Spring. What a great time to be spending a lot of time at home, when we are lucky enough to have a garden. The daily progression of some of the plants is quite remarkable. Here, individual allium flowers are just starting to come out, 6 petals and 6 stamens each; there was just a single one a couple of days ago. Just look how many individual flowers there are, burgeoning out. Soon it will be a huge ball of flower.
It’s wild garlic time in the woods, with that strangely garlicy-but-not aroma. With dappled shade, there can be strikingly lit patches amid the gloom.
It lifts the heart, makes the spirit sing, to see such patches. I almost get that sense also with the photograph. But actually it doesn’t bear technical scrutiny. The contrast is too much, the light too bright, the shade too dark. So nothing’s very sharp, if you look up close. Never mind, I love it!
This plant is also called ramsons or wood garlic. The latter seems most appropriate.
Following success in identifying the cuckoo flower, what were these similar small white flowers seen in a huge mass under trees during our next escape to Anderton Country Park? These had a yellow centre.
The obvious answer did not immediately occur to me. Scanning through the wildflower book it became clear from the shape of the leaves that it is a wild strawberry, also appropriately known as the woodland strawberry.
Interestingly, my telephoto close-up attempt did not work well – if you look closely, what is best in focus is the grass stalks rather than the flowers.
English jays are usually careful to stay hidden, unlike their black crow cousins and magpies. This one stayed around on the grass at Anderton Country Park just long enough to take a photograph before he flew off.
These are also known as ‘brown jays’ or ‘old world jays’ to distinguish them from more colourful variants, such as the American blue jay.
The other day we heard our first cuckoo of spring, in fact the first for several years, in Anderton Country Park. Cuckoos were ubiquitous in my youth, but alas no longer.
We then saw these small white flowers by the canal, which I had seen other years and been meaning to look up. What a surprise, when they turned out to be cuckoo flowers – so named because their appearance tended to coincide with the hearing of the first cuckoos!
Anderton Country Park is now resplendent with one of the later spring delights, hawthorn blossom. While growing up I remember its being called ‘May blossom’ – this is also known as the May tree. Its appearance is the herald of the coming summer.
Some of the trees or bushes are almost overloaded with glorious white blossom.
An unfortunate accompaniment is the really heavy pungent scent, which is not good for the hay fever.
According to Wikipedia, “the young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible, are known as “bread and cheese” in rural England” – indeed I recall that this is precisely what my father called it.
It’s nearly three years since I last saw a mint moth in the garden. It doesn’t mean they’ve not been around, they’re just so small (under 2 cm) and fleeting. This one was in a similar place, on a forget-me-not flower by a patch of oregano, which they’re said to like as well as mint.
These moths fly by day, as well as by night. Seen close up they have an amazingly furry body. This is probably the first of two breeds within the year in England.
This was a telephoto shot, whereas my previous post used the camera’s macro facility and is slightly sharper.
You know that moment when you suddenly see a large bird flying towards you, grab the camera, switch on, point and shoot as it passes quickly overhead? Usually the result is a blurry picture of empty sky. I got lucky with this grey heron at Anderton Country Park.
Of course, the lighting is pretty impossible, and it’s nothing like the great shots done by the pros with their expensive equipment and oodles of stalking time (this was during a walk with my Panasonic TZ200 pocket-size superzoom). Just try this great blue by Ted Jennings or this one. Follow him!
This plant is ubiquitous in our garden, the ultimate survivor which spreads rapidly in some areas every year. The patches are quite pleasing, with green variegated leaves all year and splashes of purple flower in spring/summer. But get in close and it’s magnificent!
The posh name is lamium purpureum, and the popular name is dead nettle, due to its resemblance to the common nettle but lack of a sting. With such close-up beauty, its third name, purple archangel, seems far more appropriate!
With the unusually sunny April weather, the fruit bushes/trees in the garden are all suddenly bursting forth in their various ways to flower and then fruit. Lockdown gives the time to look daily, and the speed of development is quite astonishing.
History suggests this development is perilously early, as the danger of a frosty night is ever present until June. We shall see.
Hoverflies love this fine weather we’ve had recently. It’s difficult to get a good shot when they’re hovering, but later in the afternoon they often settle for a bit of sunbathing, on a fence, or in this case by the pond.
The most striking flowers in the garden at the moment are the blue muscari in the flower border and the yellow marsh marigolds by the pond, now taking over from fading daffodils and tulips.
Click twice to see an image full screen.
The name marsh marigold is said to refer to its use in medieval churches at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary (“Mary gold”.) Also known as water buttercup or kingcup, amongst many other names.
Blue muscari is also known as grape hyacinth, corresponding with the resemblance of its hanging urn-shaped flowers to bunches of grapes.
Now well established, both plants come back reliably year after year with little attention.
Having coffee in the spring sunshine today, on impulse I grabbed the camera to shoot some spring flowers. Then this over-wintered peacock butterfly presented him(/her)self, wings a bit raggy and faded, but still beautiful, first sunning himself then feeding on those very flowers.
Click twice to see those furry wings and body, antennae and feeding.
Turkey tail fungus is the best identification I can come up with for the tiny bracket fungus trailing down this one-time art installation on Knutsford’s Moor. According to my reference book, this is a common British wood-rotting fungus, which figures.
This reed bunting was an unusual visitor to our garden today. In summer, these birds are more brightly coloured, the male has black head and bib, and they frequent reed beds and marsh grasses. In winter they can’t afford to be so choosy and are often seen on farmland and gardens.
These birds are similar to sparrows, which we never see here these days (although they are around elsewhere in Knutsford). The notched tail, dark head and bib and white collar and underside confirm the rapid identification by my resident expert.
Quality of the photos is not wonderful. We spotted the bird through upstairs windows, and it was preferable to grab quick zoom shots through the panes, rather than open a window, which would almost certainly scare the bird off.
There were several of these birds hiding in the bushes, and coming down to feed on the grass field at Brereton Country Park, whenever there were no dogs nearby. They look a bit like large thrushes, but are actually fieldfare, members of the thrush family. These are regular winter visitors to the UK, and are said to congregate in groups and feed together – similar to the behaviour of redwing.
You can clearly see the characteristic white underside.
It was almost exactly one year ago that we previously saw fieldfare on the same field. See earlier post. It would seem that they are creatures of habit.
The Panasonic TZ80 in my pocket gave a slightly better zoom image than the TZ200 used last time. In theory, the TZ80 gives stronger zoom, and the TZ200 has a better sensor. For practical purposes there’s not a huge difference!