Standing in my garden, camera in hand, I become aware of the diversity in just a few square yards. Leaving the plants to one side, as they remain a mystery to me, I feel relieved that my small patch is home to so many creatures.
After the hazels were coppiced and the branches chipped from the over-tall poplar we topped off we allowed the chippings to pile up or just cover the ground. The leaves from the red oak add to the carpet. Each step is a scrunch. I would never make a tracker. I become aware of the flies in all their varieties. I am looking for hoverflies and one cooperates. The others flee my lens. The breeze makes every shot tricky. Rarely a lull. Hence my position. Static. Alert. Hopeful. Frustrated. Then a surge of adrenaline. A damselfly. Red! Not what I normally see here. This is Large Red Damselfly, Pyrrhosoma nymphula. I become acutely aware of my shadow. I must let it sit and bask. Shade will cause it to move. Two or three times it shifts. I take a couple of distant record shots. I kneel. The under-carpet scrunches. I hold my breath. I raise my camera. I quietly press the shutter. I pivot as silently as I can. I edge closer. I press again. Gone.
Bees are everywhere. Never pausing. Nose in, body wriggle, reverse out. Next please. Large queens and tiny early bees. And nomad bees too. The ones I thought were small wasps. Oh no. Cleptoparasites. But today not one will let me take a single frame. They quarter the leaf litter and rotting wood like miniature harriers. They drop out of sight, emerge and dive under the foliage. Constantly moving. Gone.
From my position I can hear birds all around me. The blackcaps, the chiffchaffs, the rattle of a mistle thrush and if I walk a few paces to my left, the incessant demands of the nuthatch chicks. I watched the parents a day or so ago. They are returning to the nest every minute or so. Land, pause, in, feed, peek out. Clear. Away. Repeat.
The strong breezes have stopped the moths in their tracks. Nothing wants to fly in such conditions. The temperatures have risen but the moths need a calmer night to kick off the summer season. Will tonight be the night? Standing here I don’t really care. I am surrounded by bluebells and the garden is alive. Pyrrhosoma nymphula has made my day.
The extended process of leaf fall continues. For a month or more the garden Oaks have bedecked the perimeter in burnt gold. Islands of green make the finery especially eye-catching. The Acers are almost finished and the Ash already stands bare, revealing its mistletoe. The Beech and the Poplars have turned too. The Field Maple is a bright greenish yellow, shining out against the backdrop of the wood behind our fence.
Three weeks ago we felled a poplar. The frequency with which it was dropping heavy limbs was becoming dangerous. So the lower trunk now lies awaiting what nature will. The upper trunk lies cut into rings. Some are going to be turned into tabletops. Others will be split and stored. The leaves go to leaf mould. The branches went to chippings and mulch. Nothing has been wasted.
My interest in leaf mines continues. I spend a lot of time staring down my ageing microscope. This has brought me into a closer relationship with trees than ever before.
After the big blow of Storm Angus the garden is covered in leaves; the impossible jigsaw, more pieces than space and no blue sky to start us off. Suddenly the Ash is reaching up, gnarled fingers like Sadequain, bare, arthritic and up-pointed. I fishnet the pond clear, a daily chore I welcome. As I walk out I gaze upwards and check the treetops for life. Then round the bushes, snapping my eyes across to any bird chatter. The rattling Mistle Thrush, the seeping Treecreeper and the Firecrests, my annual hearing test that I celebrate passing one more time. A Grey Wagtail struts across the leafy lawn, picking at mid-morning dim sum.
Inside the logs burn hot and the dog inspects my work, nuzzling against my legs as I sit on the wooden floor, feeding the flames with another log of Cherry. The curtains are closed, and darkness is shut out. The only glow is the twin tubes of a moth trap, destined to catch nothing most nights. The night is long now and Spring seems far away. Slowly the garden shuts down. These are the nights for reading and thinking. The planning horizon shortens a little each year but long after I have passed to ashes and dust the Oak, the Beech and the Ash will grace the landscape. I cannot live without trees but the trees can live without me.
Well I saw no teddy bears but I did find a couple of other things of interest.
The most interesting thing was jelly. Some lumps of opaque jelly on rotting wood. Some of the jelly globules had black dots in them and immediately I thought of frog spawn. But in January? On rotting wood? So I posted the photo on Facebook and quickly received the reply ‘regurgitated frogspawn’. Then another more specific reply, most likely Exidia thuretiana but if you can see any white crystals inside them it makes them Myxarium nucleatum. And then again Looks like some very old Bird’s Nest Fungus in the bottom right too! (The specific IDs came from Richard Shotbolt).
My curiosity led me to crop the image and look at the Bird’s Nest Fungus more closely. Then I noticed the black dots in the jelly looked like tiny bugs. So I am seeking advice again. What do you think? What have I photographed here?I also photographed a Lesser Celandine – very early indeed. And this beautiful lichen, which may be Graphis scripta.
Other efforts produced less than satisfactory results but at least I enjoyed the sunshine. And no rockets launched last night. Three days to go until we head off to Vienna. Chores tomorrow. A trip to Heathrow on Thursday and taking Lulu to her hotel on Friday. So passes the week. And only Goldcrest and Sparrowhawk added to the garden list today. This is getting serious.