Early spring flowers

Today I will just share some pictures of a few of the first flowers I have seen during my walks the last couple of weeks.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s so lovely to see the first patches of bright colours between the brown and sometimes green you see in winter (or white if you happen to live somewhere with snow).

One of the first ones I saw were Winter aconite…..

I think they look so beautiful with the flower on a necklace of leaves.

They were followed by Early crocus….

(I love this picture – it looks like they are shining from within 🙂 )

A bit later I saw this Yellow star-of-Bethlehem. It reminded me a bit of a Narcissus, but they are a totally different plant family. Narcissus is a type of Amaryllidaceae and the Yellow star-of-Bethlehem is a type of Liliaceae.

Last Wednesday I was walking in a wood nearby and I found lots of these…..

First I didn’t know what it could be, but a friend on Twitter told me that it’s a Liverwort!

Yesterday I saw this Corydalis cava….

Around here they are quite common. They grow in the forests and bloom before the leaves of the trees are starting to grow. In some places there are like big carpets of them.

A few steps further I saw this Wood Anemone….

And…… on the other side of the road – in the sun – I saw some Pestilence wort…..

Sometimes I think that they are quite ugly. They appear as these fleshy looking “things” in the grass. But when you look carefully and you see all these little flowers, then you can see that they are actually quite pretty.

Treading lightly

At the moment I’m reading a book about seahorses. It’s a quite interesting – the author writes about a wide field of subjects that are related to them.

One of the things she writes about, is the fact that seahorses are used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This made me think about the use of the horns of rhinoceroses, which are also used in TCM. A lot of rhinos are being killed because people think they have medicinal properties. That makes me soooooo sad and angry!

But I have also heard that some of the consumers don’t realise that rhinos are being killed because of this. My first thought was: how can they NOT know? What do people think where it comes from? But then I realised, that I’m not so different at all. What do I think? Do I know where the things I consume come from? Most of the time I don’t really think about it. I mean: I often think about where my food comes from. But I’m far from really knowing the circumstances of the production, distribution etc.

And it’s even worse with other things I buy and use.

How about you? Do you think about these kind of things?

Aluminium for example. I try to reduce the amount I use. But lots of people use it for example in the form of aluminium foil or the cups of tealights.

(As you can see I also have them, but I bought this decennia ago (but I use it in other products I buy…… 😦 )) I don’t think many people realise how it’s made. I had heard some things, but I had to explore the internet to get to know some more detail……

As you can read in this article you need to extract bauxite using open pit mining. This has a huge environmental impact. As does the transformation from bauxite into aluminium. This produces loads of toxins and needs fast amounts of energy.

I don’t want to go in all the details – as I’m no expert. But I think I shouldn’t look down on other people who also don’t realise the impact their behaviour has on the environment, as I don’t have it myself……

But on the other hand, I think we all should try to educate ourselves. And even if we don’t know the consequences of our behaviour: we should try to tread lightly.

Birds and hedges

A while ago I sat in my car waiting for the traffic light to turn green when I heard a lot of birds tsjilping. I couldn’t see them. So, as the light was still red, I began to look more carefully. I then noticed a little bush next to the street. I think it wasn’t bigger than one cubic meter – and it was full of house sparrows!

That wasn’t the first time I had noticed that hedges seem to be the perfect place for a gathering of house sparrows. You might have noticed that yourself – depending on where you live (or do house sparrows live everywhere on this planet?).

So, a couple of weeks ago I took my camera to try to make some pictures of them. That is a bit harder than it sounds, because even if you can hear them chatting from a distance, they are quite good camouflaged between the twigs. That might be the reason why they like to sit there 🙂

Hedges aren’t only a good for sparrows. A lot of other birds and insects live there as well.

That’s why I think it’s such a pity, that people often choose other kind of fences in their gardens nowadays. I understand that it is more work to maintain a hedge then a (plastic) fence, but it is so much livelier, don’t you think?

Hedges are also missing in the rural landscape. You don’t often see hedgerows anymore.

But I also know that there are initiatives in several countries to change that, because not only trees and wildflower verges are good for wildlife, hedges are also very important.

How is that in the place you live? Do you have hedges and hedgerows? And what kind of animals live there?

About this site…..

I have been thinking a bit about the title of this site. At the time I started, I had been reading a lot about explorers and scientists in the 17th, 18th and 19th century and had a great admiration for what they did. And I still have – kind of…..

But lately I have been thinking more about what also happened at that time. The explorations of other continents also meant that many indigenous people were killed or driven from their homes, that natural resources were exploited even more than before -also because of the discoveries scientist made (steam engines and loads of other things). And that’s something I don’t admire at all – on the contrary!

So, I’ve changed this in “About“. The site and the name can still stay the same, I think, because it’s mostly about me, exploring the nature around the place I live, and my experiments most often are about how to help nature and not about how to exploit it.

And I might start to “explore” more books and podcasts and share them with you!

So…… I hope you’ll see more posts here soon 🙂

First signs of spring

Picture-winged fly

As you might know, I like to take my camera with me on my walks. It’s not so much that I think I will take awesome pictures, but I see it as a kind of photo safari – with my camera in my hand I feel like some kind of explorer …… 😉 But seriously, I think I notice more of the things around me, when I’m looking for something interesting to take a picture of.

So a few weeks ago I was on one of my usual walks as I passed a woolly burdock and noticed a small fly near one of its flowers.

I know this is an awful photo, but it’s an illustration of the fact, that I found it quite hard to take a picture :-/

As I looked for some time, I noticed it wasn’t only this one fly – there were several of them. And they were running around quite a lot. It almost looked like they were guarding their flowers against each other.

As I continued my walk – and on several later walks – I came across some more woolly burdocks and on some of them I could also see the same kind of flies.

My curiosity was awakened!

At home I started an internet search and soon found out, that these little flies with their beautiful wings belong to the family of Tephritidae.

First I thought the ones I saw could be Tephritis cometa, but after more reading I found out, that these kind of flies seem to specialise on specific plants. And Tephritis cometa lives on other plants than the woolly burdock. The woolly burdock is host plant for Tephritis bardanae.

As far as I could find online, the females lay their eggs into the young flower buds of the burdock and the larvae feed on the flower heads – which form galls (I haven’t seen any galls (yet 🙂 ).

Here you can see a female Tephritis bardanae with her ovitory (in black) with which she can lay her eggs.

So maybe I was right, maybe the flies really are guarding the flowers, because their offspring is living there…….

And on my next walk I will look for the galls – not sure how they are supposed to look though….do you?

Snowdrops – are they thermogenic?

As you know: I like to write in my bullet/nature journal about the things I see. So that’s what I did this afternoon. To refresh my memory, I usely look at the pictures I made during my walks.

That’s why I had another look at the photo I made of the snowdrops last week. (I’m sorry: I have to use this picture from my last post again, as it’s the only nice picture I have of them…. :-/ )

I started wondering, why the snowdrops appeared from the snow as they do. Do they just grow and grow and that’s the reason why they are visible? Or do they produce some kind of heat, that makes the snow melt?

I had a little look around the internet and found this post. It says – amongst other things – that there are no scientific studies to prove that snowdrops are thermogenic.

Then I had a little discussion with my husband – who knows a lot about biology and chemistry etc.

So now I think, there might be several reasons. I have read, that snowdrops produce a kind of anti-freeze, so their cells won’t get damaged from the ice crystals during the frost. When it’s cold they start to produce glycerol, which protects their cells from freezing. I think this means that their sap can flow at temperatures below freezing. And that’s why they can appear through the snow.

And as their green leaves appear above the snow, they might absorb more of the warmth of the sun, than the white snow that surrounds it. So there develops a tiny microclimate, where it is a little bit warmer than its surroundings.

I am wondering now, if the water that is circulating inside the snowdrops – thanks to the anti-freeze – could also heat up the micro-climate. We had a discussion about that as well. On the one hand you could say that the anti-freeze doesn’t make the water any warmer, it just doesn’t freeze. On the other hand you might think that the water in the ground – which is then circulated through the snowdrop – might be a bit warmer than the snow itself. And maybe the tiny microclimate which is a little warmer can even reinforce this process………

Well, I don’t know if this makes sense……. Do you have an opinion or even real knowledge about this? But it was fun reading, discussing, and thinking about this 🙂

Seasons

Long time, no see….. sorry for that :-/

Last week we suddenly had winter! I know lots of people who loved it. It was cold and we had loads of snow and later in the week, the temperature dropped even more, and it became really sunny.

I loved seeing some ice crystals…..

But I think it must have been hard on the animals. We even took our vermicomposter from the balcony into the kitchen, so the worms wouldn’t freeze.

The ducks on the river seemed all right – as far as I could see. But it was funny that the little grebe swam beside them looking like a duckling…..

But since two days it’s thawing …… and I’m really glad!! Before these cold, snowy days, I had the feeling that spring was already in the air. The birds had started to be more active, the woodpeckers had started their territorial drumming.

So I was glad to see the snowdrops reappearing through the snow today! 🙂

Broadleaf plantain

This year I took part in a course in botany. At least we tried to make it a real course, but with all the restrictions because of Covid we couldn’t do it as planned. But: we went outside in small groups and had a close look at plants and learned some interesting things.

So, I really wanted to look at- and take pictures of – as many plants as possible. But one day last summer – when I went out for a walk with my camera to take some macro photos – I had some problems because the wind was blowing so hard my camera couldn’t focus on the small details of most of the plants as they were moving too much.

So I decided to have a closer look at the broadleaf plantain (Plantago major).

You might know them (depending on where you live). They grow low and have thick leaves and robust stems, so they are hardly swaying in the wind. Here there are lots of them and at first sight they don’t look interesting at all.

But when I took a closer look at the flowers, I started to find them fascinating! 🙂

You can see how the pistils appear first:

Then the stamina appear – and I think they look beautiful, because of the colours of the anthers…..

Later they turn brown….

I also saw this little visitor – a Tachyporus obtusus 🙂

I took these pictures end of July. And then kind of forgot them. But last week I had another close look at the broadleaf plantain beside the footpath and saw that they had developed fruits.

And this is how they looked inside…..

I think I enjoy these things more than the obvious beautiful things – these little hidden joys! 🙂

Notebooks

So many people I greatly admire have used notebooks. I mean, it seems a logical thing to do in the past, as there were no cameras (or smartphones) to capture the things you saw or computers to note the things you thought. But these notebooks have always fascinated me.

For example the notes and drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander von Humboldt, Darwin and many more. Especially when I see the handwritten notes, it feels like I see something very personal of them – as if I can see them thinking.

Of course: I’m not like them in any way, but still….. I like to write in a notebook myself 🙂

I have also been watching a lot of videos about bullet journaling. (I know: it is a very loooooooong way from Leonardo, von Humboldt and Darwin to the videos about bullet journals….. :-/ ) (If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, here you can find some information.)

One day I decided to give it a try. But after a few weeks I lost interest, because it looked like to-do-lists in a notebook, which isn’t very interesting at all 😦

After some months I gave it another try, and decided to do it differently. I wanted to write down more about things I had read or seen. And then I saw Stephen Moss on the SelfIsolatingBirdClub (if you want to watch all the episodes (not only with Stephen Moss): you can find them here). And he talked about nature writing – about how people can write about the things they see and experience in nature. And that’s what I started doing in my bullet journal (this and the “normal” bullet journal things).

First I just wrote that I had seen a hare in the field, or heard some kind of bird. But this summer I wrote more and more. And I started to notice more things, because it’s one thing to see something and another to write it down (you have to find out how it’s called, or at least describe it).

I have been doing something similar some time ago with drawings, but that is even more time consuming. But I do add some small drawings to my notes.

(sorry, but it’s in Dutch…..)

So now I sometimes feel like a real explorer 😉 😀

How about you? Do you also like notebooks? Bullet journals? Do you do some nature writing?

Update on mummified aphids….

Last time I wrote about the mummified aphid I had seen on one of my walks, remember? The one a little wasp had used to lay its egg in?

Isn’t it funny how you see more of the things you have learned about? You hear something you have never heard of, and after that it seems like it pops up everywhere.

So that’s what seems to have happened today (or maybe it’s just the time of the year, where this occurs 😉 ): I saw another mummified aphid. But this time I was determined to find one with a little hole in it. Because that would indicate, that the wasp had hatched. And tada……. there it was:

Can you see the how the wasp has made something like a little lid to get out?

I feel with the aphid but still think this is really fascinating!

Have you ever seen this? Or something similar? Or something that isn’t similar, but is still fascinating?

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started