Early evening and the Wild Life Trust are having a guided walk. I wanted to join this because it would give me a chance to see how the Aberthaw Biodiversity area had changed since my last visit and also to double check my flora identifications.
Summer is truly passing into autumn. Nature’s bounty is all around us; seeds, fruit and
dried husks abound. The first thing to hit you is the Traveler’s Joy; it cascades over most things with its spidery seed heads creating a spectacle. This is inter-twined with the tendrils and white flowers of Hedge Bindweed and the trailing garlands of red, orange and yellow jewels belonging to Black Bryony (Tamus communis) berries. A number of flowers are now on their second flush: Ox-eye Daisies, Knapweed, Herb Robert, Bristly Oxtongue, Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa), Great Mullein, Dove’s-foot Cranes-bill, Scarlet Pimpernel, Evening Primrose, Bush Vetch and Black Medick. A surprising vibrant pink double Rose peeks out of the Hawthorn bushes; is it a Dog-rose? Others are coming into flower or just going into seed: Red Bartsia, Ribbed Melilot, (Melilotus officinalis),Eye Bright, Common Toadflax, and Wild Basil (Clinopodium vulgare), Common Centaury, Yellow Wort and Bird’s-foot Trefoil. Berries are represented by the bright red of Dog-rose, Lords and Ladies, Black Bryony, St. John’s-wort, Hawthorn and under ripe Brambles or Blackberries, while purple or black berries are supplied by Blackberries, Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Blackthorn or Sloe, Ivy and Elderberries. The Elders are dripping and groaning with the heaviness of the crop. These were a favourite of my Mum’s as she used to make delicious Elderberry wine, which tasted like a very good Ruby Port. The plump, matt, perfectly round berries of the Blackthorn are just right for picking and making Sloe Gin/Vodka ready for Christmas. Psychedelic orange berries are represented by the Sea Buckthorn with the magnificent curved structural shapes of its branches. Seed-heads and pods come in all shapes and sizes; the fluffy ones like thistles, Ragwort and Cat’s-ears ,seen elsewhere, but also the Great Willowherb with its cottony fly away threads and the soft almost candyfloss Hemp Agrimony; the brown crispy open mouthed ones like Toadflax, Great Mullein, Greater Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella Major), Curled Dock and Self-heal. Also in the crispy category are twisting ones on Knapweed, pin cushion ones on Fleabane, ones with hooks like Clevers and Agrimony that stick to you as you brush past them, flat oval ones like Giant Hogweed held aloft in umbels, or inverted umbrellas, and spiky ones like Traveler’s Joy and Teasel. Traveller’s Joy looks like hundreds and thousands of spiders, while the Teasel is so architectural, its almost pre-historic leaves curling around the tall stems like claws and then the stem terminating in a large spiky seed-head. Pods , large ones on Evening Primrose and Stinking Irises and small ones on Ribbed Meliliot and Himalayan Balsam all ready to pop at any moment and spray their contents far and wide. The trees, also, are in their autumn finery, laden with seed-heads or cornels and the leaves are just starting to change colour. Sycamore and Ash are abundant. Alder has its pendulous, knobbly, ovoid clusters of cones and Hazel has nuts in pairs or threes.
The paths are a little muddy and are overgrown, with Great Willowherb, Teasels, Fleabane and Ribbed Meliliot spilling over them. After a shower of rain my trouser legs were getting a little damp. In the clearings are Foxglove and Sweet Violet leaves in mats or carpets taking in enough nutrients so the plants can burst into flower next spring. There are masses of dry brown stalks here too: Teasels and Curled Docks. A Speckled Wood is enjoying the sweetness of the Blackberries, while a flock of about eight Long tail Tits are tweeting and flying around us and into the trees, too fast to take a good photograph. On a number of Dog-roses there are very pretty red and orange, fluffy, fibrous protuberances: Robin’s Pin-cushions, also known as Bedeguar Gall. These are caused by wasp larvae (Dipoloepis rosea).
As we near the saline lagoon there is much commotion; over a hundred Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) have congregated, swimming between the reeds. There are three Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens) in amongst them and two Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) have just flown across and settled at the furthest end. We watch the spectacle for awhile but soon the night is drawing in; the sunset is affording us with wonderful colours in the sky and reflecting in the lagoon. All of a sudden the commotion on the lagoon reaches a crescendo and large portions of Geese take flight. They leave in batches one after the other, it seems as if in a pre-ordained order, until there is silence and the water is quiet and almost empty. The Skeins quarter the sky and then head towards the East.
As the twilight creeps invariably into darkness, the Rooks and Jackdaws start their caterwauling and circling around from the beach to the trees. All too soon the light has gone and we make our way in semi-darkness back to the car park.
Thanks go to the Wild Life Trust for a very interesting talk and walk.