Monday, June 30, 2008

shady woodpecker

a juvenile great spotted woodpecker, spotted in the woods today. These birds are very shy and like to stay out of line of sight.

Spot has been told he has got to do some time in dog borstal to cure his obsession with blogging ... more of this soon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

is it national bug week?

It is national bug week (link), we ought to celebrate. Here are three butterflies caught in action today, the marbled white (top) the meadow brown (middle) and the ringlet (bottom), feeding on clover and thistle, and just plain resting.

more from the spider's web

I was fascinated to find this silky spider nursery full of junior spiders, guarded by mum lurking in the undergrowth. The nursery is surprisingly robust. I have no idea which species of spider builds these nurseries.

country lanes

meadowsweet, valerian, foxgloves, hedge bedstraw, wood sage and ferns provide the framework for our lanes. It's well worth clicking on the lane label for this post to get a feel of how the lanes change through the year.

Friday, June 27, 2008

meadowsweet and tufts

meadowsweet (the white one) and tufted vetch (the blue one, and a member of the pea family). Meadow sweet has two distinct fragrances and has been used for centuries to cover floors and make rooms smell sweet. It seems that the name is in fact a corruption of "mede sweet" and it was used to flavour mead. One fragrance is soft, and one is sharp, and this explains another of its names in Yorkshire, courtship and matrimony. What can this be referring to??

The strawberry gateaux in the picture below are the ovaries which will become the seed. I like the intricate shape of the whorls on what will become its very distinctive seed.

another day in the hammock

the meadows were very damp yesterday morning and we all got soaked by the knee high grasses. These little chaps were just taking it very easy waiting for lunch to drop into their laps.

Monday, June 23, 2008

foxgloves in Downgate

It has been an amazing year for foxgloves. This bank of foxgloves is at the top of Downgate Hill; in the distance is Stoke Climsland Village, and beyond that the sunnier reaches of North Cornwall.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Kit Hill is covered now in a small, white flowered plant, heath bedstraw, a relative of woodruff and lady's bedstraw. There is a wealth of folklore attached to these plants (for example that the Virgin Mary lay on a bed of lady's bedstraw in Bethlehem because the donkeys had eaten the rest of the fodder) and they have many practical uses, not least of which was to put them in straw mattresses to make them smell sweet(er). Interestingly they also contain significant amounts of coumarin, an effective anticoagulant.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

more from the house of hornets

We paid another visit to the Wiffill outhouse of hornet horror to see how things are getting on. As is obvious queen hornets are surprisingly tolerant, but I think this is as close as we are going to get without risking a sting in the tail. Canine habit of snapping at things that buzz may be ill advised in this situation.

This amazing site (German but in English) will tell you all you ever wanted to know about Vespa crabro

Thursday, June 19, 2008

ringlets and underwings

the very distinctive underwings of the ringlet butterfly.

The two lower pictures are of a yellow underwing moth, either the large or broad yellow underwing, it is difficult to tell which from these photos. The orange underwing is a protective device, normally the moth is an undistinguished brown but when disturbed it flies erractically displaying the vivid underwings.

Monday, June 16, 2008


in one small patch of meadow we found eyebright (euphrasia nemorosa), tormentil, meadow vetchling, birds foot trefoil, butterfly orchids, hairy tare, tufted vetch, yellow rattle, marsh orchids, heath spotted orchids, knapweed, sorrel, cornish bladderseed, ox eye daisies, and in the surrounding woods heath speedwell, wood speedwell, germander speedwell, St John's wort, cow-wheat, and one specimen of bastard balm. Enough for one day!

heath fritillary 08

We went for a long walk today with Lisa, who reads this blog and lives across the road. She particularly enjoys our early morning singing. We were very lucky to see lots of heath fritillary butterflies; clearly the re-introduction into Greenscoombe woods is working very well, thanks to the hard work of so many people.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

on our walk

On our walk today. the faint patch of pink in the background is a patch of ragged robin. Spot and Harri were off somewhere arguing over a badger jaw bone.

long horned beetle

Spot thinks this is a long horned beetle, but we are not sure which one. We have decided it is the variable longhorn as that covers all bases.

tipula maxima

This is the largest of British crane flies. It is supposed to be common but I have never seen one before, and it is very big. It looks amazingly complex and reminds me of an apache helicopter.

water figwort

the flower of water figwort. Water figwort is a tall, handsome figwort found in wet marshy places. It has much more vivid flowers than common figwort, and very square, angular stems.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


valerian is appearing everywhere. It has a strange burnt rubber smell and attracts a wide range of flies and other insects. I think this is a horse fly of some sort


a strange little homunculus caught appearing in some hedge woundwort. It reminds me of the fairy photographs that entranced Arthur Conan Doyle.

Friday, June 13, 2008

tamar valley

the upper part of the Tamar estuary, St Dominic to the right

field rose

wild roses growing in the hedgerows. They have no scent unlike the dog rose (Spot wants to know who is responsible for giving the rose a bad name). The distinctive feature of the field rose is the tall columnar styles in the middle of the flower.


the large skipper, a primitive moth like butterfly, sitting on some seed pods of yellow rattle. There were marsh and butterfly orchids (use the orchid label to see earlier pictures of these orchids in the blog) in the meadows today although they are coming to the end of their flowering season and were looking a bit tattered. Butterfly orchids have the most delicate, slightly sweet vanilla scent.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

an enormous foxglove

this is a very odd triple stalked foxglove. The stalks are fused together like Siamese twins, and the flower spike is huge and crowded with flowers (a normal foxglove can be seen to the right).

not stirring up a hornet's nest

the rarest largest and most docile of our native social wasps. This is a queen hornet building her nest out of masticated wood, under the eaves of an out house near Kelly Bray. She will lay her eggs in the comb (the structure appearing in the centre). She will feed them on chewed up flies until they emerge later in June at which point we may need to stand a bit further a

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

ragged robin

a clump of ragged robin growing wild; it is very striking at a distance and yet it is a very isolated patch.

more agrions

the handsome male agrion and his smoky female posing before getting down to more serious business. The river banks are full of dragonflies and demoiselles.

entente cordiale

Spot is very concerned about the shortage of elderflower cordial that his friends and cousins across the sea are facing and has tracked down the address of an exclusive supplier. Although his blog is an advertising free zone he is happy to provide this link to the wonderful world of Duchy products, all organic and spoken to.

Monday, June 09, 2008


the corncockle is extinct as a wild flower in Britain. These specimens grew from some seeds we brought back from a wild meadow on the border between Andorra and France two years ago. These pictures show two of its characteristic features, the very long sepals (green things sticking out behind the flower) and it is very hairy .

Saturday, June 07, 2008


elderflower bush growing in wall on an old quarry on South face of Kit Hill, Duchy College (to the left) and Stoke Climsland to the right.

cotton grass

cotton grass growing in Kit Hill quarry. Very little wild life today. Is this blog getting boring, Spot asks himself?? It may be just that there hasn't been anything new recently. Mind you up at Bude today we saw all sorts of exciting plants, marsh orchids, crow garlic in flower, wild thyme, but we didn't take the camera.


Callington (said Kal-ington rather than Call-ington which would sound incredibly posh) on a fine sunny morning looking south west towards the rest of Cornwall. All the key features can be seen, church, chapel, cricket green and cemetery

Thursday, June 05, 2008

not howling but singing

"now, after me, one two three, "happy birthday to me "


yes, I know, you would have sent us a birthday card if I had reminded you. It is hard to believe that we are three today and old enough to vote. Harriet (on the left) has always looked out for me even though she cannot read or write herself. If we can sit still for more than a few seconds we will try and provide an up to date birthday pic.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


a pair of swallows doing an aerial show chasing down insects above the paddock this morning