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Nature Notes - Feb-Mar 2017

20 February to 19 March 2017

Spring is well and truly underway and although we continue to have inclement weather (more to come too, undoubtedly) the days are lengthening and this is triggering plant growth and the start of the breeding season for many birds. The massive turbulence of Storm Doris on 23 February was followed by an unsettled, breezy period but this is not unusual for the time of year, I suppose, and gradually the weather is improving.

The first frog spawn of the year is always something noteworthy for me – and the frogs have abandoned my pond this year, possibly because of clearing over the winter. Sally and Jem G report their first spawn appearing around 27 February, which is fairly early. I never hear any reports of breeding toads locally, I’d be fascinated to know if anyone has these amphibians in their garden? Toads are similar to frogs but have a warty skin (unlike the frog’s smooth skin) and crawl rather jump, because they have far shorter back legs. Their spawn is like that of the frog – but in long, thin strings rather than clumps.

Insects have been showing, too. In mid February I watched a Honey Bee feeding on daphne flowers in my garden and more recently on 15 March two bees have been taking nectar from open crocus flowers. My first Bumble Bee (can’t be more specific I’m afraid, I’m not a bee expert!) was disturbed from the lawn grass as I planted snowdrop bulbs on 19 March. There were also 2 or 3 “brown” butterflies in the warm sunshine on 15 March – seen from the house, species uncertain.

In other news:-

  • Later than Malcolm M’s, my local Song Thrush started singing in earnest around 7 March and the first persistent Blackbird song I heard round the garden was on 12 March.

  • Over the last few weeks, Roger and Sally P have watched up to 5 Redpoll visiting their feeders, accompanied by a Linnet. Their Bullfinches are still around too, none have appeared in my garden for a good few weeks now.

  • I heard my first Chiffchaff of the spring today (19 March), the first of the sub-Saharan warblers to arrive, as usual. This is also one of a small number of birds with an onomatopoeic name!

  • Nigel P also reports an early Skylark singing near Green Lane on 15 March

  • I have regularly been hearing a “yaffling” Green Woodpecker to the west of the village over the last few weeks, a very distinctive call which always sounds to me a little like a hawk or falcon.

  • Mark H reports calling lapwings (hopefully preparing to nest) in the fields near Beswicks Lane. Another onomatopoeic bird – under the alternative name of Peewit.

Thanks for your reports, keep them coming in.

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