Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Killing Fields

A dramatic title, but when Chris and I drove to Rugby yesterday I was struck by the number of animal corpses at the roadside with perhaps only buzzards being the beneficiaries. The grey squirrel near Willoughby was no great loss and local farmers will perhaps not be too upset by the badger corpse (A landowner friend of ours has suggested that a number of these dead badgers would, upon investigation, be found to have been shot and dumped beside the road by local farmers). As for the birds, I only saw one pigeon so it could be argued that oilseed rape crops will be a tad safer (1 down, 8 million to go).

Given the opportunity I like to check the legs of dead birds for a ring but rarely do I find a ringed bird other than the occasional disoriented racing pigeon. Their scaly legs display the relationship of birds to reptiles and I am reminded of the old joke: A rather plain woman is walking down the road with a parrot on her shoulder. A man is passing by and she clutches his sleeve.

  'If you can tell me what this is on my shoulder you can have me.'
  The man looks bemused. 'Er...a crocodile?' he suggests.
 'That's close enough,' she says, and pounces on him.

Anyway, we went to a garden centre near Rugby for a climbing rose but there were none that met our requirements - and at £22 each I wasn't going to pay for something that wasn't just right. Instead we ended up buying a Garrya elliptica. At £7 that was considerably less painful.

My Garrya elliptica. Stefen Hill, Daventry. 13 September, 2016
Although this shrub may be grown as a standard it is usually seen trained against a wall or fence, where it generally does very well. It is rather a sombre shrub (or somber if you live in the U.S.A.) and not to everyone's liking but the catkins on the male plant are spectacular and will reach six inches in length, although those on my plant are currently only an inch long.

Botanically it is an interesting plant, belonging to a small family, the Garryaceae. The family consists of 37 species in two genera, the other genus being Aucuba, which includes the familiar Spotted Laurel, Aucuba japonica of our gardens. Like Garrya species, this also has male and female flowers on separate plants.
Spotted Laurel, Aucuba japonica. Stefen Hill, Daventry.
 13 September, 2016

Garrya elliptica is from the coastal lands of California, with its range extending into southern Oregon but, although much of the area is very mild, this species is pretty tough.

Speaking of wall plants, it's that time of the year when ivy, Hedera helix, is coming into bloom. Although it is only mid September I fully expect to find some flowers remaining in early December. Here it is, earlier today, in Daventry.

The hoverfly, Myathropa florea, visiting ivy blooms. Daventry town centre.
13 September, 2016
Already it is attracting hordes of insects including this hoverfly, Myathropa florea, but large numbers of its visitors were common wasps, plus a few bees. The steady procession of insects can be fascinating.

                                       He will watch from dawn to gloom
                                       The lake-reflected sun illume
                                       The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom
                                       Nor heed nor see, what things they be....

                                                                             Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

We currently have a large colony of wasps in our loft. They are causing no problems and the colony will die off in the winter, at which time I'll go up there and clear out the nest.

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