Dennis Country

Dennis Country

Welcome to my blog ...

Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

Mid May Sightings

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Sun, May 19, 2019 09:40PM

A couple of welcome recent sightings in Torfaen, south east Wales:

Firstly a Green Hairstreak butterfly, difficult to see when static, on bilberry in this case. The only UK butterfly with green colouration (on underside of wings), mainly dark brown on top of wings. This one has some wear to the scales.

I was alerted by snorting noises near a garden shed which turned out to be two hedgehogs having a "stand-off", possible arguing over hunting rights under the shed floor!

A fair sized, young Elm tree, not sure of the exact species, but I guess it's around 35 feet (10m) tall.

... and nearby male and female Brimstone butterflies, may be a courtship ...
Please click for video (low resolution)





Pontypool Park

ConservationPosted by Dennis Hopkins Fri, March 08, 2019 09:53PM
There were lots of fallen leaves in the park today, but this one stood out for marking the progress of a leaf miner. According to Wikipedia the larva responsible could be that of a moth, sawfly, fly, or beetle. Photo of leaf underside here.


I also found a stone arbour, which has been reconstructed about a mile away from its original position. It has good views to the south towards the Bristol Channel.





Hair Ice, South Wales, Jan 2019

ConservationPosted by Dennis Hopkins Sun, January 06, 2019 11:00PM
I was lucky to find some "hair ice" formations in near-freezing conditions in south Wales UK on 4 & 5 Jan 2019. These looked like snow from a distance, but it hadn't snowed, just cold nights down to about -2C.

It's also known as "cotton candy" or "candy-floss" ice, and according to reports on the internet require certain fungi to form. Growing on dead beech tree logs in this case.

Play my video

Another person's video of hair ice forming


Decarbonising a Small 2-Stroke Engine (Decoke)

ToolsPosted by Dennis Hopkins Sat, January 06, 2018 02:50PM

An old brushcutter engine had carbon deposits in the top of the cylinder and piston, and in the exhaust port. It was decided to try to remove this because any dislodged pieces might damage the engine. For this I used some carburettor cleaner which slightly softened the carbon, a perspex scraper and fibreglass tip "pen". Of course it's essential not to damage the cylinder or piston, so using any tools harder than the cylinder/piston metal isn't recommended. The perspex is quite hard, part of an off-cut, and can be cut to shape with a hacksaw. The fibreglass "pen" is usually used to clean circuit boards etc., but worked well as a second stage tool here (the fibres are a health hazard to skin, eyes).

After a couple of hours most of the carbon was removed, except for some very hard material at the top of the cylinder, some of which was embedded in pit-damaged areas which will have to stay as it is. Some 1200 grade emery paper was used to lightly polish the piston (after photo was taken).

Of course this is also a good time to check the condition of the crankshaft, bearings, and wear on the cylinder, piston and rings, also that the ring(s) can move freely in their groove(s).

The engine seemed to run more smoothly after doing this, but it could be my imagination ... at least it ran.

The main tools used, plus carburettor cleaner

Getting Wintry

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, December 14, 2017 03:55PM
I prefer to write "wintery" but that's out of fashion it seems.
It's mid-December and roses are still trying to flower, adding some welcome colour in the garden. Time now especially to feed wild birds, and it seems a squirrel, seen in a local garden ...
Trying to discourage all but small birds, this cage within a cage works quite well (outer part is a cylindrical piece of wire mesh).






Busy Bees

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Thu, March 09, 2017 09:25PM
It was around 15C today (9 March 2017), which brought out quite a few large bumble bees onto my winter flowering heather. I haven't identified the species yet - most were as shown in photos and the video. I've put this post into the "Wildlife" category, but the situation was my garden, and the food plant is not native to UK. I wonder how the bees are managing in our disappearing and fragmented countryside ...
Play Video

Hawthorn Growth Buds

ConservationPosted by Dennis Hopkins Sat, February 11, 2017 10:08PM
I was impressed to see over 30 new buds springing from the stump of a young hawthorn tree I had severely pruned (planted in wrong place, oops). This was about 2.5 months after cutting. I believe these are termed adventitious buds, which are dormant buds springing into action if the tree is wounded, for example by incompetent gardeners, or more planned activities like coppicing and hedge laying.
Feb 2017 +2.5 months after pruning

I'm hoping to keep the tree small in case the roots damage a nearby wall, and I intend to add photos to update the tree's progress in surviving my pruning.
One of many information sourses on www

April 2017 +5 months after pruning (shoots ~ 20cm long)

July 2017 +8 months after pruning (shoots ~ 30-40cm long)


Blue Fungus (Cobalt Crust)

WildlifePosted by Dennis Hopkins Mon, December 19, 2016 03:04PM
I was impressed with this blue fungus growing on an oak post, initially thought it might be a lichen. A Gwent Wildlife Trust person suggested it could be Cobalt Crust fungus (Terana caerulea), later confirmed by the Gwent Fungus Group who recorded the apparently rare find. More photos can be seen here: http://pics.dchopkins.co.uk/#collection/6

One of many information sources on www

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