If you happened to be in Coventry city-centre, you’ll come across a sea of blue ribbons fluttering everywhere and I meant everywhere, on lamp-posts and even prominent landmarks. I even saw a photograph of a ribbon tied to the feet of the Devil, which was the enormous bronze statue by Sir Jacob Epstein representing St Michael Subduing the Devil, outside the entrance of the new Coventry Cathedral. It constitutes a powerful symbol of the triumphant resurrection of the Cathedral despite the powers of evil and destruction. Unfortunately, it had been taken down. It brightened my day when I saw my favourite lady, Lady Godiva, had blue ribbons draped on her. I’m glad that no one had untied them.
There was a convention observed in some countries where a yellow ribbon was tied around an old oak tree when a loved one was away until such time as they returned. You may recalled the 1973 Number 1 chart-topping single by Dawn in the early 70's on this very theme. Coventry City fans have tied "hundreds" of sky blue ribbons around the city, as part of their campaign to keep the football club in Coventry. The aim was that these ribbons remained until the club returned to the city.The Sky Blue Trust had also requested businesses to leave the ribbons up and support them because it would be detrimental to their business if the Sky Blues leave Coventry.
The campaign was launched in response to plans for Coventry City to play their home matches 35 miles away at Northampton‘s Sixfields Stadium. Everyone gasped when it was announced at the beginning of July that the League One club would play home games at Northampton's. The club had agreed a ground-share with Northampton Town for three seasons amid a dispute with the owners of its current home the Ricoh Arena. Coventry City had been involved in a rent dispute with Ricoh owners Arena Coventry Ltd for more than a year.
Imagine the sight around the city with masses of sky blue ribbons on clear display for all to see. A powerful statement of how the fans all feel about their club leaving them. Imagine what the City of Coventry would look like if we all took up the symbol with sky blue ribbons, on trees, lamp posts, telephone poles, just about anywhere they’d get noticed to remind everyone that we need our Football Club home with us. The magnitude of the stupidity exhibited by the corporate hacks and the Football Association was beyond any understanding at all. Fans need to be cultivated and nurtured, not alienated. So let's get that sky blue ribbon on display because as the old saying goes. There was no place like home....and this was OUR home ! So lets paint the city Sky Blue.
It was the final week of Ramadan where one of the nights celebrated was Laylatul Qadr and regarded as one of the most blessed of all nights in the Islamic calendar year. Also known as the Night of Power or the Night of Destiny, it commemorated the night in 610CE when Allah revealed the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad SAW. The angel Gabriel first spoke to the Prophet during that time which marked the beginning of Muhammad’s SAW mission. These revelations continued throughout the remainder of his life. To mark the occasion, Muslims were encouraged to read the Koran and pray long into the night to ask for mercy, forgiveness and salvation. May our prayers be accepted by Allah, Amin.
On Saturday, we paid a visit to our favourite playground to see if we can photograph more butterflies. There was a small corner in the reserve where Buddleias or better known as the Butterfly plant grow wild. As the name suggested, these shrubs attracted butterflies and bees. This was due to the highly fragrant scent emitted from the banana shaped blooms. And I wasn’t disappointed. The shrubs with their purple and white flower spikes on long arching stems were covered with butterflies. We stood near the bushes and all you could hear were our cameras rattling away.
The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower is a tethered butterfly.
~Ponce Denis Ecouchard Lebrun~
We continued walking and noticed that the rowanberries were ripening and turning colour, from red to bright orange. They were very attractive to fruit-eating birds, which was reflected in the old name "bird catcher". The fruits were soft and juicy, which made them a very good food for birds, particularly waxwings and thrushes, which then distributed the seeds in their droppings. Newfoundland popular folklore maintained that a heavy crop of fruit meant a hard or difficult winter. The fruit of European Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) could be made into a slightly bitter jelly which was traditionally eaten as an accompaniment to game, and into jams and other preserves, on their own, or with other fruit. But I’ve never tried them before.
We walked towards the wind turbine with our eyes on the Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) bushes. We were looking for the Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and we found them clustered at the beautiful yellow flower heads of the plant which they preferred as food. The plants looked defoliated. Many had already left in search for greener pastures, on the ground and wandering over other plants. They were striking in appearance, quite sinister looking and have a strong tendency to cluster together, an anti-predator behaviour. This behaviour gradually disappeared as the larvae grow and tend to be found spaced out in the plants.
Adults emerged in late spring from overwintering pupae and after mating, the female lay eggs in the basal leaves of the Ragwort bushes. Larvae hatched in about two weeks and their development took about one month, after this, they pupated on the ground and remained dormant until the following spring. And the circle of life continued. As we walked along the New Hare Covert, every Ragwort bush was covered with caterpillars munching happily.
We made a pit stop at Wright hide to check out the natives. A lone Oyster Catcher was having a snooze among the mallards. Lapwings and Gulls were busy feeding along the mudbanks. The water level was still quite high. From here, we caught a glimpse of the fuzzy, adorable Tern chicks busy checking out their surroundings. We didn’t stay long because the hide was like a sun-trap. As we walked under the shade, wild raspberries were beginning to ripen and would provide food for the natives.
This week, the glorious weather returned with a bang. The heat-wave returned with temperatures soaring to 32C, thanks to the arrival of the ‘Spanish Plume’ of hot air, bringing back the sizzling summer weather for the start of August. A typical summer usually consisted of high pressure ridging in from the Atlantic, which settled down across to bring those long sunny days and increasing temperatures that we longed for. This high pressure gradually came under attack by Atlantic depressions trying to continue along their usual path from west to east. When these two air masses meet, the very warm ‘plume’ air was forced to rise vigorously over the cooler Atlantic air and as a result produced thunderstorms. Three fine days and a thunderstorm. A phrase often heard during the British summer and a phenomenon that often brought an episode of warm summer sunshine abruptly to an end. But not to soon, one hoped.
But the heavens did opened on Sunday. That didn’t stopped us to pay another visit to Slimbridge WWT again. The Spoonbill had been a constant visitor there and it was feeding closer and closer to the hide. We just had to pay a visit. It was no surprise to see not many cars in the car-park. The rain had stopped people from coming but it was going to take more than the rain to stop us. We were decked in waterproofs wear to keep dry and warm. As we walked along the walkway towards the visitor centre, a flock of soaked Long Tailed Tits and drenched Goldfinches flew in and started feeding among the thistles.
Babe borrowed a mobility scooter to help him move around the reserve. First, we checked the swallows under the eaves and they were still busy flying in and out, feeding their hungry chicks. A pit stop at Wader Shore where the Avocets, Red Shanks, Black Stilts and Ruff were enjoying the rain. As soon as the rain subsided a bit, we rushed to South Lake with our fingers-crossed. It was packed with photographers and twitchers looking to the right side of the lake. We managed to squeeze in and our piece de resistant was out feeding on the mud-bank.
Unfortunately, it was too far away for a good photograph but we were still elated to see this lovely bird. We could see the long spoon-shaped bill sieving small aquatic animals for food by swishing from side to side. Spoonbills were tall white water-birds with long spatulate black bills and long black legs. They feed by wading through shallow water, sweeping the partly opened bill from side to side. The moment any small aquatic creature touches the inside of the bill—insects, crustaceans, or tiny fishes—it was snapped shut. We would have stayed longer but it had taken refuge in the inlet.
Apart from the Spoonbill, the wader flock was very good with about 166 Black-tailed Godwits, some having a snooze and a few were feeding. 48 very vocal Redshanks were trying to feed but being chased away by the Lapwings and Gulls. A Common Tern with its fluffy chicks were also feeding on the island. Someone mentioned a Wood Sandpiper but I only saw 2 Green Sandpipers. A good scattering of ducks included Teals and Shovelers plus the obligatory Coots and Moorhens were also seen. Everyone had a good laugh when a flock of very curious young Nenes were looking at us through the glass panels.
We made a pit stop at the Chilean Flamingos corner. Slimbridge was still in veritable flamingo breeding activities. They have been excavating enormous nests, a natural behaviour in the wild, that helped protect the eggs and chicks from extreme climates like flash flooding. But this was making it difficult for the little chicks to climb up and down from their nests. As a result, during their rounds of monitoring the flocks, the wardens added sand around the nests, creating ramps that will help the chicks ascend and descend from their towering nest mounds. Such was the dedication and care of the aviculturists towards their exotic pink chargers. Well done.
We continued our adventure to the other end of the reserve. Outside Rushy Hide, a couple of Black Headed Gulls, Crows, Lapwing and Mute Swans were enjoying the mixed weather of sunshine and showers. Martin Smith and Robbie Garnett Hides were devoid of both visitors and wildlife, except for the occasional Swallow and Woodpigeon. I think they were put off by the building activities being carried out on this stretch of pathway. This Brown Wood Warbler kept me entertaned as it was chirping its head off waiting to be fed by its parents.
We stopped at Knott Hide to shelter from the rain. The feeders were busy with very bossy rain-soaked Goldfinches not willing to share with the Blue and Great Tits. Chaffinches, Tree sparrows and Greenfinches also took turns on the numerous feeders hanging around the compound. Robins and Dunnocks joined the Blackbirds feeding on the scraps that had fallen on the ground. A lone Moorhen was seen scampering among the reed-beds.
On the way back to the main reserve, I noticed a clump of orange berries shone out like a beacon among the green woodland habitat. These were the Lords and Ladies Berries (Arum Maculatum). They were also known as Cuckoo pint or Jack-in-the-pulpit, quite an evocative name, don’t you think. In Dorset in the 1930s, young girls believed that if they touched the Arum they would become pregnant :-). This followed from the reference in John Lyly’s 1601 play ‘Loves Metamorphosis’ which mentioned “They have eaten so much of wake robin, that they cannot sleep for love”. I hoped they didn’t because these berries were quite poisonous as they cause speedy irritation of the mouth if eaten.
Since Babe was using the scooter, we were able to check out the further end of the other side of the reserve, where the Australian pen, Puddleduck Corner and Geese of the Wild were located. But along the way we were distracted by dozens of Coot chicks in various stages of growth. I think this might be their final brood for the year. While Babe was busy with the very ugly, bald-headed but adorable Cootlings, I spotted, hang-on, a Water vole, feeding quietly among the reeds. Woo…hoo. our 2nd. sighting of Ratty in the reserve. Ratty, in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows', was actually a water vole.
We arrived at the Pen during feeding time and the natives were very excited, flapping their wings and noisily quacking away when they spotted the warden wheeling in a huge wheel-barrow loaded with seeds. The noise was unbearable with the honkings from the Greater Flamingos and clear whistling kee-wee-ooo calls from the numerous breeds of whistling ducks. We browsed around the enclosures searching for the Mandarin and Wood ducks. They had gone AWOL. But there were plenty feathered friends keeping us occupied.
With a bit of luck
Will come into your life.
When you are at the peak
Of your great powers
And your achievement towers
Like a smoking chimney stack.
There’ll be a quack,
And right at your feet,
A little duck will stand.
She will take you by the hand
And lead you,
Like a child with no defence;
She will lead you
Into wisdom, joy and innocence.
That little duck.
We wish you luck.
We also checked out the Hogarth Hide which was overlooking the upper end of South Lake. We strained our necks trying see if we could see the Spoonbill from here but it was not to be. It was nearly closing time and we made our way to the visitor centre to return the mobility scooter. When we walked over the bridge, this flock of White-Fronted Geese swam below us. As we drove home in the late afternoon, the air along the M6 was filled with floating clouds of the fluffy seeds of the milkweed plants. It was quite magical. It helped to make the journey more bearable as the overhead information boards flashed 40 mph-60 mph.
At home, I harvested the broad beans, dwarf beans, chards, courgettes, artichokes, rockets and lettuces. At the moment everything in the garden had come into its prime. The damp, humid weather with wall-to-wall sunshine was just what the plants needed.The corn were laden with ripening cobs, growing tall and proud. I’m waiting anxiously for the tell tale browning of their silken tassels so that I could start harvesting them. Hmm…I prefer my corn steamed and then slathered in oodles of butter and sprinkled with white pepper. The melting butter and pepper seeping in between …I’m salivating in anticipation :-)
It was hard to believe that July had flown by. We were blessed with a truly beautiful month. It had been filled with glorious dry and sunny weather. Well worth waiting for. For a few more weeks, fingers-crossed we will still uphold the sweet illusion of high summer. This adorable squirrel was chilling out on the bird-feeder, taking full advantage of the lovely weather. I don't blame him.
Fairest of the months!
Ripe summer's queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear."
~R. Combe Miller~
Ripe summer's queen
The hey-day of the year
With robes that gleam with sunny sheen
Sweet August doth appear."
~R. Combe Miller~
I would also like to give a very big SHOUT to my eldest nephew, Eriq, for getting through his studies with flying colours.....