Chastleton House is a fine Jacobean house in Oxfordshire dating from the early c17. In 1991 it was acquired by the National Trust, having been owned by the same family for some 400 years. Its most recent claim to fame is to have featured as ‘Wolf Hall’ in the recent BBC series.
There are fine gardens at Chastleton, kept pleasantly unmanicured. And there is a sundial. I can’t find a date for it – the NT does not give one – but I like the unusually tall slender column that supports the dial.
I was hoping to find some more information online, with little luck. I found a photograph that showed the dial unfixed from the base, and clearly some restoration has been done to remedy that. I’m not sure the rusting bolts were ideal. If I find any other information I will add it in due course.
It took a year before there were many settlers in the new bee house. To begin with, there were just some transients; tiny bees that stationed themselves at the mouth of a hole, retreating from time to time to the depths. I’ve no idea what type of bee they were, but they didn’t leave any building works. And then there were a few wax caps to wonder about.
The first resident occupied the penthouse.
The box began to weather a bit during that first winter, and to fall apart slightly. That summer, we had mason bees in many of the holes, with around 60% occupancy – plus some waxed caps. The timber homes were clearly preferred to the bamboo sticks, and the first to fill up. Later, we noticed the first leaf cutters moving in, their green plugs slowly turning brown as the leaves withered.
This year, by the end of May, business was thriving. The house was weathered and had no doubt completely lost the heady scent of Garden Centre. The upper storey was more popular than the lower; maybe the horizontal stem of a cox apple tree growing against the old wall was a disincentive for potential downstairs dwellers.
Two months later, as July fades into August, there are a few changes, but overall the house is much the same. So far, there have been no leaf cutters. And no little ‘peeping’ bees either. I’m disgracefully uninformed about the types of bee to which we offer a home. We’ve replanted much of the garden to benefit honeys and bumbles – with a consequent increase in butterflies and hitherto unknown types of moth. The solitaries are still a bit of a mystery. Time I got a grip, I think. Still, the apples are looking very promising…
All photos: Keith Salvesen / Rolling Harbour
Until last weekend I’d never heard of, let alone seen, a ROSY FOOTMAN. I’m beginning to discover and enjoy the ornate to downright bizarre names that moths tend to be given. They have this in common with fly-fishing flies – the previous day I had caught a plump wild brown trout on the River Frome with a ‘Tups Indispensable’*.
High on an inside wall above a mirror, I saw a small pink item. On closer inspection, I could tell it was a moth, and one I had never seen before. I had to fetch a small stepladder to inspect it and (with some difficulty) to photograph it, . Meet a Rosy Footman.
The Rosy Footman is apparently a moth of southern England, in particular the southern-most counties from Kent to Cornwall. They fly in July and August. With such very particular markings, they are unmistakeable, but clearly I’d failed to notice one ever before… I’m glad I have now.
* For those concerned about these things, I use barbless hooks. I netted the fish, unhooked it still in the water and released it in about 30 seconds to fight another day. Or preferably to produce more wild stock.
During a recent short trip to Dublin, we hired a car for a day to explore the Wicklow Mountains and to visit Russborough House in Co. Wicklow. This wonderful country estate has a fabulous collection of paintings and furniture – and has been the location for some spectacular burglaries. One was by Bridget Rose Dugdale, for example, for those with long memories. It is also home to the National Birds of Prey Centre of Ireland, which we had time to visit briefly.
I took some photos of several uncaged birds that were tethered out in the open. Many were, or at least looked, familiar. They were unlabelled and when I came to check IDs later, including on the centre’s website, some of them didn’t add up. Eye-colours were wrong. Facial and frontal markings were unusual. And so on.
I emailed some low-res imaged to the centre, and they quickly explained the reason: we had been looking at hybrids. This post shows one example, a juvenile female gyrfalcon crossed with a saker falcon. Here are wiki pics of each of the pure-bred birds.
So now I realise that there’s a whole extra angle to bird of prey ID that I had never before considered…
Until a few days ago, I’m not sure I’d ever before seen a pale tussock moth Calliteara pudibunda that was on a wall inside our house. I took it outside and put it gently onto an old garden bench. 10 minutes later it was gone. As is so often the case I only had an iPhone with me at the time, so the photo above is a bit rough and ready. On the other hand, you get a good idea of the subtle and pretty colouring and marking of this moth – and as you see, it was intriguingly furry, with spotted legs.
I flicked through a couple of slightly basic butterfly / moth books we have, but could find nothing like this creature. So I checked out the FB page of UK MOTHS to find a match. Sure enough, others had queried the ID of this species so I discovered the name easily enough. I don’t think it is particularly rare. There were also plenty of other fascinating and indeed extraordinary-looking moths that are apparently quite common in the UK. A FB page that’s well worth taking a look at.
The pale tussock is a moth of spring / early summer, and its appearance seems to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion with other moth species. The other feature, only deployed once I’d got it outside the house, are its feathery antennae (below).
To make up for my rather poor photos, here is a really good one to make up for it, showing a pale tussock in all its glory…
Photo credit: Kurt Kulac / Wiki
About 10 years ago I was given a terracotta ‘bird ball’ as a birthday present. Over the years it has been hung in several shady positions around the garden. We have seen blue tits give is a cursory once-over in April. It’s been ‘perch on the top, head through the door, quick discussion, fly off never to return’. This year it was different: late April interest and preliminary inspections, followed by moving in, furnishing, egg-laying, incubating, hatching, frantic activity, tiny squeaks and cheeps… then we went away for four days. Bad timing – we had missed the main event.
The nest is now empty, the occupants all flown. With some difficulty, I managed to get a shot of the little nest made of dry grass and moss. The birds left the nest very tidy, with just a single tiny thank-you feather left behind…