It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post about wildlife sightings, largely because they have been few and far between – not so much the sightings as the time to make them in the first place! However, having spent both my husband and my father’s birthday’s on Noar Hill, near Selborne in Hampshire, I thought I’d share our increasing love of the place.
At the very end of April my husband and I spent a rather cool day in this nature reserve which boasts among other things great views, and a friendly throughput of knowledgeable wildlife experts happy to stand, talk and share their expertise. Though we met people who had seen a Duke of Burgundy (a rare butterfly for which the hill is known) and also Green Hairstreak, we drew a complete blank, notching up only more common species like a Peacock and an Orange Tip.
We did however see emerging Twayblade orchids, early Common Spotted Orchid, and got some good sightings of singing Chiff Chaff and I photographed this little warbler at close range, which I assumed was a Chiff Chaff (it wasn’t singing so I couldn’t be sure). I’ve since been told by a chap on a birding Facebook group that it might be a Wood Warbler because it has brown legs, though it would have only just arrived on migration if that was the case. Any guidance or definitive explanation would be most helpful via the comments please!
The end of May is my father’s birthday, and leaving poor husband to an INSET day in school, I took Dad to Noar Hill, and this time came away with a list of 7 butterflies seen (Duke, Orange-Tip, Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, Large White, Green-Veined White, Speckled Wood), 4 species of moth (none rare), a Dark-Edged Bee Fly, Twayblade, Common Spotted (including a white one) and Early Purple Orchids, and a Wood Warbler heard (but not seen – Dad’s warbler id skills stretch to song, and certainly wasn’t a Chiff Chaff singing that beautifully!)
Here are a selection of the treats from the day, though not including father’s fab photo of a Yellowhammer taken out the car window before I’d even managed to park!
I thoroughly recommend a visit to Noar Hill, but don’t miss out on Selborne. There a great public loos at the free car park by the pub, and of course Gilbert White’s house and it’s associated walks, but there is also The Selborne Tea Room and it’s lovely cheese and watercress scones that aren’t to be missed, unless they’ve sold out (again)!
For Winchester Diocese, like Portsmouth, ordination retreats are held at the beautiful Park Place and Wickham in the Meon Valley. Last week was my Diaconal retreat, shared with those being ordained to the priesthood in our diocese. There were periods of silence, reflection and free time to restore the soul and focus on the role to which I am called.
Anna Norman Walker, Canon Mission of Exeter Cathedral was our excellent retreat conductor, and for me managed just the right balance of humour, Biblical reflection, personal stories, poetry, images and music. Using the ‘scaffolding’ of the Eucharist our 5 reflections focused on the words “take”, “thanks”, “blessed”, “broken” “shared”. I would particularly commend the poetry she used, which was by Gerard Kelly (“Spoken Worship” was the recommended title – something I shall be buying for future use).
Anyway, before succumbing to a lurgy that meant I would have to be nursed with prayer and paracetamol through the ordination day itself, I took a couple of lovely walks in the afternoon free time we were given, along the edge of the neighbouring Wickham Park Golf Course and down to the River Meon at the bottom of Wickham itself, before winding back along the disused railway line to the golf course and pastoral centre. The golf course, it’s bramble and grass lined edges and it’s water features in particular, were a haven for wildlife, and alongside the insects shown below, I also saw Ringlet butterflies, Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies in courtship chases by the Mean, an Emperor dragonfly and a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly that took a Meadow Brown butterfly on the wing over a pond before taking it high into a will to shuck it’s wings and eat it!
Unexpected update: delighted that this post appears to have inspired Archdruid Eileen to the most wonderful parody of the wild life to be had on ordination retreats; Ordination retreats and their wildlife
Some while back I took delivery of what I thought would be my ordination (white – Christmas/Easter/Weddings) stole and the green (‘ordinary time’) stole, and now my stole maker has completed the red (Pentecost and Saints Days) and Purple (Advent and Lent) ones. During the intervening time the red one has in fact become my ordination stole after the new Precentor and our Bishop came up with the change of plan in the middle of our Deacon’s Day!
Once again I am totally thrilled with the way that Deborah Ireland has turned my scribbled notes and photographs, along with snippets of significant material including more bits of my wedding dress, into the most amazing creations which will mean I carry the stories of my faith journey and some special people into my ordained ministry.
The red stole is all about the Holy Spirit – Pentecost being a deeply significant time for me, and if it wasn’t for the prompting of the Holy Spirit (both in my life, and in the lives of others who nudged me into getting my head round the possibility of a calling to ordination) I wouldn’t be just over two weeks from ordination – interview with my Bishop next week permitting! Hidden in the stitchwork is the music for a favourite chorus that will make some cringe, but is one that can move me to tears and remind me of my baptism in the Spirit at St. Mike’s in Aberystwyth (Pentecost 1988) as well as many years of leading or singing in worship bands. I’ll let you guess what it might be!
Pentecost was also about the people of God being enabled to do more than they could possibly imagine through the power of the Spirit at work in them – so there’s people there too, and though I didn’t design it with this in mind, everytime I look at one of the characters I think of my mother. The dove of peace is a bit of wedding dress, with one of the beads off the same to make it’s eye!
My purple stole is double sided and it’s probably easy to spot the bits of wedding dress; losely speaking Advent and Lent. From an early age flower arranging was part of life (or at least sweep up after my Mothers’ church flower arrangements was), so as well as the symbolism of anticipating the light of Christ coming into the world, there’s a slight nod in that direction on the Advent side. There are also stars – something are both a significant interest of my husband and some very long-standing friends as well as being a reminder of the need to follow Christ faithfully even when we can’t really see where he’s leading us!
The Lenten side used as its inspiration not only the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head at the crucifixion but also the nails themselves – designed from a photo of some hand-made ‘crucifixion’ nails my Dad had made by a New Forest blacksmith a couple of years ago. Those familiar with the “Water Bugs and Dragonflies” book for explaining death to young people will understand why I wanted one on a stole I might well wear to take funerals – over and above the fact that they’re a big photographic passion of my husband and I. We are really impressed at the lifelike markings Deborah has created on this Common Darter that we photographed together with my Dad in a favourite place in the New Forest a couple of years ago (see below). The dragonfly’s wings are made of net from the petticoat of my wedding dress, and some of the material is taken from a gift received many years ago from a Nigerian Catholic nun aquaintance… I hope she appreciates the use I’ve put it too.
That’s me all set up with vestments then. I look forward to wearing them as reminders of so much of the past, but also the importance of making best use of past experiences and interests in my future ministry, such that God is glorified.
Common Darter dragonfly – the inspiration for the stole (photographed at a place known as Murray’s Passage, New Forest)
Yesterday was to all intents and purposes the last day of my summer. I spent it out in the New Forest on not one, but two walks with my family, because I’m greedy and it was a nice day.
Our morning outing was to a place called Backley grassground and Soldiers Bog, which if you’re driving south from Stoney Cross on the A31 you can see on your left… though it’s probably better and safer viewed as a passenger!
The heather (mostly actually Ling, which isn’t heather at all really, but what most people think of as heather), like most other plant-life this year, is late, so still giving a glorious scent, though the further down into the bog you walk (on a good path), the more it get’s mixed with the equally heady scent of bog myrtle! Walking down we saw two Dartford Warblers, and I got my first ever clear view and photograph of a rarish summer migrant butterfly, in from the continent, a Clouded Yellow! It made my day, and we’d hardly started 😉
Down in the bog, whilst the husband was chasing dragonflies (we were meant to be working with two cameras but it became a slightly amusing squabble for the one we both prefer), the lad shouted “baby frog” but it turned out to be even better – a young Common Toad. We even got a video clip for my husband to use in school.
We were expecting Hobby’s to be visible working the valley bottom for dragonflies, but not a raptor was in sight, so after a little while leaning on the bridge in the bottom watching dragonflies, we climbed the hill again, this time startling a young Fallow Buck about 3 years old, before wending our way back to our access point to the open forest.
After lunch at ‘home’ in Lyndhurst, I was greedy for more and determined to see a favourite raptor, so we set out again to a spot I visited last year where my son and I found a Hobby nest. After a little distraction from a fading Holly Blue on the ling/heather, I heard the sound I’d been straining for – a juvenile Hobby calling from the same clump of pine that we’d found the nest in last year. There were in fact two, and both were well fledged and off the nest, though still clamouring for food from a parent. The light was against us so my poor photo was only in silhouette, but we saw all three birds clearly before walking in high spirits back to the car and ‘home’ once again.
Today, we drove properly home to Yateley again, where the wildlife can be as good, and we have wi-fi to upload the pictures! There are more of them, and some snaps of Curlew and Fountains Abbey on my Flickr site – accessible via the left column.
Now things start to get really busy again, so I shall enjoy the memory of this lovely end to our summer, as I start to get back into the grips of ordination training.
Back at the end of July before we took our holiday, I grabbed a few hours with my Dad wandering one of his favourite butterfly woods in the New Forest. It was a veritable bonanza of butterflies, when I got my best ever sights of Silver Washed Fritillaries.
I also learnt the difference between Green Veined and Small Whites. It seems to have been a big year for Whites – in the Yorkshire Dales a fortnight later there were clouds of Small Whites in the gardens where we were staying in Askrigg, with a few Green Veined among them if you looked hard.
We also saw a Ringlet, common here in Yateley but I’d never found one in the New Forest before, and also Gatekeeper’s but my photos of them weren’t very good!
Reviewing the photographs I have also now learnt to tell a Small Skippers from a Large Skippers – the large ones are (obviously) slightly larger, but also have more a dull brown around their wings. I love these little butterflies – I think of them as the cute teddies of the butterfly world!
There was also this beautiful Peacock butterfly – I’ve seen only a few of these this year in Hampshire.
We missed out completely on my dream of seeing a White Admiral but that means there’s plenty to keep me looking next year.
There’s more photo’s on my Flickr account if you’re a real fan, feel free to wander over there.
Hopefully I’ll be uploading some holiday photo’s soon – a week which was defined for me by the sound of Curlew.
Very quick post with a record of our evening stroll. The venue was Blackbushe and it’s surroundings again as usual.
This Peacock Butterfly looks like it overwintered – though how any butterfly can survive the winter we’ve had, I really don’t know.
The Whitethroats are still showing well, and with patience, I’m getting closer!
The Roe Buck was the star of the evening though, he was in the bottom corner of my favourite field, not far from the gate. I got close enough to lean the camera on the gatepost, and took loads of photos, until a couple who had entered the top of the field and walked round to the gate, disturbed it and it headed back into the copse. We were surprised, they never even paused to watch, even though they can’t have failed to see it!
There are more photo’s on my Flickr site, including a couple taken yesterday in the old chapel at college. They’ve kept the ‘chancel’ area round the altar for quiet prayer meetings, but the rest is now a quiet space to work in – by far the most comfortable and now my favourite place in college.
In case you’re wondering, the walks are an attempt to keep me sane when I’ve got lots of stuff to think through, and the fresh air and exercise are good for me too!
Today the sun has come out, term is over, the lad is home from his school music tour to Austria, and all is well with the world. But, it has been a tad showery recently, don’t you think?!
I guess most of us have grumbled about the wet; even if we’re delighted there is no-longer a hosepipe ban, it’s not like we’ve needed the hosepipe!
But just think how the little creatures have faired? Even if you’re a big Stag Beetle, the mud and the wet must make life a huge struggle, not to mention the fact that mid July is actually quite late in the summer to be seeing them! It suggests that the female shown here, hadn’t yet had a chance to lay her eggs perhaps?
For the butterflies, it might seem even worse. If you’re trying to hatch and dry your wings as a deluge like the one shown above arrives, what chance have you got of survival I wonder?
But, the sun has been out, and between the showers it has been a joy to grab a camera, and a walk, and make the most of it. Now that summer has really come perhaps, what more #dogwalkdelights (as I call them) will be revealed? Who knows!
Previously I have written about my delight in the fields adjacent to the Red Cross Centre in Yateley, that have been left this summer to grow long, and rich in flowers and insect life. Until yesterday that is!
Today, I found the long lush field utterly flat, and totally silent, devoid of all those flowers and insects. Not a butterfly, ladybird or grasshopper to be seen or heard. Rough mowed in yesterdays rain (from what I could tell) the cut grass lies like a hard crust across the field. In addition, a slasher has been taken to the trees around the field, including to the beautiful Bhutan Pine with the bluey-purple cones. As far as I can tell, these trees (which also include the Cherry and Oak in that line of planting) were not in anyone’s way.
As a regular user of the site I am keenly aware of how it is used, and I am not for a moment suggesting that all three fields are never mown. The two fields behind the Red Cross Centre, are regularly used by organised and recreational groups of families and children from the local community for all sorts of fun and games, as well as by local dog walkers. I can understand that these need reasonably regular grass cutting to maintain their attraction to users.
The field to the West of the centre and Monteagle House (nearer The Highwayman pub) doesn’t get such use however, really being nothing more than a thoroughfare for people, including many dogwalkers like myself.
Here (by eye rather than detailed survey) is the richest diversity of flower and grass species, which this year has proved (if left) can attract a whole bunch of insects. Surely with a little thought by those involved in Grounds Maintainance perhaps by talking with their colleagues in Countryside Services, here is an opportunity to take a tiny step towards fulfulling in a small, but important way, the aims of Hart District Council’s Biodiversity Action Plan which it seems to be launching this year. I have no idea if this little field fits Section 4.2 of that plan, but surely it could be an example of what will hopefully be done in more out of the way areas of the District?
How’s this for an idea that takes consideration of the field’s obvious use AND biodiversity value:
Rather than mowing the whole field, cut 3-4 single stips in the grass along the well developed natural pathways that people use the most, and leave the rest of the grass long for the duration of the summer.
Rather than slashing the trees around the field, prune (not slash, which can cause rot and infection) only those that overhang the pathways through to the Red Cross Centre and Throgmorton Road areas (which noticably HAVEN’T been slashed this week!)
It only takes a little thought, and though I happily pay Council Tax for my bins to be collected etc, it would be nice to feel I was paying my District Council to THINK in a connected and joined up way about Biodiversity as well.
Postscript 18th July 2012:
Three lots of swift and helpful feedback from local councillors: Apparently
“The land has recently been transferred to the Town Council although the ground maintenance is still, for a period of time, being carried out by contractors following a contract that was specified by Hart some time ago.
Now that the land us the responsibility of the Town Council… a review will be undertaken as to what we want moving forward. Your comments will be useful as part of the review along with input from other users of the land so that the right balance can be achieved.
I am aware that the land immediately adjacent to the Scout Hall is used for a wide range of activities which this week includes a pre school play group sports day. As your blog suggests there are other parts of the land that is not currently used as widely.”
another that said…
… appalled at the severity of the slashing that took place. I will ensure that the matter is raised for awareness at full council on Monday, in order that subsequent measures can take place to prevent any re-occurence…
but also a different view that suggest that some miss noticing the specifics I raise, and miss the point for a need for balance in biodiversity ‘v’ usage issues:
“I have been getting –mails and phone calls about the grass being too long. The children couldn’t play in it and the dog walkers kept losing their balls.
I was up there yesterday and the weeding was being done by the contractors I didn’t see anything about un necessary cutting back. Yateley Town Council will be taking this area over hopefully on the 1st August and they will have their own contactors. I have passed your e-mail on to the Town Clerk who is due to meet with Hart this week.”
I remembered the camera when out walking the dog today. After a little incident with a young Roe buck (when I didn’t have anything except my phone) a few days ago, this was a major step forward.
There are often plenty of these Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butteflies up on the disused part of Blackbushe airport at this time of year, but rarely do we get close enough for a half decent photo, which is what this is; it’s not as well in focus as I would like.
But whilst trying to get that shot, I found this little beauty disguised among the Red Clover. I think, that with the kink at the end of the leaves, and the lack of spots it is an Early Marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), but I’m more than willing to stand corrected. There is a close-up of the flowerhead on my Flickr account here if it’s any help with the ID.
Such is the joy of the countryside; sometimes you just have to look really closely to find the hidden gems!
By the way, despite comments I’ve seen from people saying this isn’t a good thing, I think it’s wonderful to see the fields still haven’t been mown at the Red Cross Centre!
I want to publicly thank Hart District and Yateley Town Councils for NOT mowing the grass, especially that in the fields adjacent to the Red Cross Centre in Yateley, which forms part of my regular dog walk. PLEASE keep up the good work!
The poor photo below, taken with my phone, should (if better) show a number of the plant species present, over and above a range of grasses I’m not knowledgeable enough to name. There are yellow Hawkweeds, Plantains, White Clover, Daisies and Buttercups, and also a tiny white star shaped flower, that I ought to identify. Here they can prosper and seed, bringing the colour of summer to all who visit; little things, but not to be missed or mowed.
There are also pockets of Ox-Eye Daisy appearing at the edge of the field and the list could be easily extended through a detailed survey and with a little help from some wildflower mix, which surely can’t cost any more than a trip from the mower men!
It may look like a scruffy bit of grass, but if the weather was just a little warmer and less windy this lovely field would be alive with insects, helping to attract even more birdlife to the area, and bringing even more joy to people’s lives.