THE CHALK DOWNLAND TURF HAS WARMED UP AND IS AWASH WITH COLOUR, DOMINATED BY THE YELLOW OF HORSESHOE VETCH AND BIRDS FOOT TREFOIL.
Back in May in my bee meanderings I left you patiently waiting for the arrival of the swifts. With great delight these aerial scythes appeared slicing through a sunny morning as I got to the office. Their chattering cousins, the swallow, are a constant companion on the telegraph wires and my Estate sidekick, the mighty wren, is still in full voice!
The chalk downland turf has warmed up and is awash with colour, dominated by the yellow of horseshoe vetch and birds foot trefoil. The horseshoe vetch is the larval food plant for the Adonis blue butterfly and the first brood are prevalent on the wing at the moment. I only managed this one useable image of the Adonis, and even then it was camera shy and refused to show its electric blue wings.
This butterfly has an extremely interesting symbiotic relationship with ants! The ants offer some protection and tend to the larval stage of the butterflies and in turn they can feed off the sugary secretion produced by the larvae. I completely gave up on attempting to photograph the wall brown butterfly I came across. A distinctive species when viewed up close but not performing for my camera this week.
Birds foot trefoil is a curios fellow. It has obtained its name from the ‘design’ of its seed pods resembling a birds foot (including rear facing toe). When in flower it is locally referred to as bacon’n’eggs due to its hues of yellows and reds, which I find rather heart warming.
When talking about plants to others it is common practice to use the scientific or Latin name – in this case Lotus corniculatus. Problems can arise if we use the local names – ‘Up North’ they refer to birds foot trefoil as Granny’s toe nails. I won’t expand on that one!
Within the vineyard itself the myriad of flowers is wonderful. All kinds of wild flowers associated with more fertile ground have appeared such as poppy, scarlet pimpernel, bladder campion and swathes of forget-me-not as seen in between the chardonnay.
I did mention in the last blog, for the ‘initiated’, that last year we had a single Venus’s looking-glass plant on our western perimeter. It is with a huge smile (and accompanying fanfare or glass of Sussex sparkling) that I can report that this miniscule mauve marvel has appeared in good numbers.
This time it is showing well at the opposite side of the Estate in our flower rich headland. A rather extravagant name for such a delicate plant. The name actually derives from the seed which matures within the plant and makes its ‘skin’ so taut that it resembles the handle of a mirror.
I am having some huge issues with photographing some of the wildlife. Flowers on a calm day – easy. Bees on a hot afternoon – ok. Butterflies in situ – oh so difficult. Birds – not a chance with my camera. And the prize for the most difficult goes to – the brown hare. We have a healthy population here at Rathfinny and we see them lying up, or loping through the vines – but can I get a photo?
Off now to buy some camouflage paint, a hide and some patience…