Have you noticed that many Jenny (or Jimmy) Wrens like poking about near water? This little one was so engrossed in exploring all the nooks and crannies for whatever grubs and other edibles it could find that it didn’t notice I had stopped to watch and photograph. Finding joy in small things helps in the current bleak times!
Here’s why it should be an offence to cut, spray or otherwise destroy blooming wildflowers – in this case, Dandelions, in particular.
During yesterday’s daily exercise walk around Grangemoor Park I saw at least five Brimstone butterflies. These were all males, newly emerged from hibernation and already flying frantically back and forth along their chosen path-sides and hedgerows, seeking out females to mate with.
As there aren’t yet many wildflowers in bloom at Grangemoor, when it came time to refuel for their next patrol flight, every single one of these Brimstones stopped and supped on Dandelion nectar. In fact, once I twigged to what they were doing, I took to checking every Dandelion I saw, just in case it held a butterfly. So, please, PLEASE, leave your Dandelions for the insects to feed on.
It’s easy to see why water lilies inspired Monet to depict these sublime blooms over and over again, in a series of around 250 compositions in oils – such delicate hues, such symmetrical structures.
My photos are no match for Monet’s impressionistic masterpieces but, really, the flowers themselves are the masterpieces. These were flourishing in a huge public garden in the tropical climate of Singapore.
I saw my first-ever Common toad (Bufo bufo) spawn when I was checking out the local ponds yesterday. Their structure – double rows of dark round eggs within long see-through strings – is unmistakable.
I couldn’t find any Common frog (Rana temporaria) spawn but that might be because the spawn has now all hatched into tadpoles. There weren’t too many of those either – perhaps the local Grey heron or other birds have been feasting on their version of caviar.
And the only other critter that was swimming about in the murky, still muddy water was this Water boatman (Corixa punctata), scooting along on the surface in that haphazard way they do.
I wish I could take the credit for that title but it came from a tweet I read earlier today by the social media team at Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust.
The tweet was reporting how the sunshine of the past couple of days has brought out the bee-flies and so it has been in my area too. Yesterday, on the sheltered slopes of a local park which, luckily, I had almost to myself, I saw my first four bee-flies of 2020.
These are Dark-edged bee-flies (Bombylius major), the only species I’ve ever seen, and they were feasting on a glorious carpet of Lesser celandine and Speedwell.
There are several other species of bee-fly, and a couple of similar non-bee-fly species. The BRC (Biological Records Centre) website has a most excellent photo identification guide that can be downloaded here. Good luck with finding some fabulous flying fuzzballs in your locale.
This week’s challenge for #Wildflowerhour was to find as many of the Brassica family in flower as possible. I’m rather pleased with the number I’ve found, though I’m not 100% sure of my plant IDs, so if you think I’ve got any wrong, please do comment below. And I’ll edit this post if I need to, to reflect the corrected information.
American winter-cress (Barbarea verna): this is the identification I’m least confident about, as it’s a plant I’ve not seen before, and only a couple of flowers were actually open, but the leaf shape seems to fit.
Common whitlowgrass (Erophila verna): his plant is very common in my area but it’s one I often overlook because of its small size. It’s a pretty wee thing though.
Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis): found earlier this week but this is a new photograph as I’ve since revisited the site. It’s certainly earlier in this particular location than in the other places I’ve usually found this plant, which, I suspect, is due to aggressive cutting by the local council in those other locations (Cardiff Bay and Hamadryad Park).
Hoary mustard (Hirschfeldia incana): Argh, so many plants that look similar! The only reason I’m reasonably confident about this one is that I’ve posted a photo of it previously on Twitter and an expert named it for me.
Sea radish (Raphanus raphanistrum ssp maritimus): This is another plant previously identified by one of the Twitterati and, though this was a slightly different location, it was also on the shores of Cardiff Bay so hopefully I’ve got this one right.
Wavy bitter-cress (Cardmine flexuosa): The bitter-cresses always confuse me but, though it’s hard to see them, these flowers have six stamens, which is a key ID point to confirm this as Wavy rather than Hairy bitter-cress.
Shepherd’s-purse (Bursa pastoralis): The purse-shaped seedpods of this lovely little plant make it unmistakable, thank goodness.
Yesterday’s walk around Cardiff Bay didn’t only bring nice birds, it also produced my second butterfly species for the year, a Small tortoiseshell. Unfortunately, the wind blew it away so quickly, twice, that I didn’t manage a photo. But I did get a couple of shots of today’s third species, this lovely Peacock. And I also saw number four, my first Brimstone, a male that was so intent on flying back and forth along the footpath trying to find a female that I only got a blurry shot of it. In these troubled times, it makes my heart sing to see the butterflies emerging again.
Finally, we’ve had a rain-less day and, though there was a bitterly cold wind blasting across Cardiff Bay, I had to take advantage of the dry weather so walked an 8-mile circuit right round the Bay. The first highlight was my first two Wheatears of the year, a bit distant, and only popping up very briefly from amongst the huge Barrage boulders, but it was lovely to welcome them back for the summer.
The Bay was buzzing with Sand martins – I must’ve seen at least 20, perhaps more, at various times during my wander, and it was a joy to watch their aerial antics.
Though it’s now several weeks since the big floods pushed a ton of rubbish into the Bay, the huge accumulations have still not been cleared. In fact, most of the rubbish slicks have seen no clearance action taken at all. The ONLY positive thing about this is that the Goldfinches and Linnets seem to be finding plenty of food amongst the garbage.
I simply had to include this male House sparrow, as today is World Sparrow Day.
This lovely female Stonechat was dotting back and forth across the footpath through the wetlands reserve, and let me get quite close for photos. There was no sign of the male today though.
During a recent wander through Cogan Wood, after a spell of nasty weather, I was dishing out sunflower seeds to all the small birds, the tits and Robins and assorted others, when I noticed this Nuthatch with an elongated and twisted beak. The deformity wasn’t stopping it feeding or carting away and stashing two or three seeds at a time.
I had a nagging feeling that I’d seen the bird before and, sure enough, when I checked my photos, I had images from two previous sightings, the first in October 2017, the second just a couple of months ago, in January 2020, always in the same spot in the wood. The twist was minor in the first photo but appears to have got worse as the beak has grown longer.
Apparently, the Nuthatch lives about three years on average. Obviously, I don’t know how old this particular bird was when I first saw it but it will be interesting to keep an eye out for it to see how long it manages to survive. I hope it lives long and prospers!
Yesterday’s star finds, during a walk around Grangemoor Park, were my first Cuckooflowers of 2020. They’re such dainty little beauties and, with a newly arrived Chiffchaff calling in the trees behind, it felt like Spring really had arrived.