Category Archives: Flora and fauna

Smartphone photos

It seems that recently our mobile phones have become as good at taking photos as making phone calls.

In fact some might say that they are more adept at the photos than the phone calls; and I’d count myself in that number.

The photos below were taken by old second hand phones in bergh apton in the last few weeks.

grass snake
Snake in the grass

 

 

dead dragon fly
Nature – red in tooth and claw

If you have taken a picture of wildlife in the area – please feel free to share it here.

 

A Marbled Orb Weaver Spider
A Marbled Orb Weaver Spider

THE HAWTHORN TREE

 

‘Spring goeth all in white,

Crowned with milk-white may;’

Robert Bridges

Almost over night it seemed Spring had spelled the hawthorn tree in the hedge and great clouds of white blossom ruffed its branches. The notched leaves witched to a bright leathery green. The anthers are red, like the head of a match, so each flower resembles a speckled bird’s egg. Now, in mid-summer, clutches of small green berries hang on tightly and, as summer ages will, like traffic lights, turn to amber and then red. This is not the enamelled red of rowan berries or the polished sheen of rose hips but a modest, sombre red. Old ballads and legends tell that the hawthorn is a tree of mystery and enchantment, a faerie tree. It is said the crown of thorns with which Christ was mockingly crowned was made from hawthorn. In the Lady Chapel at Ely there is a carving showing Mary with her Child set against a background of hawthorn leaves. Mary holds one haw, a sign of what is to come for the Child. At some Palaeolithic cave dwellers burial sites, the bodies have been found wearing similar crowns of hawthorn.

Mary’s uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, was a merchant trading in tin and, so the stories go, he came to our ancient kingdom, to the West Country to do business with the tin miners. On one occasion, at least, he brought his great nephew, the Boy Jesus with him and this story was known to William Blake, hence the opening words in ‘Jerusalem’,

‘And did those feet, in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the Holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

Glastonbury is an ancient town in Somerset and another legend is that Joseph of Arimathea came here after the Crucifixion of Christ and brought the Cup used at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend, with him. He was tired and distressed after his long journey to reach this land. He paused to sleep and thrust his staff into the ground beside him, the hand that held it had smoothed precious oils into the body of Christ when it was taken from the Cross. It took root and every year at Christmas it burst into leaf and flowers. It is the humble hawthorn, quickthorn or whitethorn which, in bleak winter, flowers to greet the coming of the Light not the exotic rose or lily. A sprig from the Holy Thorn is sent to the Queen every year so she has it on her table at

The hawthorn tree is believed to be a dwelling place for faeries and an entrance to their country. An ancient ballad from the Borders tells how Thomas the Rhymer or, True Thomas as he is known, sat under a hawthorn , known as the Eildon Tree and the Queen of Faeries rode by in a dress of ‘grass-green silk’ and on her steed’s mane ‘hung fifty silver bells and nine’. She dares him to kiss her lips and, of course, he does.

She carries him off as he must now serve her. In Elfland she offers him food which he eats and, as we all know, one must never, never, never, eat food offered by the Little People. When he returns he thinks he has only been away for a day instead of seven long years. It is believed he lives on in the hollow Eildon hills. So do not sit under a hawthorn tree unless you have the protection of a twig each of oak, ash and hawthorn bound together by a red ribbon, as one never knows who might come

Westminster Abbey is built on what was known as Thorney Island in the River Tyburn and named after a sacred stand of hawthorn trees. Edward the Confessor built a church here and the present building altered and added to by other monarchs was built originally by Henry 111 in 1245.

The Hawthorn is also known as May as this is when it flowers. There is the nursery rhyme, ‘Here we come gathering nuts in May’. This should read as ‘knots’ not ‘nuts’. Sprigs and bunches of hawthorn were gathered in days gone by and even in some places nowadays to celebrate the Merry Month of May.’

Henry vii chose the hawthorn as his emblem after the Battle of Bosworth as the crown worn by Richard iii as he rode to battle was found in a hawthorn after Richard was killed. Henry, the first of the Tudor dynasty, received this crown on what is known as Crown Hill.

A small tree, a hedge tree, gnarled, twisted and thorny, crabbed. It bends and knots, spiky bones knitted together against wind and weather.

Roll on summer!

Working from home…

is something I am lucky enough to be able to do, and so on Thursday morning I was sitting in front of a wood burning stove coding (programming). I had started at just after 5 am, and had opened up the stove in the chilly room. By eight o’clock it was toasty.

I’m alone in the house, apart from Brock, who is pining for a bitch in the village. He’s locked in the kitchen sounding like damp chamois leather on a window pane. “Weeek! weeak!”

Out of the corner of my I catch something move. A rat? A Mouse?… A spider!!? – er no!

A common lizard out of hibernation, probably coming in from the woodpile.

lizard in the livingroom
Is it spring yet?

Today Barney contacted the British Herpatological Society to see what we should do. He received this response.

 

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Trevor Rose <baankulab@yahoo.co.uk>
Date: Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 10:28 AM
Subject: Re: interupted hibernation
To: Barney Mewton <mewtonb@gmail.com>
Hi Barney,

You obviously know your stuff! I just wanted to be sure we weren’t dealing with an escaped captive, particularly as it is in your house, which is unusual as you say (but not unknown). I can only think it must have been hibernating in the foundations of your house; it would have to be very close by certainly.

It is a bit of a problem that it has awoken. Putting it outside now could be very detrimental unless you know where other lizards are hibernating, and it would have to be done when the temperature is just right (around 6-7 degrees C during the day)

If you wish, I could make some enquiries to find someone who could keep the lizard for a few weeks until the weather warms.

Otherwise, and if you feel able to keep her yourself, here’s what you need to do: you could keep her in a plastic, uncovered box (like the storage boxes you can buy in the high street for £5-8). As long as it is 8 ins or more deep, she won’t be able to jump out. Sand, gravel or even clean soil can be placed in the box as a substrate, a place to hide (a piece of flat stale would be best) and a small shallow water dish pushed in to the sand. Feel free to decorate the habitat anyway you wish, but these are the bare essentials. You won’t need any additional heat as your house will be warm enough, but she would appreciate being near good daylight. If you have a desk-top angle lamp, you could put that over the box for a few hours a day (especially when feeding) then she will be able to bask before hunting as she would in the wild.

Then it is just a question of feeding. You could try small earthworms, placed in a shallow dish (eg. coffee jar, jam jar or other lid). If she goes for these, you’re on a winner as they are very nutritious and easy to find. Any other insects you can find can be tried, spiders are actually their main food source in the wild. Food must be live though. If you are unable to find enough insects (difficult at this time of year), then maybe you have a pet shop nearby that sells crickets? They normally sell for around £4 per tub and should last for some time. The small sizes are best (up to 10mm long). These can be offered around ten or so per day. Feed her in the morning and she will forage for them during the day.

Once the frosts are away and there’s a reasonably warm spell (8-10 degrees C for a couple of days in a row) you will be able to release her somewhere that you have seen other lizards in the past.

Let me know how it goes, and if you’d rather someone else looked after her do let me know.

Good luck!

Trevor Rose
BHS Secretary

Good advice for the lizard in your life.