Bugwoman’s Second Annual Report

Grey Heron at London Zoo

Grey Heron at London Zoo

Dear Readers, another year has come and gone, and here’s a chance to reminisce about the plants and animals that I’ve seen over the past twelve months, starting with this fine heron, hanging around with the penguins at London Zoo in February 2015. Since the photo was taken, the zoo staff have planted artificial herons around the pool, which seem to have had little deterrent effect. Maybe the penguins will just have to learn to share their herrings.

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In March, I was introduced to the world of moss during a talk at the Natural History Museum, and was delighted to discover that the UK was a European moss and liverwort hot spot. My Wednesday Weed explorations included the discovery of some spring snowflakes in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, along with some teasel. I am always impressed by how biodiverse this burial ground is. Churchyards and cemeteries are underrated as places where plants and animals can get on with their lives away from human interference.

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Spring Snowflakes

Spring Snowflakes

Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)

Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)

March also saw the annual frog orgy in the pond. I am still waiting for all the amphibian excitement to kick off for this year, but I am usually alerted to the fact that the frogs have woken up by the presence of one or two cats who spend hours staring into the water as if it were a television.

IMG_1579IMG_1210April was a bird bonanza. I spotted a green woodpecker in the cemetery, drilling into an anthill with his chisel of a beak.

IMG_2034There were nuthatches, stock doves, song thrushes and even a treecreeper in Coldfall Wood.

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

Stock Dove

Stock Dove

Treecreeper

Treecreeper

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

Meantime, the borage was in flower on The Bishop’s Avenue.

Borage

Borage

May saw Oxford Ragwort being featured, and what a nest of wasps I stirred up with this plant. What a controversial ‘weed’ it turned out to be, with folk who want complete eradication because it occasionally poisons livestock on one side, and people who want it to be preserved for its entomological value on the other).

IMG_2697May also included a visit to a vanishing bog, and a Wednesday Weed featuring ivy-leaved toadflax, a plant that drops its seeds into cracks in the wall by turning its bloom in the correct direction.

The vanishing bog at Rowley Green Common

The vanishing bog at Rowley Green Common

Ivy-leaved toadflax

Ivy-leaved toadflax

In June, I visited the newly-opened ‘In With the Spiders’ exhibit at London Zoo, and found some very impressive arachnids, though whether they or the very nervous people who walked through it were the most entertaining it’s hard to tell.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver female (Nephila edulis)

Golden Silk Orb Weaver female (Nephila edulis)

June’s highlight for me was my first ever discovery of a bumblebee nest in a patch of brambles on an unadopted road close to my house. I actually did a little jig of delight when I realised what I’d found. There is nothing to beat a spell of aimless wandering if you want to find something new and interesting.

IMG_2901I also examined two patches of Japanese Knotweed close to the playing fields behind Coldfall Wood, and explored the history of this nefarious ‘weed’. As I write, one patch is being eradicated, and I am intrigued to know exactly what is going on. I hope to report back soon.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed

July saw me in Obergurgl, Austria for two weeks. A land of plants, butterflies  and, um, cake.

Orange-tip butterfly - a familiar face!

Orange-tip butterfly – a familiar face!

Apricot cake with cream. Still warm from the oven...

Apricot cake with cream. Still warm from the oven…

On my return, it seemed that some new neighbours had moved in, but strangely enough I haven’t seen a single rat since that day.

IMG_3659I also had a visit to some municipal planting sites in Islington and the Barbican, to see what can be done when a council decides to improve the wildlife value of its public gardens.

Planting on Holloway Road by Islington Council

Planting on Holloway Road by Islington Council

Planting at the Barbican by City of London

Planting at the Barbican by City of London

In August, I witnessed the mass exodus of winged ants, a phenomenon that I’d known about since childhood but had never researched before.

081315_1447_TheFlyingAn4.jpgI also made a field-trip to Bunhill Fields, to observe the pigeon flock there. Again, the people were every bit as interesting as the birds.

IMG_4046September saw the departure of the house martins, and also my departure to Canada for a fortnight. I saw chickadees, red-winged blackbirds and monarch butterflies, and spent time with some wonderful family and friends. I met up with several folk who I had previously only known from Facebook, and they were just as interesting, warm-hearted and generous in real life as they’d appeared in cyberspace, which just goes to show what a force for good the internet can be.

House Martins preparing to head south for the winter

House Martins preparing to head south for the winter

Monarch

Monarch

Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Chickadee

Chickadee

In October, I visited the newly installed ‘Empty Lot’ by Abraham Cruzvillegas at Tate Modern. This featured containers of soil taken from all over London, and some of them were already beginning to sprout. I will make a return visit before the exhibition closes, to see how the plants are getting on. At the time I was worried that the silly timescale (October to March) would not give most of the plants any time to flower, plus the lighting looked inadequate for proper growth. I hope I’m proved wrong.

'Empty Lot' at Tate Modern

‘Empty Lot’ at Tate Modern

I also celebrated the superabundance of spiders last autumn, which continued well into what we would normally think of as ‘winter’.

IMG_4576In November, I celebrated a very impressive squirrel, enthused about  the beauty of the beech hedge, and had a Twitter-spat with someone about the exact definition of a weed, following a piece praising the little community garden at East Finchley station. Suffice it to say that there was plenty of harrumphing going on.

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The N2 Community Garden

The N2 Community Garden

December started just like any other winter month. I found some stinking hellebore and some gorse in bloom, and discussed the starling tree on East Finchley High Street.

Stinking Hellebore

Stinking Hellebore

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

The Starling Tree

The Starling Tree

I also temporarily transmogrified Bugwoman’s Adventures in London into a cat blog.

Tabby Kit

Tabby Kit

Lee

Lee

Hamlet

Hamlet

But by January, I chose to share with everybody that my 80 year-old mother was in hospital, extremely ill with sepsis and pneumonia. My post on the subject elicited some of the kindest and most thoughtful comments I’d ever had, and I will always be grateful for everyone’s support during this time.

IMG_5116So, here we are, full circle.  I love the variety of people who come together here, united by a  delight in the natural world, and a desire to look after it. This year, I am participating in a course called Identiplant, which I hope will help unlock some of the secrets of accurately identifying the plants around me (I still find the Daisy family confusing, what with all those Hawkbeards and Hawkbits), and I hope to be able to share some of that knowledge with you all. I aim to explore my half-mile territory with even greater zeal, and to wander further afield to see what else is going on. In short, this year I hope to go deeper, to uncover the unnoticed and the ignored, and to set forth like a true adventurer into the wilds of East Finchley, notebook in one hand and A to Z in the other. I hope you’ll come with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Bugwoman’s Second Annual Report

  1. Anne Guy

    Well what a year, rats,cats, birds, flowers, insects, trees, squirrels and holiday photos too! I have really enjoyed reading your well written and painstakingly researched posts and have also enjoyed sharing your holiday adventures too…I look forward to your next year’s round of posts! PS is the orchid still alive?

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      The orchid is still alive, but looking a little ramshackle. One week to go till my next visit to the parents – hopefully the poor thing can hold on till then (and survive the train journey 🙂 )

      Reply
  2. Katya

    It’s a delight to delve into your elegant and humorously observed texts, photos, lore and history. I wonder what you’ll let us in on this year? Best of luck and congratulations on your wonderful achievement!

    Reply
  3. Beach-Combing Magpie

    That inquisitive little rat is so lovely! Psychologically-speaking, once you get over their huge numbers with the associated health and hygiene issues and those rather ‘ratty’ scaly tails (a bit of a yuck factor, I’m afraid), they can be endearing. My aunt had a similar family that used to duly appear on the bird table each morning, climbing up and down the pole but they too disappeared at one stage… The biggest surprise guest I ever received was a red squirrel – standing up like a mini-human, pinching nuts from a twisted Japanese hazel tree in the garden. I was speechless and the cat went wild with indignation!

    Reply
    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I actually love rats – such intelligent, opportunistic creatures! But I do know that others don’t share my enthusiasm, so my approach is to gradually cut back on the amount of food that I give to the birds so there isn’t as much waste – this means that the rodents ‘move on’ without being starved out. We all have to live, after all :-).

      Reply
  4. londoninheritance

    Congratulations on your second year of blogging – seems a long time since the course in Spitalfields. I look forward to your explorations of the natural world in your third year. Regards, David

    Reply
  5. Bug Woman Post author

    Thanks David, and congratulations on your second year too – your blog is really going from strength to strength. One of the highlights of my week!

    Reply

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