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.

 

The Wedding Favours

Back in 2015 we were invited to a wedding. It was in late March, and in spite of inclement weather, it was a happy, friendly occasion, with dancing which went on on until well into the night.

The tables for the main meal after the marriage ceremony had been beautifully designed by the bride, and the usual wedding favours – a small gift for each guest as part of the table settings – were the most unusual we’d come across.

A box of gladioli bulbs was there for each guest, along with an indivual “thank you” message. We took our bulbs home, planted them and forgot about them until the summer, when tall green stalks with elongated buds started to appear. Our gladioli were coming up and started to open out.

They’ve appeared each year so far – now in their 5th season – and we’re always pleased to see them as we forget what delicate colours these particular bulbs have. Every year I photograph them and gently tease the groom’s mum with the pics as hers come up, but don’t flower. And I gather that the bride’s don’t flower either…..all I can say is that the secret of our success with these is total neglect!

 

The Dee Estuary

P1080856 (2)

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

P1080845 (2)

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

Buff tailed bumble bee

It’s good to see there are bees in the garden. There are plenty of nectar sources; among these are the pale pink blossoms on the blackberry vine which wends its way along the wall under the kitchen window. Already the petals are dropping as the fruits begin to form.

Bees go for purple flowers and we have quite a lot of these. The lavender, which they are strongly attracted to, is just coming into flower.

As a child I was scared to pass lavender bushes smothered in bees. Now I’ll happily lose time watching the bees at work on them, trying to ID them – usually not doing particularly well so I have to go indoors to refer to the bee chart we have on the wall.

Maybe I need a bee ID book…? (birthday present hint!).