Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Mallard Ducklings

On our way to Yorkshire, stopped off  in Temple Sowerby and in the garden of the hotel, mallard ducklings had just hatched the day before. Apparently, the mallard had lost her first brood, so hope all will go well this time.

There were twelve ducklings all together and the female mallard gently shepherded them up the garden to a small pond.


Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Speckled Wood Butterfly (Pararge aegeria)

On holiday in Yorkshire last week and saw this speckled wood butterfly sunning itself on a footpath near Helmsley Castle. It was the first time that I'd seen this butterfly as they are rarely seen in Fife. In Scotland they are mainly confined to the far west, north-west and Moray. The species is, however, said to be extending its range northwards and is now found in Durham and Northumberland so perhaps we will see it in Fife in years to come.    
As its names suggests, this butterfly is primarily found in woodland but can be found anywhere there is sufficient scrub to provide the dappled shady conditions that it favours and this includes habitats such as gardens and hedgerows.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Mermaid on the Beach

There are often sand castles on the beach at Lower Largo waiting to be washed away by the incoming tide, but this sand mermaid complete with seaweed hair was a bit more unusual and rather well done.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Silver Birch Catkins

Catkins on a young silver birch tree in the Serpentine Walk.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Inside the Large Cuckoo-pint Flower

I wanted to have a look inside the base of the cuckoo-pint hood but I'd only found a small patch in the wild, which I was reluctant to disturb. Instead, looked at a similar plant in my garden the large cuckoo-pint or Arum italicum. This plant has creamy-white veined green leaves and a yellow spadix rather than the usual purple brown of Arum maculatum.
Inside the base of the hood or spathe there is first a hair trap, then underneath that the male flowers, each a single stamen and at the very bottom the female flowers, each a single carpel. Midges, particularly the owl midge, are attracted to the plant by scent from the spadix. They get caught in the hair trap, and if carrying pollen, they then pollinate the flowers in the base of the hood. As the hair trap shrivels the midges escape from the spathe carrying pollen with them to cross-pollinate another plant. Later poisonous berries develop from the female flowers, ripening from green to red.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Baby Blue Tit

A baby blue tit close to the path in the Serpentine Walk. So vulnerable at this stage. Here's hoping that the parents were close by and would look after it before it came to any harm.
It still has the yellow gaping mouth.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Garden Show Visit

Visited the Gardening Scotland Show at Ingleston yesterday. There were many excellent show gardens and displays. Two in particular caught my eye. The first was a garden dedicated to the War Dogs that had served from the Western Front in the first World War to Helmand province in Afghanistan.

The second in the Floral Hall from Alnwick Gardens was a display of poisonous plants complete with a spooky coffin. The caged plant above is Cannabis Sativa, although for the show it was actually artificial as it requires a licence to grow it, and their licence only allows them to grow it at the Alnwick Garden. Last year I had to dig up and destroy a cannabis plant in my garden which was growing under the bird feeder, presumably dropped from the bird seed mixture.
A second cage (on the right in the photo) contained khat (Catha edulis), although again the plant was probably artificial. Khat is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa  and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a history as a social custom dating back thousands of years.
Khat contains a stimulant  cathionine  which is similar to amphetamine. Chewing it can make people feel more alert but it can also cause insomnia, heart problems and feelings of anxiety and aggression. In June 2014 khat became a controlled class C drug in the UK.