READING THE LANDSCAPE

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The landscape that I am thinking about if not some wild stretch along the coast or hill side here in West Cork.  It is, rather, my immediate surroundings – our garden, where I have access any time of day or night and can make observations in any season of the year.  Let it be during my early morning stroll past the vegetable plots to the back where everything is disorderly and where wild things grow, or let it be during the height of day when the sun is streaming through the tree canopies, or at times when Irish mist engulfs us and brings the clouds real close to the earth.  Night time too is good to find and learn to understand the many creatures that are about.

Our garden is small, it slopes down slightly and it has four mature trees giving shade, a chestnut, silver birch, hawthorn, and a Mediterranean oak.  These all provide shelter for the many birds that frequent on a daily basis, from the little wren to the hooded crows – all are very welcome.

I find it a source of immense pleasure and joy to observe not only all the plants that grow, but to see and know all the wildlife – every little creature, to find out their species, their lifecycle, their name.  To take photos of them helps me sometimes to study one or other aspect of them in more detail.  There is always more to learn and discover, and I find a lot of information on Google as well as in books.

Why my garden, and not the larger landscape around me.  Well it is down to logistics really, my garden I can go into at any moment, it is a daily ritual, a meditation that I have got so used to that it would be hard to live without it.  The wider landscape does get observed too, but not that frequently.

In the garden next door the people keep a pony, this attracts a certain amount of flies to the neighbourhood and that is good.  The other neighbour keeps a small hive of bees, and it is nice to have those come into the garden at times.  Behind our dilapidated sheds at the very back, where some rotting wood also gives shelter to a variety of insects, the ground, covered in wild plants and grasses, slopes down towards the town, well below us.

And so this small bit of nature, filled with wild plants and herbs has an eco-system all of its own, rich in variety and brimming with creatures, a goldmine for anyone with an interest.  Great joy can be found in reading this landscape and finding new discoveries every day.  The changing seasons, even the high temperatures and drought recently brought about unique or forgotten surprises, like the very large wasps that we had not seen for many years.

I watch, and listen, and observe, and I find that the natural world is a great source of joy!

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Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta,

Aglais urticae - small tortoiseshell

A DELIGHTFUL DISCOVERY

A bumblebee that was sitting on the bathroom window, not moving. I grabbed my camera to take some shots and then got out the honeypot and as soon as I touched the surrounding area of this beautiful insect it put out its proboscis and started to suck the honey with gusto, lovely to see this. It gave me another chance to take photos. I see this little bumblebee type in the garden a everyday, feeding or at least looking for nectar on the flowers of the large comfrey bush. They are very small in comparison to other bumblebees and move fast, never been able to take a photos until now. Just found out something else interesting, from observation, they do not go into the comfrey flowers, rather they bore a little hole in the tip of the flower petals and suck that way (I guess). I’d love to have a proper identification. I’ve looked at all sort of websites without any luck. Now I came across a blog post of a fellow blogger that looks very interesting, it is at https://standingoutinmyfield.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/cheat-guide-to-the-irish-bumblebees/
Could it be a young male B.Lapidarius I wonder?  And no it is not!  I have since learnt from a very reliable source, one of my fellow bloggers who is an ecologist, see her blog at https://murtaghsmeadow.wordpress.com/ that our little bumblebee is a bombus pratorum, or early bumblebee worker.  It is not a male because males do not collect pollen and in the photo we can see lots of pollen on its legs.  Only the queens and the workers collect pollen, the males do visit the flowers for nectar though (Murtagh’s Meadow).
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Just adding two more photos of other bumblebees from the garden.

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This one is also small but it has two bands of yellow and a white bum, so different from the previous bumblebee.

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And this is a large one orange top, a lovely one.  Must get better photos though.

I would also like to pass on recommended reading:  Dave Goulson’s book – A sting in the tale –

SUMMER SHADOWS

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“It’s like living in a light bulb, with the leaves
Like filaments and the sky a shell of thin, transparent glass
Enclosing the late heaven of a summer day, a canopy
Of incandescent blue above the dappled sunlight golden on the grass.”
From John Koethe’s ‘Sally’s Hair’.

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Breakfast under the Hawthorn tree is such a summery pleasure, birds singing in the trees all around us, what a beautiful start to the day.

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Today I was inspired by the shadows of some trees along the road to town, what I saw reminded me of some of the impressionist painters like Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cezanne, and others, also more modern painters like Marc Hanson or Terri Ford.  I have always loved the way these guys painted the shadows under the trees, and indeed I love walking under trees during sunny weather for the same reason, the sun playing among the leaves, the shadows in all shades of grey, the dappled sunlight interesting and playful. The shade under the trees giving perhaps cooling to an overheated brain.

How I wish I could paint these shadows, and that light.

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VENUS TONIGHT

Venus in the sky towards the West tonight was so bright and beautiful, just waiting to be enjoyed.
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“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, ‘Nature and Selected Essays’

 

TREE SILHOUETTES AGAINST A WINTER SKY

Last winter visiting near Cambridge, UK.   I was very pleasantly surprised with the beauty of the area there, I had always know the fantastic architecture of the university, churches, and other town’s buildings, it’s interesting to see the natural architecture of the trees, and compare it to manmade architecture.  I love both.
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OLD RED SANDSTONE

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It is old red sandstone that is mainly found on the surface here in West Cork.  And this Red sandstone is covered generally by carboniferous limestone.  There are also areas of Carboniferous shales and slates.  I don’t know that much about geology yet, but I am very interested in learning more, especially as I have an extensive collection of rocks in my living room.  Collected over the years, some from all over the world when I travelled.  I found my first fossil when I was eleven years old.  Rocks are fascinating, they are ancient and their mineral composition is interesting.  I always thought that when I retired I would find the time to take up geology and identify all my rocks.  So far that has not happened in a serious way, but it will.  I will do a course online or something and learn a lot hopefully. 🙂

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These rocks I found mainly at Kilbritain beach County Cork.

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OLD MAN WINTER WAS HERE

We awoke this morning to a sunny but very frosty winter’s day.  Steam was rising from the horse in the field behind the garden, poor animal – I hope it was all right during the night. Frost had covered everything beautifully in the garden, making lovely patterns on water iced over, and decorating the vegetation in pure white and clear crystals, beautiful! It’s the type of morning one loves to get up and go out and wonder at it all.
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SHINING EBONY BLACK BERRIES

Berries of the Privet

The berries of the Ligustrum vulgare or commonly called Privet.  Yesterday, while the bus we were all driving up to the capital city of Ireland, was having a stop for refreshments, I came across this lovely crop of Privet berries.  I had been taking photos of some around here but the pictures had not been focussed enough, I was lucky this time and only took the photo with my mobile phone.  I’ve always been very fond of the Privet and know it mainly from hedging plants, since my early childhood I have loved the scent of the flowers, and today this scent calls up many a good memory, as a child I was always a keen observer of nature, one of my granddaughters has the exact same interest and is very eager to check out insects, and other aspects of nature, I am glad to see it gives her the same pleasure and excitement, and I now understand better my mother’s reactions when I had snails, spiders and ants in my bedroom.

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The delicate flowers of the Privet plant.  They are very sought after by bees and other insects.  The hedges are here very favoured by our Sparrows for shelter.  As a hedge the Privet is easy to grow and gives good boundary and is easily cut in shape.  I prefer it to other hedging.  It grows quickly though!

WINTER BERRIES

Today is officially the first day of winter here in Ireland, and it is nice to see such plentiful supply of berries for the birds.
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These berries are still giving a lovely show, not eaten yet by the birds either, I’m not sure what it is, it looks like a Cherry but not sure, and wrong time of the year.

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Holly berries, very plentiful this year, and Rosehips are also giving the birds lots of foods.

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Snow berries, and Woodbine berries, there is so much in the hedgerows right now.

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Hawthorn berries, and Cotoneaster, the birds, here the Blackbird, are having a nice time with them.  This Blackbird comes to feed every single day, a joy to behold.

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Then these are the berries of the Guelder Rose, these are native to the woodlands and hedgerows here in Ireland (Thank you Murtagh), some type of bird will eat these too and enjoy them. The black berries I still have not identified but they may be some type of the Prune family. It is still very mild for the time of year, that and the large crop of berries will sustain an already quite “fat” bird population around here (I have never seen the Sparrows quite so large as this winter).