Monday, 2 September 2019

A charm of goldfinches


You might look at this picture and think - why? Nice sky, reservoir in the distance, but otherwise there's nothing much to see - just a big patch of rather dull looking scrub in the foreground.

But this morning, that scrub was full of life. I stood and watched it for a while. It's mainly brambles, buddleia and ragwort - you can just see a golden ragwort flower in the centre, but mostly it's gone to seed.

First I saw the butterflies. Mainly white ones, a few patterned brown ones which I think were probably Painted Ladies - I couldn't get close enough to be sure.

Then I saw a couple of goldfinches. I only had my phone with me, so knew I wasn't going to get a good picture, but tried to raise it very slowly and - up they flew. But not only those two. At least twenty fluttered up into the sky, and off they flew as one, dipping and diving, all together - not golden as they caught the sunlight, but silver. Magical.

I looked again. I saw a small bird, I think on a thistle. It was palest grey, quite difficult to see against the thistledown, with a soot-black head. I'm guessing it was a blackcap, though I'm no expert. Even more slowly than before, I raised the camera.

Too late again. But it didn't matter. The picture shows an absence of birds and butterflies. But they were there. I saw them.



Just before the goldfinches, I had come through a wood where, a couple of weeks ago I saw this flower. This picture really doesn't do it justice. It was more of a ruby red, jewel-like, with the white stamens a sharp contrast. I've never seen it before up on the hill (which is in the Mendip range, so limestone.) I showed the picture to my friend Liz, who is a botanist, and she told me it's called 'codlins and cream', or more prosaically, greater willowherb. It normally grows in great numbers, apparently - in ditches. Isn't it a lovely name? But it's a bit odd, because I can see where the cream comes from, but a codling is apparently a green apple. I think it's quite interesting that the single plant was noteworthy for its beauty - it really stood out in the green of the wood - yet although I'm sure I must have seen it growing in its normal habitat, I've never really seen it before.

I'd intended to take a better picture of it today, but I couldn't see it. I guess the flowers had dropped.

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