Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Hunt of wild daffodils

THAT title is a bit of a fib, as we knew exactly where there is a healthy, though tiny, population of wild daffs is near us.  So off we went, wrapped up against a cold wind, for our dose of these delicate, little gems.  They are much more dainty than their showy garden cousins, but are stunning within their natural ancient woodland setting.

The site in question is in South Gloucestershire and is a nature reserve; our visits are usually later in spring and tie in with a broader set of flowering species.  At this earlier time the other main attractions were the lesser celandines, scattered primroses, wood spurge, and violets as well as early flowering wood anemones and sorrel.  The rosettes of early purple orchids, with their rounded, red-spotted leaves, were to be seen dotted here and there.

There were no butterflies or reptiles, but some territorial bird song
could be heard from thrushes and the occasional chiff-chaff.


What we did not expect was to see a flowering bluebell - in March!!!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

More Langford Lakes, Wiltshire

SATURDAY saw another bright spring day (eventually) at Langford Lakes and the stars of the show were the breeding birds.

The rookery up river was full of raucous goings on, but on the lake itself the great-crested grebes and the other nesting birds were the stars.  The grebes continue to display in their finery with the males barking loudly across the choppy waters.

The coots had laid a large clutch of eggs and nervously edged around the willow where the nest was, until at last one of them (the female?) sat down to brood.

Well hidden nest

A signature of spring is the bursting willow catkins, which many insects find an important food source.

Along the river a pair of grey wagtails were flitting around, chirping and chasing insects

In the mud a set of fresh tracks indicated that a water vole (or maybe less excitingly a brown rat) had been working the area for food.

Here are more of the grebe images:

Our smallest native species, a goldcrest, was seen flying from branch to branch, squabbling, calling and chasing its rival.  Its bright crest was raised in an aggressive pose.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Langford Lakes nature reserve

TODAY I ventured out to somewhere new - the rather wonderful Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's Langford Lakes Nature Reserve.  This site is made up of three former gravel pits (later fisheries) and a stretch of the Wylye River, bought by the Trust and turned into a wildlife haven.

I particularly wanted to capture a photo of a singing chiff-chaff in willow - I managed half of my aim.  With the sun beating down brightly, the butterflies of early spring were pretty abundant and very active.  The overwintering peacocks and small tortoiseshells fed on the nectar of the willow catkins, whereas the brimstones sought out the flowering primroses - never stopping for long at any one spot.

Small tortoiseshell

Great-crested grebes
The adjacent former water meadows are being developed into habitats for other wildlife.  It attracts waders, but on the day there were 30 little egrets.  Something spooked them and the sight of these ghostly forms circling in the sky was amazing and felt like a continental nature reserve.

Little egrets

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Something is a stirring in Somerset

THE wonderful bright sunshine today had a big impact on the wildlife - they were all at it!  The great-crested grebes, the Canada geese and even the goosanders were all kicking off the breeding season with gusto - even the bitterns were booming.  The first peacock butterflies were on the wing, bees and flies buzzed in search of rare pollen, with the lesser celandine, pussy willow and coltsfoot all answering the call.

What a difference from a few weeks ago.  Although the water levels remain noticeably high, they are certainly dropping to the north of the levels.

Great white egret
Goosander (male to right)

Frog's spawn

I also headed up to the Castle Combe area in Wiltshire.  As the light faded a roe deer fed out in the open, but was jittery and soon headed into the woodland.

Roe deer