Leaf burst: Field maple

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Field maple leaves are now bursting out wherever I walk, and they speak truth to the old saying that ‘good things come in small packages’. The tiny buds are exquisitely fashioned, covered in a soft furry outer skin that splits open to reveal the sculptural beauty of the prominent lime-green veins and much-folded pinkish-red blade.

Catch of the day

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It amazes me sometimes how birds manage to swallow the seemingly too large fish they catch. This was one such event, witnessed during a walk around Cardiff Bay on Friday, when I witnessed a Great crested grebe lunching on a Perch. I presume it wouldn’t have required dinner after this feast!

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Shades of pink and blue

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All of a sudden, the countryside has been splashed and daubed and sprinkled with these pretty shades of pink and blue.

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Bluebell (Hyacinthoides sp.), not the native species but still pretty

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Common Cornsalad (Valerianella locusta), also known as Lamb’s lettuce

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Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), which you might know as Milkmaids or Lady’s smock

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Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), this little beauty has some wonderful vernacular names, including Gill-over-the-ground and Run-away Robin

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Lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum), another wildflower named for a bird: Cuckoopint

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Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), also known as Our Lady’s milk and Mary’s tears

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Red dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum), which seems to be under every hedge, along every woodland edge right now

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Dove’s-foot crane’s-bill (Geranium molle), found growing around the base of a local power pole yesterday

Holes

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One of the many definitions of the word hole is ‘an animal’s burrow’, and some of hole’s many synonyms are cavity, chamber, cave, cleft, cranny, den, lair, nest, shelter, and tunnel. These photos show a few such places, possibly but not definitely created and occupied by Great spotted woodpeckers, rabbits, voles and/or shrews, bees, and beetles. What amazes me is how perfectly engineered so many of them are.

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Good Friday plant

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This couldn’t have been more appropriate if I’d planned it, which I assure you I didn’t. Until yesterday’s wander through a local woodland, I’d never seen Moschatel before. Its scientific name is Adoxa moschatellina but one of its vernacular names is Good Friday plant, because it usually begins flowering at the beginning of April and is often first seen in bloom at Easter.

Another of its common names is Townhall clock, which Richard Mabey explains in Flora Britannica is because the small flowers ‘are arranged in a remarkable fashion, at right angles to one another, like the faces of a town clock – except that there is a fifth on top, pointing towards the sky’. My photos don’t show this very well so I might have to revisit to get more.

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Green cellar slug

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Thanks to the expert whose voluntary task it is to verify any slug records input to the local biodiversity records database, I now know that what I thought was a Leopard slug (Limax maximus) is actually a Green cellar slug (Limacus maculatus). The expert kindly explained: ‘You are far from the first person to have made this misidentification. Limax maximus is brown, rather rougher and dryer in texture than either of the Limacus species,[and] is usually solitary.’ Always learning!

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To a Butterfly

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‘Stay near me – do not take thy flight!
A little longer stay in sight!’

These are the opening lines of William Wordsworth’s 1802 poem ‘To a Butterfly’, lines I can easily identify with, thoughts I also utter often – though not in Wordsworth’s exact words, of course.

Fortunately, the butterflies occasionally, and unknowingly, heed my pleas and stay long enough for me to take photographs, like these recent new sightings for 2021, the beautiful Large and Small whites, and Small tortoiseshell.

It’s bee-fly time again

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My, what long legs you have! My, what a long proboscis you have! But this is no big bad wolf – it’s a bee-fly, a Dark-edged bee-fly (Bombylius major) to be precise.

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There are several species of bee-fly in Britain but this is the only one I’ve seen – we don’t appear to get any others locally. Still, it’s fabulous to see these furry creatures flitting from flower to flower again. Yet another sign of spring!

The Soldierflies and Allies Recording Scheme has been running Bee-fly Watch for the last six years and wants your help to track the emergence and the spread of bee-flies in Britain. You can find out more on their website.

First Willow warbler

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Bird migration never ceases to amaze me. To think that this little tiny bird has flown all the way from Africa, a journey of 5000 miles, maybe more, and that it may already have made the journey there and back several times. It was a genuine treat to see and listen to this global traveller, my first Willow warbler of the year, at Cosmeston on Friday.