Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Snakes in the grass

The snake's-head fritillaries at Iffley Meadows in Oxford are stunningly beautiful. The river runs down the side of the meadows, so you reach the reserve entrance by wandering down the tow path, before heading into the meadows. You just know you're in for a real treat, then there they are, great swathes of chequerboard bells, peeping above the grass, on their elegant arched necks.

It felt like there were less flowers than last year, with some areas (like the one below) thick with blooms, but then large areas without any at all. I seem to remember there being flowers spread out across a much larger area last year. The count this year was 42,279, which is significantly lower than the 89,000 of last year, but still a fabulous number. It was very wet and boggy in the meadows so perhaps it was just too wet for them this year.

The majority of flowers were purple, but there were plenty of pink and white blooms in the mix, with the white flowers really standing out in the sunshine.



There seemed to be a lot of flowers that had been eaten by something. They all had a very distinctive patch of missing petals. Maybe it was slugs or birds, but I'm not sure.
We saw swallows flying low over the meadows and the reed beds were full of chattering warblers. It was very cold this morning, so we only saw one butterfly, a small tortoiseshell with unusual white patches on its wings.

The meadows were full of other flowers, including plenty of dandelions, cuckooflower and some cowslips.
Cuckooflower (or milk maids, as my Mum calls it)
Hawthorn in full flower already
I left with wet, muddy knees (from kneeling down to take photos), but I was so glad that I went to see them again. They really are one of my favourite flowers and such a treasure.

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