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Nature Notes - Apr-May 2017

Norton Nature Notes 20 April to 19 May 2017

Spring has now well and truly sprung and everything around us in the gardens and in the fields and woods is growing at a prodigious rate. A pretty dry period has ended recently and the rainfall has helped plant growth.

From what I’ve seen, it has been “oak before ash” this year (oak trees have come into leaf before ash trees) which, according to country lore (if I’ve got it the right way round), means that it won’t be a wet summer, we’re just “in for a splash”. On the other hand “ash before oak” would have signified that we were “in for a soak”. So there you have it. Oak and ash typically come into leaf far later than most other trees, particularly non-native ones.

My main news this last month has been hedgehog based. Over the last 2 weeks we’ve regularly seen two hedgehogs behaving rather oddly on our back patio – one slightly darker and more grey looking has been circling and “nosing” and prodding the slightly lighter, browner looking creature, night after night. Research confirms (obviously, I suppose) that this is courting behaviour, the pro active hog being the male. The colouration is different but there is no massively obvious size difference. All this is accompanied by much snuffling and grunting. It is hard to tell the source of the noise but the books say it is often the female rather than the male. I haven’t witnessed the natural conclusion to all this flirting, though I’m sure it must be something undertaken with great care, but assuming things got to that stage, I can expect small hoglets to be produced 37 days later (mid/late June) and hopefully they will appear in our garden shortly afterwards. We had small hedgehogs in the garden, with mother, last year and I was surprised at how soon she was driving them off to fend for themselves. We try to help them out a little with cat food and meal worms but the recent wetter weather will no doubt have helped the hogs in their search for worms and slugs, their natural food.

There is plenty of bird nesting activity going on and I can now hear recently hatched tits in two of my boxes. They will probably fledge in the nest 2 to 3 weeks.

Reports have been thin on the ground this month, but Graham N tells me that he had Goldfinch chicks fledging (ie. flying the nest) in his garden as early as 8 May, which is remarkable. Goldfinches typically have a very open nest so the dry weather earlier in Spring will have suited them and there must be a good supply of food nearby.

Keep the reports coming in, I do welcome them.

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