Coal Tits, the smallest European Tit, are among many young birds in the garden this week, being fed by their adults– even in the pouring rain. Coal Tits eggs are laid in April, hatching 18 days later. Three juveniles were calling from the Rowan- both adults feed the young. Coal Tits eat insects, seeds and fat and benefit from mild winters and from garden-feeding. They cache extra food in holes in the ground– one of the reason we have sunflowers coming up randomly round the garden! While they nest in holes in trees, they will use nest-boxes, preferring ones with a narrow-slit
Another youngster, attracting attention by rapid wing and tail flapping
entrance. Conditions: Very wet couple of days, at last. Temperature: Max 15- Min 6C.
May flowers- If, like me, you love the sight but not the smell of May flowers, so floriferous on our Hawthorn tree and hedge right now, you are in a long tradition. Country people would never bring it indoors, associating it with illness, death and the Great Plague. Interestingly, the scent has now been analysed and contains the chemical, trimethylamine, that occurs in decaying tissue! Hawthorn is brilliant for wildlife though- 300 insects use it, including the caterpillars of many moths, with intriguing names like Lappet, Orchard Ermine, Fruitlet Mining Tortrex and Small
Hawthorn- May flowers
Hawthorn- May flowers
Eggar. The Haw berries, rich in anti-oxidants, are eaten by many birds and the thick, dense, thickets shelter many bird-nests. Conditions: Cloud, light rain. Temperature: Max16- Min 11C.
Preening feathers- most birds preen their feathers several times a day, vital to clear dirt and parasites, and to optimally align every feather for best flight, something vital to a Swallow like this, newly arrive from Africa. I was lucky to watch it preen every wing feather individually, as one photo shows. Preening also serves to spread oil from the preening gland (uropygial gland) in order to keep the feathers waterproof and from becoming brittle. I watched this Swallow. Conditions: sunny and warm as I leave Sussex! Temperature: Max 15- Min 7c.
Swallow preening every morning ndividual wing-feather
Swallows are the most acrobatic hirundines- and there’s nowhere more impressive to watch them than feeding, skimming over water. Fe
Swallow acrobatically taking a sip of water
males are most attracted to males with the longest and most symmetrical ‘streamers’ – long tail feathers. They catch hundreds of insects, mostly flies, and also drink from the water surface, as you can see from the photo’s I took recently. Best times to see them are early or dusk, or when the skies are overcast and insects flying low over land or water. Conditions: sun and cloud, but no rain due. Temperature: Max 13- Min 4 c.
Yellow Pimpernel- I prefer this pretty ground-hugging wild flower, of damp woodland edges and open ground, in the garden, to its’ garden cousin Creeping Jenny, which can be so invasive. One of the Lysimachia family, Yellow Pimpernel was named after the Macedonian general Lysimachus, (3rd century BC) who reputedly fed it to his oxen to calm them down! Its common name, Wood Loosestrife also references this quality, of leaving strife behind.It was also used to relieve pain. Conditions: Another cool, cloudy, rainless day. April was the driest on record for ten years. Temperature: Max 13- Min 6 c.
Yellow Pimpernel or Wood Loosestrife
Orange Tip Butterfly- as yesterday’s blog of Jack by the Hedge is one of this butterfly’s key caterpillar food-plants, along with Ladies Smock (Milkmaids), here is the beautiful butterfly you should be seeing in your gardens, damp hedgerows and flying higgledy-piggledy anywhere in England and Wales right now. The camouflage on both male and female’s underwing is lovely (see photo’s). Males, which have the bright orange wing-tip, hatch first. Females, lacking the orange tip, are more hidden- eggs are very hard to spot and caterpillars are cannibalistic so only one egg is laid per plant. I’ve included an illustration of the whole life-cycle I did a while ago. Conditions: Heavy cloud. Temperature: Max 15-
Orange Tip female
Min 6 c.