For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

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Thursday 31 May 2012

Butterfly-orchid on the South Downs today

What a little beauty!

Fragrant-orchids on the Sussex Downs today.

The flowers are just opening yet are still very fragrant.

Common Twayblades in Sussex woods and Downs

Twayblades' flowers are past their best now, yet splendid in a woodland setting.

Common Spotted-orchids in Sussex today.

Dactylorihiza fuchsii, the Common Spotted-orchid is coming into flower now.  The above and below pictures are from the South Downs today.

Plants in a woodland setting in Sussex are also beginning to flower.
Sheltered from the prevailing wind and shadowed by the tree canopy, the woodland specimens are much taller than the exposed ones on the Downs.
Common...and spotted, they may be.... but they are surely beautiful.
*Footnote added 2nd June.  No need to leave Haywards Heath town centre to see Common-spotted orchids.  From South Road enter St Wilfred's church graveyard and there are some fine specimens in the "wild meadow" 10m. or so from the gate on your left.  The path is wheelchair accessible.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Growing Kiwi fruit in Sussex

After a couple of years, a Kiwi fruit vine, growing on a fence, has produced fruit.  It remains to be seen how big they will grow and if the birds and or wasps get the fruit before me.
The weed that has gone to seed is garlic mustard, which is allowed to grow for Orange-tipped butterfly caterpillars to feed on.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Maine on a foggy day, yesterday.

Maine is a wonderful place -- whatever the weather.

This day was lovely and cool and not too sunny.

Saturday 26 May 2012

Cypripedium pubescens, Large yellow lady's-slipper orchid

Cypripedium pubescens, Large yellow lady's-slipper orchid.

The native Aquilegia of Maine

How lovely to have such a weed in a garden.

Dendrolycopodium dendroideum

Somewhere in the deepest depts of my school days' memory, the word Lycopodium powder rattles around.  Well above is where it comes from; Dendrolycopodium dendroideum, a club moss in a wood in Maine.
See for more information.

Friday 25 May 2012

Downy rattlesnake orchid, Goodyera pubescens

Downy rattlesnake orchid, Goodyera pubescence, is shown above with last year's dead flower spike seed head in Maine yesterday.

When in bloom in August, this orchid has white flowers loosely-speaking a bit like Autumn lady's tresses.  My thanks are due to John Mattor for showing us this fascinating foliage of this New England orchid.

Amazing Ochids of Maine; the small whorled-leaved Pogonia

Isotria medeoloides or small-whorled Pogonia is extremely rare in New England -- so much so that it was one of the first plants in the USA to be on an "endangered species" list.
Imagine our joy then, to photograph this small group of these tiny and quite delightful orchids not so far from Portland, Maine, up in the hills.

Maine!  What a paradise for nature lovers.....  too bad that continental drift of the tectonic plates separated Scotland from America eons ago.  Sussex, UK is wonderful; and Maine is wonderful too.
 With grateful thanks to John Mattor, who enabled the above photographs to be taken.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Another Osprey nest

Like so much of wildlife spotting for snakes or birds, for example, you hear their presence before you see them.  Ospreys are no exception.  The raucous screech of a (presumably hungry) nesting Osprey calling to its mate for lunch is unmistakable.  Once heard it is easy to spot the nest from this trail in Maine.
The following shots were zoomed from the same place on the trail as the first picture.
We waited for some minutes in the vain hope that the mate might arrive with a fish.
It didn't and all that I could capture were a few fleeting moments when the nesting bird popped its head up.

Magical moments none the less.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Horseshoe crabs

The shallows here in Maine were full of Horseshoe crabs coupling.

This photo' includes my left boot toecap for size comparison.

Friday 11 May 2012

Tadpoles eat chicken

For breakfast this morning, the tadpoles enjoyed strands of cooked chicken breast.
As they get bigger it is nearly time for some of they to enter the wild world of a garden pond.  The newts, dragonfly larvae and leeches will be happy.

Thursday 10 May 2012

The most pampered tadpoles in Sussex?

Are these the most pampered tadpoles in Sussex?  Fed on only wild fish -- Canadian wild salmon and North Sea haddock, plus calves' liver and then "goldfish food" (tadpoles' equivalent of a leading brand breakfast cereal perhaps) they are safe from predators and are thriving.
Metamorphosis is quite extraordinary.  Just look how the simple tadpole is now becoming almost square shaped as bumps have grown where the hind legs will appear.
The great variation in size between tadpoles is also surprising.  It might be genetic variation, or just luck in getting better food (or not) at critical times.  My tadpoles are a bit dozy sometimes, in finding the food that they are fed.
I should add that these tadpoles - safe in their builders' bucket, are protected from the elements and cold night air in my "lean to" by my kitchen.  Being cold-blooded, their development is much faster in the warm, than their siblings in the freezer trays outside.  Sadly the lashings of rain last night on my freezer tray nurseries, caused some tadpoles to be washed overboard, only to perish on a flagstone.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

An English Bluebell wood... with alien Bamboo

The bluebell woods of Sussex are just beautiful today.  White flowers of Stitchwort delicately show off the blue of the 'bells.

What then, is this clump of bamboo doing here?  It is one of >1,000 garden escapees now growing wild in the English countryside.

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