Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Barbastelle Bats, Prunus 'Kojo no mai', Coup de Grass and chocolate roulade?

Barbastelle Bat boxes.
 A few days  ago I went  along with bat enthusiasts and experts to a nearby wood  to help put up bat boxes in  the hope that they would provide roosting places for Barbastelle bats which in south Warwickshire are on the  northern most limit of their range in this country.
If you are wondering why they are called Barbastelle bats it is because of the white hairs sticking out from the lower lip  and body and if you recall any Latin you will know the  barba bit means beard and  the stella bit means  star so you get Star -Beard. The full scientific name is Barbastella  barbastellus so when it was originally named they  made sure you  knew it has a star beard  by stressing it twice. I was no Latin scholar but what I remember of Latin makes me think  can you have  two different endings i.e. 'a' and 'us' like that? 
What do you mean you didn't do Latin at school?  Just how young are you?  C'mon, Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant - all you need is love. Tra la lala laa.
haven't seen a Barbastelle bat yet, in fact I haven't seen any bat close up but (and this is how to upset the bat men and women) don't they all look the same? Just funny noses and ears? Just kidding, all you chiroptologists.
The bats are being surveyed in South Warwickshire by listening out for the tell tale high pitched squeaks and pips which are only detectable with special gear (each species has a unique sound.)  and also by tracking the tiny transmitters attached to the bats. 
If you are local to Warwickshire and want to get involved  or just want to know more click 
here  and here. 

This design of box has been shown in other  locations to be the preferred  type for this  bat.  They like to roost in cosy, tight places such as behind loose bark or in damaged branches. The 'fins' are unequally spaced  so they can choose a gap size they prefer.   

Having crawled  up the gap they will roost in the cavity at the top. The lid is hinged for careful inspection by authorised people to see if there any bats roosting.  

Boxes are nailed  to trees at least three metres up and with aluminium nails so if the nail is still in the tree when it is felled and planked then minimal damage will be done to the chainsaw or sawmill. 
Boxes are fixed facing south so the bats benefits from the extra warmth  and positioned so that there is a  clear run in with no small  branches in the way. 

Prunus incisa 'Kojo no mai'
Here is a group of Prunus incisa  'Kojo no mai' in a rather insalubrious car park setting. They are a fabulous and frothy mass of  lively white and pink 

You know when you see a variety name like 'Kojo no mai' that it is Japanese and is usually an elegant and poetic description of the plant. Similarly many of the Wisteria varieties have evocative Japanese names.  I tried to find out what this name meant  and various references suggested something to do with butterflies but my Japanese dictionary suggested  something completely different and completely nonsensical. I had factory and  ruined castle  coming up  and that sure didn't sound  elegant.  I decided to enlist the help of a Japanese friend  and she sent me this lovely, detailed email below. 

'Somebody at work asked me the same question today - what a coincidence!

You were getting close, factory and ruined (ancient) castle - they are both spelled the same in alphabet but pronunciation is slightly different. Also they are given totally different Chinese characters...
I know you wouldn't go that far (Chinese characters) though!

Kojo 工場ーfactory
Kojo 古城ーancient castle

Kojo 湖上 no mai 舞
湖上 kojo ー on the lake / on the water
舞 mai ー traditional Japanese dance
'no' is a particle so I would translate, 'Dancing on the lake' - happy?'

Happy?  I couldn't be happier!
Thank you.

Death and decay.

There is a lot of colour in this picture and it is down to disease and decay.  There are  pink pustules of Coral Spot typically on already dead wood (It is more unusual  for it to infect  living tissue.)  and the reddish brown leaves of Cherry Laurel in the background suffering some sort of die back and gradually  turning red and dying. The sky is blue and healthy.

Coup de Grass
I have  always been unsure about  just what exactly you can get away with when it come to cutting back grasses. If you think it through logically with them being grasses an' all they are likely to get grazed by some creature or another at some time in their  life and evolution  must surely have given them the ability to survive a munching. So in theory they should survive a haircut at almost any time of the year but none the less I get nervous about cutting them back hard at all. Some of them eventually get so untidy that the bullet must be  bitten ( I want to say bited)  and the shears  brought out. 
This is a picture of Stipa  tenuissima  that had grown  scruffy  during the winter after two seasons of no treatment so come spring time I cut it down almost to the ground  and within  a week the results were  very encouraging. See below.  I shall be tempted  next year to cut  one or two of them back  a few weeks after  flowering  to see if I can avoid the myriad  of seedlings  that will inevitably  sprout up if I don't cut of the seedheads and  then see  if I still get a decent looking plant for the second part of the season.

The grass was cut back in mid April and this new growth appeared  after just one week. 


 I don't know if you have ever cut up, or down, a Laburnum tree but you will find  there is a delicious looking dark centre to the wood. This is not disease it is how it is. It was, maybe still is, used for  inlays called oysters in furniture  making. It seemed a sin to cut it down but it was leaning dangerously and Laburnums are not known for their  longevity at least not as a healthy tree. I think they can take a long time to die but bits fall off too regularly to  make  it a safe thing to leave.

 It is easy to imagine it as a confection - a thin slice of this  drizzled over with a blackurrant coulis. Yummee.

How not to cut down a tree. In this case it didn't matter because the whole thing was coming down  but it does show what can happen if you don't make the right cuts.

That's it for now.

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