The busiest burdock

In my last post I wrote about the wildlife to the north of Histon. This post is about the wildlife to the west of the village. The two areas are divided by a main road and they are quite different in character. The north is very open with big open fields lined with ditches and hedgerows and the west has more trees and scrub.

In mid June I ventured there to compare the birdlife with that to the north, because I normally see less farmland birds like skylark, corn bunting and yellowhammer here, but more finches and migrant warblers like chiffchaff, willow warbler and whitethroat.

Dog rose (Rosa canina) bejewelled with raindrops

There had been a refreshing shower shortly before I set out which had left the flowers on a rose bush bejewelled with raindrops. It was a good time of year for the wild flowers as the ground had not dried out and there was plenty of sunshine. And of course, if the wild flowers are in good shape, there’s plenty of food for insects and therefore abundant sustenance for birds too.

(And on the subject of insects there was a news report from the BBC today regarding the short-haired bumblebee (Bombus subterraneus) which became extinct in the UK in 2000, but was reintroduced to an RSPB reserve at Dungeness in Kent and is now successfully breeding. Great news!)

But I digress. The dog rose flower was in the local meadow, but passing through there to the farmland beyond there is a field which is lined with drainage ditches, hedgerows and wide unmown borders which support a wealth of wildlife including wild flowers, bumble bees, dragon flies and birds. One of the wild flowers there is the burdock, Arctium minus, which has enormous spiky leaves and big burs which get stuck to your clothes, and on this walk there was a burdock patch that was full of songbirds:

A cock linnet resplendent in his sumptuous breeding regalia: the crimson bindi and rosy breast

The linnet (Carduelis cannabina, Dansk: tornirisk) were omnipresent here throughout the summer, and occasionally a yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella, Dansk: gulspurv) appeared too. It’s easy to find yellowhammers if they’re in residence because of their characteristic song (a-little-bit-of-bread-with-no-cheese).

The striking colour of the male yellowhammer

And the yellowhammer song carries on the wind for hundreds of metres and because they are so colourful they’re easy to spot with a pair of binoculars.

A male whitethroat watching an adult linnet feeding a fledgling

At least one pair of whitethroat (Sylvia communis, Dansk: tornsanger) were nesting on the edge of this field too. The whitethroat are amber listed and the conservation status of the linnet and the yellowhammer is red list due to decline in their numbers. And in a very old oak tree just a few metres from here was a pair of barn owls (Tyto alba, Dansk: slørugle) nesting, and their status is also amber, but more about those in a later post.

Red clover – Trifolium pratense – the national flower of Denmark

19 responses to “The busiest burdock

  1. Pingback: When the sun stood still | The Naturephile

  2. Nice photos. I especially like the dog rose and the cock linnet..

  3. Your clover photo is amazing – and I never knew it was the national flower of Denmark! You learn something new every day…

  4. Great bumblebee news, Finn. Also love your clover photo! ;)

  5. What a lovely post Finn, full of hope and possibilities. They might be on coloured endangered lists but in your neck of the woods they are doing their damnedest to stage a comeback :)

    • Hello Fran, so far so good, but it’s a precarious balance. If the land use changed or a farmer decided to strip all the hedges and undergrowth out (a very common phenomenon) all the rare creatures would simply disappear. It’s hopeful because it shows it can be easy to preserve them, but wider education and encouragement/incentivisation for many more landowners to adapt their practices is required.

      • Methinks some kind of legislation needs to be considered to protect fringe dwelling flora and fauna to be honest. We are just starting to see that the animals that occupy the rest of the space outside “humanity” are vital to our own existence… hopefully we don’t realise that to our detriment too late…

      • Hello Fran, I’m not sure legislation would work, it would be too costly to enforce. I reckon education would be a better way forward and more likely to yield longer term results. You’re dead right about biodiversity being essential to our own existence though – and that message needs to be understood by those in power too, as you say, before it’s too late.

      • Best to teach it to the school kids because they are the voters and shakers of tomorrow. Education is, indeed, the true power :)

  6. I didn’t know the red clover is the national flower of Denmark.

  7. How nice to have such variety in a small area. I like your use of the term ‘bindi’ for the cock linnet and the picture of the wee one being fed. I didn’t know that red clover was the national flower of Denmark. I’m looking forward to the barn owls.

    • Hello Lorna, it’s been a good year for barn owls round here after several pretty bad years so it’s good to see them bouncing back. There’s nothing quite like watching barn owls hunting late on a warm summer evening!

  8. Love the shot of the red clover, Finn. Nice soft light and lovely DOF. The more I photograph flowers, wild or not, the more I see how important the light is (at the time of shooting).

    • Hello Vicki, I’ve tried many times to shoot red clover and never really got a picture I was happy with because, as you said, the light has to be just right. But this one worked out nicely.

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