The beautiful and easy to identify Comma butterfly, one of the few UK Butterflies to overwinter as adults, was warming up in today’s sun. The Comma is also one of the few UK butterflies whose populations are on the rise, although after a severe decline that was probably due to the reduction of hops being grown, (a favourite food-plant of the Comma caterpillar, which also eat nettles). If you don’t know why it is called a Comma, look at the photo of it with its wings folded. Conditions: Cloud clearing to hot sun. Temperature: Max 20 Min 11C.
Some colonies of Lichen are over 8,000 years old and we have at least 1,700 species in the UK, so the British Lichen Society’s ‘Next Steps Project’ which aims at helping the non-plussed like me to identify common species is really worth logging onto. I think these, from Coed Lletywalter, are from the Peltigera (leafy) and Parmelia family. A symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae, Lichens extract water and nutrients from the air, which is why they are a good indicator of air quality– in this NW Wales ancient wood they proliferate on bark, stone and ground. Conditions: Plenty of sun with a cool breeze. Temperature: Max 14 Min 9C.
Buff-tailed Bumblebees are pretty widespread and common and one of the first Queen Bees (only Queen Bumblebees survive winter) to be out, foraging and searching for new nests. Here in Wales they are feeding on Bilberry flowers, and Heather. The photo’s on Heather show Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees carrying many mites. Although Verroa mites damage Honey Bees, the mites on Bumblebees rarely cause any harm or spread disease, and they often hitch a ride on Queen Bees as they search for new nest-sites, after feeding over winter on old wax in last years nest. Conditions: Deep mist all day in Harlech. Temperature: Max 9 Min 6C.
Wood Sorrel- the first of the season for me, a favourite plant of damp woods, like Coed Lletywalter where we walked this morning. Its bright green trefoil leaves open in bright light and the white flowers have beautiful mauve veins. Out from around Easter, giving it its common name ‘Alleluia’,( among other common names, including Laverocks) the bruised, fresh leaves were once applied to cuts and bruises but I always loved, as a child, eating them as I played in our local woods. The oxalic acid, tasting like lemon juice, quenched my thirst. I read that Native Americans used it the same way! Conditions: Sun before high cloud. Temperature: Max 11 Min 7C.
In North Wales the Lambs are gambolling. There is no real scientific understanding yet as to why young animals play, though there are lots of theories, and they are fun to watch. Sheep are thought to be the earliest animals humans domesticated, from around 11,000 BC and there have been times when rural communities in the UK gained their highest wealth through sheep, specifically wool. You only have to look at the huge churches built in areas like Cornwall to get an idea of the wealth their wool created. Talking to local farmers in Sussex this year it cost £1.60 to shear each sheep and they got only 20p per fleece! Perhaps, with artificial fibres polluting our waterways, wool will be favoured again one .
Aspects of this unusual spring so far in the garden- a female Blackbird gathers nesting material (if you follow birds doing this, you can see where they are nesting- this one in the top of next door’s evergreen tree), Parakeets bonding over breakfast, and a Blue Tit and Goldfinch in the snow and ice! Conditions: At last, a warm, sunny, dry day. Temperature: Max 12 Min 3C.
An extremely blurred photo today but this is the first time I have ever spotted a Badger in our garden in North Sheffield! It raced across the garden this morning, probably still out in daylight due to recent bad weather and snow laying over night, when it would normally be foraging. It probably comes from an established set in Little Roe Wood. Badgers can be a pest in gardens, digging up lawns for insects, climbing low branches of fruit trees to get at fruits, eating bulbs etc. They are an increasing presence in urban gardens, and tend to be bigger than rural Badgers, boosted by food being (inadvisedly) put out by residents. I expect it will be a long time before I get another glimpse, and a better photo of one of Pitsmoor’s Clan. Conditions: Snow melting, sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 13 Min 6C.