time. If you do take part in the survey, it would be good to see your results too.

J Peggy Taylor

Bark and Leaves for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Bark is brown and leaves are green … aren’t they?
Well … sometimes … sort-of … it depends! Take a look – what do you think?

Woodland leaves - from green to brown
Woodland leaves – from green to brown

If you’re in the temperate latitudes of the northern hemisphere like me, you too have most probably been enjoying the glorious colours of Autumn. In Autumn, we say the leaves on our deciduous trees and shrubs ‘turn colour’. There’s another odd idea! Of course, the leaves always have a colour but we mean the leaves have turned from their Summer shade of green to their Autumn tints of reds, oranges, yellows and browns.

We’ve had a very mild Autumn here in the UK with a good amount of sunshine. This means we have had plenty of opportunity to enjoy the woods at this beautiful time of year. The sunlit leaves glow in their Autumn colours. Their year’s work done, the breeze releases them one by one and they drift earthwards to join the deepening carpet upon the woodland paths. Who does not love to trail through the Autumn leaves! It is one of the joys of the season! This leafy carpet does provide another service too. Its warm blanket creates a welcome habitat for many small creatures looking for a cosy place to spend the Winter.

Tree bark with luminous green lichen
Tree bark with luminous green lichen

Tree bark fascinates me. Its touchable textures vary hugely from tree to tree, from smooth undulations to deep ravines. On a recent woodland walk I spotted these examples of bark. We often see this luminous green lichen on the trees in our woods. When it rains, this lichen really glows against the dark, wet bark.

The tempting textures of Atlas Cedar bark
The tempting textures of Atlas Cedar bark

We don’t have many Atlas Cedars in our woods – only the one, I think, and it is part of an interesting tree trail of labelled species. The Atlas Cedar is one of the trees I like to look out for along the trail. The texture and varying shades of brown of the bark give the Atlas Cedar its own unique mosaic.

The many colours of Oak bark
So many hues, from greens to purples, in this wonderfully textured Oak tree bark

I couldn’t write about tree bark without including my very favourite tree, the English Oak. This particular Oak tree is near the entrance to our woods, so we pass by it very often. The Oak bark is a myriad of different colours. Oaks support an amazing array of other animal and plant life. The mosses and lichens create so many shades of green on the deeply textured bark. The late afternoon sun also lent a purple cast to the remaining ‘brown’ patches of the bark.

Were the leaves green and was the bark brown? I did find some green leaves on my walk, but I also found yellows, reds, orange and brown. Some of the bark was brown, though not all one shade of brown, of course. But some of it was blue, purple and so many shades of green. So, yes. Sometimes. Sort-of. It depends. 🙂

Do take a look at the other entries for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of bark and leaves.

J Peggy Taylor

Dreamy landscapes for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Misty day on the Stoney Road - monochrome
Waiting by the old road in swirling mist – is this a dream?

Imagine – you’re waiting here alone. Darkness will fall soon. Suddenly you begin to hear galloping hooves approaching through the mist. Your heart leaps, but you’re also trembling. You know soon you will be escaping from the lurking dangers of the night …

A Summer's day at the river
A time to dream – Summer on the riverbank

Imagine – you’re sitting on the sunny riverbank on this warm Summer’s day. Shafts of sunlight stream through the tree boughs that overhang the slow-moving river. Your eyes are mesmerised by the river’s kaleidoscope of gentle swirling green reflections as you drift into your sun-warmed dream …

You can find more interpretations of this dreamy challenge on this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Colourful Winter sunrise silhouettes the early morning landscape

Nature’s Colour Contrasts for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Nature has a keen eye for colour and she greets us in every season with so many different colour contrasts.

Pink and yellow

In our valley we are treated to some colourful Winter sunrises when the sky is aglow with amazing pinks and yellows.

Yellow and green

Yellow Winter Aconites against green leaves
The golden globes of Winter Aconites and their bright green leaves

It was mid-February this year when we spotted the glorious golden globes of the Winter Aconites Eranthis hyemalis as we took a woodland walk one sunny afternoon. I always look forward to seeing these flowers blooming for they bring with them the promise that Spring is not far off.

Yellow and blue

Yellow Gorse against blue sky
Gorse in bloom against the bright blue February sky

Gorse is a rather prickly shrub that grows widely in wild places in our area. Its yellow pea-type flowers begin to bloom from late January bringing some welcome brightness in our hedges and woods, replacing the browns of Winter.

Purple and orange

Purple and orange - crocuses in early Spring
Crocuses in early Spring

Like many people, we grow a pot or two of crocuses in our back yard. When our purple crocuses bloom, I know that Winter really is past and Spring is here to stay. The bright orange stamens seem to glow when the Spring sunshine catches them.

Purple and green

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

Our family has spent many happy hours focusing on creatures on Common Knapweed – literally! This beautiful purple flower of Summer is one of my favourite colours and the greens of the grass and foliage create a perfect backdrop.

Orange and purple

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Colourful butterflies are another delight of Summer. The orange of this Comma butterfly contrasts well against the purple thistles.

Red-orange and green

Rowanberries - close-up
Rowanberries really are full of sunshine

As the Summer draws to a close, the hedgerows fill up with Autumn fruits. Red berries against green foliage are a certain reminder that it is time to stock up the larder with these juicy fruits, full of captured Summer sunshine, to see us through the dark days of Winter. We also make sure we leave plenty for the birds and beasties.

Do take a look at the ‘Contrasting Colors’ others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Are our Swallows ready for adventure?

Swallows prepare to migrate
We know the Swallows are preparing to migrate when we see them perched on the wires near our house

I’m very fond of Swallows, their grace and elegance in flight is mesmerising. Watching them is one of the joys of Summer. I love the way they ‘talk’ to each other, constantly, whilst they are on the wing too – though I have occasionally pondered on this propensity to ‘talk’ and eat at the same time! However, I will forgive Swallows their table manners because here in the UK they are our often-longed-for heralds of Summer.

If the weather is sufficiently mild, from early April I will scan the skies regularly, searching for the Swallows returning after their Winter sojourn to Africa. By chance it was Easter Sunday when I spotted my first Swallow flitting high in the sky over our street – that was 20th April this year and we’d been enjoying a warm and sunny few days. There is an old saying, “One swallow doth not a Summer make,” but seeing the first one is always cause for uplifted spirits and hope.

There is an old saying, “One swallow doth not a Summer make,” but seeing the first one is always cause for uplifted spirits and hope.

There are really two reasons I am pleased to see the Swallows return to our skies. The first is the happy one I have said above, the Swallows bring with them the promise that the sunny days of Summer are not too far off. The second reason is rather darker – I am thankful that at least some of them have survived the long and dangerous journey that they must endure as they migrate between here, in the north of England, and South Africa, then back again in the Spring. Starvation, exhaustion and storms mean that many birds will not survive this hazardous round trip. Flying around 200 miles each day and a total of over 5500 miles (9400 km) in each direction is an amazing feat for a bird that is only 7 1/2 inches (19cm) from its beak to the tip of its long tail feathers.

Swallows look so small against the sky as they perch on the wires
The Swallows look so small against the sky as they perch on the wires in our lane

I always feel a tinge of sadness when I see our Swallows begin to gather on the wires outside our house. For us, it means the end of Summer and the year drawing on into the colder months of Autumn and Winter. For the Swallows, it means they are about to embark on their dangerous adventure – for the young ones it is their first time. I wish them well for a safe journey and a safe return.

The Swallows’ migration route takes them from where we are in north east England, to the south coast of England, across the English Channel and down through the west of France, across the mountains of the Pyrenees and down the east of Spain to Morocco. Then, incredibly, many Swallows cross the Sahara Desert as part of their migration route, though others take a course down the west of Africa to reach South Africa.

You can find more information about Swallows and see some close-up images on the RSPB’s webpages.

I wonder, how did Swallows and many other bird species evolve to have this adventurous spirit that causes them to cover such vast distances and face such huge risks? Migration truly is one of the wonders of nature.

You can learn more on what “Adventure” means to others in this week’s WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor