Of Peregrines and Bullfinches- Those followers of the Sheffield Peregrines (search engine will give you the webcam) will know the chicks are hatching and look like lovely bundles of white fluff. The equally gorgeous Bullfinches that visit the garden every day are, however, chief culprits for our low level of Plum Blossom this year. Here they are
Male and female Bullfinches devour the Plum buds
The male is busy here
Earlier in the spring they did the same to our neighbours Amelanchier blossom!
devouring our Plum blossoms and next doors Amelanchier blossom. The male is at its brightest at this time of year but like many birds this isn’t through moulting. Moulting happens later in the year but at this time of year the duller feather-tips wear off leaving the males in bright plumage for attracting a mate. Conditions: Cloud and some sun. Temperature: Max 11- Min 2c. Frost is predicted in some northern parts tonight!
Great Tot investigates the box yesterday
A bit of a struggle to get in!
Today the female has been busy gathering sticks….
…and large amounts of moss from our ‘lawn’!
Great Tits nesting: Just when we thought it was too late, a pair of Great Tits started inspecting one of our nesting boxes yesterday and by the evening they had taken substantial amounts of moss and sticks into the box. This time last year the female was already sitting on eggs. I watched them again this morning- the male was calling and the female was busy gathering nesting material, glad that we have a very mossy lawn! If successful, she will go on building the nest and do all the incubating if there are any eggs. Both male and female feed the young. Last year the eggs were abandoned so we will watch on the ‘nest-cam’ and see how they do. Great Tits often return to the same box, so at least one of this pair may be the same as last year. Young females nest a little later than older ones, and on average only one of each couple and one of each brood of Great and Blue Tits survive into the next year. Conditions: Heavy April showers and sunny spells. Temperature: Max 11- Min 5c.
Woods are wonderful at this time of year and Tresswell Wood near Retford in Nottinghamshire is no exception. In the brilliantly annotated by Notts Wildlife Trust free leaflet the Notts Wildlife Trust, who manage this big, coppiced woodland, informed us that there is a Midland Hawthorn, which has smoother leaves than the usual indented Hawthorn. Spring watch want to know when we see the first May flowers open– they weren’t out in this wood last week but we were also lucky to see and hear newly arrived migrant Chiffchaff and Blackcap there. Conditions: Sleet, hail and rain showers with a strong breeze, followed by blue skies. Temperature: Max 11- Min 6c.
Chiffchaff were calling through the wood
Several Blackcaps were singing their beautiful song- here’s a female in the Blackthorn blossom
The Midland Hawthorn has much smoother-edged leaves than the Common Hawthorn
The leaves of Common Hawthorn
Grass Snakes were also around on the canal banks in Lincolnshire last week. We were walking along the bank in hot sunshine and I was just thinking- look out for snakes- knowing they love basking in the sun, near water. I heard a slithering sound and looked- there was this beautiful Grass Snake moving towards the water and it then swam skilfully away across the canal. We later saw another and I thought it was doing what Grass Snakes do when cornered, which is play dead, but sadly that one, beside a lane, was dead, probably hit by a passing vehicle. Conditions: Cool, even in the bright sunshine, with cloud gathering kate afternoon and rain forecast overnight. Temperature: Max 11- Min 2c.
We disturbed this Grass Snake while walking along the Chesterfield Canal
It quickly swam away to the opposite bank
As well as liking to be by water, Grass Snakes eat a lot of Frogs and Toads, as well as small birds and mammals.
Brown Hares- we were lucky to see three of the fastest land mammal of the uk, at an RSPB reserve in Lincolnshire last week. Capable of reaching speeds of 45mph, Brown Hares are in danger in many areas due to the effects of modern farming techniques, but on this small reserve near Buckingham they were easy to see. Brown Hares raise several litters a year, between February and September, in a low depression, called a ‘form’, in the grass or dirt of fields and woodland edges. (Apologies if you get this more than once, and a day late- the blog-site seems to be playing up!)
This shows the black-tipped ears and yellow-flecked fur of Brown Hares
Hares have much longer legs than rabbits and are considerably larger
Conditions: Blue-skied, sunny day Temperature: Max 13- Min 4c.
Swallows are back, and here’s the first I’ve seen this year, at the campsite we were staying at in Lincolnshire. They arrived there this week and were bust feeding on insects caught in flight, and preening and resting after their long journey from Africa. Such beautiful migrants, I’ll let the photo’s of these Hirundines speak for themselves. Conditions: Sunny intervals and showers, welcome after this recent dry spell. Temperature: Max 14- Min 4c.
First Swallows of the year
The long tail-streamers are one of the main identifying features of the Swallow
The glossy blue-black feathers and brick-red chin show well in this photo
The cunning Bee-Flies again today because they are really fascinating and for the first time I’ve seen them, with their furry round bodies and extraordinarily long legs and proboscis, in the garden in Sheffield. They are widespread so look out for these Bee-mimics which have a cunning plan to steal a march on Bees and Wasps. These bee-mimics can hover beside flowers and, with their long tongues, reach right into the nectar, even of long-tubed flowers like these Pulmonaria. I managed to photograph another
The very furry body and extraordinarily long legs and proboscis of the Bee-Fly
A Bee-Fly, with its distinctive wing-markings hovering while feeding from Pulmonaria
This Bee-Fly , with it’s long proboscis and legs, and distinctive attaining on its wings, hovering about 3 metres off the ground
one hovering about 3 metres above the lawn– they do this to watch for ground-nesting Bee and Wasp nests. What they do next is extraordinary- they fly low, past the entrance to a nest and flick their eggs into the nesting hole. When the eggs hatch, the Bee-Fly larvae parasitise the larvae of the Bee or Wasp, killing them while thriving themselves. Conditions: A glorious sunny, blue-skied day. Temperature: Max 15- Min 6c.