Blackwater Valley Countryside

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May in the Valley

Spring is now already well advanced and May will continue to be a busy month with wildlife activity everywhere. Even if you spent all day every day outdoors this month you would still miss something as there is so much going on. May is the month the dawn chorus reaches its peak, fledglings are testing their flight feathers, insects are on the move, the ponds and lakes are coming alive and flowers are bursting into bloom. May is really a magical month and will pass too quickly, so make the most of it and get out into the Valley.

Hawthorn blossomYou can’t help but see the frothy white umbels of Cow Parsley lining the road verges and pathways and the mass of Hawthorn blossom (pictured right) lining the many hedgerows. In addition this month start looking out  for orchids, these exquisite yet elusive plants should come into flower over the next few weeks attracting all sorts of insects. Pyramidal, Bee, Common Spotted and Green Winged are just some of the varieties found in the Valley.

Swallow by Jerry O'BrienKeep an eye out for Swallows (pictured right), Swifts and Martins that continue to arrive from Africa in large and often mixed flocks. They can be seen over the lakes, feeding on insects, refueling for the next stage of their journey north.

Native ducks and geese are among the first to breed and their young are easily watched on the river and lakes. Look out for Mallards and Egyptian Geese seen with their young.Small Copper

Woodland rides and glades act as sun traps and with the temperatures rising they are good places to watch many of the butterflies that are flying now. Look for Small Coppers (pictured), Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Orange Tips.

Increasing numbers of flying insects provide a feast for bats. Watch Water Bats - also known as Daubenton’s -  feed on mayflies, skimming the surface of the Valleys’ many lakes and ponds at dusk and after dark. Lakeside Nature Reserve is well worth a visit.

Dog Rose

 Wild Rose


What’s in a name?


Have you ever wondered
why certain plant species
bear the name dog – Dog Violet, Dog Rose and Dog’s Mercury are all examples? 


Go back in history and you’ll
find that country folk used
the description ‘dog’ as a derogatory terms for wild flowers and plants that were inferior to their relatives and therefore only ‘fit for dogs’.


Dog Violet, for example,
was scentless compared to the earlier flowering and scented Sweet Violet.


Dog’s Mercury is the
‘useless’ relative of Annual Mercury, which was used in folk medicine (although both are dangerous).


Dogwood is a shrub which bears berries that are not
fit to eat.

Exactly why the rose of the English hedgerow, which was adopted as his emblem by Henry VII and became the Tudor Rose and a symbol of the British monarchy,
came to be known as a Dog Rose is a bit of a mystery.

One theory goes back to the  ancient Greeks who called the wild rose ‘Dog Rose’ because they believed the roots could cure a man who had been bitten by a mad dog.
Is is believed the Romans
then adopted the name
 Rosa canina, which translated into English as Dog Rose.