Week 18 Roundup

Week 18 Roundup: 22nd July

A proper ragbag of first flowerings this week. It begins to feel like we’re trying to keep a register of guests attending a summer ball: we’re down to the last few stragglers who every year seem to make a habit of turning up this late, but there are others who must have sneaked in earlier—and it’s only now, when their names are called out, that we realise they’re already here.

Among the perennial latecomers, Helena spotted Common Hemp-nettle, Galeopsis tetrahit,at Mendip golf course on the 15th, while on the same day Jeanne and Tim had Sharp-leaved Fluellen, Kickxia elatine, in a field border between Old Cleeve and Washford. Chris L’s and Karen’s just-flowering Broad-leaved Helleborine, Epipactis helleborine, near Huish Moor on the 18th, is another in this group, as is my own Common Reed, Phragmites australis, at Roughmoor Pond, also on the 18th. The dates for all of these are well ahead of Watson’s, and mostly they’re earlier than my own in previous years.

The second group includes Helena’s Bog St John’s-wort, Hypericum elodes, at Yarty Moor on the 10th, Maureen’s Heather, Calluna vulgaris, at Staple Plain on the 11th – both in Week 17 – and Chris and Linda’s Blue Fleabane, Erigeron acris, at Milverton on 27th June (Week 15); as well as Helena and Margaret’s Saw-wort, Serratula tinctoria, at Strode on the 1st (also Week 15), which Margaret says had probably started flowering some days earlier. Chris had first-flowering Saw-wort at Langford Heathfield on the 4th.  Also, it appears that Dodder, Cuscuta epithymum, started flowering earlier than suggested in last week’s roundup: Jeanne reports having had it at Cleeve Hill on the 5th (Week 16).

Amongst my own catch-ups this week were Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, and Fennel-leaved Pondweed, Potamogeton pectinatus, between Obridge and Firepool Weir on the 20th. Which reminded me that we’ve been rather ignoring pondweeds, so if anyone has first dates for any of these, do please let me know.

While we’re at it, here’s a quick update on numbers of records of the various colour forms of Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis—this time displayed as a pie chart that faintly resembles a particularly lurid decarrhabdotus!

Field Bindweed, interim scores up to end of Week 18

Not much happening in the non-botanical world this week, although this morning’s first Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, was a joy to behold. And since the 17th we’ve had (more or less) daily sightings of Migrant Hawkers, Aeschna mixta, in the garden.

More than anything, though, it’s an absence I have to report. Yesterday, I was listening to birdsong in Longrun Meadow. There were Blackcaps in the riverside Alders, Greenfinches rasping from the hedgerows, and a single Song Thrush still triumphantly proclaiming its territory from the top of a crack willow. But there weren’t any singing Robins or Chaffinches, and—worse than that—there was a strange and total lack of Blackbirds

When I got home I checked back through the diary, to find that the last reference to our back-garden Blackbird had been in late June. Exactly on which day his chimney-pot monologue ceased, I cannot say. But if he sang in early July, I didn’t hear him; or else, if I did hear him, I made neither physical nor mental note of it. I kick myself that he became utterly silent—at the start of his post-breeding moult, presumably?—without me really noticing.

It may be true that recording the end of something is harder than recording its beginning: the first Lesser Celandine is easy, the last is much trickier. But does this Blackbird oversight also have something to do with our emergence from lockdown? As general ‘busy-ness’ resumes, it feels as though some of the little things that, during lockdown, assumed huge significance are starting to become small again. Odd, really, that as the world opens up—enlarges—there’s also this shrinking.

All the best for the coming week.