Saturday, 30 April 2011

Early morning walk.

Walked down Coal Pit Lane, very windy but warm. Lots of bird activity. Willow Warblers having singing duels from prominent perches in young trees. Repetitive but lovely song, easy to learn and recognise. Long Tailed Tits searching tree bark and leaves for insects. Goldfinches gathering wool for nests or creating cunning disguises. Forget-me-nots, Bluebells, Ramsons, Cow Parsley and Water Avens all flowering.

Willow Warbler
Cunningly disguised Goldfinch
Water Avens

Friday, 29 April 2011

Spring Wood, Whalley

Visited Spring Wood on Thursday - the Bluebells and Wild Ramsons are flowering here at their peak. We were overwhelmed by the soft scent of the Bluebells and garlickly scent of the Wild Ramsons. The light green of the beech leaves contrasted beautifully with the gentle blue of the flowers and dappled sunlight coming through the tree canopy danced over the paths. Chiffchaffs, Warblers and Jays called all around us and we spotted a Jay displaying high in the tree canopy, puffing his chest out and dropping one wing and swaying from side to side. On the crest of the hill there are mature beech and it's interesting to see how their dense canopies cut back light so much that the rich gound flora disappears.Very sad to see notices put up telling us that the rhododendrons here have become infected with the Sudden Oak Death fungus and so they are being cut back and burnt in the hope the infection doesn't spread to the trees. Went on to Sabden to look for Goosanders, no luck but saw this lovely Grey Wagtail singing its heart out in the trees opposite pond.

Bluebells, Spring Wood.
Ramsons, Spring Wood.
Shows mature beech and cutting back of Rhododendrons.
Grey Wagtail, Sabden.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Blue Beetles and Wet Wagtails

Had a walk up at Stocks Reservoir on Easter Monday. The water level has dropped considerably so worried about the frog and toad spawn. Happily we saw some tadpoles swimming in the shallows. Watched a Pied Wagtail bathing by the shore and saw one Willow Warbler though we heard others and a Chiff Chaff.  Saw our first Pied Flycatcher (male) that appeared to be checking out an old nestbox. In the grass by the shore we watched these two lovely beetles mating and wondered if these yellow eggs are what they lay. Felt a bit sorry for him as she just carried on eating the dock leaf.

Pied Wagtail cooling off
Drying out
I think these are ground beetles - Pterostichus cupreus
These are the tiny eggs I saw on same dock plant

Easter Sunshine

What a fantastic week it has been, lots of sunshine, blue skies and warm weather, everything really seems to have got going now. The hedgerows are full of wildflowers with patches of Primroses and Cowslips, Red Campion and white Stitchwort flowers, glossy Wild Arum and lots of lovely cheerful Dandelions. By the roadsides there are swathes of tall lime green leaved garlic mustard with its little white flowers so attractive to the orange tip butterflies zooming around at the moment. Driving to Bolton by Bowland the air is full of the scent of the Wild Garlic that carpets the woodland floor here and will probably flower in the next week or two along with the Bluebells. In the hedges, Crab Apples and Bird Cherries are flowering, though sadly the Blackthorn is almost over now, but at least the Hawthorns are just about to flower, whilst in the moist drainage ditches there are masses of golden Marsh Marigold flowers. The birds are all busy nesting and getting really territorial now. Gone are the large flocks of Goldfinches that used to visit, instead we seem to have one pair who guard the bird table fiercely for such tiny birds. On Saturday I watched a Blue Tit plucking an old wooly jumper on the washing line. I picked up some wool in the fields and put it out for it but it still prefers the jumper.

Primroses, Gisburn
Cowslips, Stocks Reservoir
Marsh Marigolds, Gisburn
Blue Tit plucking my jumper!

Friday, 15 April 2011

I've wanted to get round to doing a scraperboard of this lovely little squirrel for ages. We watched him for ages last autumn up at Leighton Moss, foraging in the grass and sitting on this post, having a scratch and looking round. Hopefully he remembered where he stashed food and has  survived the winter.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Redpolls and Swallows

We seem to have lost the pair of nuthatches that were visiting the birdtable but gained a flock of around ten Goldfinches and two Redpolls. The Goldfinches are very noisy and aggressive with each other and the poor Blue Tits who keep getting pecked when they land to feed. The Great Tits see the Goldfinches off though so they still get a chance to feed. I've been sowing some flowers that I hope will encourage bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths in the garden. I grew Phacelia tanacetifolia last year and it was a great success with the bees and hoverflies. I've also sown Nemesia, Nicotiana affinis (night moths), Verbena bonariensis and Soapwort. We saw our first Swallow flying over the house yesterday - wonderful. The cats seem to have got the hang of removing the top saucer off the hedgehog food, so I made a feeding box recommended on the Hedgehog Preservation Society website. Unfortunately the cats lie down and reach in even with bricks placed five inches in front as suggested. I will try putting a saucer over the food in the box and see if that helps. The watercolour painting I finished today shows a pair of toads in amplexus and shows how tight a grip the male has on the female and how much bigger females are. The lamb picture was just cute.
Redpoll in back garden.
Toads in amplexus.

Plants for insects.
Hedgehog feeding box.
Cute lamb.