Sunday, 10 May 2009

Dibley, Dandelions and Apus apus.

Yesterday we were invited to a B-b-Q at a friend’s home which backs onto open pasture and managed grassland so we took a short mid afternoon stroll with our hosts and their dog ‘Dibley’.
In the woodland edge bordering the first field we heard Blackcap, Wren, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and a deer was disturbed by our presence. For the gardener, Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) appearing in their well cared for lawns are an unwelcome invader and if you have ever blown on a dandelion clock to “tell the time”, then you will know how easily the seed travel. This dispersal method using its parachute-assisted seeds is part of the plant’s success in neglected urban areas allowing it to be carried easily to new sites on a breath of wind.Once established, the seedling puts down, well anchored roots that survive damage to the foliage above ground. The leaves produce a bitter, narcotic latex which deters browsing animals and the flat leaf rosette allows it to withstand mowing, heavy animal and even human traffic.
So what are the benefits, I hear you say? Well its sturdiness means that its nectar supports early bumblebees and butterflies that could otherwise not live in the wasteland.
So how many seeds do you reckon are in this area?
In early spring when almost every wild flower seems to be yellow, it is easy to confuse the dandelion with Coltsfoot (but their flowers come out before the large flat leaves develop, hence its old country name of “son before father”) and Cat’s ear (which has ragged edged, hairy leaves that are not very cat-like). Tony reminded us that when they first moved in some 30 years ago he heard Corncrake (on migration) calling from this field when the land was managed somewhat differently.
Further on the landscape is a mixture of open grassland used for sheep grazing and the occassional fenced area where Clover is grown commercially. The occasional old oak tree (Quercus robur) stands proudly in the landscape and is the larder for an astronomical number of insects and their larvae (over 1000 different species) plus providing nesting sites for various species of birds and smaller mammals.During the early evening as we feasted, chatted and tasted various liquids we were increasingly bombarded by the screaming calls of Swifts (Apus apus) flying around and Tony kindly allowed me to try out his Tamron 100-300 lens in an attempt to capture these very fast, high altitude flyer's.


  1. Interest post Frank! Dibley looks a real character though :D

    Sounds like a relaxing evening - I'm assuming the various liquids were Earl Grey and Darjeeeling ;)

    Do I get the feeling that a new lens is on your Christmas list?

  2. Hi Tricia. mmm I missed out on a visit to Hayling Is (& birding today) but not due to the 'amber liquid' - something in the feast dissagreed with me!
    Dibley is getting on in her years (like many of us) but still has plenty of get up & go when you want to rest.
    New len(s), well possibly but I've actually taken better pics by digi-scoping in the garden today!

  3. Dandelions must be world-wide but I am so glad I don't live next door to that field!

  4. Mick. I agree. There was a strip of woodland protecting the nearby houses so their lawns could be safe.

  5. Have you ever had dandelion wine? It's devine!

  6. I would hate to have to count all those seeds! Love the tree photo.

  7. ...sounds like a very nice day! Several days ago, I watched a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher stealing dandelion down for it's nest. It was very cute to watch... (sweet dog!)

  8. Great post Frank.
    Dibley certainly looks a character, I bet she enjoyed her stroll as much you did.
    I tried counting the seeds, but....
    no wonder it's such a succesful plant.
    And what a magnificent Oak. Proud indeed.

  9. Nice day out Frank, It would be interesting to see the results of your digi-scoping of a Swift though. {:)

  10. Interesting post, Frank. I enjoyed the dandelion lesson...that field almost looks like our grassy patch in the woods before mowing. I felt as if I spent the evening with you and your friends...great photos to match!

  11. Lynne. Yes, but it was a long time ago, so perhaps I should revisit that taste.

    Montanagirl. Me too & the photo only showed a very small part of the whole field!

    Kelly. It's always absorbing to discover what materials birds use in their nests.

    Keith. Thanks. We encountered an unfriendly dog on the walk but Dibley gave a good account of herself.

    Roy. Thats blank sky after blank sky - Stationery targets only unless they a miles away!

    Spooky. (I can't keep addressing you as that can I?) I'm glad you enjoyed the get together. Lol FAB

  12. Another great post Frank, my cousin has a dog called Dibley she is a vicar hence the name, my cousin that is, not Dibley the dog, he even writes a column in the parish magazine, Dibley not my cousin, I hope you're keeping up Frank!!

    I do love the golden yellow of Dandelions but a few too many appear in my garden and then I'm not so keen. I hope you have recovered from the BBQ, it sounded fun but they can be notoriously dodgy on the tum!

    Great photo of the Swift and that is a beautiful old Oak tree.

  13. Hi Jan. Yeh, I think I got it - The dog is the vicar & the vicar is the dog (only kidding)!

    Far better today, thanks, apart from the occassional 'rumble'!

    Venerable, old Oaks are an intrinsic part of the landsacape & would be sorely missed. Lol FAb

  14. That dandelion patch would be a nightmare of someone like me who has bad spring allergies! Still, the do have their own beauty. I liked that photo of Dibley - he was properly named!

  15. Hi Shelly. I understand as Anita suffers from high pollen counts. Today the winds are getting stronger ahead of a change in the weather so I bet few of the 'heads' are still intact.
    Dibley - an absolute charmer.

  16. Great Blog Frank,always great images full to the brim with interesting matter.

  17. Thanks John. I'm also in awe of the no of images you post. Have you checked out "Digiscoping Today". I'm sure you have plenty of worthy posts & pics to link with this?


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