Anne and Terry visited the Egg to bring the gift of a delicious banana and walnut cake which was most welcomely received. They spend a lot of their time living on their boat ‘Teal’ moored upriver of the Egg and have followed the Beadle’s progress all year and this was their third attempt to reach me. ‘The first time I brought a cake’ said Anne ‘a couple of months ago, but there was no one at home. The second time, there was insufficient water to get the dory up the creek, we got stuck in the mud and did a bit of ‘quanting’ to get off. Terry got to enjoy lots of cake!’
Anne photographed the Egg’s arrival last summer and her images recall the moment.
‘Arrival of the Egg’ photo Anne Chivers
‘Arrival of the Egg’ Photo Anne Chivers
‘Arrival of the Egg’ Photo Anne Chivers
When Paul Baker was building the Egg at Battramsley Farm near Lymington, his dream was to finish his own boat which shared the same barn and to get onto the water himself. This afternoon he saluted the Exbury Egg as he sailed down river in the completed Silas.
Lucy and Mike, my temporary neighbours from across the river, visited the Egg this afternoon when the tide was in. Apparently, from over the way, the Egg glints like silver in the spring sunshine.
An examination of the two dead mice found last summer revealed different processes of decomposition; one of dry mummification and the second of slimy rot. I will remove the slime on the latter and bring into light its skeletal structure.
There are a few great spotted woodpeckers at work in the vicinity of the Egg. They seek out suitable hollowed trees to use as sound posts to mark out their territory. My own efforts are at about half speed and a bit low in tone to pose much of a threat to the locals.
There have been many attempts to visualise a system of the animals which in the nineteenth century tended to depict a ‘Great Chain of Being’ with people perched at the top of a tree of life. Zoologist Georg Goldfuss in showing stages of development within the animal kingdom, characterises this idea as a series of interconnected nested circles within an egg; with protozoa at the point of the widest end and ‘higher life’ at the peak of the narrowest. Transferring his diagram to the Exbury Egg, I see that I nest myself somewhere in the zone of the mollusc.
I fell asleep last night considering life as a cuttlefish and contemplating the idea that every single creature is equally evolved and important to our understanding of the interconnection of species.
- System of the Animals, Georg August Goldfuss. Ueber die entwicklungsstufen des thieres, Nurnberg 1817
The crescent of a waning moon reached out to Venus with open arms this morning, lit bright in light from a sun still lingering below the horizon and reflected in the calm water of a falling tide. The ‘two-horned queen of the stars’* embracing love, fertility and prosperity above an expectant Egg.
* In the Carmen Saeculare, performed in 17 BC, Horace invokes Luna as the “two-horned queen of the stars” (siderum regina bicornis). Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luna_(goddess)
I spent all morning studying Andricus Kollari, the tiny parasitic wasp whose eggs cause the marble oak galls on both scrubby oaks growing beside my own Egg. The life cycle of the wasp requires the presence of a Turkey oak which first grew in the UK before the last glacial period around 110,000 years ago and was reintroduced in 1735 as an ornamental tree. Nearby Exbury Gardens has its own mature examples.
‘The developing spherical galls mature in August and each has a central chamber, with a single female wasp larva of an asexual generation, which emerges through a ‘woodworm-like’ hole as an adult winged gall-wasp in September. These asexual females lay unfertilized eggs in the embryonic bud leaves of the Turkey oak, with galls slowly developing during winter, and visible in March and April as small oval structures between the bud scales, looking like ant’s eggs. The emerging adult gall-wasps in spring are the sexual generation, producing both males and females, which fly to the common oaks to initiate the formation of the summer marble gall.’
By 1830 the galls were a concern in the new Forest, where it was thought that they reduced acorn production sufficiently to have an adverse effect on Pannage* This year there was a huge crop of both galls and acorns. Beadle drawings use ink made from the galls. *ref. my blog of January 22nd.
The Gall is more often seen than its wasp, which is just 1.5 – 2mm in length.