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  • Wood wasps in the log pile

    Miranda Hodgson on 24 Sep 2010 at 02:45 PM

    I’m back after unscheduled break to have my appendix out last week. It certainly wasn’t on my timetable and I now have a short period of enforced idleness, whilst everything knits back together again. In hospital, I looked out of the window and watched pigeons bathing in a pool of water that had gathered in a depression on the flat roof of another hospital building. It was a sunny day and the water was quite shallow, so it might well have been a pleasantly warm bath.

    Back at home, I lay in bed for a day or so, until I got bored, and watched a small flock of blue tits and long tailed tits foraging together in the Magnolia tree outside the window. Their constant high-pitched ‘seep, seep, seep’ giving them away quite clearly when they weren’t visible.

    From there, I progressed to looking out of the living room window, where a mass of purple Asters is flowering and attracting the last of the season’s honey bees. Apparently, a family on the other side of the green from here keeps bees and, since there are always honey bees to be seen in the garden when almost any plant is flowering, I’m guessing that these bees have come foraging from there. They are a welcome sight, especially as autumn approaches and the season is winding down. The Asters are actually a bit of a nuisance, spreading with ease and vigour but, once I see honey bees crawling over the flowers with such energy, then I’m glad I haven’t dug them out.

    A sunny day lured me out into the courtyard and there I found my reward. A pile of old cherry logs sits to one side of the yard, kept back from when the big cherry tree had to be cut back last year. Sadly, this magnificent old tree is feeling the effects of age and it is dying; in a year or so, it will probably have to be cut down and we’ll no longer marvel at the spring blossom or admire its gnarled girth.


  • A crayfish in the garden

    Miranda Hodgson on 03 Sep 2010 at 11:40 AM

    Over the years that I’ve spent in gardens, I’ve come across all sorts of curious things – chocolate eggs, lost toys, hundreds of clay pipe stems, old bottles, fossils and oyster shells - but last week I made the oddest find to date. I was happily pruning a rambling rose that was trained against a lovely old Cotswold stone wall, when a flash of blue appeared amongst the foliage. The first thing that came to mind was a faded Hydrangea flower head, but there weren’t any Hydrangeas. Looking closer, I was astonished to find, hanging in the branches about 2m from the ground, a long-dead crayfish.

    I admit that I’m not especially familiar with crayfish, wildlife on dry land has always been more my area of interest. I’ve watched them scurrying about the bottom of a shallow stream in the Lake District and I’ve been served them once – I’d would rather not repeat that experience, it was one of the most fiddly and unrewarding meals I’ve ever had. Crayfish haven’t been part of my life, so to come across one dangling in a rambling rose was a considerable surprise.

    Back indoors, I set out upon the agreeable pursuit of looking things up and discovered that there is only one native crayfish in the UK, the freshwater white-clawed crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes, which is increasingly threatened by an invasive American type, the signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus. The signal crayfish eats everything in its path and damages river banks by digging deep burrows which cause the river banks to collapse. Crayfish need lively-flowing streams and rivers to live in and it happens that there is a lively-flowing river running through this town, the river Windrush. I then discovered that signal crayfish have been found in the Windrush and that the many holes I’d seen in the banks are likely to have been dug by them. Comparing the shape, colour and markings of claw of the crayfish I found to the one shown here, I concluded that it is very probably a signal crayfish