Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Posts and pills

In Byfield today, posting a few cards to friends. Many had been trusted to Postman Pat (or as likely, nowadays, to Postlady Patricia) but a handful remained.

Byfield was looking very festive and many holly trees around the village were sporting a fine crop of berries. In Banbury Lane there was a specimen of Ilex aquifolium 'Bacciflava', displaying its yellow berries. The varietal name sounds like a fragrant tobacco but of course it simply comes from the Latin, bacca, a berry, and flavus, yellow.

Yellow-berried holly makes an attractive change.
Banbury Lane, Byfield. 19 December, 2018

All very nice. For some reason I recalled a story told of Sir Thomas Beecham. He was a scion of the 'Beecham's Pills' family and his father asked the young Thomas to compose a Christmas jingle. The best he could come up with was:

                         Hark the Herald Angels sing,
                         Beechams Pills are just the thing,
                         Two for a woman and one for a child,
                         Peace on earth and mercy mild.
Apocryphal? Maybe, but Sir Thomas always claimed it was true. As I went about my business I found myself humming the tune to the point where it became irritating.

Hard by the holly was a clump of Stinking Gladdon, Iris foetidissima, aka the Roast Beef Plant.

The berries of Stinking Gladdon are as yet being eschewed.
19 December, 2018
Birds have stripped many berries from plants such as rowan but, tempting though they look, these Iris fruits have been left untouched so far. A hard January may change all that.

Of invertebrates little was to be seen although a few winter gnats danced here and there while on warm fencing a few flies sunned themselves, almost certainly the common bluebottle Calliphora vicina.
Flies warmed up on sunny fences. Byfield, 19 December, 2018

 Crevices in walls harboured the blue-grey webs of Amaurobius similis.

Webs of Amaurobius similis are found on many walls and window
frames. Byfield, 19 December, 2018

In theory it could equally well have been Amaurobius fenestralis for their webs are identical, but 'fenestralis' is more of a country dweller, favouring loose tree bark in woodlands. For both species the main prey is probably creeping insects such as earwigs (although earwigs can, of course, fly). 'Similis' is very common on tightly clipped hedges of yew or box.

Not the most exciting of days, perhaps, but the relatively mild conditions with lovely blue skies made the jaunt very pleasant.

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