Swallows- today’s acrobats, flying fast over Monyash pond and dipping in for water are the incredible Swallows. They will migrate from Africa to nest as far north as beyond the Arctic Circle. Before migration was understood, Swallows and other Hirundines, were thought to bury themselves in the muddy bottom of ponds over winter. To build one of their mud nests takes around 1,200 journeys– male and female share the building. Sadly their populations are greatly reduced in many areas of the UK, and some of this is thought to be linked to the loss of dairy farming. Conditions: Cloud and some heavy rain over the past few days. Temperature: Max 16- Min 12C.
House Martins– another beautiful bird in decline (amber-listed) in many parts of the UK. Little is known about why, so if you are lucky enough to have a nearby nest to monitor, the BTO would like you to carry out their simple survey. Here are some of their acrobatics feeding on Monyash Village Pond. Originally cliff-nesters, these summer migrants from Africa took to nesting on built structures- the earliest written records in this country are Anglo-Saxon. Their little mud nests take around ten days and over a hundred beak-sized pellets of mud to construct. Conditions: A little cooler with showers and cloud. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13C.
Common Toad- going under the wonderful Latin name of Bufo Bufo, we were lucky to see a Toad in Monyash (Peak District) as, though widespread throughout Britain, Toad numbers have declined rapidly in recent years. This is partly due to loss of pond breeding sites and partly through roads and traffic disrupting their migration routes each spring as they travel to ponds to breed. We rescued this one by moving it from a busy road. Walking rather than hopping, they are more subdued in colour than Frogs, and have a warty skin which exudes toxins to deter predators, some of which, like Otters, know to avoid eating the skin. Conditions: The sweltering conditions continue. Temperature: Max 21- min 11C
Germander Speedwell, or Bird’s Eye as we all called it where I grew up, is the most beautiful and common of the many species of Speedwell, even growing in the Hebrides. It was considered a good luck charm for travellers, maybe because it is seen along most waysides, but it is also common in meadows, glades and hedgerows. It was widely used to treat many ills, which may be where the name Speedwell originates. Gerard, the 16th century herbalist thought it could treat cancer if ‘given in a good broth of hen’ and it was regularly prescribed for chest complaints. Conditions: The hot, dry, still weather continues. Temperature: Max 24- Min 13C.
Little Owl- I went out one evening this week, near Monyash, looking for Skylarks which have been up and singing there all week. As so often happens when looking for something, I saw something else- this beautiful Little Owl. So well camouflaged among the limestone, I would never have seen it if it hadn’t flown. Springwatch has a camera on the nest of a Little Owl this year. They are sometimes seen in the daytime although they are mostly crepuscular (dusk) feeders and this one was setting out to hunt. Conditions: Cool weather has given way to a hot sunny spell. Temperature: Max 22- Min 10c.