At 14:30 this afternoon there was a very nice example of a halo around the sun also known as a 22 degree sun halo.
The halo is formed by the suns rays passing through high altitude ice crystals and is usually a sign that it will rain within the next 24 hours.
For more information take a look at these links;
When I see a distinctive cloud formation, I take photographs at regular intervals as the sky changes and note the resulting weather for future reference.
While out on one of the reserves yesterday I noticed a medium sized pale bird sitting very upright in the top of a hawthorn bush. “Is that a Shrike?” I said to my colleague. On viewing the bird through binoculars we were able to confirm that it was indeed a Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor.
Pictures taken by Bruce Martin
The shrike is renowned for catching prey such as small mammals and large insects and impaling them on thorn bushes or barbed wire fences as a food larder for later use. For this reason, one of the names for the shrike is “butcher bird”.
They breed in Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia and move south and east to slightly milder climates for the winter.
While out walking today I found another sign that spring is with us………..
The ball of moss, hair, lichens and spiders webs on the centre of the picture is a Long-tailed Tits nest. Here is a close-up of the nest.
The nest is completely enclosed, except for a small entrance hole on the side. The entrance hole is on the other side of the nest and was difficult to access without causing unnecessary disturbance to the birds. The nest is usually lined with feathers.
To read more about Long-tailed Tits take a look here; http://www.garden-birds.co.uk/birds/longtailedtit.htm
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are also starting to appear in reasonable quantities.
In spring when the leaves are young, if you grasp them confidently and roll between your fingers, you can remove the stings without getting stung and eat the leaves raw. They make a pleasant snack.
I like to gather lots of nettle leaves, place them in a small amount of water, add vegetable stock granules and pieces of spicy sausage and boil to make a simple soup.
People are always skeptical about the cooking process breaking down the stings, but it really does. I really enjoy nettle soup!
Nettles are a rich source of minerals (especially Iron) and vitamins (especially vitamin c). They have been used in the treatment of skin complaints and rheumatism and internally are good for the kidneys and circulation.
The outer stem of this plant can be utilised to make fine cloth and can be used to make a strong cordage. The word “net”, as in fishing net is derived from the word “nettle” as nettle cordage was used to make fishing nets.
I have found that the juice from inside the plant, counteracts the effect of the stings.
The leaves of Herb Robert or as I often refer to it “Bob the herb” (Geranium robertianum) Geranium coming from the Greek “geronas” – a crane, because the fruits are said to resemble the head and beak of the afore mentioned bird and hence the name of a relative of this plant “Cranesbill”, are appearing now.
I am unaware of any parts of this plant used for food, but it has been used to treat skin conditions, kidney problems and to help staunch blood flow.
One plant which is actually starting to flower now is Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), a member of the Buttercup family.
Another local name for this plant is “Pile Wort” and it has been used both historically and currently as a treatment for piles, often made into an ointment and applied externally.
While my friends Merete, Inger and Ida are living with deep snow and icy temperatures in the middle of the Lapland winter, suffering “snorkallt”, here spring is on it’s way. So I thought this week I would write about some of the plants I found while in the woods last weekend.
Here is a typical view of a woodland floor at the moment, around where I live.
The most common plant is Dogs Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and is already flowering, though the tiny greenish flowers may be easily overlooked.
Cleavers or Goose Grass (Galium aparine) is another which is growing now and in fact with our milder winters, is evident all year round.
The plant can be eaten when young, though I prefer to discard the stems and just cook the leaves. Both the stem and leaves are covered in fine hook-like hairs, which soften when briefly boiled. For children the fine hooks of the plant make great source of amusement as when thrown at clothing the plant tends to stick or hook on.
The plant has several medicinal uses including; treating skin conditions such as eczema and ulcers, internally for expulsion of fluids via the kidneys (useful in urinary problems) and to help drain the lymph glands after illness or infection.
Horses are also fed this plant in spring as it encourages the shedding of their winter coat and brings the coat into good condition.
The company “Vägvisaren – Pathfinder Lapland” is owned by Lennart Pittja.
He started the business as a small family company in 1995. Lennart says “We work close with nature and are proud of our origin and our history. We wish to spread knowledge about Sami culture, but also how to enjoy being close to animals and nature. For reasons of sustainability and “Natures Best” we always find new trails, a way of not leaving marks behind us”.
Experience the traditions and culture of the Sami people, with both long and short expeditions available.
Springtime Migration with the Reindeer
Trekking with the Reindeer
Reindeer sled in the Winter Mountains
Sami camp at Repisvare
Here you will find a gallery of pictures from previous expeditions.
For more information contact Lennart.
Box 148, Repisvare
SE-982 21 Gällivare, Sweden
Tel +46 (0)970-555 60
Fax +46 (0)970-555 60
Please mention me if you contact him.
I carried a small plastic bottle of water with coffee granuals added, in my pocket the other day.
For a brew, I made a small fire and once I had a good bed of embers, I removed the top from the bottle and placed it on the embers, as explained previously here
Water does not boil as fast in a plastic bottle as in a glass bottle, but is does work after about fifteen minutes, and the end result was a cup of hot coffee.
The birds are singing and collecting nest material.
At work today I noticed both Elder and Blackthorn bursting into leaf (Elder leaves work very well as an insect repellent) and the wild plum trees at the bottom of my garden are now in blossom.
On Sunday I saw my first Peacock butterfly of the year and there are a surprising number of moths crossing through the headlight beams of my car when driving at night.
I have been fencing on the reserve today.
The work took longer than expected so I did not get back for lunch, but fortunately I carry the following items in a 15 litre rucksack.
Two pieces of nylon material, two bottles of water, a wooden spoon, a tea-light candle, a 10cm billy can, parachute cord, a packet of soup, some kuskus, a small tub of coffee and one of vegetable stock.
The material and cord allow me to set up a simple shelter.
With a small fire I can boil water and make coffee and cook soup and kuskus. It always amazes me how large a fire some people have just to boil water. With the aid of some pine cones (fantastic fuel) a small fire on a spade is large enough to boil a billy can of water and make the soup. The spade helps to prevent the risk of fire burning into the ground.