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Riff Raff Diary: June 2015

Published on: 13 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 13 Jul, 2015

Riff Raff Cottage and Weir

Riverbank tales from our local St Catherine’s Lengthsman/Weirkeeper

by Robert Craig

I’ve spent a lot of time mowing and strimming at the beginning of June, prior to taking leave towards the end of the month.

Indian or Himalayan Balsam

The battle continues against the invasive Indian or Himalayan Balsam

Due to the recent hot weather, the vegetation growth does seem to have slowed a little now. The battle with the invasive Himalayan balsam however continues.

The warm temperatures of late have meant that a lot of people have been out enjoying the river, which is always good to see.

In the meadows around St. Catherine’s I have been seeing some linnets, the males looking especially handsome in their summer colours of red forehead and breast.

A handsome cock linnet as referred to in the song "My Old Man (said follow the band...). They were kept caged in Victorian times as song-birds.

A handsome cock linnet as referred to in the song “My Old Man (said follow the band…). They were kept caged in Victorian times as song-birds. Photo commons.wikimedia.org

The nest is built low down in bushes, close to the ground. Sometimes several linnets will nest close to one another.

Although not uncommon it always feels like a treat to see them. Feeding on weed seeds they favour areas such as heathland, rough grassland, scrub land and woodland edges, especially with gorse and bramble so the meadows are ideal.

Linnet numbers have declined considerably since the 1960s due to changes in farming practices which have resulted in fewer weed seeds so these areas of rougher ground are very important to them.

Meadowsweet or Filipendula ulmaria

Meadowsweet or mead wort (Filipendula ulmaria)

There is plenty of meadowsweet in flower along the towpath now, a plant once used for its aspirin like qualities.

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)

Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)

Also evident is hemp agrimony which had a medicinal use as a cure for jaundice and to cleanse the kidney and bladder. Then there is the yellow flag iris, iris being the Greek word for rainbow.

Ayellow flag iris - Photo Fungus Guy Wikimedia

A yellow flag iris – Photo Fungus Guy Wikimedia

To the Greeks it symbolised life and resurrection and is associated with Osiris, the first Pharaoh to become immortal.

See you by the river.

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test One Response to Riff Raff Diary: June 2015

  1. Malcolm Fincham Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    With the decline of so many species of birds, especially in southern regions of the UK, it is indeed a treat to have a community of linnets in by the Wey.

    Although on the RSPB ‘red list’ http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/discoverandlearn/birdguide/name/l/linnet/ they do seem to have made a slight resurgence locally and I have recorded seeing and hearing them at number on locations I have visited recently, including both Whitmoor and Thursley Common.

    Would love to hear from readers of any other reports of linnet sightings in the Guildford area.

    Malcolm Fincham is The Guildford Dragon’s regular birdwatching columnist. Click here to view: https://guildford-dragon.com/category/nature/birdwatchers-diary/

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