Birds-Foot Trefoil, which we called ‘eggs and bacon’ because of the variation in colour from deep yellow to orange, gets its name from the shape of its seed-pods, which also give it its less pleasant common name of Grannie’s Toenails in some areas. Common in grasslands, waste ground, seashores and rocky areas, this low growing plant is a brilliant source of nectar for insects, and a food source for the caterpillars of the beautiful Common Blue butterfly. To Victorians, deeply into the symbolism of flowers it represented revenge. Conditions: very hot, dry spell continues. Temperature: Max 25 Min 10 C.
Meadow Pipits are one of the most widespread birds in Britain and Ireland, found on seashores, heaths, meadows and uplands, though their actual numbers have plummeted by 40%. Meadow Pipits have many predators and this one looked round nervously, as they often do, from its perch, as it preened. They eat moths, insects and spiders and can be confused with the larger, less streaky-chested Skylark,
soaring up and singing their (very different, piping) song before parachuting back down to ground or perch. The colour of their back varies from olive green, through buff to grey. A look at a video on the BTO site will help you separate them out from Skylarks and Rock Pipits. Conditions: Very hot, still sunny day. Temperature: Max 27 Min 13 C
Green-veined White Butterfly: here is the other white butterfly, out and about right now, that is not harmful to your brassicas and, on the contrary, is a helpful pollinator. Try to see this butterfly at rest, or feeding, which is when the ‘green’ veins, actually made up of black and yellow, show most beautifully. They are most marked early in the year, as they tend to fade when the butterfly is older, (much like me really).
As you can see, it loves feeding on wallflowers, Ladies Smock and other open- headed, spring flowers. Conditions: Cloud with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 16 Min 9C
Little volcanoes of mud in your grass or soil? Then you have the beautiful, non-stinging Tawny Mining Bee, the easiest mining Bee to identify. The smaller, browner male mates and then dies. The female digs the deep hole, with several branching tunnels. In each separate cell it stores pollen and nectar, laying a single egg on top of each larder. The egg hatches, feeds, pupates, and emerges as an adult next spring. These solitary Bees pollinate fruit trees and farm crops. The ‘volcanoes’ soon
disperse and, like the Bees, do no harm. Conditions: the third sunny, hot day. Temperature: Max 23 Min 8 C.
Common Carder Bee. If you are bamboozled by Bumblebees, here is a very common one, easy to identify and flying now and through into the late autumn in gardens, parks and the wild. Carder bees are our only Bees with a
ginger thorax and they are loving our Pulmonaria and Wallflowers right now. They aren’t very big and they get their name from their habit of combing (carding) material to cover their larvae. Conditions: still this unseasonally hot, sunny weather spell. Temperature: Max 23 Min 12c.
In North Wales the Lambs are gambolling. There is no real scientific understanding yet as to why young animals play, though there are lots of theories, and they are fun to watch. Sheep are thought to be the earliest animals humans domesticated, from around 11,000 BC and there have been times when rural communities in the UK gained their highest wealth through sheep, specifically wool. You only have to look at the huge churches built in areas like Cornwall to get an idea of the wealth their wool created. Talking to local farmers in Sussex this year it cost £1.60 to shear each sheep and they got only 20p per fleece! Perhaps, with artificial fibres polluting our waterways, wool will be favoured again one .
I can’t leave March without featuring the wonderful harbinger of spring, the Primrose, several plants of which I have recently transplanted from my garden to mum’s grave, as it was her favourite too. Shakespeare refers to the Primrose in Macbeth and here, in Hamlet with Ophelia responds pointedly to her brother Laertes lectures thus: “Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, Whiles, liked a puffed up libertine, Himself the primrose path to dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede”. In those days the ‘primrose path’ was seen as a path to destruction. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 9 Min 4.