89/366 This week’s new wildflowers

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During this week’s walks, which have, of course, in our current lockdown situation, been shorter and much more restricted than my usual meanderings, my mood has been brightened by the sight of our beautiful flowering wild plants, especially those that have just come into bloom in recent days. They’re a heartening reminder of better times to come … eventually. These are those I’ve found this week.

200329 barren strawberry

Barren strawberry (Potentilla sterilis): It seems a shame that this species of strawberry doesn’t produce the luscious fruit we all enjoy in the summer months. Instead, its berries are small and quite hard.

200329 Common stork's-bill

Common stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium): I was delighted to spot these pretty little things. I’m a big fan of the whole Geranium family, the crane’s-bills and the stork’s-bills.

200329 dog-violet

Dog-violet (Viola sp.): The photos I took weren’t good enough for me to work out whether these are Early dog-violets or Common dog-violets but they’re pretty nonetheless.

200329 honesty

Honesty (Lunaria annua): When I had a garden I used to grow Honesty, partly for its lovely flowers but also to harvest the branches of seed pods once they’d dried. I love their fragility and the way they glisten in the sunshine. Their vernacular name, Moonpennies, is so appropriate.

200329 marsh marigold

Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris): These were growing in the depths of a small dingle right in the middle of the town where I live, the flowers are little bright lights beaming up from the gloom.

200329 ramsons

Ramsons (Allium ursinum): That same valley where I found the Marsh-marigolds is also home to swathes of Ramsons, also known to many of us as Wild garlic. There must be thousands of these plants in the valley and along the sides of the stream bed that leads from there down towards the sea.

88/366 Down by the riverside

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Today’s exercise walk saw me up and out of the house by 7am for a stomp down to Cardiff Bay and the embankment path alongside the River Ely. There was, and still is, a bitterly cold wind blowing, pushing small waves up on to the stones of the embankment so I was surprised to see any birds there at all. But the further up river I went the more sheltered it became and the embankment foragers appeared.

200328 1 redshank

First up was this Redshank, poking about at the water’s edge, its feathers ruffled by the wind gusts.

200328 2 turnstones

Next, in a corner where rubbish often accumulates, three Turnstones were poking about amidst the branches and twigs, plastic bottles and other assorted detritus.

200328 3 mallard

Two Mallards came waddling hopefully up the stones while I was watching the Turnstones. Sadly, I didn’t have any seed for them today.

200328 4 grey wagtail

Lucky last, and most colourful, was this bright little button, a Grey wagtail, which was singing a little song to itself as it pottered along.

87/366 Gone grubbing

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Have you noticed that many Jenny (or Jimmy) Wrens like poking about near water? This little one was so engrossed in exploring all the nooks and crannies for whatever grubs and other edibles it could find that it didn’t notice I had stopped to watch and photograph. Finding joy in small things helps in the current bleak times!

86/366 Dandelions and Brimstones

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Here’s why it should be an offence to cut, spray or otherwise destroy blooming wildflowers – in this case, Dandelions, in particular.

200326 brimstone (1)

During yesterday’s daily exercise walk around Grangemoor Park I saw at least five Brimstone butterflies. These were all males, newly emerged from hibernation and already flying frantically back and forth along their chosen path-sides and hedgerows, seeking out females to mate with.

200326 brimstone (2)

As there aren’t yet many wildflowers in bloom at Grangemoor, when it came time to refuel for their next patrol flight, every single one of these Brimstones stopped and supped on Dandelion nectar. In fact, once I twigged to what they were doing, I took to checking every Dandelion I saw, just in case it held a butterfly. So, please, PLEASE, leave your Dandelions for the insects to feed on.

200326 brimstone (3)

85/366 Water lilies

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200318 waterlilies (8)

It’s easy to see why water lilies inspired Monet to depict these sublime blooms over and over again, in a series of around 250 compositions in oils – such delicate hues, such symmetrical structures.

My photos are no match for Monet’s impressionistic masterpieces but, really, the flowers themselves are the masterpieces. These were flourishing in a huge public garden in the tropical climate of Singapore.

200318 waterlilies (7)

84/366 In the ponds

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I saw my first-ever Common toad (Bufo bufo) spawn when I was checking out the local ponds yesterday. Their structure – double rows of dark round eggs within long see-through strings – is unmistakable.

200324 toad spawn

I couldn’t find any Common frog (Rana temporaria) spawn but that might be because the spawn has now all hatched into tadpoles. There weren’t too many of those either – perhaps the local Grey heron or other birds have been feasting on their version of caviar.

And the only other critter that was swimming about in the murky, still muddy water was this Water boatman (Corixa punctata), scooting along on the surface in that haphazard way they do.

200324 water boatman

83/366 Fabulous flying fuzzballs

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I wish I could take the credit for that title but it came from a tweet I read earlier today by the social media team at Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust.

200323 beeflies (1)

The tweet was reporting how the sunshine of the past couple of days has brought out the bee-flies and so it has been in my area too. Yesterday, on the sheltered slopes of a local park which, luckily, I had almost to myself, I saw my first four bee-flies of 2020.

200323 beeflies (2)

These are Dark-edged bee-flies (Bombylius major), the only species I’ve ever seen, and they were feasting on a glorious carpet of Lesser celandine and Speedwell.

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There are several other species of bee-fly, and a couple of similar non-bee-fly species. The BRC (Biological Records Centre) website has a most excellent photo identification guide that can be downloaded here. Good luck with finding some fabulous flying fuzzballs in your locale.

200323 beeflies 4

82/366 Wildflowerhour : the Brassicas

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This week’s challenge for #Wildflowerhour was to find as many of the Brassica family in flower as possible. I’m rather pleased with the number I’ve found, though I’m not 100% sure of my plant IDs, so if you think I’ve got any wrong, please do comment below. And I’ll edit this post if I need to, to reflect the corrected information.

200322 American winter-cress

American winter-cress (Barbarea verna): this is the identification I’m least confident about, as it’s a plant I’ve not seen before, and only a couple of flowers were actually open, but the leaf shape seems to fit.

200322 Common whitlow grass

Common whitlowgrass (Erophila verna): his plant is very common in my area but it’s one I often overlook because of its small size. It’s a pretty wee thing though.

200322 cuckooflowers

Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis): found earlier this week but this is a new photograph as I’ve since revisited the site. It’s certainly earlier in this particular location than in the other places I’ve usually found this plant, which, I suspect, is due to aggressive cutting by the local council in those other locations (Cardiff Bay and Hamadryad Park).

200322 hoary mustard

Hoary mustard (Hirschfeldia incana): Argh, so many plants that look similar! The only reason I’m reasonably confident about this one is that I’ve posted a photo of it previously on Twitter and an expert named it for me.

200322 sea radish

Sea radish (Raphanus raphanistrum ssp maritimus): This is another plant previously identified by one of the Twitterati and, though this was a slightly different location, it was also on the shores of Cardiff Bay so hopefully I’ve got this one right.

200322 wavy bitter-cress

Wavy bitter-cress (Cardmine flexuosa): The bitter-cresses always confuse me but, though it’s hard to see them, these flowers have six stamens, which is a key ID point to confirm this as Wavy rather than Hairy bitter-cress.

200322 Shepherd's-purse

Shepherd’s-purse (Bursa pastoralis): The purse-shaped seedpods of this lovely little plant make it unmistakable, thank goodness.

81/366 Number 3!

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Yesterday’s walk around Cardiff Bay didn’t only bring nice birds, it also produced my second butterfly species for the year, a Small tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, the wind blew it away so quickly, twice, that I didn’t manage a photo. But I did get a couple of shots of today’s third species, this lovely Peacock. And I also saw number four, my first Brimstone, a male that was so intent on flying back and forth along the footpath trying to find a female that I only got a blurry shot of it. In these troubled times, it makes my heart sing to see the butterflies emerging again.

200321 Peacock

80/366 Today’s Bay birds

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Finally, we’ve had a rain-less day and, though there was a bitterly cold wind blasting across Cardiff Bay, I had to take advantage of the dry weather so walked an 8-mile circuit right round the Bay. The first highlight was my first two Wheatears of the year, a bit distant, and only popping up very briefly from amongst the huge Barrage boulders, but it was lovely to welcome them back for the summer.

200320 1 wheatear

The Bay was buzzing with Sand martins – I must’ve seen at least 20, perhaps more, at various times during my wander, and it was a joy to watch their aerial antics.

200320 2 sand martin

Though it’s now several weeks since the big floods pushed a ton of rubbish into the Bay, the huge accumulations have still not been cleared. In fact, most of the rubbish slicks have seen no clearance action taken at all. The ONLY positive thing about this is that the Goldfinches and Linnets seem to be finding plenty of food amongst the garbage.

200320 3 linnet

I simply had to include this male House sparrow, as today is World Sparrow Day.

200320 4 sparrow

This lovely female Stonechat was dotting back and forth across the footpath through the wetlands reserve, and let me get quite close for photos. There was no sign of the male today though.

200320 5 stonechat