Monthly Archives: March 2022

Lots of Testosterone at Walthamstow Wetlands

Dear Readers, geese seem to have featured quite a lot in these pages over the past few months, and I fear today will be no exception, because on my visit to Walthamstow Wetlands this week we were tripping over them. The Canada geese are claiming the high ground and chasing one another off of every prime spot. I am thinking of calling this series of photos ‘Goose With Bollard’.

The greylags are a little more peaceable, but only a little. This little group were on high alert for intruders onto their patch.

The cormorant that I photographed last time still has his favourite perch, and no obvious mate.

Though even he seems eager to keep his territory clear of other birds.

I am hoping that this greylag is just having a rest, and isn’t actually planning on nesting on this most unpromising spot.

Everywhere there’s the sound of bird song, with robins, wrens and even dunnocks singing from the top of every shrub. But it’s not until we get to the ponds on the other side of the main road that we see the real argy-bargey, with the coots beating one another up with no restraint whatsoever. They seem to fight mainly with those big grey webbed feet.

So, the Wetlands was certainly lively today, and full of creatures trying to sort out their territories and make the most of their breeding opportunities. In just a few weeks everyone will  be much more occupied with the serious business of raising the next generation, and the energy levels will reach their annual high. And then, it will all fall strangely silent. But for now, there’s lots of testosterone-fuelled action going on, most of it of the ‘handbags-at-dawn’ variety rather  than anything more serious. Most animals know that mortally injuring one another  should always be a last resort. What a shame that we don’t seem to have learned that particular lesson.

At East Finchley Station

Dear Readers, I arrived at East Finchley Station en route to Walthamstow Wetlands (about which more tomorrow) only to find I had ten minutes to wait before my elderly person’s tube pass kicked in at 9 a.m. However, it was a real pleasure because the lovely gardeners at N2 Community Gardens have been at it again! I haven’t been outside much in the past few weeks because of my Covid isolation, so it was a real  pleasure to see this lovely array of spring flowers on a very tricky, steep, sloping site next to the entrance of the station.

The cowslips, primulas, forget-me-nots and wallflowers are all a real treat not just for the human eye, but for any passing pollinators too. And while the daffodils are more to the taste of humans than insects, the display of different kinds was a real delight.

There are usually some vegetables and herbs popping up too – I remember some redcurrants and some very jazzy rainbow chard last year – and the rosemary, another pollinator favourite, is already in flower.

And honestly, who can resist the cowslips, with their little yellow and orange faces? They certainly cheer me up.

And finally, the hellebores are in full flower. One of the lovely things about this site is that the flowers are at eye height, so you can actually see them – hellebores have a tendency to hang their heads shyly, but here you can actually see those lovely freckled petals.

It just goes to show how a small patch of ground can punch well above its weight in terms of the variety of plants, the benefit to wildlife and the sheer happiness that it brings to people passing by. While many souls were rushing to get to work, every so often someone would see me taking photographs, stop, and actually look at the garden. I’d love to think that it had brightened up their day. It certainly brightened up mine.

This Is Not a Cat Blog But….

Dear Readers, my cat Willow is about thirteen years old now, and spends most of her morning following the sun around the living room. She actually miaows at my husband if he’s sitting on her ‘sunny spot’ on the sofa, until he moves out of the way (which he always does once he gets the message). If there is one thing that proves that I married the right man, this is it.



What goes on in that little furry head, I wonder? Willow is not at all motivated by food, but she loves to be brushed after dinner on the sofa, and complains very loudly until the ritual is complete. If I am coming down the stairs, she slinks past me by running up them, always treading on the wood not the carpet. She always comes to see me once I’m in bed, and will let me know if my hot water bottle is not in exactly the right position for her to lay on. But once I turn the light off, she jumps down and disappears until I turn the light on in the morning. She is pretty much the perfect cat for us, because although she could go outside, she never does, probably because there are so many other big, scary cats around, and so she never menaces the frogs or kills the fledglings.

I have spent so much of my life living with a dog or a cat that I can’t imagine how it would be to live without one. And yet, I am writing this on Mother’s Day, and I remember how my Mum wanted to have a little dog during her last years, even though she couldn’t walk it or look after it. She wanted the kind of little dog that wouldn’t want to be walked, and would be happy to just sit on a cushion – in other words, a dog as old and frail as she was. And yet, what a heartbreak such a dog would have been, with its inevitable medical problems. In the end, we never found a dog that was suitable (if indeed such an animal existed) and Mum and Dad had to make do with the alpacas and the therapy dogs who visited the care home where they spent their last months. We take so much for granted, and we assume that things will carry on the way that they are, until something happens, and we realise how finite things are. And so I intend to appreciate my cat, and the cats that may come after her, for as long as I’m able, in the full knowledge that the day will come when I can no longer care for an animal, and will have to admire them from afar. So long as I can see a bird from my window, or a butterfly in the garden, I think that will be enough.

A Spring Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, three weeks after the onset of my Covid I’m finally feeling like myself again, and so it was such a joy to head out to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery to take in the glory of the Lesser Celandine. Just look at them! Could they be any more joyful, I ask myself.

And if you watch closely, you can see them being appreciated by a whole mass of bees and tiny pollinators.

The primroses are out in force too.

I heard the buzzards mewing, and saw one being hotly pursued by the usual gang of crows. And, for your delectation, here is a sparrowhawk’s backside, shortly before she exited stage left, also pursued by crows. Note those distinctive bars on the stomach.

Blackcaps were singing their heads off, as was this chaffinch, who was making a most uncharacteristic volume of sound.

And the blackthorn is in flower.

I have mentioned before that the lesser celandine was Wordsworth’s favourite flower, but I’d never read the poem that he composed to it. I had expected some cheery paean to the first flower of spring but, as so often with Wordsworth it’s rather more thoughtful than that. So here, for your delectation, is Wordworth’s Lesser Celandine. See what you think.

The Lesser Celandine

There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, ’tis out again!

When hailstones have been falling, swarm on swarm,
Or blasts the green field and the trees distressed,
Oft have I seen it muffled up from harm,
In close self-shelter, like a Thing at rest.

But lately, one rough day, this Flower I passed,
And recognized it, though an altered form,
Now standing forth an offering to the blast,
And buffeted at will by rain and storm.

I stopped, and said, with inly-muttered voice,
“It doth not love the shower, nor seek the cold:
This neither is its courage nor its choice,
But its necessity in being old.

“The sunshine may not cheer it, nor the dew;
It cannot help itself in its decay;
Stiff in its members, withered, changed of hue.”
And, in my spleen, I smiled that it was grey.

To be a Prodigal’s Favourite -then, worse truth,
A Miser’s Pensioner -behold our lot!
O Man, that from thy fair and shining youth
Age might but take the things Youth needed not!

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Sunday Quiz – Don’t Bug Me!

Red and Black Froghopper (Cercopsis vulnerata) Photo by gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Readers, as you might expect with a name like Bugwoman, I am very fond of bugs. Although in North America any ‘creepy crawly’ is often called a bug, the name actually means a member of the order Hemiptera – all bugs have mouthparts adapted for sucking juices, usually from plants, but occasionally from other animals. As a result, in spite of my love for them as a group, even I have to admit that bugs are some of the gardener’s most aggravating little companions.

So, your mission this week is to  have a look at the critters pictured below, and see if you can put a name to them. I have tried to pick bugs where the common name will give you a clue, even if you’ve never stumbled across the bug yourself. Just match the species name to the photo, and pop your answers in the comments as usual. You have until 5 p.m UK time on Friday 1st April to have a go, and the results will be published on Saturday 2nd April. I will disappear your answers as soon as I see them.

So, if you think that the bug in Photo A is a Hawthorn Shieldbug, your answer is A) 1



  1. Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemoprrhoidale)
  2. Parent Shieldbug (Elasmucha grisea)
  3. New Forest Cicada (Cicadetta montana)
  4. Common Froghopper (Philaenus spumarius)
  5. Rhombic Leatherbug (Syromastus rhombeus)
  6. Rhododendron Leafhopper (Graphocephala fennahi)
  7. Bedbug (Cimex lectularius)
  8. Common Green Capsid Bug (Lygocoris pabulinus)
  9. Water Measurer (Hydrometra stagnorum)
  10. Common Pondskater (Gerris lacustris)
  11. Common Water Boatman (Corixa Punctata)
  12. Water Scorpion (Nepa cinerea)


Photo A by Martin Cooper from


Photo B by AfroBrazilian, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo C by Bj.schoenmakers, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo D by By André Karwath aka Aka - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,


Photo E by Bj.schoenmakers, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo F by AfroBrazilian, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo G by Kjetil Fjellheim from Bergen, Norway, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo H by Fritz Geller-Grimm, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Photo I by By © entomartIn case of publication or commercial use, Entomart wishes then to be warned (, but this without obligation. Thank you., Attribution,


Photo J by By Pjt56 --- If you use the picture outside Wikipedia I would appreciate a short e-mail to or a message on my discussion page - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Photo K by By Content Providers(s): CDC/ Harvard University, Dr. Gary Alpert; Dr. Harold Harlan; Richard Pollack. Photo Credit: Piotr Naskrecki -, Public Domain,


Photo L by AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons





Sunday Quiz – Mellow Yellow – The Answers!

Dear Readers, you clearly all know your yellow plants very well – Mal from FEARN, Joanna Smith and Fran and Bobby Freelove all cleared the board with 12/12 this week, so congratulations to all of you, very well done! I suspect there might be some bug-related goings on on Sunday, so watch this space….


Photo A by Ivar Leidus, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

A) 5) Common Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)

Photo B by Tatters ❀ from Brisbane, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

B) 9) Touch-me-not Balsam  (Impatiens noli-tangere)

Photo C by Ian Cunliffe 

C) 2) Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)

Photo D by Randi Hausken from Bærum, Norway, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

D) 12) Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Photo E by MPF, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

E) 6) Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsis)

Photo F by By Stemonitis - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

F) 3) Goldilocks Buttercup (Ranunculus auricomus)

Photo G by gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

G) 1) Yellow Corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea)

Photo H By TeunSpaans - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

H) 8) Turnip (Brassica rapa)

Photo I by Peter O'Connor aka anemoneprojectors from Stevenage, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

I) 7) Evening Primrose (Oenothera glazioviana)

Photo J Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

J) 4) Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Photo K by CC BY-SA 3.0,

K) 10) Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum)

Photo L by AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

L) 11) Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon)

Photo Credits

Photo A by Ivar Leidus, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo B by Tatters ❀ from Brisbane, Australia, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo C by Ian Cunliffe 

Photo D by Randi Hausken from Bærum, Norway, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo E by MPF, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo F by By Stemonitis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Photo G by gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo H By TeunSpaans – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Photo I by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors from Stevenage, United Kingdom, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo J Acabashi, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo K by CC BY-SA 3.0,

Photo L by AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

They’re Back….

Dear Readers, these ring-necked parakeets really are most intriguing birds. They seem to be very set in their habits – during this past few weeks, we’ve been woken on several mornings by their squawking, and they often pop in on the way back to their roosting sites in the evening – yesterday they were most perturbed because Bear, the big black fluffy cat from across the road, had settled himself down on the patio and showed no inclination to move.

Normally, the pair of parrots seem to get on very well, but I am coming to the conclusion that either they aren’t the same two birds, or one of them is getting their breeding colours, and getting very tetchy to boot. Normally they feed very happily side by side on the peanuts, but today this male got very crotchety with the other bird who tried to feed. You can see how his ‘rose-ring’ is starting to appear, and very fine it is too, though it did cross my mind that it looks as if someone has tried to garrotte him. See what you think.

Anyhow, he was being very butch with the other poor parakeet, who had to sit at the top of the whitebeam until he’d eaten his fill.

Eventually the male flew off, and this one was allowed down to feed. All very intriguing. Parakeets are such characters, and this is building up to being a proper soap opera. I shall keep you posted.

A Spring Visitor

Dear Readers, it has been a really lovely couple of days here in East Finchley, and I was delighted to see this handsome boy sitting in the garden when I finished work yesterday. He’d had a little drink in the pond and was now sitting around waiting to see what would happen next.

He was a bit interested in the wood pigeons on the bird feeder, but they’re a bit high for him to reach. He hid behind the rose bush for a while just in case he could surprise one.

Then he had a little dig for fallen bird food and worms…

And then it was time for another look round…

And then the children next door came out to play ball, so he sauntered off, after first investigating one of my pots.

After all these years (nearly twelve years in this house), I still can’t get over spotting foxes in the garden. What a treat! It’s as if a little bit of the wild comes to call every time.

The Resurrection Men

Photo One by By Thomas Quine -, CC BY 2.0,

Mastodon at the Royal Victoria Museum, Canada (Photo One)

Dear Readers, New Scientist this week has an article about ‘de-extinction’ – the process whereby scientists are attempting to bring back extinct species, using a combination of genetic editing, cloning and surrogacy. The most famous project is probably that of Colossal, a biosciences company that wants to recreate the woolly mammoth, and the TIGGR project at the University of Melbourne which wants to resurrect the thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. Restore and Revive, a US NGO, is trying to de-extinct the passenger pigeon and the heath hen. But a study by the University of Copenhagen has shown up some of the difficulties in trying to bring back an extinct species from the dead (and that’s before we even get on to the ethical questions).

Thomas Gilbert at the University of Copenhagen has been working with a team who are looking at the Christmas Island Rat, also known as Maclear’s Rat (Rattus macleari). This rodent became extinct in the early 20th century, and a high-quality genome was extracted from preserved specimens. However, there were still many gaps in the genome, some of which could be filled by looking at the genes of the closely-related brown rat, but there was still a gap of some 5% of the genome, and the scientists have no idea what it did.

Crucially, it’s these genes that were the most recent, and which made the difference between the Christmas Island rat and the brown rat. It’s thought that in this case the missing genes relate to the rat’s immune system, and to its sense of smell – the latter, in particular, would influence the way that the Christmas Island rat found its food, interacted with other rats, and avoided predators. So, even if a ‘Christmas Island Rat Mark II’ could be created that looked like the original species, its behaviour is still likely to be very different.

Photo Two by By Joseph Smit - Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1887 web, Public Domain,

The Christmas Island Rat (Photo Two)

Still, the companies that have set their hearts on recreating extinct animals soldier on in the face of ethical opposition. Just to set out my personal stall on the subject, it seems that the money being invested in de-extinction could be better spent on preserving habitats for the elephants, marsupials and birds that are in danger of extinction, rather than bringing back those who have already gone. Of course, that doesn’t mean that all this investment would go to these causes (just as the money spent on the space race wouldn’t have gone to ending world hunger if we’d never gone to the moon) but I smell a distinct whiff of the profit motive in many of these de-extinction projects. How much would people pay to see mammoths roaming in an American safari park, I wonder? And how much would these animals sell for?

Furthermore, many of these animals, especially the mammoths and passenger pigeons were intensely social creatures – how many are the companies actually planning to recreate, or is this a case of a few sad specimens in some kind of zoo? And what about the female elephants who would be the surrogates for the calves who are created, in the case of the mammoths?

All this for an animal that is probably just a poor facsimile of the original species, from a habitat that is now largely gone or degraded.

It is, of course, possible that interesting discoveries might be made in the search to revive these animals, discoveries that could be beneficial for living animals. But on balance, I think that just because we can do something, even imperfectly, it doesn’t mean that we should. Let’s try to preserve what we have, and what we are in danger of losing.

You can read the full article here.

Photo Credits

Photo One By Thomas Quine –, CC BY 2.0,

Photo Two By Joseph Smit – Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1887 web, Public Domain,

Back to Work….

Dear Readers, I was back to work today, though clearly my brain is only operating at about 60% capacity – I look at my spreadsheets with considerable befuddlement, and don’t be asking me to calculate anything more complicated than the bill for my cappuccino. Still, I did at least find time to pop out to the garden to have a look at my tadpoles. I love the way that they turn from little full stops to little commas – you can see that some of them are already getting their tails.

There is so much frog spawn, though! All those little lives just waiting for the jelly around them to dissolve so they can venture forth and start munching the algae. And pretty much all the adult frogs have gone, as if they were never here. So that’s the amphibian excitement over for the year.

Or maybe not. I just rediscovered Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’. I hope you love it as much as I do. Just for a bit of background, flax-dams were used to rot down bundles of flax for making linen. I love that the frogs are ‘poised like mud grenades’.

Death of a Naturalist

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.

Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.