Saturday, January 26, 2008

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - January

I have to admit, the winter months are always a challenge with respect to this series. After all, winter is a time when animals hibernate, birds fly south, flowers disappear and trees are bare. As usual I have persevered.

Rosemary is one of the few shrubs that does flower in January. It is a poignant bush, named for rememberance by lovers and appears so in Shakespeare's Hamlet as spoken by Ophelia. "There's Rosemary for remembrance." Indeed interestingly enough there are also some studies that indicate that Rosemary can actually aid the memory.

The Naturlists diary notes that; "the titmouse pulls straw out of the thatch, in search of insects; and linnets congregate."

Who can resist the word titmouse, I just had to look him up and get a picture of him. I discover that it is generice for a variety of forms of tit (meaning bird in old English), combined with a German word meaning small which was changed to mouse along the way. Since there are several varieties, I give you my favorite resident of England, the blue tit. Something that caught my eye when perusing White's Natural History of Selborne which I might add is not organized by month, is that in winter, buntings about in the bushes on the downs near Andover. I did not see any buntings, this past month, but nor was I looking. But wouldn't you know it, it turns out that bunting is also a generic term for a type of sparrow and includes the yellowhammer pictured here. It occurs to me that in writing about the flora and fauna of this era, we must be careful not to use names that were not common in their time, even if they are less specific.

The other thing I noticed when reading both the diary and White's, they were very concerned about turnips. They seemed to worry about the birds and insects eating their tops when their was no snow and whether they would survive thecold weather, which means they must have been left in the ground during the winter. Exciting stuff!

In January, leaves start to appear on the honeysuckle according to Mr. Stillingfleet’s tracts.

In Gibert White’s The Natural History of Selbourne, he writes that one could anticipate a winter thaw from the sudden activity of mole’s heaving up mole hills. I can certainly confirm this having just come back from England in mild weather and saw the work of moles anywhere there was green grass. And here is my own picture of molehills - note, this picture is from June, but molehills are molehills.

There is more, but I think this will do for this year! Until Next time, Happy Rambles.