Week 22 Roundup

Week 22 Roundup: 19th August

Another week with very little, really, to report. In Week 21 we were sheltering from the heat, this week it’s been more about trying to keep dry. In Taunton, at least, it’s rained every day. In Southampton there’s been 1½ days of cricket when there should have been 5.  It began with the warmest night of the year–21°C in Taunton—and then 27°C the next day, after which the temperatures subsided to a pleasanter 18-22°C for the rest of the week; still very humid, sharp showers, and the odd thunder clap. Oh yes, and a funnel cloud, apparently, in the Bristol Channel. We had three days on the trot without any sunshine, ensuring that bad light stopped play even when the rain didn’t.

Let’s try diary format again…

Thursday, 13th. Very little sleep.The warmest night for years. ‘A’ Level Results Day. The injustice of ‘THE ALGORITHM’.

WhatsApp from Val: Small Teasel, Dipsacus pilosus, at Baltonsborough. Email from Pat, who had visited Porlock Weir on the 9th (so Week 21) to find Sea Aster, Aster tripolium, just starting to flower, and Sea-purslane, Atriplex portulacoides, which “had probably been flowering for weeks.” Also a Jersey Tiger, Euplagia quadripunctaria, in the orchard at Nettlecombe.

Evening: a single group of three Swifts, circling high above Trinity Street. So they’re still here…

Friday, 14th. Ivy, flowering in the rain in Upper Holway, Taunton. It’s climbing over a roadside garden fence, and some of the leaves are suspiciously variegated; clearly a cultivated Ivy of some sort—and in keeping with the weather, my initial excitement that it might be first-flowering Hedera helix is soon dampened by the realisation that it’s H. colchica.

Liz posts a stunning picture of Apple-of-Peru, Nicandra physalodes, from Wedmore allotments where it grows on a muck heap. The day’s highlight, though, is surely Fred’s Least Lettuce, Lactuca saligna, on Fobbing Marshes, Essex, where he says it’s “having an amazing year!”

Saturday, 15th. Email from Val: “I’ve seen Sparrowhawk at Catcott Lows, and last week a Hobby at Baltonsborough.”

Sunday, 16th. Email from Georgina: just-flowering Meadow Saffron, Colchicum autumnale, at Velvet Bottom and Blackdown on Mendip. A real rarity in VC5, so didn’t even think to have it on our target list, but Georgina’s date is very early. Walter Watson’s FFD for Meadow Saffron was 13th September, while Captain Roe had four FFDs for it in the 1950s, all of them in September.

At Ubley Warren, Georgina reports having had two second-brood Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Boloria selene, on the 8th, and second-brood Dingy Skippers, Erynnis tages, on the 12th (all Week 21). Both occurrences are unusual, reflecting the exceptionally warm spring and summer we’ve been having.

Not entirely unconnected, an email from Hester Stanwood, who has noticed a second flush of flowering of Greater Chickweed, Stellaria neglecta, at Longrun Meadow, Taunton. Hester is a ‘Friend of Longrun’, one of the team of volunteers responsible for looking after the area.

Monday, 17th.  THE ALGORITHM is ditched. Government announce that teacher-assessed grades will now apply.

Late morning: walking between Thurlbear and Winterwell, some fine large plants of Woolly Thistle, Cirsium eriophorum—a new monad record—and carpets of Strawberry Clover, Trifolium fragiferum. Meanwhile, on WhatsApp, Ian is enjoying a profusion of Common Wintergreen, Pyrola minor, in Moray—our most northerly outpost yet.

Tuesday, 18th.  Morning: walk over to Trull allotments to meet friends for a socially-distanced flask of tea and lemon drizzle cake. Interesting allotment weeds, including several species of Oxalis: Procumbent Yellow-sorrel, O. corniculata,and Upright Yellow-sorrel, O. stricta, are frequent enough in the Taunton area, but it turns out that Garden Pink-sorrel, O. latifolia, is new for ST22. Of the three, O. latifolia is clearly causing the most trouble, some plot-holders seem to be growing it for fun—lines of dwarf French beans with a rather lovely latifolia ‘understorey’. Black currants nicely infested with Black currant gall mite, Cecidophyopsis ribis. Pear trees laden with fruit, their leaves orange-spotted with galls of the ‘pear rust’, Gymnosporangium sabinae.

Today, 19thMorning: Thurlbear churchyard, pickingblackberries; Ivy now so close to flowering—pedicels fully extended, buds swollen, but still tightly closed like clenched fists. How long before they show their hands? Within the next week to ten days, I reckon…

Afternoon: walk in to town. Happy students everywhere. Our first experience of ‘Eat Out to Help Out!’ Two teas and a flapjack for three quid, at the café in Goodlands Gardens where we stopped on our SRPG/Wild Flower Society ‘last week hunt’ in October 2018. White Melilot, Melilotus albus, in the stonework where the old millstream joins the river. First recorded here in 2008, this is its only site in the Taunton area, and quite a scarce plant in VC5.

Late afternoon: walking back past the cricket ground, it’s spitting with rain, and—would you believe it?—there are five Swifts, high above the rooftops and the floodlights, tacking into a strengthening headwind, tilting this way and that as they zig-zag across the sky.

Having been wrong several times already, I hesitate to proclaim that these are the last Swifts of the year.

(But I think they might be.)