51/366 Mystery seedpod

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This seedpod is a mystery to me.

200220 mystery seedpod (1)

I found it alongside the path through Grangemoor Park in Cardiff, just two dried up stems about 12 inches tall, with seedpods – four in total – at the tips of each branched stem. No leaves remained and I saw no other similar plants anywhere along the path.

200220 mystery seedpod (2)

The structure of the seedpod is glorious, so sculptural. I brought two pods home with me, and one has now split into quarters, with small brown seeds spilling out of it.

200220 mystery seedpod (3)

But what is this plant? I’ve tried looking online but found nothing that matches. Of course, the solution would be to plant the seeds but I do not have a garden. I could try planting a couple of seeds in a pot but I’d rather return the seeds to the wild where I found them. So, if there are any botanists or plant people out there who recognise this seedpod, please do let me know in the comments below. Thanks!

p.s. Thanks to Barbara Brown, of BSBI Wales, I now know this is a species of Datura, possibly Datura stramonium, the Thorn-apple. In this case, the seedpod has lost all its flesh making it look a little different from the images I’ve found online.

50/366 WWW : Flickers

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In the past on this blog, I published ‘world wildlife Wednesday’ posts, sharing some of the creatures I have been lucky enough to see in my travels. I thought I had mostly exhausted that topic but, last week, while going through my masses of photos, I found a few more. Which all goes to explain why today’s post includes two South American members of the woodpecker family, two flickers, both of which spend much of their lives on the ground, rather than in trees.

This first is an Andean flicker (Colaptes rupicola), photographed at Chinchero, a little town about 30 kilometres from Cusco, from the days when I lived in Peru.

200219 Campo flicker

And this second woodpecker is a Campo flicker (Colaptes campestris), seen near the small town of La Cumbre in the province of Córdoba, in Argentina.

49/366 Pieces of hedgehog

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I almost didn’t notice these hedgehog quills during a recent woodland walk. It was grey, the path muddy, the portion of well squashed hog sitting among a drift of brown leaves so well camouflaged.

200218 hedgehog (1)

I have no idea what befell the poor hedgehog. This spot was well away from any roads and I think the creature must have been long dead as there was no smell. Perhaps it had died in the woods somewhere, a dog had found the carcass, and brought it to the path to show its master.

200218 hedgehog (2)

As I scanned the surrounding area for clues, I noticed these two pieces of jaw, one upper and one lower, which a quick internet search revealed must also once have belonged to the deceased hedgehog. It was a somewhat gory but quite educational find.

200218 hedgehog (3)200218 hedgehog (4)

48/366 First Coltsfoot

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A new Spring flower has appeared in my local area, this time six bursts of the bright sunshine yellow that is Coltsfoot, the flower that appears before its leaves. I had just been sheltering, rather ineffectively, from a short sharp shower of rain when I spotted the flowers beside the path ahead of me. What a delight!

200217 coltsfoot (1)200217 coltsfoot (2)200217 coltsfoot (3)

47/366 Reflections

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Storm Dennis has dumped a huge amount of rain across Wales this weekend, on to ground already saturated by the rain from Storm Ciara and, sadly, this has led to severe flooding in some south Wales communities. I am fortunate to live in a town which, although by the sea, is mostly built upon the clifftops, between 30 and 70 metres above sea level, so we have escaped with just a little surface flooding. And that, as you can see, can provide some very attractive reflections.

200216 reflections after rain (1)200216 reflections after rain (2)

46/366 Sunbathing

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Obviously, these photos were not taken today, as Storm Dennis is currently blasting the British Isles – though, in truth, here in south Wales we are not getting quite as much rain as I expected, nor are we being battered as severely as we were by the fiercely gusting winds that accompanied last weekend’s Storm Ciara, for which I am extremely grateful.

200215 common green shieldbug (1)

My photos of this Common green shieldbug (Palomena prasina) were taken a week ago, on a warm (for the time of year) sunny day. And, as I have just read in a tweet by SEWBReC, our local biodiversity records centre, that ‘Now is a good time of year to spot shieldbugs sunbathing on (rare!) sunny days’, I thought I would make this little sunbather my critter of the day.

200215 common green shieldbug (2)

45/366 A brown-headed gull

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Love is in the air for the Black-headed gulls, as many have already completed the change to their breeding colours, their head plumage morphed from (mostly) winter white to the chocolate brown (not black) of summer. It’s little wonder people find identifying (not sea)gulls confusing when they are so misleadingly named.

200214 brown-headed gull

Here’s a link to a blog from 2016 that shows the change process in photographs.

44/366 Signs of Green woodpecker

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Even if I hadn’t heard the Green woodpecker yaffling as it flew from the paddock ahead of a dog and its walker passing through, I would have known the bird had recently been there. For, as I strolled along the boundary path, every patch of bare earth had punched into it the tell-tale holes of the woodpecker’s probing beak as it had searched beneath the ground for ants and other insects.

200213 green woodpecker signs (1)

And, always quite close to those scatterings of holes were the bird’s droppings, with their characteristic hook at one end – just like a stick of candy, someone once told me, though undoubtedly the taste would be rather different. If you look closely at my photos, you might just make out the carapaces from the bird’s feasting.

43/366 Hail and snow

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Before you think you’re reading the wrong blog, this is not a weather report!

200212 hail (1)

It’s just that I was surprised during today’s woodland walk (in sunshine, though with a very chilly breeze blowing) to see that smatterings of yesterday’s hail were still lying amongst the vegetation in more sheltered areas.

200212 hail (2)

And, not only that, but there were also two small drifts, a couple of feet across, of the snow that must have fallen on Monday night while I was sleeping. I noticed traces of it on some shady rooftops yesterday but thought it would all have melted away by now.

200212 snow

The fact that both hail and snow have survived is certainly proof, which today’s numb fingertips can confirm, that the temperatures have been much cooler this week.

42/366 Redwings

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Today’s walk around some of central Cardiff’s lovely parks was peppered with light hail showers but that worked in my favour because it meant there weren’t many other people out walking and so the birds weren’t as disturbed as they might have been. And that meant I was able to get quite close to some of the large flocks of Redwings that were grazing on the grassy meadows and playing fields. What handsome birds these winter visitors are, with their distinctive pale face stripes, their rusty flanks and their ‘tseep tseep’ calls.

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