Friday, 10 October 2014

Of naked ladies in ditches... & mixed tits in bushes...

Yes...
appearing in your local ditches now are naked ladies.
Naked Ladies, Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus [Colchicum autumnale] Colchique d'Automne is in flower...
it might have been beaten down a bit by the rain of the past few days, but more will spring up.
The Naked Ladies are particularly noticeable in the ditches that have just been mown....
where their almost fluorescent pink shows them off wonderfully.
They are not to be confused with  Autumn Crocus [Crocus nudiflorus],  which is a garden escape...
but now naturalised in the UK and some parts of Europe.
Nor with Crocus sativus, commonly known as the Saffron crocus, which is also a late bloomer.

A Naked Lady
Naked Ladies
And more Meadow Saffron....

In the Spring, look out for their weird fruits....
well, not exactly weird, but they do look strange!!
The bulb sends up a shoot with three leaves encasing a green, somewhat egg-shaped seed head.
The first time I saw this it took me quite a while to identify...
well, books on flowers tend to only show the flower and has seeds only if they differentiate between species that look similar when in flower....
as if you are likely going back there at the right time.

Marjorie Blamey has illustrated the fruit in the "Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe" Fitter, Fitter & Blamey....
but it isn't quite how it looks in the wild...
the seed head is far too thin....
the leaves are too wide and too short
and there is no indicator of scale....
it has been tucked at the bottom of the opposite page....
both in my '74 edition and the new 1997 edition [we have the French version]...
so no help there, then.

Keeble-Martin shows a single leaf which is much more indicative of what you see...
but not the seed head or the structure of the three leaves and seed head on a single stem...
and it is very large when you see it....
about three times as large as would be indicated by the Naked Lady herself.

Roger Philips in "Wild Flowers of the British Isles" shows the seed head and the leaves...
very long and strap-like...
but the very thin seed-head looks like a young specimen....
but it is rare in the UK...
occurring most in the Bristol area....
so difficult to justify picking more than one to photograph.

These pictures are not mine.... I can't find mine... they are Creative Commons stock...
and are by Hermann Falkner and were taken in Austria in 2008.

A nice, rounded seedhead in Mid-May 2008
The open seedhead and withered leaves in July 2008
This picture shows the long, strap-like leaves....
almost 30cms long.

So, now to mixed tits...
and warblers...
There is a lot of activity at the moment with flocks of warblers on migration...
and they tend to interact with the flocks of mixed tits...
in our case Blue and Great...
with the occasional party of Long-Tails thrown in for good measure...
At the moment the warblers are mainly Willow-Chiffs with some Garden and possibly Melodious, too.
Last week it was Whitethroats and Blackcaps with the Willow-Chiffs....
Pauline also saw a Firecrest amongst those...
next week it could be them again...
they do tend to pass in waves.

All the birds move around very, very rapidly...
but seem to ignore us humans, so it is not difficult to get close enough to watch them without binoculars....
necessary because it is virtually impossible to follow them with the binos...
they are flycatching....
the food for their migratory flights...
so you can be panning with one and it will vanish from view...
with the naked eye, you would have seen that as you were panning....
it either dropped or flew vertically...
plucking an insect out of mid-air.
Their aerobatics are well worth "wasting" half-an-hour over...
free entertainment on your doorstep!!

Chiffchaff.... an "oil painting" done in Photoshop

Willow-Chiff is the "collective" name for Willow Warblers and ChiffChaffs....
almost impossible to tell apart except in the hand...
unless...
you hear them sing!!

3 comments:

Susan said...

Thanks for alerting me to the crocus -- I would have assumed they were all garden escapees otherwise and not looked at them closely.

philipstrange said...

The only time I have seen these growing wild was in France (Massif Central I think), they were very beautiful.
Do you know the poem by Appolinaire, Les Colchiques?

Tim said...

Philip... no...
but I'm not really into poetry...
was force-fed the stuff at school and it spoilt it for me!!
Although I do love the Mersey Poets and e.e.cummings for some reason...
possible because they are all so off-beat!!?

Susan, I am surprised!!