Last summer was so hot that flowers were done for by late July. Frazzled, gone to seed. This year, I was in the Outer Hebrides when England experienced a brief heat-wave. Unsettled weather has meant that many species of flowers are blossoming later and lasting longer. Today, I’ve been photographing patches of thistles and thinking through their pollination strategy. How do they ensure their flowers are fertilised when day after day the weather is wet and windy and pollinators can’t forage?
This sequence of images shows the same thistle. A red-tailed bumble bee is drenched in pollen from a fresh flower and will inadvertently transfer it to the next flower it visits, so fertilisation is effected. The tall thistle has fresh flowers and thistledown, seed-heads ready to take wing and disperse. It’s a staggered flowering to make the most of good weather , to seize the day. So if the plant has buds coming into flower with ripe seed-heads too there’s a better chance of reproduction. Thistledown is on the air.
The magical moment of the day was fleeting. It lingers in my mind’s eye. I was photographing a willow warbler and hearing linnets flying overhead, and swallows. I glanced up to see a bright blue sky full of stars, brilliant flecks of light as the sun caught swallows on the wing.
Jan Wiltshire is a nature writer living in Cumbria. She also explores islands and coast and the wildlife experience. (See Home and My Books.)