‘Looking for that moment‘ – always something at the back of my mind when I am out and about. These last few months I have been extremely busy at work so my Bimbles have been severely curtailed however there were one or two ‘Moments‘ over the last few months.
The thing that the three pictures below have in common (apart from the obvious) is that I walked past each location and then purposefully double backed to get the shots – I am glad I did now 🙂 The colours came out beautifully in my opinion.
As the nights have been drawing in I have tried to get a few night time shots in as well. The two shots of the moon I took using my DSLR however the Christmas Reindeer (outside Cardiff Castle) I took using my Sony mobile phone. I think I will be trying out a bit more night time photography in the future.
Walking in the woods on my own I find very relaxing as I can wander wherever my interest takes me however taking the kids out brings the woods more alive I think. There is something magical with the light in the autumn that the kids really love and I think it makes them more adventurous than when we have a heavy canopy of leaves – it certainly makes for easier photography.
As winter approaches (strange saying that in January) I hope we get some snow here in Southern England to get out to explore and photograph.
Over the last few months I have not done much in the way of bushcraft so there has been a slight lack of How To …. tutorials coming out. I plan to change that after the Moot (where I will be looking for inspiration) however I have been getting out on little trips recently to photograph nature.
This post is just to record some of the moments I have had over the last few months. Starting with an accidental shot of a very wet and bedraggled willow catkin. It was a damp day and I was trying to get a close up of a bug but after looking at the picture found the catkin to be of more interest.
Not long after ripping a muscle in my calf I hobbled out into my garden and applied the 20 metre rule. That is stand still, kneel down, sit down and lie down but continually look around you for approx 20 metres and you should see something worth shooting. When I eventually laid down I came up close and personal to these beautiful little Forget-me-nots
There was a re-wilding theme on the BCUK website a couple of months ago and I was stuck for ideas. Not long after the closing date I remembered this place outside our village. Proper re-wilding you could say 🙂
Back in April I went out for a walk with my kids in Morgaston woods and the bluebells were just coming through. I spotted this slightly thicker patch and after getting the kids to lie down (it was a job with all the pricklies) I got this rather nice shot. The angle of the shot made the bluebell patch seem much thicker than it actually was.
Another one from my garden during my hobbling period. I was particularly taken with the water droplets on the primroses.
My son has been undertaking some nature observations for his naturalists badge at cubs. we have been getting out and about as much as we can identifying trees and flowers such as these lovely Ramsons.
Spring would not be the same without a picture or two of some fluffy creatures. I thought this Greylag geese family looked particularly impressive at The Vyne National Trust property.
This was a ‘face off’. I spotted this deer in the shadow of the woods while out looking at the bluebells. I had to change the lens on my camera as she was a fair distance away. Normally they run off by the time I change lenses but this one kept me square in her sights the whole time.
We moved on from just identifying plants for Finlay’s naturalist badge to tasting them as well. We tried out a whole range of leaves including the likes of these Jack by the hedge plants.
Some of the best finds were literary stumbled on like this complete fox skeleton in the New Forest. It was found by some of my Junior Sea Cadets and we laid it all out onto this log to get a real good look at it. Many of these kids have never been out of the city before so this was quite a find for them.
I spotted this little butterfly sitting on a Herb Robert flower while visiting my friend Fraser from Coastal Survival a couple of weeks ago. Normally these little devils are away before you can get near them but this one just seemed to be soaking up the sun.
One of my favourite pictures was taken last weekend at The Vyne National Trust property. I heard a splash by the side of the lake and turned to see this Coot with a large Signal Crayfish in its beak.
The joy was not to last for the Coot though as another Coot came along and stole the crayfish away – such is nature sometimes I suppose.
So although I have not been out doing practical bushcrafting much I have been getting out and observing nature with a keen eye – so you could say it was the more nature based side of bushcrafting.
Today I came home to find our village paper – The Bramley Magazine – had been delivered. Inside was a nice surprise – a full page given over to my pictures from the Wild Wicker Walk at The Vyne National Trust property (thank you Rachel).
These are just some of the wicker sculptures you can find at the property and I heartily recommend a visit if you are in the area.
This winter I have seen no snow at all where I live in the southern part of the UK (plenty up north but none down here). Normally we get at least a few days’ worth of snow giving me the chance to try and take some decent winter photos.
Not this year it would appear (so far, he said with crossed fingers) so I have been looking elsewhere for inspiration. The next three or four posts will be about these snowless winter days and the beauty I could find in what first appears to be a rather drab time of year.
At the end of last year I started dabbling in macro photography and playing around with light, and found a whole new world opened up to me. I also started noticing the different textures that were all around me – a skeletal leaf, a dandelion seed head, a trapped downy feather – all have beauty in their own way if you look closely enough.
Since I started using my Nikon D3200 DSLR I have been dabbling with the manual settings more and more to try and capture pictures where the beauty of them is enhanced by the thoughtful use of light levels. Many of my past pictures, taken on my camera phone, were either way over-exposed or look washed out.
I like the effect of silhouetting a plant against the skyline or directly into the sun or even reflecting light off a plant as in the bottom right picture.
The other area I have been trying to capture is just how much colour is still out there during winter. Just because flowers aren’t popping up everywhere doesn’t mean there is no beauty to be seen.
The picture of the emerging bluebell leaves I felt was enhanced by seeing my kids walk past in the background just as I took the picture, the crocus is just beautiful and there is something lovely about the crispy white frost you find on leaves during a morning stroll.
A few more posts to follow in this theme so keep your eyes open for them, and for all the beauty around you out there as winter changes into spring.
In September I received a most excellent birthday present from my wife Alison – a Nikon D3200 DSLR camera. As soon as I started using it the colour differences I saw in comparison to just using the camera on my phone really amazed me.
For example I would never have gotten all these subtle shades in the lime leaves to show up so clearly on my phone camera. I am still learning to use the manual settings on my camera so rely on the automatic settings when I am in a rush. I shoot in RAW format so that I can adjust the light and colour levels in Adobe Lightroom easily. I like Lightroom as it helps make up for the wrong choices I make on the camera when shooting in Manual mode.
I asked Santa to bring me some Kenko lens extensions for Christmas and they duly turned up (thanks Alison and Santa). Lens extensions are a cheaper alternative to a full on Macro lens for close up shooting. Below is one of my first pictures taken with the extensions and the greens and browns in the moss really stand out.
A splash of white, green and eventually pink is guaranteed from the snowberry. I love going out for a walk and seeing these delicate little globes dotted along the hedgerows. Eventually they turn to a lovely shade of pink before dying.
White can also be spotted in the delicate threads of the willowherb tops, on the bramble leaf caused by the moth larvae Nepticula aurella and the tiny little white dots in the sorrel leaves
Purple was an unusual colour to find but when I did such as with the herb robert, fern and red dead nettle it made for quite a striking contrast. This was the colour of choice for royalty in the past due to the expense it took to produce a purple dye but also I think because it does look so good.
Why some leaves go yellow and some go brown I presume is to do with the pigments that are left in the leaves after the chlorophylls stop their production but whatever happens it always leads to some amazing effects.
This little shot is well staged. I just picked up a few yellow leaves and spread them out in a ring to capture the range of colours found under my feet. I only thought to take this picture as I had been following a small frog hopping around trying to stay under cover of the fallen leaves.
As some of the leaves went mostly yellow I started to see others like the horse chestnut start to take on a mixture of yellows and browns. this led to a slightly military DPM effect but you could see the odd bit of white still showing as you can see in the goat willow catkin buds.
I particularly liked the brown edging in the oak leaves in the top picture below. You can see how the leaves are shutting down from the edges to the centre as opposed to the bottom two where the process is happening from the inside out. Either way it is a beautiful and striking sight.
I liked the contrast between the two pictures of the berries below. The top one is of a dessicated rosehip I think but am not sure on the bottom one at all. Even when the berry has lost it’s moisture content as in the top picture it can still look rather striking when you get up close to it.
Now this is a time of year for fungi and I see lots of Little Brown Jobbies (LBJ’s) dotted around the ground and I have no idea what they are. The picture in the top section below is an LBJ as I do not know its name (I am sure someone can identify it for me). I spotted it in some very long grass well hidden away and am glad I took my time to get the camera out as it is quite beautiful in its own way as it peels apart.
The bottom one is of a fungus called turkey tail I found attached to a log. It had very strong bright colours which I just enhanced slightly in Lightroom by adjusting the light levels on the different colours.
I was taking a picture of a pond I regularly monitor in my village when I spotted this iris seed pod just opening. The seeds were just waiting for a waft of wind to give them a little nudge and spill out into the water. I like the way how mother nature has packaged them really neatly in wedge shapes to keep them secure until they are ready to be released.
A couple in the reds for you. The top picture below just had to be taken as the reds and greens of the rosehips and the apples contrasted really well. The fly agaric in the bottom picture was one of the very few I saw this year in my local woods but I was captivated more by the little slug that was happily munching away on it than the colours themselves.
Three lovely red pictures I took over the autumn. I used my lens extension on the pictures of the haw berry and the frozen leaf tip (left hand pictures) but not on the wasp gall on the right. You can gauge the size of the wasp gall by the thorn in the top left of the picture. I had never observed these tiny little red bundles until about two years ago and now regularly see them on brambles.
On a larger scale the light levels over the autumn have made me think about my photography. The setting sun in the top picture really lends to a dark feel to the woods as opposed to the overcast mid day light being slightly enhanced by the silver bark of the birches.
My final picture in this post really struck me as one to signify the end of autumn. It was a frosty morning and the sun was just rising when I took this picture of a bud on our cherry tree. I had to adjust the light levels in Lightroom to make the frost very clear and that slightly changed the colour of the sky to give an even yellower feel to what it was really like. It is a picture that I like though and a nice one to end on.
I am now thinking on to the winter and looking forward to getting some more frosty plant pictures, snowy landscapes and shots of winter plants poking their buds up over the next month.
July, August and September were very busy months for me this year so I did not post up much about the bimbles around my local village of Bramley.
Part of this was due to receiving a rather lovely birthday present in September from my wife Alison of a new Nikon D3200 DSLR camera. I have never owned a camera that requires anything more than point and shoot before so I have spent many an evening reading up on it and practising.
Some of the pictures in this post have been taken with my Nokia phone and some with my new DSLR.
I have put up just a few of the many pictures I have taken over the last two months and separated them into categories.
I am not that knowledgable about these lovely creatures so had to rely on a guide book to ID them. The three below from top left clockwise are a Comma Butterfly, a Marble White and a Silverwashed Fritillary. All were photographed in woodland glades enjoying the sunlight.
As usual flowers are my passion with the range of smells, colours and textures they offer. I am still confused by some flowers I find in and around the woods by our village – there must be lots of garden escapes. The yellow flower my daughter is looking at was a late bloomer; I could not identify it from my books but she liked it.
The cornflower is always a nice find but the most unusual I spotted was at The Vyne National Trust property on the outskirts of Bramley. The little flower on the bottom right was sitting on top of a perfectly manicured hedge and was too good a shot to miss.
Two beautiful plants for late summer are Woundwort and Borage. Both plants have been used medicinally in the past, for treating cuts and kidney problems respectively.
Ok not a flower but the flowering heads of the hogweed when caught at the right angle and light turn into a thing of beauty.
Fruits and nuts
I luckily have a local woodland next to me that has a carpet of wild strawberries. In the summer it was great to see these little red berries appearing and getting to nibble the odd one before the birds or slugs got to them. I managed to photograph far more hazlenuts this year (bottom left) before the squirrels snaffled them all. I don’t know if that was because I was really looking for them, there were more than usual, there were fewer squirrels about, or a combination of all of the above. As usual though there were plenty of horse chestnuts for my kids to collect. My rucksack always ended up being full of them every time I took the kids out.
Finlay spotted the apple tree in full bloom and was soon scrumping for apples in its branches. I took the bottom shot as I really liked the contrast of red and green with the rosehips and apples, both beautiful and full of vitamin C.
I have been watching the leaves grow all year and now into the autumn I am watching them start to die off. They can be quite striking though at times with the higgeldy piggeldy white trail of the larvae from the moth larvae Nepticula aurella. A hazel leaf (bottom picture) may seem quite boring to look at first but if you put it to the light and peer closely then you see a whole new world.
The wood aven flower is a lovely yellow colour and the plant has many uses but the flower only lasts a few months. To know it all year round you need to recognise the shape of its leaves and also the spiky seed head it produces (top left). Once you have identified one you will see them all over the place.
I like to peer inside the little capsules containing the bluebell seeds just before they fall apart and drop their seeds (bottom left). This is a second period of beauty to me with this plant, often overlooked by most people. I have no idea what the seed pod in the top right is from (taken in my garden) but it is striking.
The last one at the bottom right shows the seeds from the willowherb starting to unfurl.
I could not resist putting this picture of the willowherb up on its own as it captures the moment the little hairs with their attached seeds are just starting to float off.
I came across this little chap (not my son) Mr Squirrel (though it could have been Mrs Squirrel) lying in the leaf litter on one walk with Finlay. Over a number of weeks we would see this little chap slowly decomposing and both Finlay and myself found it totally fascinating.
Over the summer I have been trying to get some good macro shots of insects and I was particularly impressed with the spider in the top left picture. I took this one with my new camera as well as the honeybee (I think that is what it is) at the bottom right. The other two were captured using my Nokia phone camera.
This little packet of pink madness is the red gall of the gall wasp. I found it hanging off a bramble branch and was very confused to what it was at first until I had looked it up. I will be looking out for more of them next year when I will hopefully have some extension tubes for my camera lens so as to take far better macro pictures.
A last little look at the beauty of the small fly and the daddy long legs.
My last picture is of one of the few ground-dwelling fungi I spotted over the summer. As far as I am concerned it is an LBJ (Little Brown Jobbie): I do not study these little critters enough to identify the different types of LBJs. I liked this one for the forlorn look it had sitting on its own on the woodland floor after something or someone had snapped it.
Thankfully as autumn has progressed more and more fungi have started to pop up all over the woods which I can identify.
I had a great summer photographing around my village and look forward to getting some great pictures as the autumn comes to a close and winter sets in.
I made a number of bimbles around Bramley in June observing the changes occurring so I have decided to merge the three trips into one report. I took my kids out on two of them: it’s great seeing them starting to observe nature with more of an eye for detail.
My wife Alison gave me a macro camera lens for my iPad mini for Fathers Day and I took this lovely picture of this orange hawkweed with it.
The cherry tree I have been monitoring produced its fruit in June. On the first trip they were yellow, on the second they were red and on the third trip they had all been stripped away by the birds.
I did also manage to find a few wild strawberries over the month but they were soon getting nibbled away at as well.
On the second trip I spotted that some damselflies were flitting about a watercress-covered pond. I kept trying to get a decent picture of them but the pictures always ended up fuzzy. On the last trip after a patient wait I managed to snap this picture with the iPad mini using the macro lens.
At another pond where I am watching the reedmace growing I came across the yellow flower below. I had never seen this before so had to look it up: the closest I can get to it is a flower called the monkey flower. Happy to be educated by anyone if they can ID it as something else. If it is monkey flower then the leaves and stem were traditionally used by Native Americans as a salt substitute just as colts foot was used here. I was first taught how to dry out the leaves of colts foot by my friend Kevin Warrington – Laplanders Natural Lore Blog.
Even though the bluebell has lost its flower I still think it is a beautiful plant in this late stage of its life cycle. These pods will eventually darken before they open to disperse their seeds.
This was one of the first self heal flowers I came across this year right at the beginning of the month. It is a wonderful medicinal plant that I have used a number of times along with woundwort, plantain and yarrow to treat small cuts and grazes. It was also known as carpenter’s herb because of this ability to treat small cuts.
As the month has worn on this plant has appeared all around the village in great numbers. It is a pity that most people do not give it a second thought.
Two very tiny details in abundance at the moment are the cuckoo spit and the tiny green alder cones. The cuckoo spit contains the Froghopper nymph which uses the spit much like a home when it emerges as a place of safety.
Some of the alder cones have a red tongue-like protrusion caused by the fungus Taphrinaalni. The fungus develops in some of the cones and forces the cone to grow these protrusions so as to produce and release its spores – a kind of forced symbiosis I suppose. My source on this was the Donegal Wildlife Blogspot
My first mullein flower of the year. This was the only mullein I saw in flower but there are plenty growing around the village. A great medicinal plant used for treating chest infections, TB, digestive problems, sore throats and many more ailments. Nature News has a good page on the plant.
I personally like it as it makes a good handrill, a good torch when covered with oil or fats but also as its leaves are soft and have anti-bacterial properties, which means they make great toilet paper.
As I have been taking Paul Kirtley’s online Masterclass in Plant ID I have been monitoring a lot of different sites and trees around the village since February and plan to do so for a whole year. It has been great to see all the changes occurring with the flowers and the trees leaves coming through but I was particularly happy to spot my first hazelnut and acorn of the year this month.
It was not until the end of my last bimble, as I turned my last corner to go home, that I spotted my first poppy of the year. The edible part of the plant is the seed which is used in cakes and also crushed to make an oil.
Two other new spots this month were the enchanters and the woodynightshades. The enchanters nightshade I found dotted all around the woodland floor but the woody nightshade I found in a hedge by our local park. They are not related but are both beautiful flowers. The enchanters was known to the Saxons as aelfthone to treat what they saw as elf sickness – any sudden sickness brought on for no known reason.
Woody nightshade is another plant used medicinally in the past and is also known as bittersweet because of the bitter then sweet taste you got when chewing the root of the plant. Large doses of this plant though are deadly so one left to well-trained herbalists.
I have found only one patch of ground where I have seen the commonbistort growing. This was taken near the end of its flowering stage and was covered in these moths. I have never tried this plant but I am told that the young leaves and the root are edible. In the Lake District the plant is used in the making of a pudding called the Bistort Easter-Ledge Pudding.
My friend Alan Smylieis an excellent forager and photographer and I was chatting to him about the common mallow and the limeflowers that you can see below. Apart from looking beautiful he is making a wildcherry jelly infused with mallow leaves and he makes a tea from the lime flowers. I hope to do a forage or two with Al at this years BCUK Bushmoot in August and pick his brains a bit more about some of these plants.
In the stream near our house I have found carpets of watercress growing. The flowers attract a lot of insects and the whole plant can seem to fill a stream. It was not until I got into the stream did I notice that the plant seems to float on the water with the roots of to the side of the stream. The plant is edible but only if you know the water is clean.
On the left is the pin cushion head of a devilsbitscabious flower. This beautiful flower is a source of food for many insects in the summer. In particular the declining Marsh Fritillary Butterfly relies heavily on this flower. When I see this flower appear each year I know that summer has finally arrived.
At the bottom right is the lovely meadowsweet. This was one of the plants sacred to Druids and was a plant that Bayer used as one of the key ingredients when developing aspirin in the 19th century. It gives off a lovely aroma and was traditionally used in the home to cover up bad smells.
I spotted this little fella taking a rest on the seed head of a Ribwort Plantain plant. He was not at all fazed as my phone camera came in close.
On our second trip out we came across this ash tree that had been used as a scratching post for deer. It looks like they had used the tree to help rub the felt of their antlers. I could see teeth marks on the edges of the ripped off bark and lots of scratches on the wood itself where it appears they were rubbing their antlers.
Apart from the sign on the tree there were plenty of tracks. We had lots of deer slots, badger prints, pheasant, squirrel and what maybe a vole print.
I do not know if the top right print is a vole but it is certainly small enough to be one and the bottom one are the tracks of a grey squirrel.
There have been lots of early purple and early marsh orchids in the woods around the village but I have only spotted two of these pyramidalorchids this year. They seem to like drier, more open ground and I found one near the railway line and the other on the edge of a field so they are probably less common due to the fertilizer run-off from fields and toxins from the railways but also because they do not produce nectar themselves but rely on other nearby orchids to attract insects.
That was my June when it came to observing nature around Bramley. My kids had a great time and so did I, taking them out, photographing and researching some of the plants.
The 16th of May was a perfect day for a bimble around the village with the kids. They decided to take the scooters and even managed to keep them going on the rough woodland tracks.
Looking good now is the common bistort and the yellow iris. I found the large sow thistle up near the Clift Pavilion.
I passed by many dandelion seed heads but this one caught the light just perfectly.
The meadow by Lane End proved a good place to explore.
The wild strawberry leaves and flowers are well out around the whole village but I saw my first buttercups and red clover this week.
This large horse chestnut is one of the trees I am monitoring for the whole year. The sun looked nice as it shone through it. The blossom is still looking good on the horse chestnut and at the foot of it I found these ferns uncurling.
We had a good look around the meadow but there are not too many plants flowering yet.
I did spot that the cherry tree near the pond is starting to produce its fruit now. Catherine and Finlay were also on the lookout for tracks (this one is deer) and tadpoles.
One of my favourite snacks while out foraging is the pignut. I found that they had just started to flower in our area now.
I do not really know my birds but Catherine and Finlay took some time out to lie back and see what flew over them.
The orchids in the Frith are still hanging in there but I expect to see them disappear over the next few weeks. In the damp ground we did find a pheasant track and spotted that the Brooklime was appearing now.
The bluebells have started to die back now but still make a beautiful sight. The stichwort and mayweed are looking at their finest though at the moment.
The kids had soon had enough of lying about and started scrambling over the alder and willow trees.
The ash is finally out: it must be one of the last trees to burst into life in the Bramley area. Out near the playground by the new estate the white campion is in full bloom and in the Frith we spotted what looked like a badger print, deep in the wood well away from dog walking tracks.
Still to be found there are the lovely yellow wood avens and blue forget-me-nots, and the grass seed heads are standing tall.
Needless to say Finlay needed to get in on the tree climbing act.
I found what looks like a water hemlock by the stream next to our house. Beautiful but deadly.
Last picture is of a couple of tracks from I have no idea what animal: any ideas?
This was an excellent bimble around Bramley and I am now looking forward to seeing all the early summer flowers that will soon be appearing.
I took my whole family on my rounds of Bramley last weekend. The kids as usual had fun climbing, wobbling and generally getting muddy.
This was the first time that Alison was able to come on my rounds and she was keen to explore the village wildlife in more detail.
I took a short video of the walk which I titled Happy finds and sad finds.
A few new flowers made an appearance this week.
I particularly like the bottom right picture. You can actually see the the probiscus of the fly. Not bad for a little phone camera.
The moth was found in a bowl of water by my daughter Catherine and seemed to be recovering well as it dried its wings out. In the bottom picture you can just see a solitary bee emerging from its underground home.
The crab apple tree on my rounds is finally in leaf now. I will be recording the growth of the apples closely over the following months.
The yellow coltsfoot flowers (top left) have gone now and all that is left are the distinctive leaves and the beautuful puffy seed heads. Also the lungwort flowers have gone leaving only the distinctive white spotted leaves (top right).
At the bottom though I found that the orchids were still standing strong.
While we were looking for orchids Alison spotted a dead deer nearby. I couldn’t see any obvious cause of death but lying nearby were some deer leg bones recently stripped of flesh. As the deer (as you can see) still had all its legs I assume there must have been another dead deer nearby at some point as well.
It was nice to see the willow and oak finally coming through this week (left-hand pictures). The reedmace leaves seem nearly full grown now so I will be looking out for the stems and flower heads starting to appear.