Thursday, 16 March 2017

the first day of spring


Yesterday was the first day of spring by my counting: clear skies and the first frogspawn in George's Pond - with many other indicators too, most notably the removal of my thermal outer shirt.

The day began well. Our overnight moth light revealed 10 species of moth - 51 in total.

Celandine (DH Lawrence's 'scalloped splashes of gold') and coltsfoot are flowering by the pond and three mallards (a drake and his two ducks) have arrived to churn everything to gravy. Mum and dad have taken a special interest in the new arrivals and litter the lawn with duck treats. Their latest discovery is that ducks don't like creme fraiche.

On the wing yesterday were peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and brimstone butterflies. In the Woodland Garden our best ever display of native primroses. After division last year I planted the divisions into modules and kept them watered and fed until new leaves appeared before planting them out. Previously I had simply planted the divisions into the garden but the dry summer conditions had led to many failures. I'm now hoping that primrose specialist pollinators, the hairy-footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes) will find enough flowers to interest themselves. We've had no primrose seeds here yet.

While the primroses are in their glory, our snowdrops are now largely over and await splitting.

Tree sparrows continue their chirruping like pound coins being jingled together: a pair has been showing a lot of interest in the colony box above the back door and this morning nest box #9 in the orchard had one sitting gently on its' roof. The mother feeder seems less busy but this morning brambling and redpoll joined the goldies and greenies while a feeding frenzy like the City Ground Trent End in the sixties was going on beneath: 3 mallards quacking at nine female pheasants, three beautiful and big-eyed blue stock doves, blackbirds and chaffinches. I wouldn't mind but I weeded and mulched this bed last week and it looked a picture. It now is as attractive as a stock-yard after the bullocks have trammelled it.

The exquisite thin scent of sweet violets rich with flower beneath Himalayan birch calls garden and buff/white tailed bumble bees. Some passers can't detect the scent, others are frozen on the spot when they collide with the fragrance.

Mike and Joy called in to donate another three little harvest mice to our meadow. Linda  reported tiny mouse droppings in the bee hives suggesting that some of the summer-released harvest mice had found a dry and warm home to overwinter. Honeybees loaded with orange pollen - presumably from crocus flowers. Pollen ranges in colour from black (vipers bugloss) to sage green (raspberry).

As our visitors left, there was a huge, unmistakeable cronking noise above - two displaying ravens disdaining the complaining buzzards who usually receive the same treatment from smaller crows.

Two toads in amplexus (mating grip) in George's Pond by torchlight last night: the first ever.

Photos by Mike Hill

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