9th March 2015

Primroses are really coming out more in the wild now. Look carefully at these beautiful flowers and you’ll find two distinct centres, noticed by Darwin. Some primrose-tots have a visible stigma and are called pin-eyed, some a visible, tightly packed group of pollen-bearing anthers. In fact, the pin-eyed have anthers half-way down the flower tube, out of sight,  

Thrum-eyed Primroses have visible cluster of pollen-bearing anthers at their centre.

Thrum-eyed Primroses have visible cluster of pollen-bearing anthers at their centre.

Pin-eyed Primroses have a visible pin-shaped stigma at their centre

Pin-eyed Primroses have a visible pin-shaped stigma at their centre

Close-up of a pin-eyed Primrose plant

Close-up of a pin-eyed Primrose plant

and the thrum-eyed have their stigma half-way down too. The nectar is in the base and only long-tongued insects like butterflies can reach it. To ensure cross-pollination, insects probing for nectar will pick up pollen, and deposit it on the stigma from the thrum-eyed at the top of the tube, and the pin-eyed half way down. Very neat! You could try eating the primroses, or just enjoy looking at and smelling their beautiful pale flowers! Conditions: Sun giving way to rain. Temperature: Max 11- Min 4c

Advertisements

8th March 2015

Great Crested Grebe courtship– happening right now on freshwater near you! This pair were following their complex courtship displays this week in Yorkshire- I’m afraid they were the other side of the water- I hope to get closer pictures soon- but their display is fascinating. Great Crested Grebes develop extra ear-tufts just for this annual display. The male fetches weed from underwater and offers it to the female. They rise out of the water, shake heads in an elaborate ritual, and parallel swim. It is wonderful to watch. Conditions: Light showers with some sun, Temperature: Max 11- Min 2c.IMG_5173

The male dives for weed and offers it to the female

The male dives for weed and offers it to the female

She accepts and hey rise and 'dance' on the water

She accepts and hey rise and ‘dance’ on the water

They shake heads and twist necks in an elaborate courtship

They shake heads and twist necks in an elaborate courtship

IMG_5266

4th March 2015

Daphne Bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill‘, otherwise known as the Nepalese Paper Plant, is by far my favourite Daphne and a big draw for early Bees and other insects seeking nectar and pollen. It  costs about £18.00 but is very floriferous and scents the whole area of the garden with a beautiful smell that reminds me of ‘Attar of Rose’ ( essential rose oil). It grows slowly, reaching a height of 2.5 metres in 20 years and ours has been flowering for several weeks already. I photographed it today- it costs a bit but is mush more robust than the much less prolific and hard to keep, but more common Daphne Mezereum. Conditions: A beautiful sunny, blue-skied day with a North-westerly breeze. Temperature: Max 8, Min 3c.

Bees and other early insects love it

Bees and other early insects love it

Hundreds of clusters of flowers give off a scent of roses

Hundreds of clusters of flowers give off a scent of roses

Daphne Jaqueline Postill- very floriferous, slow growing, evergreen and hardy

Daphne Jaqueline Postill- very floriferous, slow growing, evergreen and hardy

2nd March 2015

Tree Sparrows, such delightful birds, are really in serious decline. They can be easily identified. Their cousins the House Sparrows have grey caps while Tree Sparrows have brown caps, and Tree Sparrows have the dark cheek spot you can see in the photo. These individuals were seen recently at the appropriately named Tree Sparrow Farm, just inside the Old Moor RSPB reserve near Barnsley. Conservationists, farmers and landowners are trying to turn the decline around, providing seeds for Tree Sparrows and other declining farmland birds through winter. They nest in groups or small colonies, and can have three broods a year. If you see any, TreeSparrow.com wants you to report them- they are beginning to nest a bit more in rural gardens, where people provide year-round seeds and small clusters of nest boxes- information on the above mentioned site. 

Tree Sparrow typically feeding on seeds on the ground

Tree Sparrow typically feeding on seeds on the ground

Tree Sparrows are delightful birds in serious decline

Tree Sparrows are delightful birds in serious decline

Ist March 2015

St David’s Day, the meteorological start of spring, and daffodils in bud in the garden. The other day, along the Don, we watched a

Mistle thrush by the Don- showing the blotchy spots extending right down the underside of the bird, and the pale back

Mistle thrush by the Don- showing the blotchy spots extending right down the underside of the bird, and the pale back

Mistle Thrush

Mistle Thrush

Conditions: A fair day becoming wet. Temperature: Max 8- Min 1c.