Creeping into Spring

It’s been a full-on week for the wildlife. Some have produced babies – like these greylag geese- while others are still frantically trying to find mates. We saw these greylags with their newly-hatched goslings last Friday, which means they laid their eggs in early April-they take around 28 days to incubate. It probably seemed like a good idea then- the weather was warm and sunny- but they must have sat tight during the snow and storms of late April and early May.

Greylag geese plus goslings

Greylag geese plus goslings

More mallard ducklings have been appearing too. These are newly hatched but still manage to race through the water a great speed. They almost come out of the water they paddle so fast!

Mallard ducklings

Mallard ducklings aquaplaning

Meanwhile, other birds are searching for mates. Tree pipits try and attract a female with their song, a loud, vibrant descant, as they parachute down into  the trees.

Tree pipit. Small bird, big voice.

Tree pipit. Small bird, big voice.

Wrens also rely quite heavily on song to attract a mate. Let’s face it, a wren is easy to overlook – small, brown and tends to skulk in low vegetation. But wrens have a song out of all proportion to their size and you soon know if a wren is singing nearby! However, it’s a knackering time of year for birds- always on the go, seeking mates, defending territories- and this one needed a bit of time out for a nap. Mind you, the second he woke up, he started singing again!

Sleepy wren...

Sleepy wren…

....waking up....

….waking up….

....asleep, me? Wide awake now.

….asleep, me? Wide awake now.

Some birds rely more on visual cues to find a lady friend. Redstarts do sing, but their plumage is far more showy. These two males were a real splash of scarlet in the woodlands.

Male redstart

Male redstart

Male redstart

Male redstart- splendid in scarlet

The wheatear is still hanging around. He seems to be holding territory here, the first time I’ve ever seen this. He did seem a bit puzzled by the local lapwings, though.

The wheatear is still hanging around

The wheatear is still hanging around

Wheatear checking out a lapwing

Wheatear checking out a lapwing

The adders continue to dislike the cold weather and remain hard to spot. This reluctantly- basking female is the only one we’ve seen this week.

Basking female on the bracken

Basking female on the bracken

But she was very shy and moved off as soon as she spotted us.

She was very shy and moved off as soon as she spotted us.

In spite of the cold, plants and insects continue to emerge. The wood anemones are starting to come to the end of their flowering period but the bugle has just come out. This small purple flower is an important food for pearl-bordered fritillary butterflies …but we’ve not seen any of those yet.

Bugle

Bugle

The birch trees are gradually putting on more leaf. I say “gradually” as the cold has fairly slowed them down. However, the woods are really starting to look green now.

New green on the birches

New green on the birches

We also managed to get our first photo of an orange-tip butterfly this week. These have been around for about a fortnight now, but this is the first one we’ve seen landed and sitting still. This is a male- confusingly, a female orange-tip doesn’t have orange-tips but is black-and-white instead.

Orange tip butterfly

Orange tip butterfly

Elsewhere, we were lucky enough to find a robin’s nest. But its location is a wonderful illustration of why we ask people to keep dogs under close control at this time of year. With the nest being located so close to a path, a dog could easily sniff it out or tread on it. Often, the problem isn’t  that the dog will even eat the wildlife -people often say to me that “he wouldn’t hurt anything” and that may be true. This problem is that just the dog’s presence scares the adult birds off, leaving the nest or chicks vulnerable to cold or predators. So, if you’re walking in the countryside, do the wildlife a favour and keep your dog close by- at heel or on a lead- and enjoy a warm, happy feeling of doing right by the wildlife around you.

Bird will nest even close to paths

Birds will nest even close to paths – the downward pointing arrow is the path, the right- facing arrow is a robin’s nest

And this robin had already laid 3 eggs in the nest.

And this robin had already laid 3 eggs in the nest.

 

 

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