© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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A crazy cutting decision

I rounded the corner – and a gasp of horror escaped my lips. Having been away for a couple of days, I came back to Highbury Park keen to see what changes had been wrought. I love the way that nature is constantly on the move, never standing still. But this time I was bitterly disappointed by what I saw: the beautiful large meadow area had been mown. It is a good month too early, in my opinion, and I am stunned by the decision made by the council to mow right now. The extra month makes a vast difference to the butterflies, and I am convinced that because of this, next year will see a drop in butterflies. In fact, the effect is immediately obvious, as that area, which was such a glorious displ

A drop of sunshine

A Blue Tit drifted into the tree above me, and disappeared into the shade of the leaves, no doubt trying to find somewhere to dry off after yet another shower. Within minutes the sun had made a welcome appearance again, though, and as if by magic it brought with it two Commas by Henbury Pond. They made the most of the warmth by mating on a nearby bramble leaf. In the meantime, the Moorhen family made the most of the sun to busy themselves with feeding their single chick, which is growing rapidly. All three of them dabbled contentedly among the lilies, dipping their heads beneath the surface periodically then resurfacing with a tasty piece of water weed. They have also built themselves a new

Mud, glorious mud

Another day, another trip to Billesley Common in a desperate bid to get a photograph of a Marbled White. Luck was not with me, though, as I only saw one, and that was at some distance from me and was flying away. I did get some more shots of Green-Veined Whites, but I couldn’t help feeling a little disappointed. Seeing some Gatekeepers cheered me, though, as they have not been so abundant this year. There is something indefinable about this fairly small, brilliantly orange butterfly, with its thick brown border, that I absolutely love. I think it is because when I was bought my first decent camera, five or six years ago now, it was one of the first butterflies I got good images of. I don’t t

Understated elegance

There is a strange dichotomy to the lives of Ringlets and Meadow Browns. They are so abundant, seen flying among long grasses and brambles, yet the second they land they are almost impossible to spot. Both love to hide away, making the most of their dark colours to camouflage themselves. But in photographs it is possible to capture the delicate beauty of their dark colours. #ringlet #meadowbrown #highburypark #kingsheath

The silence of summer

It was a strangely silent morning in Highbury Park. The only birds I heard were the Magpies giving their little call to one another, and a Blackbird gave its tick tick tick call as it hopped across the grass, feeding. I can only assume the silence heralds the start of the moult. At this time of year adults shed their old feathers and grow new ones. Rather than wasting energy on singing, they hide away, looking rather dishevelled, until they are ready to emerge fully clothed again. Above me, the Swifts screamed as they flew past several times, as if to tell me that they are still calling, even if the other birds are in hiding. The easiest way to see evidence of the impact of moulting is to ch

Peace in the wild city

The afternoon sun had decided to make an appearance, but was suddenly blotted out momentarily. A glance skywards instantly showed me why. Flying immediately overhead was a Grey Heron, its huge wings at full stretch, its body a sleek line from the tip of its sharp beak to the long, thin legs trailing behind it. Slow and easy it glided, disappearing from view as it passed over a tree I was standing beneath. It didn’t come out the other side though. Curious, I backed up, peering at the canopy to see if I could spot it. There it was, looking exotic and magnificent as it sat at the very top of the tree, silhouetted majestically against the sun. It was the perfect end to what had started out as a

Butterflies...& impressive thighs!

Sunday was a breezy, up and down sort of day, but warm. Butterflies don’t really like overcast, windy days, but I thought it was worth risking a visit to Chinn Brook Meadows, another glorious haven for wildlife that is within walking distance of my home. Those unfamiliar with Birmingham don’t associate it with nature, yet it is full of wonderful gems such as this. Chinn Brook Meadows is a nature reserve where the meadows are only mown annually, in late summer, to encourage the growth of native wildflower species. The result is wonderful. River Water Crowsfoot, Birds Foot Trefoil, Ox Eye Daisies, Scabious, and all manner of grasses thrive, and birds, insects, and mammals enjoy the habitat. Cu

Beauties thanks to beastly plants

Little green shoots have bravely pushed through the earth, fighting their way between stubble which is all that is left of a once lush patch of wildflowers and nettles that were growing beside the stream until the council mowed them down. Here and there, some nettles have already opened up leaves despite the plant only being a couple of inches high. And fluttering among this sad little patch was a glorious shot of Technicolour: a Small Tortoiseshell. No doubt it was busy searching for somewhere to lay its eggs. The Small Tortoiseshell relies solely on nettle patches as a place to mate, lay eggs, and feed its caterpillars. Without nettles, there can be no Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, it’s

What a card!

A single Parakeet flew above me, calling loudly to its pals, as I looked out across Henbury Pond, trying to spy the Moorhen family. As I waited, a tiny Wren scooted past my feet, flitting from one bit of undergrowth to another. Though I stood patiently, I only saw one Moorhen, though – but hopefully all is well with the other adult and their young chick. In the heat, I moved on; though only a little further, to the long grasses in the small meadow area by the trees. I wish I were better at identifying bird song, and it’s something I’m really going to have to concentrate on, because I was surrounded by sweet singing and calls from birds I could not see thanks to dense foliage, and so was unab

Getting bigger...

As the days continue to be hot, the youngsters born this spring grow bigger and stronger. It is particularly obvious in the Canada Goose goslings on Long Pool in Highbury; they now have their adult plumage and look exactly like their parents, apart from being slightly smaller – for now. The Coots and Moorhens, too, grow bigger every day. But the raising of young is not over yet, because the Moorhens on Henbury Pond have finally managed to produce some young! It was fourth time lucky for them, and for the past week or so I have seen them swimming proudly with just one little one in tow. Fingers crossed it will survive, as their parents have shown such tenacity to get it this far. #canadageese

Share & share alike

I just had to share this photograph of a pretty day-flying moth called a Mint Moth. It is a tiny little thing, barely bigger than a thumbnail – as you can tell from the photograph of it hiding inside the trumpet-like bindweed flower. This cheeky fellow is busy eating my mint and thyme, and laying eggs on the underside of the leaves. But I don’t really mind, as I believe in share and share alike. #mintmoth

Hanging around...

In the heat of the summer morning, walkers may just have spotted a small group of five people lurking in the undergrowth along the fence running from the children’s play area to the orchard. It was another meeting about the management plan of the park. The orchard community has already planted some plants, including dog rose, along some of the fence, which will eventually (hopefully) grow up to obscure the ugly fence that is now so obvious since other greenery was removed. In more shaded areas it was agreed that holly – so much of which has been removed from various parts of the park by the destructive illegal clearer – should be planted. It is probably the only thing that will thrive in suc

On a wing and a prayer

The Swifts were screaming overhead, giving me their early morning fly by, as I set off on my walk with Scamp. Once at the park, I couldn’t resist stopping for a while by Henbury Pond to watch the damselflies and look out for dragonflies. The pond is looking very pretty right now, as the lily pads have unfurled completely, and the stunning white flowers are in bloom. All around this area are the damselflies. We seem to have more of the brilliant Azure Blue Damselfly this year than the Common Blue, for some reason. Drifting gently through the shimmering air, darting swiftly at prey, resting and warming themselves on ferns and leaves. Don’t they look glorious? They form little clouds of brillia

Rattle and hum

All day, the Swifts have been flying above me, crying out euphorically. In olden days they were known as Devil Birds because of their screaming, but to me they sound like they are bursting with with joy. They remind me of 12-year-olds freewheeling downhill on their bicycles, screaming : “Woo-hoo, look at me! Look at me! Look how fast I’m going!” It makes me grin every time I hear it. All too soon they will be gone, so I am making the most of them, soaking up the sight and sound while I can. At Highbury Park, I heard another sound of summer. For the first time this year, while standing beside the long grasses, I can hear Grasshoppers making their distinctive noise, the anthem of all blazing h