Sulham and Pangbourne AreaWalks in my local area just west of Reading. Autumn 2009
July has turned out very hot and dry, not conducive to a long walk. So instead I have done three local short walks and combined the results into this posting. They were all done from home without using the car, which does make them a bit special. This is the season of butterflies, so it is appropriate to start with one.
Gatekeepers are a late summer species and so seeing them again immediately makes you think the season is moving on rapidly. In general flowers and butterflies are well in advance of normal. There are now concerns that autumn fruits will be too early this year for the creatures that feed on them. Today I noted that most of the blackberry flowers were already over and yet I think of them as an August flower. Another summer flower is agrimony.
A fortnight ago I saw a nice patch of Broad Leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine) in flower, a week later the flowers were gone and now the fruit pods are well developed. I got excited when I first saw these because my flora suggested they were more like the much rarer Narrow Lipped Helleborine (Epipactis leptochilla). Searching for helleborines is quite fun as they are one of the few plants growing in the deep shade of old, particularly beech woodland.
Time for another butterfly - a Peacock, there are a lot about. I did see one Buddleia with 13 of them on it, quite a sight to behold.
Another butterfly in large numbers this year is the Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris). They were everywhere in the grasses fringing the woodlands.
One of the flowers the skippers seem to like is Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), so called as the smoke made from burning it is supposed to keep away insects.
A more unusual sight I saw on my travels lives in ponds. It is the Branched Bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) with strange looking buds and flowers.
Much more familiar looking is the bellflower (Campanula) of which many garden varieties exist.
Time for another butterfly - a Ringlet, in this example the colour looks rather washed out, they are generally somewhat darker.
In Moor Copse, my local BBOWT nature reserve, there was quite a lot of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) still in flower, but other plants had already set seed taking the curious shape of tiny green fists or bananas.
And the next butterfly is - a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta).
One of the common plants in the hedgerow was burdock (Arctium lappa) with its hooked spiny flowers, soon to become sticky fruits.
The last butterfly to include this time is Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) . There were plenty a week ago, but none to be seen today. So the full set of butterflies seen on these walks are: Green veined white; Large white; Small white; Brimstone; Marbled white; Meadow brown; Gatekeeper; Ringlet; Speckled wood; Common blue; Large skipper; Small skipper; Red Admiral; Peacock; Comma; Silver washed fritillary; Small tortoiseshell, that is 17 species, not too bad for local walks in one month. The only ones I have previously seen in the area and missed out on are the Brown argus and Small copper.
Another sign of impending autumn and mellow fruitfulness are the Guelder Roses (Viburnum opulus) already in fruit.
And finally,.. a plant I have often overlooked and never photographed. It is the humble Pineapple weed (Matricaria discoidea) that grows along well trodden paths. It has a pineapple scent and the flowers are pineapple shaped too. It's a non-native, coming from north-western America and Eastern Asia.