Saturday, 19 December 2015

Salving my conscience

Yesterday I had a check-up following my heart operation. The outcome was good and I have no further need for further appointments. In the course of our conversation I told the nurse that I did plenty of walking. This was a little mendacious as I really don't walk enough.

Today the early morning weather was glorious so, conscience pricked by yesterday's porkies, I resolved to step out and get a little more distance into my walking. 

I set out on the A361 (an easy half-mile walk from our house) towards Badby. A quartet of ravens passed overhead as I crossed the busy A45,  their distinctive croaking contact calls alerting me to their presence. No doubt it was a pair together with a couple of this year's offspring, now more or less fully grown. When I first began taking an interest in birds the Raven, Corvus corax, was distinctly uncommon in Northamptonshire. It is now a familiar sight in the west of the county and is steadily spreading eastwards. These two young ravens will set out this spring to find new territory, perhaps furthering this easterly trend.

Oaks in Badby Park, near Daventry
19 December, 2015

I passed Badby Park with its fine oaks but resisted the temptation to go up to the house. A few leaves clung stubbornly to the branches. On old country saying tells us that we must repay our debts to the devil when the last oak leaf falls; fortunately one or two always hang in there.

I was looking intently at the roadside hedgerows and I realised that, in this unseasonable balmy weather, I was searching instinctively for signs of spring. Silly really, given that we are still short of the Winter Solstice. Of course, I searched in vain. Plants, by and large, are not that easily fooled and most events of nature are controlled by day length, even though some unusually early flowering times are being recorded. 
Roadside fern between Daventry and
Newnham. 19 December, 2015

A few hundred yards further on and I turned left towards Newnham. A solitary roadside fern begged to be photographed so I obliged.

The distribution of the sori helped to confirm that this
is Dryopteris filix-mas.  19 December, 2015

I turned a frond over to examine the distribution of the sori. It was a Male Fern, Dryopteris filix-mas. This appears to be by far the most common fern around here (Each sorus consists of clusters of sporangia, containing spores - but that's enough botany for now!)

There seemed to be little point in going further towards Newnham. The sun had gone and a gusting wind had sprung up. Overhead gulls were being tossed around but pressed on doggedly towards their target - reservoir, ploughed field, refuse tip - who knows?

The fungus Hyphodontia sambuci on dead
 elder.  Near Daventry. 19 December, 2015

A dead elder branch was partially sheathed by a cream-coloured fungus. These resupinate fungi are a minefield but I am happy that it was Hyphodontia sambuci, known as the Elder Whitewash.


The berries of  Stinking Iris near Daventry.
19 December, 2015

With a brisk wind behind me, I set off homewards at a steady pace, pausing only for a plant of Stinking Iris, Iris foetidissima,  at the roadside. Its scarlet berries appeared untouched, testament to the mild weather and the plentiful food sources available to birds. These berries cause severe digestive upsets among humans.
Sow Thistle attacked by the fly, Chromatomyia 'atricornis'.
Christchurch Road, Daventry. 19 December, 2015

The final mile passed quickly, with my progress only briefly interrupted by a Sow Thistle, its leaves neatly edged by the mines of Chromatomyia 'atricornis' - the precise species involved cannot be established from this evidence.

So, I had started on the road to redemption in terms of exercise. No backsliding from now on!

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