Diary 2009

December 13th

I have now added a British Plants Thumbnail A to Z index and have thought of a way in which you can scroll through either the total plant database or the British, Australian or European separately. It will take some time to implement though. A text only index of British Plants will have to wait for a bit.

November 24th

The winter months this year mean no botanising for two reasons: first there aren't many flowers to see and second I have just had complex foot surgery rendering me temporarily disabled and only able to get about in a wheelchair or by hopping. The tasks for this winter are to add flower photos up to letter K (Knautia) and then create highslide index E to K. This task is bigger than normal because I photographed so many European Wildflowers in 2009 but with a bit of luck it might be finished before the Spring of 2010

September 18th

In the countryside you often see more than just the plants, butterflies or birds you hoped to find. On a trip to see the magnificent Duncansby Stacks at John O'Groats, one of my daughters made frantic hand signals that she'd seen something interesting in the grass on the cliff top. We stayed very still with cameras ready and suddenly a little Weasel (judging by the size) poked its head out of the undergrowth with what looked like a baby rabbit in its mouth. We stared at each other for a minute or two and I managed to get some photos before it disappeared into the undergrowth. I had been looking for Ligusticum scoticum (Scots Lovage) which I have seen there before on these cliffs and we found that as well and it even had a few flowers left.

On a later trip to find Lemna gibba (Fat Duckweed) which I had seen in the mid 90s on small ox-bow lake I walked by the River Weaver as a family of mute swans and cygnets came down the river in single file. I didn't find the Duckweed but the swans made up for it.

For a change I've put these two photos in the index page instead of flowers.

September 11th

Not much change on the site as I've been very busy updating the Wild Flower Society's (WFS) site. The W.F.S. issues a diary in which members can record their finds. The commonest 1,000 plants are named in the diary in alphabetical order of the systematic names. I decided to try to create a version of this diary with the plants illustrated with one or two photographs - a much bigger job than I first thought. Should be finished soon though and can be found here: Illustrated WFS diary

August 3rd

As usual at this time of year additions to published site slow down as I go on various flower expeditions. In spite of the dearth of new plants in the early months of 2009, a trip to Devon with the WFS and a particularly fruitful trip to Scotland have between them yielded over 20 new plants taking the potential for publication to over 1500 for the UK, to nearly 700 for Europe and remaining at 345 for Australia from my single trip there. There are now bout 570 photos of plants waiting to be published.

A trip to Cul Mor north of Ullapool led to re finding Artemisia norvegica (Norwegian Mugwort) but in late July it was past its best. The views across to the sea and towards Suilven and Stac Pollaidh must be amongst the most spectacular in Scotland.

July 1st

As the numbers of British plants on the main ukwildflowers.com web site increases so it becomes harder and harder to find new plants to add to the site. This year my target was fifty new additions to the British site but so far I've found only nine.

Fortunately I have a couple of Wild Flower Society meetings to come so perhaps the numbers will increase a little. Meanwhile the numbers of photographs of European plants in the library awaiting transition to a web page increases to over 300, which when added would take the European flora to a healthy 600 plus plants.

We are in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures up to 30 Celsius which is very warm for the British Isles so today I ventured onto a local waste site (always good for stray flowers) and found three new ones for the site: Rhus typhina (Stag's-horn Sumach), Euphorbia oblongata (Eggleaf Spurge) and Agrostis capillaris (Common Bent).

June 16th

Just returned from the French Pyrenees with 110 completely new plant species and six new butterfly photos. In addition we found some plants like Campanula patula (Spreading bellflower) and Ajuga pyramidalis (Pyramidal Bugle) which are already shown on the main site but which are very rare in the British Isles.

One topic of discussion was the turquoise mountain river water. The rivers and streams were no more than 1 metre deep but mostly much less than that so what colours the water? It couldn't be copper which as a transition element is only weakly absorbent of visible light, because it would have poisoned the water supply at that concentration. The answer is that the glacial melt brings down fine particles of rock (rock flour) less than 1 micron in diameter which scatter some of the light making it appear turquoise.

May 15th

It always takes longer than you think to create pages for a Photo Diary so I've put those finished so far and have two more pages to complete.

May 1st

We've just returned from a holiday in southern Italy. This time we went with a nature tour company who knew where all the best sites for plants were. The trouble was that the weather was more like Spitzbergen than Italy with temperatures usually less than 10 Celsius and rain but always overcast. Nevertheless I saw about 100 new plants and am busy writing an account of the trip illustrated with "highslide" photos of the flowers. I'll put the first few pages up on the site shortly but creating new web pages and photos takes some time.

March 26th

We've had quite a few days of warm Spring weather here and there and on day in East Anglia the temperature rocketed to 18 Celsius whereupon we were greeted by four butterflies in a friend's garden: Comma, Brimstone, Peacock and Green-veined White. It has to be warm if the butterflies are out. Snowdrops and aconites are well and truly finished and now it is daffodil time with thousands in bloom on the roadside verges. The weather is a little chillier averaging just about 10 Celsius but the cold preserve the flowers and the Spring flower beds are looking marvellous.

February 20th

There is a Northern English word which describes people who complain about the cold - Nesh.

Yer nesh lad

- tough northern British men and women don't complain about the cold.

In which case the majority of the indigenous population of Tenerife are Nesh. We walked around in shirtsleeves occasionally putting sun cream on our noses and ears but the locals described it as "Winter" the coldest they'd known for some time and offered us apologies for the dreadful weather. The weather actually was as near to perfection that you can get. Sun on most occasions and a warm air temperatures of around 17 to 20 Celsius. There was evidence that the flowers were behind schedule according to those who know but I managed to take over forty photographs of plants I've never seen before in my life. Tenerife is a very mountainous island so on the 7,500 foot high plateau near the volcanic mountain el Teide (the highest in Spain they say although it isn't in Spain is it?), the alpines obeyed the seasonal pressures and mostly looked dead. It would be an excellent place to photograph in mid summer. Meanwhile down on the coast many flowers, a large number of which are introductions, there was plenty to see. As often happens with modern floras, the authors dislike giving space to describe the introduced or alien plant regardless of their frequency and here there are plants which originate from the Indian sub continent as well as many European plants. It has taken some time to identify the commonest plants on view from my few books of Canary island flowers.

The flower photos will have to go into the European category for the time being.

January 25th

That last entry tempted fate. Since then we've had a great deal of snow and low temperatures around Great Britain and are still experiencing the coldest winter for over a decade. Here in the north west it hasn't been so bad with very little snow. Today the sun came out and we enjoyed a sweltering 6 Celsius. However tonight the temperature is going to be about -7 Celsius which is very cold for this supposedly temperate little island. (US and Canadian citizens will be laughing at our concept of cold weather no doubt.)

January 25th

Are we emerging from the depths? The Snowdrops are beginning to flower and a single Aconite is showing its head in the garden. Unlike most years though there are no Celandines in flower. Since the warm(ish) winters began in about 1989 there have always been Ranunculus ficaria (Lesser Celandine) flowers to be seen here in Cheshire in January and in most years the first flowers appear in December the early record being November 5th. I have volunteered to run a meeting for the First Week Hunt competition (How many plants in flower can we find in the first week of March) for the Wild Flower Society on Anglesey on 7th March but will anything be out?

The site will go into temporary hibernation in mid February. Canary Islands here we come. Armed with the Bramwells' new book on the islands' flora I hope to photograph many new weird and wonderful species on Tenerife. I had though my increasing knowledge of the Mediterranean flora might help but judging by the contents of the book most plants will be new and many endemic.

January 1st

Unlike so many winters in the last decade this one appears to be a throwback to the ones I vaguely remember from my childhood. The ground here in Cheshire has been frozen for several days now although with frost temperatures not much worse than -1 Celsius or at worst -4 Celsius. The frost on the trees doesn't melt during the day but recrystallises overnight producing spikes of mini icicles over a centimetre long on the twigs. The Holly leaves have a layer of what looks like cotton wool stuck to their edges and this year there is not a red berry to be seen. A mist envelopes the fields and hills nearby and summer flowers simply cannot be imagined.

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