Saturday, 4 January 2020

First of the year: 2020

A Happy New Year to all my readers.

Not the easiest time of the year to be writing a gardening or wildlife blog unless, as I have mentioned, you are a birder. Some thirty or so years ago I would be up before sunrise, drag on a pair of my wife's tights and dress up warmly, take myself off to Pitsford Reservoir and indulge in some winter birding. For some unaccountable reason I have not been tempted during recent years (and warm though tights were, it was a real problem going for a pee).

Anyway, today wasn't too bad as winter days go. The morning was cold but sunny;  a day to enjoy the apricity. If only I had an insect or two to report on! I spent a few minutes examining the Mahonia 'Charity' growing beside the car park in Byfield. It was in full bloom and presented a lovely sight - but insects were there none.

Nearby, in the garden of our friends Lynda and Damian, a garden rose was displaying a familiar leaf mine: it had been created by a moth, Stigmella anomalella.

The sinuous mines of the moth Stigmella anomalella.
Byfield, Northants, 4 January, 2020
Known rather unsurprisingly as the Rose Leaf Miner it is very common but is the first record for that 2 x 2 km grid square. The moth had been busy for every leaflet bore a mine and yet the plant seemed perfectly healthy. William Blake famously wrote: 

                             O Rose, thou art sick!
                             The invisible worm
                             That flies in the night,
                             In the howling storm,
                             Has found out thy bed
                             Of crimson joy:
                             And his dark secret love
                             Doth thy life destroy.
But the Rose Leaf Miner does not appear to attack the petals so is not the 'worm' to which Blake referred.* (In fact he may have been obliquely writing about homosexuality - but that is another story.)
All the leaflets had been affected.
The mines had been occupied last year, so this was hardly a sign of spring and I await our crocuses (croci as is the odd-sounding alternative plural) to put in an appearance. In our garden the only plant currently in bloom is Garrya elliptica. I love the silky grey catkins of our (male) plant, but colourful it ain't.

The catkins on our Garrya have lengthened greatly over the last month.
Stefen Hill, Daventry, 4 January, 2020
Over the last three weeks the catkins have been growing at something like a millimetre per day and act almost as an horological device.

Roll on!

* Historically 'worm' was a general term for all sorts of creepy-crawlies: silkworm, ragworm, wireworm, woodworm, slow worm and even ringworm (a fungus).

Tony White.  E-mail:

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