Webs’n’Roses

Late summer – early autumn really – and the climbing roses are still blooming, catching the sun along with the spider’s webs which have been spun around the wooden struts of the arch.

Too good an oppotunity to miss with the camera and another capture of some of the things we’ve learned to appreciate more in this strange year of Covid.

Large White

P1090033This Large White butterfly was one of several in the gardens of Coleton Fishacre house, near Dartmouth in Devon. The house  – owned by the National Trust – was closed because of Covid-19, but the garden, grounds and paths to the South West Coast Path were open and there was plenty to be enjoyed.

Watching these very large Large Whites I was amazed to see how much bigger they were than the Large Whites in our garden in Cheshire. These were huge, like a species of superbutterfly! Maybe something to do with the habitat, the soil, or just that it’s often warmer and sunnier in Devon.

P1090032According to The Butterflies of Britain & Ireland there can be up to three broods, spanning April to autumn. The second brood flies from July to September, and are often more heavily marked with black and grey than the earlier spring brood. This one is clearly  from the  second emergence.

 

Their caterpillars are poisonous enough to deter predators, and even though gardeners might not like what are commonly called “cabbage whites”, they’re welcome in our garden. We don’t grow brassicas and we encourage wildlife.

 

Mermaid’s Purse

I’d never seen one before but I knew what it was. I spotted this Mermaid’s Purse on the beach at Hoylake on the Wirral, that funny chunk of land between Liverpool and North Wales. It’s flanked on one side by the River Dee, and on the other by the River Mersey. At the far end, it faces the open sea, which had washed up this marine treasure.

Known as a Mermaid’s Purses, these are the egg cases of rays and sharks.They contain the embryonic raylet or sharklet (my name for them) and they can vary in size, shape and colour, and some contain more than one embryo.

This one is 10 centimetres long, and it’s the egg case of a Blonde Ray.

The first photo shows the case as I found it, crusty with dried sand. The second shows it after I’d hydrated it by soaking it in water for a couple of hours, which restored it’s sheen and plumped it up a bit. Of course, it was empty, the young ray having hatched out long ago, and there’s an opening along the top which was the escape hatch.

I don’t know if there’s any deep significance in finding a treasure like this, but it feels like a gift, finding this fascinating object on the beach, especially as I wasn’t beachcombing or looking for anything in particular at the time. And especially as I was able to ID it right away, probably plugging directly into some long-buried memory of having heard about these in my childhood.

The Dee Estuary

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On  recent visit to the Wirral, staying there for a couple of nights in our campervan, we enjoyed walking on the Dee Estuary beaches. Tide out, plenty of space for our dog to run, sniff and explore, and a few birds about too, it was all very pleasant. Across the water from the Wirral side are lower Welsh hills and small towns, such a Flint.

The estuary leaves the boats moored there high and dry, then buoyed up again as the tide comes in. Low tide reveals rocks, mud, pools and the remains of maybe piers? Maybe breakwaters? Maybe the back bone of a buried dinosaur?

The sound of oystercatchers peep-peeping is unmistakable, but I need binoculars to find them as they potter about feeding on the beach. The warbling cry of a nearby curlew draws my attention as it obligingly stands still for a photo.

 

RSPB Deeside is located further up along the coast on the English side, and it’s a good place for birds, as is Parkgate, with its grassy, silted up seashore, promenade and ice cream parlours. Hen Harriers, Marsh Harriers, Short-eared owls, Merlins and Kestrels can be seen here, but patience is required, especially in winter months when it can get very cold taking part in one of the regular Raptor Watch events.

P1080832At the mouth of the estuary is Hilbre Island, which you can get to across the sands at low tide. A tide table is essential for this activity!  Further round the coast on the English side, is Liverpool, and nearby is Crosby Beach with the cast iron bodies of artist Antony Gormley forever looking out to sea, continually being covered then revealed by the rising and ebbing tides.

It’s always ourselves we find in the sea

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Last week I went away to the coast for  a couple of nights and returned recharged and refreshed after weeks of lockdown. There were small, simple pleasures, like walking on beaches and seeing seabirds. I wonder, do we appreciate what we already have? Why do we want more when we already have more than enough, if only we take time to enjoy it.

This poem came to mind as I was looking through the photos I took:

 

maggie and milly and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were:

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as the world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

e.e.cummings