Thursday, 20 November 2008

Fallen leaves & feathered thorns

Many leaves have blown into the Kitchen Window Reserve over the last several weeks and I have decided to leave them and watch their progress and the effect they have on other plants.

20081115 KWR autumn leaves

Although we have had a couple of frosts, the large and rather beautiful feathered thorn moths (Colotois pennaria) have been quite common over several week period with one or two appearing regularly on the lighted windowpanes.

20081120 Kvr feathered thorn

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Hoverflies & corn-salads

Some good things on a rare sunny day.  Two hoverflies were feeding on ivy blossom: the drone fly (Eristalis tenax) and the much scarcer common bog hoverfly (Sericomyia silentis) pictured below.

20080913 KWR Sericomyia 002

20080913 KWR Sericomyia 003

I also noted the first mine, in a bramble leaf, of the golden pigmy moth (Stigmella aurella).

On the flora front I have decisively determined the corn-salad plants that continue to flower into the autumn.  They are all keel-fruited corn-salad (Valerianella carinata), a relatively scarce species and not, perhaps, one that would have been expected.

In examining the seeds under the microscope, I noticed that many had been broken into via a jagged hole on one side and the kernel eaten.  Perhaps a small beetle - I must try and find the culprits.

Valerianella carinata in flower, South View 20020928 f

Friday, 18 July 2008

Great Oak Beauty, Hypomecis roboraria

This moth is a great oak beauty (Hypomecis roboraria) and Nationally Scarce (Nb) species with its main strongholds in England in wood areas in the south east.

20080715 005

This was on our lighted kitchen window pane and, in this underside view, the diagnostic pale spots with dark surrounds at the wingtips are clearly visible.

The moth is widespread across Sussex, though less so in the east, and the larvae, as the English name suggests, feed on oak.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

New rock

9 June 2008.  Among the scatter of seedlings now apparent in the bare areas of KWR, there are one or two grasses (which may vary what currently seems to be a monospecific grass population).

I identified a moth caught on the lighted window the other day as the pale clothes moth (Tinea pallescentella).  It is considered by some that, because this moth was unrecorded in Britain before 1840, it may have been imported from Patagonia (it turned up in other countries outside South America at round about the same time).

Curiously, later in the evening, I found another moth on the lighted window.  It was a fulvous-tipped clothes (Tinea semifulvella) and this is the next moth covered after T. palescentella in moth book (Pelham-Clinton in Heath & Emmett, 1985)

10 June 2008.  The highlight of today was the transportation of a large sandstone rock from under the bird cherry on the south west corner of the house to KWR.

I know from my experience with other rocks that it is best set with a slight slope to the flat upper surface so that dropped or voided seeds can be washed off into the well-fertilised soil below.20080610 South View 003

The stone has small indentations on one surface indicating that it has been dressed as masonry at some time.  We think it came from Oaklands Park to the south of the village maybe the early 1960s.

20080610 South View 001

20080610 South View 004

Sunday, 8 June 2008

A way of seeing

Leaf-picking this morning I found a shell of a brown-lipped snail, the packaging from a thrush's breakfast.

I cleared much of the ivy around and above the early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana), now with seed pods.  This plant must have been introduced to the garden many years ago, but it seems to flourish and the plants in KWR have several ripening seed pods like small, pale green cardamoms.

An interesting consideration has been borne in upon me since the start of this project inasmuch as the way I see the view from the kitchen window has changed fundamentally.  I have been looking out of that window at the hedge and the ground in front of it fairly consistently since 1974 - 34 years - but now I have a different regard for it.  Through this project my way of seeing has changed and I am presented with a much greater quantity of significance..  What was previously a tired bit of garden just outside the back door is now rich in natural wonders, dynamics and possibilities.  My relationship with this previously nondescript bit of the planet has changed beyond recognition in only two weeks, but almost entirely through an altered state of perception rather than any actual physical change in myself or KWR.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Introduction to KWR (Kitchen Window Reserve)

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4 May 2008 A new spring and another project. The Kitchen Window Reserve is the area I can see across the path from the kitchen window – my most looked at outdoor view here at South View in Sedlescombe, East Sussex, UK. I have even cleaned the windows so that I can see it better. The GPS map reference is TQ 78243 18853.

The advantage is that I can see it while I am cooking and washing up and can easily pop out via the back door to make some small adjustment or get a closer look at something.

The area is, conveniently, 2metres x 1 metre and is bounded on the east by a yew and on the west by a small hedge of Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’. At the rear there is a mixed hedge of hawthorn and garden privet.

Almost in the centre is a small oblong rock of blues limestone from the Purbeck Beds at Burwash Weald, brought home about 18 months ago when I was doing some survey work there.

The area itself is generally speaking very tired looking. Years ago it used to be part of a border but I have fed the birds here for a long time and both they and the local dog and cat population seem to have pounded the soil surface so that very little grows and what does scarcely flourishes. However, my initial plant list, excluding grasses and mosses, is 16 species long. I also recorded 2 invertebrates, a pill millipede and a scorpion fly as well as a young blue tit wondering where all the food had gone (I am still feeding the birds, but elsewhere).

I moved a plastic planter with some exotic spurge and a Canary Island geranium, but decided to leave a smaller faux stone pot that looks like a Mayan artefact from the jungles of Yucatan. It is in this that the figwort grows.

The initial plant list was yew, hawthorn, Mrs Robb’s bonnet, Druce’s cranesbill, herb-robert, ivy, wild privet, Wilson’s honeysuckle, creeping cinquefoil, lesser celandine, bramble, common figwort, black bryony, dandelion, stinging nettle.

17 May 2008 I have, from time to time over the last fortnight, popped outside and cleared up bits of twig and leaf or tidied back bits of the hedge I thought were untidy.

Howard Matcham, the Sussex bryological recorder has identified one the mosses – a very abundant species – as common feather moss (Eurhynchium praelongum).

Birds still occasionally come looking for crumbs, though I put these elsewhere and the blackbird with white patches is a frequent visitor.

A plant species I can confidently add is smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris).

Towards the end of the hot spell I decided to water the reserve and bought a huge, green, plastic watering can to do the job properly. This stratagem is simply to induce a few more seeds to germinate in the dry patches of bare soil, soil that I have dug over shallowly.

Today a scatter of hawthorn petals lay across the reserve. So many of the delights of spring are, as Horace observed long ago, fugitive. Falling petals prophesy fruit and autumn with winter and, maybe, another spring

23 May 2008. Yesterday Sammy (granddaughter), Wills and Laurie (great grandsons) came and cut the tall yew hedge on the west of KWR back to its proper proportions of a square projecting from the main east/west hedge. It made a bit of amess with leaves, twigs and some inevitable trampling, but has let in much more light.

I am continuing to water the reserve, mainly to encourage seedlings and to bring the area into good heart after years of dancing poo-voiding, bread and seed foraging birds. This morning I noticed a small plant of cleavers (Galium aparine) in flower and yesterday I identified a blotch leaf miner in the privet as the confluent barred slender (Caloptilia syringella), a micro moth.

The smooth hawksbeard, much trampled yesterday as it grows on the lip of the plot by the path, has already staged a strong recovery - tough little plants.

24 May 2008. During my early morning bits picking I discovered a second identifiable moss. Rough-stalked feather moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) grows in a small patch in front of the Blue Stone (my new name for the chunk of Sussex blues limestone that has lain in KWR for several years.

There are also some straggly, grass-like plants that I think may be three-cornered leek (Allium triquetrum), but I will have to wait and see, maybe for a couple of years or more.

25 May 2008. Heavy rain overnight has refreshed KWR (one could pronounce this 'coo-er' in the Welsh way) in a way that the watering can cannot. A wonderful concatenation of repetition.

While leaf-picking - a daily chore - I discovered a wild rose seedling which has increased my species tally to 27.

26 May 2008. At 8am heavy rain was hammering down, giving the view through the window that sad 'pluie' quality of wet greyness.

Though the soil was soaking up the moisture, there was a clearly discernible water track flowing diagonally across the south western section of the area. It runs from the angle of the hedge where the yew joins the main east/west run then proceeds in a shallow ribbon, maybe quarter of metre wide to the ridge along the south of the reserve whence it flows along the hollow path to pass the back door. Various twigs and ridges in the soil give it a more stream like structure and I will have to think about the possibility of canalisation. The only plant affected is the battered smooth hawksbeard that grows on the lip of the ridge where the stream crosses. At least it has had a good wash.

27 May 2008. A hedge sparrow (or dunnock) still regularly visits KWR despite the fact that I no longer put the bird food here. Sometimes a second one joins it, but they do not appear to be friendly to one another. Thomas (1983) says "The popular Victorian writer Mrs. Brightwen describes the hedge-sparrow as a 'quiet, gentle bird, the type of a very homely person, always in the path of duty and never interfering with other people. Other authors describe hedge sparrows as having sober domstic attachments.

A thrush also put in an appearance, looking very pleased with itself.

Every day I have to collect fallen yellow camellia leaves that have come of the bush by the back door.

28 May 2008 During the night some creature knocked over the small white plastic guard (made from an empty rice pudding pot) that I had put round the wild rose seedling as a protector. It did protect, even though knocked over.

Friday, 30 May 2008 A whitethroat popped briefly out of the hedge today - I think they have a nest somewhere nearby as I can often hear the pipings of the nestlings.

The Druce's geranium has its first glossy pink flower. It is not a plant I like very much as it spreads everywhere. Formally titled Geranium x oxonianum, it is a hybride between G. endressii and G. versicolor and its English name is from the great botanist Claridge Druce who raised the hybrid around 1900.

Saturday, 31 may 2008 I photographed the Geranium x oxonianum this morning as it flowered framed by a few strands of Lonicera nitida 'Bagessens Gold' (I will give a more detailed account of this plant in a future posting)

Sunday, 1 June 2008 A robin disappeared through the hedge today and I could see it beyond on our neighbour's lawn. I note things like this because I cannot remember whether I have seen a robin in KWR before. There were some flies I pooted from the ground vegetation. One was a Chloropid (gout fly), the other a soldier fly Michrochrysa cyaneiventris seemingly new to East Sussex and commoner in the north.

Monday, 2 June 2008 The grass area in front of the Blue Stone is growing quite quickly but most of the tillers go sideways rather than up (is it a bent?) and there is no sign yet of anthesis. I think it is a rather different species from those I am accustomed to.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008 Returning home in the evening I discovered a fallen spray of rock whitebeam (Sorbus rupicola) lying on KWR. This would have been cut by the weevil Rhynchites caeruleus, a beautiful glittering blue beetle and, I suppose, contains the eggs (which is why the beetles cut the shoots) and is therefore a good record for KWR.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008 I bought a brown plastic plant pot holder from the local garden centre today and made a hole for it just to the west of the Blue Stone. It is a good colour tone for KWQR and holds just over one litre of water (I filled it from the kitchen tap).

The spoil from the holes was full of pebbles and, a trowel's depth down, I hit the concrete from the old path buried years ago. But I managed to sink the pot (Brown Pond) and made a hillock, a monticule, east of Blue Stone with the extracted material - a mix of earth, flint pebbles and crumbling cement.

I also put down a cuboidal chunk of sweet chestnut wood, an off-cut from the barn building project at Pestalozzi.

Thursday, 5 June 2008 More bird records (magpie and greenfinch); more insects. I have started to collect the latter in a rather haphazard way but already some good things are appearing like Cerodontha fulvipes, a fly whose larvae live in rough meadow grass.

Friday, 6 June 2008 I include the moths that appear on our lighted kitchen window in the inventory for KWR. So far I have recorded a sliver-ground carpet, a snout and a white-colloared house moth.

Saturday, 7 June 2008 A wren (strictly a winter wren) in the hedge. The thrush has started using the Blue Stone as an anvil and deposited shells of the brown-lipped snail and the garden snail.


Thomas, Keith (1983) Man and the Natural World. Changing attitudes in England 1500-1800. Penguin, London