Tag Archives: herb robert

More wild flowers

I keep seeing herb robert lining my route to work and in the hedgerows along my regular footpaths. It’s a member of the Geranium genus and is found in hedgerows, woods and on disturbed ground


Herb robert – Geranium robertianum

I’m a tad confused by this plant because it has all the normal attributes of herb robert; the pink flowers, leaf shape, hairy buds and stems, but this one has the same bud shape as a cranesbill and a quick web search hasn’t yielded another image of herb robert with seed pods shaped like this. (So if I’ve made a taxonomic error please let me know!). Herb robert smells quite unpleasant and has been used as an insect repellant.


Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale

These pictures were taken a few weeks ago and at that time they were loaded with insect life, this danselion has six flower beetles (Oedemera nobilis) foraging on it, and it wasn’t at all unusual to see flowers in the meadow with this many bugs and more feeding on them.


White clover – Trifolium repens

Clover grows abundantly in grassland. It is pollinated primarily by bumble bees but as bumble bee numbers decline it has become a major source of nectar for honey bees, therefore beekeepers became important people for cattle farmers who grow clover as a fodder crop for their livestock.

Jack go to bed at noon – Tragopogon pratensis

The lovely yellow star of ‘jack go to bed at noon’ is so named because the flowers open early in the morning and close up again at noon. It is also known as ‘goats beard’ and is a native annual in the UK. It has a milky latex sap which, according to Wiki, children from the countryside in Armenia make bubble gum from. It has a wonderful seedhead which is much bigger than than the dandelion and has fewer larger seeds.


Jack go to bed at noon seedhead

As with alot of other wild flowers, they are rampant just now because of the warm wet weather and are numerous in fallow fields and hedgerows.

A jack go to bed at noon seedhead with a closed flower behind it at the edge of a field

Also common around Cambridge right now is the birdsfoot trefoil. The flowers here are a gorgeous golden yellow but can also have red or orange which gives them their other common name: bacon and eggs.


Birdsfoot trefoil – Lotus corniculatus

Birdfoot trefoil is a legume which means it can actively fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. It can do this with the help of symbiotic bacteria which colonise root nodules and convert inert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, a form of nitrogen which plants can use. This ability makes the legumes a natural fertiliser because nitrogen is required by all plants, but unless they can fix it in this way they are reliant on alternative sources in the soil. Poor soil can be boosted by the application of other fertilisers such as good old fashioned manure, or more recently ‘NPK’ (Nitrogen/Phosphorus/Potassium, ‘K‘ being the chemical symbol for potassium). Or, when cycles of crop rotation are used, one of the crops used may be another legume, such as peas, which can help to replenish nitrogen levels in the soil naturally.

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April birdwatch

The activities of the birds in my garden have changed significantly in the last 2-3 weeks. Until then I was seeing multiple blackbird, robin, starling, goldfinch, chaffinch, dunnock, blue tit, great tit, collared dove and house sparrow with less frequent visits by long tailed tit. Since then a pair of wood pigeon have virtually taken up residence in my back garden and hoover up all the bird food before the smaller species get a look in. There is still the occasional dunnock and blackbird on the ground and much less frequent visits by blue tit, robin, starling and chaffinch but the goldfinch have all but vacated. This is interesting because when I’m outside I regularly see and hear groups of goldfinch in the trees around the garden but something seems to be keeping them away from my feeder.

My friend Chris told me he had a songthrush rearing chicks in a nest in a tree in his garden and she fledged four youngsters last week, which is very early in the year, so hopefully she’ll fit in another brood this year. But his garden has been subject to the attentions of a sparrowhawk in recent months so he was worried it would catch the fledglings, but clever use of carefully placed hanging bamboo canes has successfully deterred the hawk and all four fledglings seem to have successfully flown the coop. Songthrush 4, sparrowhawk nil.

Continuing with garden birds, last week it occurred to me that the fat balls hanging in my front garden were requiring replenishment rather more frequently than usual so I guessed the nesting birds were feeding more often. The reason turned out to be rather more amusing:


One of the local rooks has worked out that these are edible…

…and that it can reach them. And it takes alot of fat ball to fill a hungry rook!

Slightly further afield in the hedgrows and scrub bordering the farmland around Histon it’s a very good time to survey the local wildlife. As I mentioned in a previous post many species of wild flower now including forget-me-not, yellow archangel…


Forget-me-not

Yellow archangel – Lamiastrum galeobdolon, this variegated version is an invading subspecies ‘argentatum’

…herb robert, cow parsley and periwinkle are all in bloom and lining the paths through the countryside filling them with a palette of colour.

And in the fields, trees and bushes there is an abundance of birdlife:


Corn bunting perched in the midst of a field of oil seed rape

The countryside is ablaze with the yellow of rape flowers right now and just occasionally a photographic opportunity such as this one arises. I’m not particularly keen on the vast swathes of rape but it created a lovely backdrop for this corn bunting which are becoming increasingly uncommon.

It’s not unusual to see and hear bullfinch in one patch of scrub near the church in Histon, which is a regular destination for my birdwatching outings. That makes me very happy because I used to see them all the time when I was a kid in the 1970’s but since the 80’s they seem to have been persecuted to near extinction in alot of the UK because of their fondness for the green shoots of commercial fruit trees. They are still fairly elusive but I managed to get this photograph of a male (just!):


Male bullfinch – the female has similar markings but they are not pink she is more pale grey/brown

And in the same field as the bullfinch linnet are in residence, as are willow warbler, chiffchaff and blackcap which have now returned from over wintering in Africa:


Blackcap male

Chiffchaff

…as are whitethroat:


A female whitehroat, one of a pair patrolling a patch of brambles in the middle of the field

This field is an amazing place, I reckon it’s approximately 10-12 acres and it comprises several habitats including open-ish grass, it’s sorrounded by some old established trees: oak, ash and horse chestnut with hedgerow joining up the old trees consisting mainly of hawthorn and in the field itself there are alot of ash and other saplings and some large patches of bramble. Consequently it provides good supplies of food and cover for nesting for a number of different species. Green woodpeckers can be constantly heard yaffling to each other:

…and birds of prey including kestrel, sparrowhawk and buzzard are regularly in the skies above. The green woodpecker are there all year round and are usually hidden in the grass so I’ll flush one off the ground only for it to disappear into a tree too distant to allow a photograph. So this is about the best image I have of one. Most of the common or garden birds are regulars here too, house sparrow, dunnock, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit:

…and chaffinch

…blackbird, songthrush, rook, crow and magpie are all present every day. So a small area of mixed scrub an the edge of the village supports a wonderful number of our birds.

There’s lots to see by simply look up in the village too. On the way back from the playground in Impington with my kids today we cycled along a road under a tree as a jay emerged from a silver birch on the other side of the road and landed in the tree a few metres over our heads. We all stopped to look at it and marvel at it’s amazing colours, and it looked at us for a minute or two before flapping off higher up the tree.