Sunday, 15 June 2014

Poisonous Plant Warning and An Eyed Hawk Moth Pays A Visit

So I was out surveying for water voles along our local river yesterday. The banks are heaving with vegetation at the moment which made it well-nigh impossible to do a thorough check, although I did find some feeding stations and burrows. I also nearly fell in, but we won't go into that...

I may not have seen any voles, but there was lots of amazing wildlife out and about, including a stoat who clearly wasn't expecting to see anyone and was casually sauntering across one of the wooden bridges. He looked as if he'd been doing it for years, then he turned tail and fled back the way he'd come when he saw me, which gave me plenty of time to observe him because the bridge is Quite Long. Haven't seen a stoat in ages.

There was plenty of Hemlock Water Dropwort (Onanthe crocata) in evidence along the banks and that is partly the occasion for this post. Hemlock water dropwort may look like an enlarged version of cow parsley, but it is deadly. And I mean DEADLY. Ingesting the root (which has been mistaken for parsnip in the past) can kill you within three hours. It contains a very powerful neuro-toxin called oenanthotoxin and its country name of Dead-Tongue is surely a reference to this. I first heard about it a few weeks back when I did my wv survey course, but even then I wasn't told the extent of the danger. Brushing against it can cause a skin reaction including blisters and even though I was wearing gloves yesterday and tried my best to keep out of its way my arms were still covered in burning rashes when I got home. That subsided when I sloshed water all over them but by then I had scared myself good and proper and I won't be going near it again.

In short, if you don't know about this plant please bear it mind when you are out especially if you are near any kind of water and don't go too close to it. I have found it growing down our lane by the ditch so it is common. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of it to show you but if you bung it in google you'll be able to see for yourselves. It does not look like a dangerous plant. I think schools should be teaching children about this- we all know about adders and fly agaric mushrooms and deadly nightshade, but how many of us have heard of hemlock water dropwort before?

Right, on to happier things. 

A selection of Wild People seen yesterday while Looking For Voles....

Banded Demoiselle (hundreds of these flitting about near the river)

Meadow Grasshopper

Fishing Hut with a thatched roof and roses trailing over the door. So pretty.

Large Skipper

The River

Spotted Flycatcher

River Part Deux

Last post I said I was keeping a Special Visitor Back, and here he is: an Eyed Hawk Moth. These moths are HUGE (like most hawks) and while they look fairly bland colour-wise when at rest, once they open their wings the two bright blue eyes are displayed....This is the first time I've seen one, so I was Very Excited Indeed :-)

The starlings are appearing in ever greater numbers and I am starting to regret my earlier joy at their presence. Coconut halves don't last long when an entire flock descends, and no one else gets much of a look-in. I fear there will shortly be Complaints. However, the three babies are Rather Cute in a gawky baby-bird sort-of way....

Juvenile Starling
We also have a single baby Robin in the garden...

The Dock Bugs are Putting In Appearances...

And I managed to get a picture of one of our newts. Just.

Can you see her?
This shot of the pollen on the Crocosmia (* senior moment, I mean Cosmea!) came out better...

Although Teddy doesn't seem all that impressed.....

I got my exam results back....I passed....Phew....And M bought these home in celebration....More Running Required....

I'll leave you with a Brand New Game M and I devised over lunch today. It's called 'Cartography Biscuit Challenge' and what you have to do is nibble a biscuit into the shape of a country which your opponent picks at random for you, then they give you marks out of ten for how realistic your country-biscuit is. 

Oh, how the hours fly by in our house....

M's attempt at Africa....

And here is my Isle Of Wight on the right, and M's France on the left (obviously, not to scale, because that would be a Challenge Too Far)...

After the barely existing contained excitement of the 'Cartography Biscuit Challenge' I'm off for a nap and a lie-down to recover and to devise some fiendishly difficult countries for M to attempt over supper....I wonder whether it would work with pasta?

Hope you're all having a Lovely Weekend.

CT :-)


  1. Wow, that Eyed Hawk Moth is an impressive looking beast and having just caught up with your blog I am yet again super impressed (and a little bit envious) of all your beautiful visitors :-)

    That river looks lovely for a summer's walk and reminds me of some of the chalk rivers around Driffield. It is also special to see that Demoiselle while the mystery bird looks like a Spotted Flycatcher to me :-)

    Hope you are well and kindest regards :-)

    1. Thanks David :-)

      I was so pleased to see the Eyed Hawk- been a year of waiting!

      There is something special about Chalk Rivers isn't there? And thanks for the ID on the bird- a friend has just emailed me the same. I need to brush up on my bird ID skills I think :-)

  2. That is a very scary sounding plant! We have something called Devil's Club in the woods around where we live. Touching it can cause a similar reaction to what you have described. However, I don't think the roots are as toxic. The plant world can be a very frightening place! I have been enjoying your moth photos!

    1. I was really surprised at how dangerous hemlock water dropwort is having never heard of it until a few weeks back :-( I shall be giving it a very wide berth from now on! Glad you enjoyed the moth pics. There will be more.... :-)

  3. Congratulations on the exam! Not that I doubted the outcome for a second.
    We are overrun with babies too, blackbirds, robins, tits, nuthatches and GSWs. The parents must think I run a creche or something. Saw baby seagulls while out this morning too, how sweet are they!

    1. Ah, thank you Jess :-) A good end to the first year.

      Am envious of your nuthatch children- ours don't bring their kids to show me :-( Have seen a GSW child and we are over-run with various tit children as well. Baby seagulls sound lovely!

  4. Congratulations on passing your exams!!!! Way to go you!

    I do not like the sound of that plant at all and will go off now and have a look to see what it looks like. I hope that you arms are OK now? However, the sound of the cartography biscuit challenge!!! That is a great one and lots of fun I am sure!! If nothing else lots of munching could be required to get some practice in! xx

    1. Thanks Amy :-)

      Yes, worth checking the plant. Arms are fine now. Phew! Glad you enjoyed the cartography challenge!! xx

  5. Still running behind..!
    Had to look up Hemlock,sure I'd recorded it.. Know it as Cowbane. The Eyed Hawk moth is beautiful and well done in pasing your exam.
    Amanda xx

    1. My wildflower guide has Hemlock (Conium maculatum) and Cowbane (Cicuta virosa) as separate species to Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata). Both hemlocks are poisonous and they all look so alike. Worth having a double-check.
      Thanks re exam- big relief! Glad you enjoyed the hawk- they are such impressive things xx

  6. Well done and congratulations on passing your exams, you must be so pleased!!
    Wow, that Eyed Hawk Moth is huge!!! quite a striking looking chap too!
    Your walk along the river looks lovely, but definitely steer clear of the Hemlock Water Dropwort, sounds really nasty.

    1. Thank you Linda, am very pleased indeed :-)
      Glad you approve of the hawk...still waiting on the emeralds to show up here...Definitely avoid the plant- very scary! xx

  7. Beautiful moth. No wonder you were thrilled

    Leanne xx

    1. It's that time of year when the really amazing ones start visiting. Moth box out again tonight. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a common or large emerald, they are stunning- like big green butterflies. Hope your girls night out went well? x

  8. Love the moth - would love to find one in my moth trap!! :) Well done on passing the exam.

    Giant Hogweed is another plant best avoided :( Will be steering well clear of that and Hemlock Water Dropwort!!

    1. Thanks re exam and I was soooo thrilled to see the Eyed. Now hoping for for a Lime, a Death's Head and a Hummingbird.... Don't want much really :-)

      I was just reading about Giant Hogweed. I think I will give anything vaguely Umbelliferous a wide berth this summer! x

  9. Congratulations on passing your exam, have you got a break now until the autumn? The I walk by the river looks wonderful! I liked your biscuit challenge too! Sarah x

    1. Thanks Sarah :-) Yes, a rest now (sort of) until Sept x


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x