30 Days Wild – Day Thirteen

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Saturday 13th June:  I’ve been looking forward to today for a while. Last payday I booked myself on to 3 courses being run by my local wildlife trust at Attenborough Nature Centre. Today was the first one: Introduction to Wild Flowers run by Graham, the manager at the reserve.

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It was a pretty dull, grey day but this meant there weren’t as many visitors as usual and the reserve was so peaceful and quiet! A really tranquil place.

There were 11 of us on the course and we all seemed to be there for very different reasons. We were all ladies, and I was the youngest one there. The person that I partnered with is a poet and wanted to find out more about flowers and the language we use to describe them. Another lady had coincided the course with her visit from America and a couple of people were interested from a gardening perspective. Perhaps because of this we all had different levels of initial knowledge. When it came to calling out names of (supposedly!) common flowers in photographs that Graham showed us I drew a blank and the gardeners excelled. However, the introduction to the anatomy of flowers was a great recap for me as I am familiar with the terms from my biology GSCE and A Level and I found this, along with using the classification key, quite straightforward whereas some of the other ladies didn’t follow quite as well. We worked well together though, pooling our thoughts and all coming out more knowledgeable at the end. We used hand lenses and classifcation keys to find the family and then species of a selection of flowers.

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My poet partner and I using the classification key. We had to dissect the flowers and use the hand lens or microscope for some parts of the key such counting the stamens and checking for a inferior or superior ovary. Photograph courtesy of Ed Tripp at Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
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Using my little microscope to view an Oxeye Daisy which we discovered has a composite flower (i.e. the showy flower head is atually made up of many smaller flowers as you can see in this photograph.)

For the last part of the session we took walk outside (the rain had finally subsided) around Corbett’s meadow. We had a chance to practice identifying the family of different plants in the field and I learnt some general rules for spotting the pea, brassicas, roses and campion family. We saw some little wild strawberries which was lovely, and also this common blue butterfly braving the drizzle.

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The Common Blue butterfly, Polyommatus icarus, on Corbett’s Meadow in this SSSI registered nature reserve.
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A wild strawberry on the reserve, part of the rose family!

There has been some really exciting news recently at Attenborough – the bittern is breeding on site for the first time. There have been a quite a few sightings this week and after the wild flowers course finished I decided to head up to the tower hide and try my luck. I’m not a bird watcher and I prefer to carry a microscope or hand lens rather than a pair of binos so I wasn’t particularly prepared but actually I was incredibly lucky! I’d been in the hide for about five minutes when someone said “here it comes!” and I saw this huge brown bird flying past on the right hand side. I was standing up and able to get to the other side quickly to watch it land on one of the island areas. I really was lucky because another lady in the hide said she had been waiting there for nearly two hours trying to spot it and within five minutes of arriving, I saw it! Bitterns are so funny looking with their long neck and sagging crop which looks to me like a double chin. When I’ve seen them on TV I always think they’re rather ungainly but in person and in flight this bird was majestic! It was all over in a few seconds though and I didn’t think to try and take a picture, I was too transfixed and excited by the rare and wonderful sight.

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I didn’t get a photograph of the bittern I saw but here’s a picture of a picture, and a bit of information from Attenborough Nature Reserve.

All in all a very ‘wild’, educational and nature themed day 🙂

All images subject to copywrite. All opinions expressed on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the view of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust for whom I volunteer, or any other organisation.

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