It’s September in England, seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness, and its colours are beginning to show. Here’s a beech tree, but you probably knew that. They are so numerous around our woods, it wouldn’t surprise me to find it’s our county tree.
You know, we’ve been in our new home almost seven months and I haven’t explored the local area that much. Now that I’m not working (again), I ought to get out some more, so I put on my boots this afternoon to go for a little stroll in the trees…
Along the way, I had this idea that I might do something regular to improve my nature knowledge. I don’t know if this’ll work out or peter out but I’ll give it a try. Each outing, I’m going to focus on a few things and see if I can work out what they are.
I ought to dig out a decent camera for the job. I have four but haven’t used them for years (one, an analogue 35mm SLR, I haven’t used at all – it’s mint! – but I’ll not be using that). For this trip, I had to use my phone – it’s all I had – it’s more hit and miss than point and shoot, as the bee photo below shows. Click the images for a better view.
First up is a bit of flora and fauna combo. The plant has the wonderful common name of Meadowsweet. It took a little bit of searching but the leaves gave it away. Its scent gives it away too, apparently reminiscent of germaline, but like a numpty I didn’t think to sniff it – I’m still a novice at this game. It’s medicinal too. It contains salicylic acid which was synthesised in 1897, called acetylsalicylic acid, and sold in pill form as “Anadin”.
The handsome fly feeding on its nectar probably didn’t have a headache but it wasn’t so easy to ID. I hadn’t realised there were so many hoverflies around. I think it’s Meliscaeva cinctella, and what’s more, she’s female. She really ought to have a common name to easily remember her by but maybe she’s too good for one.
Now why is it so difficult snapping a bumblebee? The leaves are more or less in focus but try as I might – and I did – the bees were a blur. What caught my eye was the striking mustard coloured thorax. I think they are Tree Bumblebees (bombus hypnorum), and not at all rare. Yet they were only first discovered in the UK as recently as 2001, and now they’re everywhere, except on the Isle of Man. Coming soon, Manxies! It’s an extraordinary bucking of the trend for beekind populations, a positive story.
Here’s a better image of one I swiped off the internet (credit: Stephen Falk).
By the way, my lot were sampling the sparse flowers over clumps of Comfrey. These were also known in olden times as “knitbone” and used in poultices to heal sprains, bruises and painful joints. However, it contains an alkaloid toxin which, absorbed through the skin over time, can possibly wreck your liver.
More next week…