Thursday, 27 October 2011

Bees are still there

About October 20th I looked into the wild bee nest and I had a surprise. It was empty of bees! The combs were hanging clearly with no bees in attendance. So I went back two days later to get a picture and this is what I found.

There are still plenty of bees in the nest and they still appeared to be working actively, though none were flying in and out.

I looked in again yesterday (October 26th) and it looked deserted again! Do the bees have a hiding place further into the hole, behind the combs? Do they huddle together for warmth? I don't know the answers so I'll keep watching.

For the earlier parts of the story see Bees! and More bees!

October odds and ends

In early October Petra took a new route - across the maize fields from Maudlin Lane to Annington.

In the rough ground at the edge of the field were a few plants which I now know are field madder.

Along the road outside of Annington commercial centre I came across this group of fungi. I have not been able to identify them yet.

On another day (October 6th) I came across this late flowering black knapweed near the bypass. I think it should be linked to my page of "thistly things". The flowers are just like the creeping thistle flowers but the stems and leaves have no prickles. Like the thistles, these flowers are a good source of nectar for the late butterflies which are still flying in the area.

Friday, 7 October 2011

More bees!

I pictured this wild bees' nest in an earlier post back in June.

The bees have been active all summer, flying in and out every time I pass the nest. In the unseasonal hot weather we had earlier this week I looked closer and the nest seemed more active than ever, with a constant stream of bees flying in and out.

Today was much cooler and I visited about 5.30. Everything was quiet, with no sign of activity. But a picture taken through the entrance again shows that the nest has grown and is even more crowded. The bees were all still, waiting for a warmer time, I imagine. Have they stored enough honey to last them through the winter?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

September story

All the pictures here were taken on 1st September. The fruits were heavy on the trees at that time.

There was a good crop of elderberries this year. I picked a few pounds in August and my gallon of elderberry wine has now finished its strong initial fermentation and is quietly maturing.

But, in contrast to the elderberries above, the pretty berries shown here are not for consumption. Starting green, turning through red to black, the fruits of the wayfaring tree are described in an interesting way as "mildly toxic".

As is often the case with berries, they seem to be harmless to birds and provide them with a useful autumn meal.

There were still wild plums on the trees on that day (left), but the trees are quite tall and there were easier pickings on the pathway through the wood walk. (right)

Further along the wood walk I noticed the berries (left) of black bryony hanging in a tree from the dry stems of the vine. The bryony leaves are all dry and shrivelled before the berries have ripened.

In contrast the bright red fruits (right) of the nearby hawthorn have been shining out for some time while  the leaves of the tree are still fresh and green.

The bryony berries are poisonous whereas the hawthorn are just unpalatable. The young hawthorn leaves in spring though are quite pleasant to eat.

Near the bypass there were still some interesting flowers to note.

On the left are flowers of wild basil, not closely related to the culinary herb, it seems. I couldn't detect any aromatic qualities in the leaves.

On the right is a stem of slender St John's wort. There are some good clumps of it amongst the long grasses.

Surprisingly spectacular are its red seedheads shown below left.

My final plant for September(right) is a particularly interesting one. It does not stand out strongly amongst the grasses but is quite common in the area. It is red bartsia, known as a "semi-parasitic" plant. Its roots invade the tissues of the roots of the surrounding grasses and steal nutrients from them.

Although it does not show well in the picture, the leaves have a reddish tinge (hence the name?). This is because they have less need for green chlorophyll to synthesize their own nutrients.

Where do I Walk?

Mainly in a fairly compact area on the north-east side of Steyning in West Sussex, UK.

For a map of this area see My Home Patch