22nd April 2016

Nesting Great Tits: We have Great Tits nesting in one of our camera boxes again, so well be contributing to the BTO Nest Box Challenge monitoring project this year. I’ve just seen a lovely ritual. The male flew into a nearby bush, with a green caterpillar in its beak. The female emerged from the box, where it was building the nest, and called. The male flew up, hovering and handed the caterpillar over to its mate. All caught on camera, though the light was a bit poor for photographs. P.S. Whatever I try I can’t get the sequence of photos right on the blog!! First should be last (There’ll be a break in blogs for a few days. I’ll be interested to see if the nest is complete on return). Conditions: Cloudy. Temperature: Max 10- Min 2c.

Female with her token

Female with her token

Male arrives near the bird box with a caterpillar

Male arrives near the bird box with a caterpillar

Female calling the male

Female calling the male

 

 

Male delivering the caterpillar

Male delivering the caterpillar

 

21st April 2016

Bird Survey in Roe Woods– we are helping out the Sheffield Bird Study Group by doing a simple survey of birds in our local patch. Wherever you live, there’s likely to be a bird group that needs the same sort of monitoring in your area- a park, copse etc. You don’t need to be very experienced. Anyway, walking round the other day we heard and saw a range of species, including several Jays, Chiffchaff’s, Bullfinches, Wrens and a male Black Cap singing its wonderful spring song in both Little and Great Roe Woods. Now they sometimes overwinter, this can happen earlier than in the past. One Black Cap IMG_8377

Male Blackcap

Male Blackcap

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Male Bullfinch

was in an Ash tree, which has rather obscured it, but at least Ash die-back hasn’t quite reached us yet, so it had a singing post. Conditions:  Light cloud with some sun           Temperature: Max 14 Min 5c

April 18th 2016

IMG_8368IMG_8348
IMG_8362Sheffield’s wild flower policy is paying dividends near us. The Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly, hadn’t been seen in our garden for ten years, and has been declining all over the country, until last year when it re-appeared. The other day we saw this one warming up on the wild flower meadow planted two years ago beside Little Roe Woods. It is probable that it is the new meadow that has helped sustain a local population. Cowslips were out in numbers, providing early nectar. Lovely to see many Bluebells and patches of Golden Saxifrage in the wood, too. Apologies for another break in transmission! This time the internet was the problem and soon it will be me having a break. Conditions: Very sunny and blue-skied. Temperature: Max 14- Min 3c.

Golden Saxifrage- really a brilliant two-tone lime-green

Golden Saxifrage- really a brilliant two-tone lime-green

Golden Saxifrage, which loves damp woodland and stream edges.

Golden Saxifrage, which loves damp woodland and stream edges.

16th April 2016

Dandelions are everywhere and are great for insects. 93 species of insects are known to visit them for their plentiful supply of pollen and nectar, and the length of flowering means they nourish from early spring to late autumn. There are many bright yellow flowers in spring, but this isn’t the way insects see them, as the photo ‘borrowed from the internet’, shows. Of course, birds also love the seeds. The latex in Dandelion roots deters insect predation and, of course, their deep roots and ability to grow fresh plants from a tiny piece left in the ground, makes them really hard for us gardening human predators, too. They are used medicinally,  and people have long made wine from them, though

Seeding Dandelion

Seeding Dandelion

, which I suppose compensates. Conditions: Cool northerly breeze, sunshine and hail showers. Temperature: Max 8- min 1c.

Dandelion

Dandelion

Insect-eye view of Dandelion

Insect-eye view of Dandelion

14th April 2016

Video

There are two forms of common Primrose plants:  In Pin-eyed Primroses, a green ‘pin-shaped’ stigma or female part is visible, while  Thrum-eyed (this may be from Old English Thrum meaning loose thread or fringe- my theory!) have a cluster of pollen covered anthers visible. If you look carefully, some way down the flower tube, you will see the anthers below the  stigma, in the Pin-eyed, and the stigma below the anthers in the Thrum-eyed. As long-tongued insects, (like those few species of Butterflies which overwinter as adults in this country, such as Brimstone or Peacock),  visit

Thrum-eyed Primrose

Thrum-eyed Primrose

Thrum-eyed Primrose

Thrum-eyed Primrose

Pin-eyed Primrose

Pin-eyed Primrose

Pin-eyed Primroses

Pin-eyed Primroses

to feed on the nectar at the bottom of the flower-tube, the position of the anthers/ pollen ensure that they can only pollinate a flower of the opposite arrangement. So, the butterfly gathers pollen from a Pin-eyed on the part of the body that ensures it pollinates a Thrum-eyed and vice versa. This ensures cross pollination. (Apologies for the recent break in transmission- trouble with my blog site!), Conditions: After a hot, sunny day yesterday, today was cloudy, showery and cooler. Temperature: Max11- Min 6c.

7th April 2016

Reptiles emerge from winter hibernation over these few weeks. Grass snakes still need to warm up every day before their cold blooded systems are energised. This young Grass Snake, darker than average but easy to identify from the yellow band at the back of the neck, warmed up every morning, down South,under a wooden sheet laid on the ground, before setting off to hunt tadpoles, frogs and insects around and in the nearby pond. Snakes spend the first few days following hibernation near their ‘hibernaculum’ or hibernating place. They themselves may be eaten by Hedgehogs, Weasels and Herons. Conditions: A mainly cloudy day with sunny spells and showers, including hailstones. Temperature: Max 11- Min 6c.IMG_9508

I was able to continue photographing it as it grew

I was able to continue photographing it as it grew

Head of young Grass Snake

Head of young Grass Snake

Young, darker than average, Grass Snake

Young, darker than average, Grass Snake

4th April 2016

Changing nature: Too-early Bluebells (in numbers not just the odd one) serenaded by too-early Chiffchaff’s. This one a long way up in a big Ash tree, in this part of East Sussex where I’ve already started seeing Ash die-back, so soon this sight may not be so common. Now I’ve just had a message from a friend in mid-Wales (thanks Liz) who has just seen her first Swallow and Willow Warbler! Times are certainly changing. Conditions: After thunder and tremendous downfalls of rain last night, a calmer, cloudy day. Temperature: Max 12- Min 5c.

Early Chiffchaff singing at the top of a big Ash

Early Chiffchaff singing at the top of a big Ash

Like many birds, Chiffchaffs chose a high vantage point from which to sing

Like many birds, Chiffchaffs chose a high vantage point from which to sing

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The native Broom seems pretty early too

The native Broom seems pretty early too