I think that these bluebells that have swamped the borders of my garden are English bluebells (update – but see below) rather than the evil Spanish bluebells that Germaine Greer takes exception to. I think they're the English variety because they have fairly purple stems and are bowed over under the weight of the flowers, rather than stiff and upright like their more vigorous Spanish cousins.

Apparently the Spanish variety hybridises with the English but the Spanish characteristics win out in the hybrid and ultimately the English one is out-competed and disappears. Hence some parties are very worried about the fate of the English bluebell, especially since well meaning people that are none the wiser plant Spanish bluebells in their gardens and even nature reserves. Germaine complains about bulb companies selling Spanish under the name of English, compounding the confusion and the problem.

Coming back to my picture above (taken on an iPhone – so please excuse the murky quality) I'm not completely sure whether they're really true English, as they bear some characteristics of each judging by the descriptions and photos in the two Wikipedia articles linked above. Maybe these are hybrids and the battle is already lost in my garden?

Update: my learned friends who know about this sort of thing inform me that these are not English, and are at best hybrids. Oh well.

The Times reports that solicitor and amateur entomologist Bob Heckford has discovered an entirely new species of moth in a Devon oak wood and it has been named Ectoedemia heckfordi after him. The discovery was in 2004 but it's only now that it's been confirmed as a new species and named. Apparently this is only the second new moth species to be identified in Britain in the last 50 years. 

Perhaps just as interesting is the fact that this is a micro-moth, the adult of which is only 3mm long – a genre of moths I had not heard of before now. It makes it all the more impressive that he found it! The article is a shade confused and also mentions 6mm, which I think must be the wingspan based on other sources reporting the same story. Maybe micro-moths have been fluttering around me for years and I just couldn't tell that's what they were on a dusky evening. A quick Google for "micro-moth" shows that most are 8mm or larger, and frankly don't look particularly micro to me, so if this one truly is only 3mm that would appear to make it particularly tiny.

The BBC has a video article on the re-introduction of Cranes to the south west of England courtesy of eggs from Germany. Apparently these massive, leggy birds with an eight foot wingspan were common in Britain up until 400 years ago. Wikipedia has an interesting though slightly inconclusive page on the history of Cranes in Britain including their slow reappearance over the last few decades – both naturally and via deliberate reintroduction. What's not clear is why they vanished four centuries ago, but I presume they were hunted and eaten!

The fact that Grey herons are sometimes referred to as Cranes, especially in rural parts of the country is responsible for the some of the historical uncertainty it seems. They are obviously fairly similar, though Cranes are rather larger and more exotic in appearance. I've not seen one myself, but if I wanted to then Norfolk is the best place to do so at the moment with a small breeding colony numbering only about 20 individuals.


The intriguing flowers pictured are Snake's head fritillary – a rare sight in the wild though cultivated in gardens for their exotic yet delicate look. These are the classic chequered purple variety though some are a ghostly white with just the faintest remains of the same pattern.

If you see them in the wild in the UK then you're very lucky, or you're in one of the few places that has a real concentration of them like the meadow of Magdalen College, Oxford, or the village of Ducklington, also in Oxfordshire.

I planted some bulbs in the garden last year and several (but not all) have come up.


The Times reports on this year's amazing display of cherry blossom, with weather over the last year having been the perfect setup for a blooming marvellous display right now.

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the picture is actually apple blossom, but there are some bonus butterfly eggs on the leaf in the bottom left that hopefully make up for it (click for larger version). I would imagine that apple blossom might well be similarly successful this year for the same reasons, but it's not out yet – at least not on the apple trees near me and in my garden. I'd photograph the cherry blossom on the trees along the street, but it's dark at the moment!

Update: the BBC also have a video article all about cherry blossom, from an orchard in Kent.


I've particularly noticed the re-emergence of wasps over the past couple of weeks. It seems every time I open my shed there's a big stripey black and yellow thing buzzing towards me.

I saw one today on a fence post, meticulously scraping away the surface of the wood with its mouth. They do this to make a papier-mâché mix with the wood pulp and their saliva, which they use to make their papery nests. The nests are generally built afresh at this time of year so you may see lots of them collecting wood like this and even notice patterns of freshly scraped wood on fences and wooden garden furniture.

The small nest in the photo above is about tennis ball sized and was found in my loft (long since abandoned) but somewhere they're making new ones right now. Actually having done some reading, it might just be a hibernation cell for an overwintering queen. It's those queens presumably that are now building new nests, which might grow to several feet across and 10,000 inhabitants by Autumn!

The UK has two types of 'classical' black and yellow wasp: the Common wasp and German wasp. There are also lots of other types of wasp, some of which are very tiny and many of which lead quite fascinating lives – but that's for another time.

After a few days hiatus, time to get back to cataloguing the non-grass inhabitants of my lawn. See part 1 here to catch up with the fun.

First, what I think must be a young Ragwort. Actually the flowers in the reference page look rather attractive – maybe I should transplant it to a meadowy area!


I'm fairly sure this next one that's just leaves is a Daisy, though it's hard to be sure without the actual flowers. The second photo is quite clearly a daisy and has similar leaves out of shot. It's only when you look up close that notice things such as the pink tips on the undersides of the petals.


Not strictly a weed, Primrose. These are amongst the edges of my lawn and look rather pretty so I spare them the mower. They seem to be very vigorous.


I have literally no idea what this next one is, appearing to be somewhere between thistle and dandelion with notably purple centres to the rather ragged leaves. If you know, please leave a comment!


I have more, so there will be a part 3. Don't think ill of my lawn – it's just that I bothered to look and record what was there. Admittedly it's not a great lawn all the same.

As I walked through a late-opening garden centre this evening I distinctly heard the call of a cuckoo from the middle distance. That's the first I've heard this year, and may be the only one too as they seem to be extremely rare. I'm not aware of ever having seen one – and I only hear them on occasion. The chances of ever having a photo to illustrate this story seem rather small therefore.

I get the impression from a quick Googling that this is about the time of year when you'd expect to hear them for the first time – late April into early May.


Despite what we thought earlier this month, it seems that the spell of good weather this week has brought the first bluebells into flower. The ones in our back garden have burst into flower this week and the Internet is awash with sighting reports.

The good weather is due to continue into the weekend, with up to 20 degrees forecast in the South East, providing the ideal time to go out and find some local to you. The National Trust website has set up a Bluebell Watch section so that you know what has been seen where and a quick search on Twitter also brings up sighting details. We may have to wait a little bit longer before we get to see a vista like that above, but just knowing that nature is on its way is exciting in itself. 

21. April 2010 · 2 comments · Categories: Mammals

The number of species of UK bats has increased by one thanks to the discovery of Alcathoe's Bat (Myotis alcathoe) in two different parts of the UK.

The discoveries have been made in Forestry Commission Woodland in Ryedale in Yorkshire as well as in the Sussex South Downs, leading experts to believe that more may be undiscovered elsewhere in the country.

Alcathoe's Bat is about the size of the end of a person's thumb and was originally discovered in Greece in 2001. It had been assumed that the UK being an island would prevent the bat from being seen over here, but it looks like this has been proven wrong. 

It is hoped that the bat is actually a resident species and that this has simply not been discovered here before due to the large number of similarities between it and other resident bats. Genetic analysis by a team from Leeds and Sheffield Universities has confirmed the species as identification based on appearance alone can be too difficult. The frequency of the distinct Alcathoe's Bat's echolocation call (43 – 46 kHz) can also aid identification without the need for genetic analysis to take place. 

Further details can be found in the press release from the two Universities involved: the University of Leeds and the University of Sheffield