Monday, 15 August 2022

Spring joy: rich variety of wildflowers and a nightingale in song

Spring joy: rich variety of wildflowers and a nightingale in song

FIRST thing this morning, I take a brief stroll around the back garden with my posse of pussies before Rosemary joins us.

Our scourge of rats has largely vanished since our cats have been freed to explore and scour the garden like a bunch of feline mercenaries.

It has been cold overnight but the temperature is rising steadily.

There are plenty of insects in evidence and thankfully we have passed the spring equinox, an important point of passage in nature’s calendar.

A green woodpecker yaffles away unseen but close, goldfinches and greenfinches chatter on high, dunnocks sing with a high, evenly-paced warble, a robin bursts into song and starlings sound wheezy.

Unexpectedly, a pair of ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameria) whizz by noisily with characteristic squeals.

I’ve never seen them in or over our garden before but I suppose that this is an inevitable development as the species spreads.

There are plenty to be seen and heard along the banks of Henley Reach and beyond towards London.

Rosemary indicates a brimstone butterfly on a shrub and a peacock butterfly (Inachis io) flashes its sublime colours.

A blue tit examines one of the nesting boxes that we have provided in our collection of semi-mature trees.

The sun is out so we leave the cats to sunbathe and hunt vermin while we leave the house and garden and head off for a walk.

After arriving at the southern side of Peppard Common, we head across the short turf cropped by rabbits whose burrows are obvious.

We stop to talk to some of the workmen who are restoring the Red Lion to its former glory. When the work is finished and the pub is open again Rosemary and I will visit for sure.

A lovely magnolia that has escaped frost damage bears large pinky-white blooms, a lovely sight.

We cross the busy B481 towards our chosen destination, Dog Lane, and head past the former Dog pub.

There was once a small pond outside the pub, presumably fed by an aquifer. To this day an occasional stream runs eastwards, exposing a stony centre to the holloway.

There is such a rich variety of flowering plants to be seen along our path, a throwback to the glory of times past.

After a few paces we find hairy-leaved wood forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) with pale blue flowers and creamy-yellow centres alongside common dog-violets (Viola riviniana).

Lesser celandines (Ranunculus ficaria), daisies (Bellis perennis), ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) shine in profusion.

We chance upon a colony of leopard’s bane (Doronicum pardalianches) to the side of the golf course. It is a handsome plant.

Dog’s mercury glows lime-green as the sun permeates the leaves. The delicate plants seem to look back with everlasting gratitude.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly settles by the side of the lane, another lovely sight.

It is impossible not to like Dog Lane, whatever the time of day or season.

It is a true rarity with a connection to the past and you can think about all the people who have used the route over so many centuries. There are few muddy patches today but they are eminently negotiable.

To either side we are treated to a fine array of trees and shrubs, including hazel, oak, ash, cherry, dog rose, spindle, beech, blackthorn and many more.

We encounter a mystery fern that I mentioned here last year but was unable to name. After examining it through my microscope, I believe it to be an example of Dryopteris borreri, Borrer’s scaly male-fern.

On our return to Caversham, we call at my mother’s house to take her to lunch at the Flower Pot Inn in Aston.

As we drive beyond Span Hill, Rosemary and I notice the absence of lapwings that were once common here.

We head down Aston Lane and into Ferry Lane where we park up to feed ducks, geese, coots and mute swans.

Mother enjoys herself throwing pieces of bread at the birds and admires the Loddon lilies to the side of the road as we head to the pub.

The car park is packed but the vast majority of punters are sitting in the garden. Good news as it means there is plenty of space inside where it is lovely and cool.

After lunch we join the crowds in the garden. As ever, it is full of birdlife, house sparrows, dunnocks, robins and blackbirds.

When I have finished my pint, we head home, dropping off mum on the way.

This evening it is warm so we leave one of the back doors open for our cats to run in and out as they wish.

When the sun goes down everything changes. A bird breaks into song and I recognise the semi-broken melody. It is unmistakeably a nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos). It has been many years since I’ve heard one.

As we can’t see the bird, Rosemary records the tune for positive identification.

After a while all goes silent so we slip back inside and I head for the computer to find the song of the nightingale online. I’m right, it is a dead spit, and we smile at each other. How wonderful. I feel blessed.

vincent.ruane@hotmail.com

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