Sunday, July 25, 2010

Great Crested Grebes Persevere...

I have written extensively about the indefatigable Great Crested Grebes in Valentines Park, but must now give an update:

About two weeks ago, returning to Ilford after an absence of ten days, the first thing I did was to anxiously check up on the Grebe family who had only recently hatched their chick when I left. To my relief, there they all were, but surprizingly they had made a new nest- under the same Elder tree but further out in the lake:

While one bird sat on the nest, the other was still energetically building it up with "logs" and sludge:

Then- to my delight- when the adult on the nest rose up- there I saw one egg!

And the next day there were two eggs!

And the day after that there were three eggs!

The chick in the meantime was growing up fast, learning to preen himself like his parent:

Swimming out into the lake after his diving parent:

Learning to dive himself, after his parent- and then being disconcerted to find no sign of the adult, who had swum far away underwater...

Constantly the chick was following the non-nest-sitting parent, constantly crying out "cheep-cheep-cheep" for food... here one parent gives him a little fish...

At other times the chick scrambles onto his parent's back:

And then scrambles off...

Ready to get another fish from the other adult...

And finally, here he is sailing off on his parent's back...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ash Trees: Valentines Park

Whatever tree or bird I happen to be looking at or thinking about, it seems to be my "favourite"! I will therefore restrain myself and say that Ashes are ONE of my favourite trees. They are so delightful, so elegant.

There are many of them in Valentines Park- though I remember being very upset when a particularly beautiful Ash (among many other trees) was blown down when what was called a hurricane swept over Southern Britain in 1987, destroying vast quantities of woodland.

But here is one still standing that always gives me pleasure with its beautiful lines:

Apart from their charming lines, ashes have such graphic leaves- first, here are their shadows on a tree trunk:

and now for the actual leaves:

Yet another bonus the ash tree has is its "keys"- or seeds. When a child, I believed they really WERE keys- there was something very magic about them- so here are some:

Horse Chestnut Trees: Ilford

I have written at length in previous posts about my involvement with Horse Chestnut, or "Conker", Trees. Briefly, I have planted many Conker tree that are the descendants of one I grew from a conker as a child. One of these my daughter and I planted in the garden of our house in Ilford. When we left Ilford I arranged for this tree to have a Preservation Order. This is similar to the Landmarking of trees in the United States, in that the designated trees cannot be cut down.

On returning to Ilford in May this year, with some trepidation I walked down a road from which I would be able to see this tree- assuming the new owners of the house had not disobeyed the ruling. To my delight, there it was in full bloom. towering above the fences:

I very much prefer the conkers with white flowers rather than red- the white flowers being more delicate and their leaves being more shapely than the crinkled ones on those with red flowers. However, when a child in Malvern- where I planted my first conker- I always enjoyed walking down some lanes in the Severn Valley where the owner of a large estate had planted alternate red and white flowering conkers in the hedges.

This brings me back to Valentines Park in Ilford: here they have planted avenues of red flowering trees and also have individual white ones. Actually, I would call them Pink rather than Red, as that is what they are. These pink ones flower at the same time as the Azaleas in the early Summer and I always find this exciting:

And here is a white flower to compare with a red one:

And here are some more images of the red/pink ones:

Similar to the Oak trees, Conkers are having a tough time with diseases which I have discussed here. so I won't go into detail about this now, apart from saying that one is a Blight which effects the leaves and the other is a Bleeding Canker. Both these diseases weaken their immune systems.

I will end with a couple of shots showing their bark:

Hornbeams and Plane Trees: Valentines Park

In my recent post about Epping Forest I mentioned Hornbeams and the fact that they always remind me of Red Deer's antlers. Their English name is in fact derived from the fact that they are "horn-like", plus the Old English word for a tree: "beam". Here are some images of a Hornbeam in Valentines Park which illustrate this boney look :

I first got to know Plane trees when a student in London, being fascinated by the snake-like texture of their peeling bark:

This tree in Valentines Park is quite different, with its over-the-top warty trunk:

Oak Trees: Valentines Park

I am planning to devote the next few posts to trees in Ilford's Valentines Park. While obsessively photographing the nesting birds there- in particular the Grey Herons and Great Crested Grebes- I have also being taking numerous photos of the variety of trees there for this blog, but have not found time to post them.

Starting with the Oak Trees: I have mentioned previously that I used to live in Ilford for many years. I constantly pushed my then baby daughter round Valentines Park and showed her the Ducklings on the lakes. Later, when my mother came to live near us and she eventually grew infirm as she approached her hundredth birthday, I pushed her round the Park and showed her the Ducklings on the lakes...

A country woman as well as an artist, like me she had a passion for trees: this led me to pushing her close to certain trees so that she could touch them, in particular two Oak trees. I am quite sure this contact with these ancient trees was important to her well-being and gave her some sort of strength. Therefore the first two images I will show are of one of her favourite Oaks:

It is very worrying to hear that these wonderful, historical trees are now threatened with diseases that could destroy them throughout the Country, totally changing the landscape. There seem to be two of them: Acute Oak Decline (AOD) and Sudden Oak Death (which also effects Beech, Larch and Ash. AOD apparently causes native trees to bleed extensively, cutting off the supply of water and nutrients and killing them within a few years. Scientists are still researching its causes- already hundreds of trees in England and Wales have been affected by it. Sudden Oak Death was introduced from abroad to this country about ten years ago and has killed off many trees.

On a more cheerful note, here are some images of Oaks in Valentines Park that give me great visual pleasure, especially the patterns formed by their bark where branches once were: