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
Male arrives near the bird box with a caterpillar
Female calling the male
Male delivering the caterpillar
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
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
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
, which I suppose compensates. Conditions: Cool northerly breeze, sunshine and hail showers. Temperature: Max 8- min 1c.
Insect-eye view of Dandelion
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
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.
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.
I was able to continue photographing it as it grew
Head of young Grass Snake
Young, darker than average, Grass Snake
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
Like many birds, Chiffchaffs chose a high vantage point from which to sing
The native Broom seems pretty early too
Back down South enjoying the beauty of frosty mornings, horses and Alders by the stream. Local farmers, including my brother-in-law, remind me, though, that there used to be 15 small dairy herds in this tiny Catsfield parish alone and now the parish has many horses but no dairy herds. My friends mum, in her 90’s, tells me how she used to carry a small churn of milk from house to house when she was very little, ladling out the fresh milk to all the inhabitants of Watermill Lane, and how her generous dad, the farmer, would give extra to those who needed it. Conditions: Cold crisp and sunny, with a beautiful dawn. Temperature: Max 9- Min 6c.
Mist in the valley
Alders along the stream