Posted on October 18, 2021
Why, at my great age, do I still feel compelled to pick up conkers? When I was younger, I used to maintain that I filled my briefcase with them on the way to work for my young son to play with. But, to be honest, in retrospect, it was for my own benefit. They are such lovely things to look at – the colours, patterns, shapes – and are wonderful to touch – smooth, satiny, and cool. I have in the past filled my pockets with them – turning them around like rosary beads as I walk. I have stacked them in baskets and in bowls around the house to admire until the shine disappears and the shape wrinkles and crinkles. I met a man scrabbling around on the ground beneath the horse chestnut trees in Sherren Avenue the other day. He was a bit embarrassed to be found picking up conkers. He said he didn’t really know why he did it. But I know – because I will always find them one of the most attractive of fruits of autumn
Posted on October 14, 2021
Various stages of development and ripening of the berries borne by the Wayfarer or Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) seen in hedgerows around the village, notably in Olympic Park and the CD Nature Reserve – although they are rapidly stripped by the birds.
Posted on October 12, 2021
Thanks again to Marilyn for this picture of a pale Tussock Moth caterpillar (Calliteara or Dasychira pudibunda) on the path near Greenwood House. The adult moth is less colourful. I think I saw a very old and worn female moth on the grass in the CD Nature Reserve in August. The scales had almost entirely disappeared from the wings, leaving only faint markings, so my identification might be wrong.
Posted on October 10, 2021
My neighbour Marilyn found this white spider on a pink anemone flower. I have seen them around the village too. They are inconspicuous as they lay in wait to pounce on unsuspecting prey innocently visiting flowers to collect nectar or pollen, or to eat the flower itself. They have no need of webs to trap their victims. I think it is possibly a Flower Crab Spider. This must be the creature that Robert Frost was describing in his poem “Design” where he says:
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
Complete Poems of Robert Frost, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1949
Posted on October 9, 2021
This attractive Magpie Moth (Abraxus grossulariata) was photographed the other day by Marilyn, one of my fellow Greenwood House residents. It was resting quietly on the path, making it easier to get up close and take the picture. It is lovely to see what other people spot as they are out walking and enjoying the nature we have around us here in Charlton Down.
Posted on October 5, 2021
The foliage on the village horse chestnut trees may seem to have been changing to autumn colours for many months already. Look closely and there is a sort of pattern to the dying patches on the leaves. These patches are where a small caterpillar has been eating its way to fatness and maturity between the inner and outer layers of the leaf, following paths between the veins. The small moth that lays its eggs on the leaves is a native of the continent but warmer weather has enabled it to extend its range further north to Britain where it now flourishes. The infestation has an effect on the tree but only in a general way because the tree does not die and can still produce conkers. At this time of year the damage inflicted on the leaves is made more dramatic in appearance because of the dying back of the leaves. I have written in greater detail about this on earlier posts over on Jessica’s Nature Blog if you want to click the links below to read them:
Posted on October 4, 2021
Hawthorn berries or haws (Crataegus monogyna) are so common in the local Charlton Down hedgerows that I almost forgot to mention them.
Posted on October 1, 2021
I love the way that bright juicy Bryony berries are festooning the hedgerows. I am not certain whether they are White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) or Black Bryony (Tamus communis) because the leaves have mostly shrivelled away. I tend to think these are Black bryony from what is left of the foliage. I particularly like it when the fruit is carried on the looping strands of the dying vines so that they look like necklaces or fairy lights in the hedges.