Drinking and bathing – I know it is hard to keep water free of ice in these arctic conditions but here are some more examples of why it matters so much to birds– whether a Collared Dove, Finch, Tit or House Sparrow, birds need to bath and drink to keep in good condition in these icy times. Conditions: Snow still laying in Derbyshire. Temperature: Max 2 Min -4C.
Monyash, Derbyshire: Despite it sounding as though it is named after the hundreds of Ash trees in the parish, the name is actually derived from the Anglo Saxon ‘mani’ and Celtic ‘easc or eas’, and means ‘many waters’, the area being renowned for its many springs and pools, which also led to woods being cleared in the iron and bronze ages for agriculture. The farming here is still largely sympathetic to nature, including a National Trust farm which has wonderful, rich meadows in summer. However, here are some of the many Ash Trees, from whips to giants which are thankfully still free of Ash die-back. Unless some trees prove resistance, when this eventually reaches the Peak District another huge change will occur to this whole
area. Conditions: Ice and snow and sun breaking through mist. Temperature: From an overnight low of -4, today is set to rise to 0 C!
As the ice and snow hits the Peak district
, and many parts of the UK, birds will be needing extra fat to keep them going, especially small birds and especially through the cold nights. Because birds we feed in our gardens get good regular food, they do not need to carry as much extra fat, in a layer under their skin, as birds where food is scarce. That makes them more vulnerable when the freezing weather comes which is why these small birds were busy feeding on fat today, in the snow. Small birds are also more vulnerable to cold weather, having more surface area per size than larger birds, and therefore losing heat more easily. Conditions: Heavy snow showers. Temperature: Max 2 Min -3 C
Gin seems to be the fashionable drink this year and if the south is anything to go by, you should be able to make your own tasty and beautifully coloured Sloe Gin shortly. Despite the exceptionally hot, dry summer, and maybe due to the very wet spring, without late frosts, very plump, nearly ripe (already with a bloom on their skins) Sloes were weighing down the Blackthorn bushes on East Hill, Hastings this morning, mingling with heavy crops of Elderberries and Blackberries. Conditions: Nearby Herstmonceux had an astonishing 3 inches of rain yesterday, while Catsfield had long deluges. Temperature: Max 20 Min 15 c.
The Beautiful Demoiselle is the only other large Damselfly with brightly coloured wings in the UK (See the Banded Demoiselle featured on the blog on the 4th July). The male (petrol-blue metallic colour) flits around more like a butterfly, from May to August, dancing to attract the female, which has bronze-metallic wings and a bronze tail-tip (see photo’s). These stunning Demoiselles are fairly common along flowing streams, west of a line between Liverpool and Folkestone. (Damselflies fold their wings at rest while Dragonflies hold them open). Conditions: Cloud and sun. Still no rain for weeks. Temperature: Max 22 Min 12 C.
Chris Packham has been writing passionately today of the “apocalypse in our countryside”, where we see only a wealth of wildlife in our nature reserves and not in the countryside as a whole, where there is a dearth of insects, flowers, birds etc. We noticed the contrast on our recent two weeks in Ireland, where the wild flowers and insects were so like the density we grew up with in England, but no longer generally see. “Where’s the pink of Ragged Robin, the yellow of Flag Iris?” he asks. Here are samples of both from the beautiful masses in the west of Ireland last week. Conditions: Thunder, short showers and sunshine. Temperature: Max 21 Min 12C.
Buff-tailed Bumblebees are pretty widespread and common and one of the first Queen Bees (only Queen Bumblebees survive winter) to be out, foraging and searching for new nests. Here in Wales they are feeding on Bilberry flowers, and Heather. The photo’s on Heather show Queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees carrying many mites. Although Verroa mites damage Honey Bees, the mites on Bumblebees rarely cause any harm or spread disease, and they often hitch a ride on Queen Bees as they search for new nest-sites, after feeding over winter on old wax in last years nest. Conditions: Deep mist all day in Harlech. Temperature: Max 9 Min 6C.