Three weeks ago, we enjoyed Linnets bathing. Today, we have one of a small flock stripping seeds from wildflowers, munching happily with its efficiently designed, seed-cracking beak.
A railway line used to run along the south Wales coast from my town to the next large town but it fell victim, like so many other railway lines, to the Beeching cuts of the 1960s (the last passenger train ran on 4 May 1968). Part of that old line is now a well-used walking and cycle path, the rest runs through land that is both in private hands and owned by the Welsh government. When Covid first told hold and our county council stupidly closed the local country park (where people could exercise with space in safety), many locals began using the government land or either side of the old rail line. Though there are government plans afoot to turn this land into a cheap, nasty and overcrowded housing estate, in the interim local people continue to use the area for walking, both themselves and their dogs, which means it’s now also possible to access the old rail trail. Today’s little video shows the trail and the wildflowers that were still in bloom along it during a walk I took earlier this week.
Happy equinox! Today is the first day of astronomical autumn in the northern hemisphere, and what better way to celebrate than with some autumnal blooms, in this case some Wild cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) flowers I spotted growing in a nearby green space earlier this week.
At this time of year, when there are few wildflowers in bloom, the presence of Rough sow-thistle, with its glowing yellow flowers and fluffy white seedheads, is a lifesaver for thirsty bees and butterflies, and a boon for finches wanting to nibble at its seeds. And, for me, it provides yet another example of the sculptural beauty of the seedheads of plants.
I’ve been trying to work out what the optimum conditions are for bird migration, and it seems to be a combination of a clear night followed by a sunny day, with just the right amount of wind – at least, that seems to be what Wheatears like as, both on Wednesday and today, they have been moving through in reasonable numbers, with some stopping off locally en route to their southern over-wintering grounds. These are a few I’ve been privileged to spot in recent days …
I start to put on my jacket before heading out on my daily walk when something flutters on the sleeve. It’s a moth, this moth, and I have no idea how it got there. Did it land on me during yesterday’s walk and spend the night on the jacket that I’d just flung over the back of a chair? Or did it creep in through the gap in a barely open window during the night?
A moth expert on Twitter tells me it’s a Pearly underwing (Peridroma saucia), a moth that doesn’t breed in Britain but migrates here from Europe, most often during September and October. No wonder it’s looking a little faded after such a long flight. I keep it inside during the day and release it after dark, hoping that will help it avoid any hungry birds.
Over the summer, one of the local fields I regularly walk around was a sea of yellow, chock full of tall flowering Ragwort plants.
Now that it’s autumn, the landscape has changed to a rich brown, dotted with tiny spots of white, the fluffy Ragwort seeds. It would be easy to overlook this brown field but, when you look closely, the seedheads are quite lovely.
Thanks to my fellow local birders who found first one (first sighting to Graham), then two (Mat spotted the second), and then a third (Ian got all three, and was trying very hard to turn a Reed bunting into a fourth), I managed to get all my Whinchats in a row during Sunday morning’s walk.
These weren’t my first Whinchats of the autumn – they were the sixth, seventh and eighth, but this might well be the first time I’ve seen three together. And every single one is a little gem!
As the days grow noticeably shorter and the leaves being to turn, bursts of colour adorn the trees, shrubs and hedgerows, and help to feed hungry critters, birds, insects … and, occasionally, me, if the blackberries look lush and bursting with flavour.
Perhaps it’s a consequence of this summer’s exceptionally hot dry weather or maybe it’s due to the location’s proximity to the recently rejuvenated children’s playground and trampling by eager feet; whatever the reason, this year’s display of Autumn lady’s-tresses at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park is disappointing to say the least. Last year (Spiralling orchids, Sep 2021), I counted at least 30 flower spikes; this year so far there are just five.