BrownhillsBob's #365daysofbiking

On a bike, riding somewhere. Every day, rain or shine.

Posts tagged ‘nature’

#365daysofbiking Autumn on my shoulders


September 25th – A better day after all the rain. On a soft morning with light, hazy sun and the smell of the canal and wet earth, the grim trials and disappointments of the previous weekend seemed a million miles away.

It was still warm, and I have to keep reminding myself that we’re only a whisker from October, and The Suck, the season until Christmas of night-time commutes where the conditions and driving are a nightmare.

Autumn is certainly on my shoulders but today, with my sleeves rolled up and the waterfowl chattering, I could kid myself I had a few more weeks yet…

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#365daysofbiking And then, there were three

July 29th -An old boss used to get really annoyed with me if I came in after a wet weekend moaning that the following Monday morning weather was sunny, because I was stuck at work.

He’d point out I’d be even more miserable had the commute been wet and cold.

He was right.

I noted that the robins pincushion galls I’d found a couple of weeks ago had expanded in number to three, and that they were growing well, showing lovely colours in the strong morning sun.

I felt sad I was indoors for most of the day. But old John was right, it was a whole bunch better than had today been like Sunday.

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#365daysofbiking A place of safety

July 22nd – In the middle of the canal at Catshill Junction, in the midst of the algae mat, a mother proudly sits on a nest. A nest built upon driftwood flotsam trapped in the algae.

I’ve been watching her a few days. You can see trails in the surface from her partner coming to feed her, or take his shift sitting.

Safe from foxes and other land predators, this moorhen mum’s got a relatively secure nest.

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops!

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#365daysofbiking From little acorns

July 15th – More galls: I mentioned knopper galls recently and pointed out these wasp galls deform acorn buds to form a home for the wasp larva within. I found an illustration of this in Victoria Park Darlaston.

This is a knapper gall starting to form. The acorn cap is normal, but where the smooth, rounded nascent acorn should be, there is a knobbly, textured growth which will expand to form the gall.

The DNA of the acorn has literally been corrupted or reformed to grow a home for the wasp egg within by a chemical the egg was coated with.

How does such a mechanism evolve? It’s truly wonderful.

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#365daysofbiking Flown

July 8th – The galls that formed on the oak trees in spring that looked like rosy apples have now served their purpose and are dead, their bodies spongy and containing many holes where the wasps that grew from larvae within ate their way out to freedom and maturity.

Galls fascinate me: Corruptions of the tree’s buds by a parasitic, tiny wasp, they grow as host to the wasp’s offspring and take many forms.

These expired galls signal the passing of the season and soon we’ll start seeing knapper and artichoke galls which form on acorn buts, but have the same genesis.

Parasites are fascinating.

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#365daysofbiking Hovering hawks

July 2nd – On a grass verge on an industrial estate near Darlaston, hoverflies  were busy pollinating the hawkweed flower – and both the flower and fly are overlooked stalwarts.

Hawkweed in all it’s forms is a common, bright splash of colour in town and country alike, and is a dweeler of the edgeland, wasteland and verge doing nothing more than providing beautiful flowers. Sadly often regarded as a weed or mistaken for dandelions, it gets sadly passed by but really is worth a look.

The hoverflies are one of the important pollinators, and although disguised to look like bees or wasps for protection from predators, they’re totally harmless.

Two unsung heroes, supporting each other…

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#365daysofbiking Nursery tales

June 8th – The weather cleared, so I left the fair and headed up to Honey Hill, No Mans Heath, Netherseal, Coton in the Elms, Walton and over to Barton for coffee – but from the rickety Walton Bridge, I watched a fascinating drama unfold.

Four adult Canada geese were shepherding their clutches as one group along the reedbeds at the edge of the Trent, foraging for food. It’s not uncommon for these geese to team up on parenting duties or mind each other’s chicks, but this group of nearly 30 is one of the largest I’ve ever witnessed. It was stunning – not least for the control exerted by the parents.

They guided the goslings upstream to an inlet to the west. I watched as they processed one by one and two by two into the side brook.

Then, a splash and a flash of red fur – a fox was waiting. There was a commotion, and Reynard fled empty mouthed, and the geese herded their young back into the main river. They appeared to be counting as they gathered the young birds into a tight, safe circle.

Fox had gone, his lunch thwarted by eagle eyed parents – or maybe goose eyed – and then normal business resumed as a human with food was spotted on the eastern bank.

I’ve never seen anything like it and had I not ventured out on a wet, miserable Saturday, I probably never would have.

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#365daysofbiking A tense situation

May 21st – Not many people realise, but one of the reasons we see so many herons on local waterways at this time of year is that these large grey dishevelled fishers will also take young waterfowl chicks – moorhen, coot, ducklings, hatchling cygnets and goslings.

It’s not nice to think about, but herons have to eat too, and it’s why waterfowl have large clutches after all.

Today, in Pleck, Walsall I watched from the towpath as a tense situation developed: A pair of Canada geese with three goslings were heading into the path of the watchful eye of a heron, who was clearly looking for lunch.

The heron stayed put, statuesque, but the parents had spotted it. They halted their progress, and after what seemed like a silent debate between the parents, Dad honked loudly and aggressively at the heron. Heron was clearly irritated by the attention and took flight – the geese shouting what must have been abuse after it.

But, being a heron it landed again, a mere 100 yards down the canal.

Poor goslings have to be lucky all the time, the heron? Only once.

Nature, red in tooth and claw.

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#365daysofbiking It may not be obvious

May 19th – It was a weary run out – Through Shenstone, Weeford, Hints, Tamworth, then up the canal to Hopwas, Whittington and home via Wall and Lichfield. Not a long run, and on a grey, warm afternoon that always seemed to be just on the verge of rain.

It was nice, but I wasn’t feeling the love. My stomach was grumbling and I was tired.

But as usual, a combination of the things I found, the quirkiness of the the country I live in and the beauty of thriving nature around me perked me up.

I’m still chucking about the warning of troops training. That’s so Monty Python and utterly British. And sadly, there was no sign of the cat. I like to think it was called ‘Fluffy’ or some such.

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