Saturday, 15 April 2017

Wild Life


Life is flowing here. Plants are growing; leaves are unfurling; birds are nesting; insects are pollinating. In the woods, bluebells, lesser Celandine and wood anemones carpet the earth, and in the garden, the springs beds are in full flow providing a regular supply of blooms to bring indoors....

Anemone Dr Fokker (thank you, Sam, for the tip last year)

Anemone Bride
Up at the pond, a three-legged frog tucked under the bird's-foot trefoil leaves yesterday...


I have checked and three legs isn't an automatic death sentence for amphibians, which is a relief. Also nice to know frogs do use the pond.

My heron has taken to sitting at the top of a very tall ash tree. Here he is being joined by a small friend, one of the collared dove pair who are usually inseparable....


The siskins have stopped coming to the garden now. They have moved back out into the forest where they prefer to nest in conifers. I won't see them again until winter draws them back to the cones on the alders beside the house. From there it is only a short hop to the feeders, which they share with the goldfinches. Mr GF has fallen quiet in the last couple of days, which must mean the nest is complete and eggs are being laid and brooded.


Orange-tips are having a good year here. A male visits the garden most days to nectar on Daphne, muscari and scabious. I've yet to see the female here, but the cuckoo flower and jack in the hedge are out so there are plenty of preferred egg-laying plants available for her in the garden...


The orange-tip is the first true spring butterfly as it overwinters as a pupae rather than hibernating as an adult. The second is generally the holly blue, and third for me this year is the speckled wood. I have seen good numbers of these beautiful butterflies at home and out on walks this week...


One of the speckled woods was flitting among the elm trees that line the track into one of our favourite walks. The ground was peppered with their seed, so I brought four home and planted them in pots. No idea whether they'll germinate but as I have two oaks I've grown from acorns I thought it was worth a punt....


Down by the river, life is flowing along nicely. Lots of evidence of water voles, lots of lovely spring wildflowers, a couple of Kingfishers chasing one another, nine buzzards circling overhead (never seen so many at once before), reed warblers returned from tropical Africa to chatter in the reed beds by the river, and a red kite who swooped down in front of me and landed in the tree...


I bumped into River Keeper Neil who told me, grim faced, that a dead mink turned up on a lane near the river this week. I think I drove past and saw it and am now kicking myself for not stopping to check. I'd assumed it was a pole cat. We fear for our water voles as a result, but he is on the case so hopefully the population of small brown furries who call this stretch of river home will be safe.

At the top of the river near where it passes beneath the road a pair of grey wagtails are nesting. They are one of my favourite birds, so graceful. The population fell by 40% after the 1970s, currently there are about 38,000 breeding pairs in the UK. Compare this to blackbirds, who have 5.1 million breeding pairs here (and that includes a population decline of 15% in the last forty years) and you get some sense of the rarity value of these little birds. 


Yellow archangel are flowering now. According to Oliver Rackham (expert in all things tree, especially ancient), these wildflowers are often associated with ancient woodland and wood-relic hedges. They grow on the Mottisfont estate near where the bluebells bloom,and on the lane here at home. They won't sting you, although, like the white dead nettles, they are part of the same family as those that do.


On the way home from seeing the bluebells and the archangels yesterday, I collected a goodly dollop of sheep's wool from the fences to take home. It's been stuffed in the roof of the bird table. Sheep's wool makes a great nest lining and already it's been tugged at and bits and bobs of it removed. I like to think of the baby birds in and around the garden being safely snuggled into a bed of warm, soft wool. It also makes me smile when I find the nests at the end of the year with the wool entwined in their construction. It's a little bit of everyday magic.


I'm thinking it's probably time to get the moth box out, when it warms a little. This week, a pair of Ruby Tiger moths visited the lawn. Their russet colouring caught my eye as they buzzed an inch or two off ground-level. When I finally caught up with them they were busy mating. They remained locked together for the best part of four hours. I've only ever seen them in the trap before (humane, light-gathering rather than anything nasty). I checked the book, and sure enough they are known for mating by day, usually in the afternoon. It's good to know they are here.


One final bit of lovely is that Selborne, the satellite tracked Hampshire cuckoo we've been following via the BTO website, made it back home last night after an epic flight up from Western Africa. He's just down the road from us, which is very exciting. Also, the swallows are home and the male pipistrelles who live in our roof have woken up and are busy out flying a little after sunset. I watched them a couple of nights ago hunting over the lakes for midges, the bat detector translating their rapid clicking calls into sounds my ears could hear. It's all go.

I've started work on my wildlife book. It isn't work at all- it's a complete pleasure to spend the days with my notes spread out all around me and various wildlife books piled high on the table. I've caught up with April so it's now it's really writing itself in real time. I'll let you know when it's finished.

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

45 comments:

  1. I so look forward to your posts, I learn a lot from you, oh how I long to live in a different area xx

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    1. Thank you, that's a lovely comment. So pleased about your great tit nest. It's lovely to have pictures and know what's going on inside the nest x

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  2. A bluebell wood brings joy to your heart. Hope the mink was a one off, I shudder to think if there are more. The local birds will love you for all the wool. As for your book, enjoy the composing of it, then all the readers can enjoy your work. Each year I turn my blog post into a book, it's my living diary, it's hard work transferring the information over, but the finished book is perfection to me. I have 6 books so far and I am working on last years.

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    1. Bluebell woods are special places, I agree. Really keeping everything crossed the mink was just the one. If you get a chance, can you tell me how you change your blog into a book? I did look but couldn't find any obvious or simple ways x

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  3. I prefer your bluebell woods to mine...

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    1. These are ancient woods and it shows I think, but all bluebell woods are special places.

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  4. Damn. I forgot you have to approve every comment.

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  5. Yes, there is no doubt about it Nature is waking up. We have blue tits in our garden wall and they are already feeding babies.

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    1. That's brilliant news. They had a hard year last year so could really do with a good one.

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  6. You share some truly stunning photographs. I love the one of the Bluebells. They are just starting to make an appearance here now. We had a woodland walk last weekend and it is lovely to see everything coming back to life. Just like Marlene I look forward to your posts and your wealth of knowledge. X

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  7. Loved this post. y order was orange tip, then holly blue, then speckled wood! Only one butterfly about today, not the warmest of days for them.

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    1. It's great to know they're appearing all over the country.

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  8. Lovely to see what you are finding and your photos are a joy, emptied a old bird box the other day, blue tit nest was made up of pillow fluff I had left out for the birds and moss. It's a perfect square.

    Your wildlife book will be amazing.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Pillow fluff- perfect! Hope all's well with all of you x

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  9. Oh I'm so pleased the book is coming along well. I can imagine that it's a pleasure to immerse yourself in the wild world as you write. Lots of the things you mention have been seen around here too - plenty of swallows, a holly blue (not seen by me, but down at the wetlands place), several orange tips, including one spotted by the littlest boy, a speckled wood this morning, warblers of various descriptions, sand martins and our first house martin of the year this morning on our bird survey walk. How fantastic to see that red kite so close. I do exactly the same with bits of sheep's wool, although we've run out now. I must look for some more. Hope you have a lovely Easter. CJ xx

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    1. We don't get sand martins here so I envy you those. I'm waiting for the swifts who can be seen flying over Romsey. Happy Easter CJ xx

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  10. I suspect your heron is keeping a beady eye on your three-legged frog..! All wonderful stuff here, as usual, CT. And your book!! How flipping exciting. Can't wait to hear more about it. Bluebells are coming out here but I've not spotted any swallows or martins yet. Mind you, I've been mostly looking downwards for bindweed roots in the soil! Happy Easter xx

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    1. Oh, the dreaded bindweed! It's growing like topsy here too. I'm hoping to persuade you to cast an eye over a chapter or two of the book once it's in a fit state, if you have a spare moment.....? Xx

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    2. Of course! I'd be delighted. x

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  11. Stunning photographs, CT. I do envy the fact that you have pipistrelles in your roof. We see lots of bats in the garden but none, as far as I know, have ever used the bat box that we lovingly made one year! Good luck with the book. xx

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    1. They may come if you've got room for them so it's worth persevering. Roosts tend to be old so praps if the population grows a little you'll get them in the box. Xx

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  12. Lots of speckled woods here too. You have so much wildlife in your corner, it must be wonderful to see. Such a fascinating post as always, I look forward to when your book is finished. I'll be queuing to buy it :). B x

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    1. Ah bless you, that's a lovely thing to say. I will hold you to it!!! Xx

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  13. Great to see all is coming along so well. x

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  14. It's very busy in the wilds of Hampshire- a real sense of the spring arriving and everything blossoming! Being at one with nature is deeply fulfilling!
    Lovely post to read on Easter Sunday! Makes one feel good about the world!
    Happy days CT! Enjoy the writing - you are an inspiring lady xx

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    1. Thank you, lovely friend. Hope autumn is being gentle to you :o) xx

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    2. Autumnal days are bright and full of lovely walks, changing vine colours and crispy leaves! Even had a bonfire in the fire pit! Lovely with a cup of tea and a hot cross bun - followed by a glass of red a little later!
      Happy days xxx

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  15. A beautiful spsring post. I love you Bluebell wood and I love your butterflies. Happy Easter

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    1. Many thanks, Margaret. Happy Easter to you too x

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  16. We tried to grow some bluebells here but didn't have much luck. It's a wonderful sight such an area of blue carpeted woodland.

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    1. A bluebell wood is like nothing else on earth. I am very lucky to have grown up living opposite one in the wilds of Sussex. It was magical.

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  17. First speckled wood spotted on Good Friday in the churchyard of the shepherd's church on the Downs. Orange Tips in the garden this week and lots seen on walks. Peacocks mostly seen in tandem flying and swooping overhead and so many Brimstones. The blue tits are very active in my garden and I could watch the swallows at the allotment all day long. We've been walking locally and cycling off-road further afield the last couple of days and it has been glorious: primroses, wood anemone, stitchwort, bluebells, cowslips and spotted orchid all flowering together with the song of the skylarks a constant. And although the surface crust is dry as dust underneath the soil is rich and dark and crumbly. And the Easter lambs ... although I have half a shoulder of Sussex lamb to roast today. Happy Easter to you CT.

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    1. Your patch always sounds so wonderful. It's great to hear how the wildlife is getting on in other areas of the country. Xx

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  18. A book? Fantastic. Mr(or Mrs) Frog looks a tiny bit toad-like to me - perhaps he/she just has unusual speckles, or is older....

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    1. I think you're right, amber eyes too- I should have looked more closely! Thanks for the correction :o).

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  19. after an unexpected internet absence -- high winds wreaking havoc with the signal -- what a lovely, lovely post to come to. *happy sigh*. spring seems to be rollicking along apace on your patch and it's slowly, slowly building momentum here, too.

    my favourite thing so far is seeing all of our nesting birds return -- i call them "our" because they're regulars -- the robins in the eaves, the eastern phoebes in the roof-overhang-thingy, the starlings in the wall of B's office....like old friends returning after a long absence.

    happy, happy times. xoxoxoxo

    ps. i'm so delighted to hear you're getting on with your book. :)

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  20. Years ago we had a frog with one eye. The other side of his head perfectly marked with stripes. Sadly he didn't last long.

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  21. Ooh, a wildlife book. That sounds super exciting. I'd definitely buy it; you right so beautifully.

    I went to look at the Selbourne's journey. It was absolutely fascinating. I find it amazing that they travel so many miles!

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  22. You have such rich wildlife there! You must be a moth magnet - I never see any at all here.
    I love the elm seeds, of course.
    We do have grey wagtails here occasionally, just passing through, I think.
    As for the lovely bluebells, I saw many under the trees as we drove through the Wye Valley the other day.
    It's a great time of year. Thanks for sharing :)

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x