We were away over the Bank Holiday in Suffolk. The reports will be added over the next few days here on the Away Blog
Over the last few days we have had weather associated more with autumn than spring, high winds and blustery heavy showers. Today though the winds have eased and varying amounts of cloud through the morning. By lunchtime the sun was winning out, and it felt quite warm. there was definitely the potential for butterflies so I decided to head to Swelling Hill, and then a walk around Old Down Wood.
There was nothing on the water as I pulled up. Worryingly the area around the Moorhen nest was full of muddy footprints. I checked the nest and it was empty. Had the eggs hatched or had the nest been abandoned?
I walked around the pond, and found both the Coot and drake Mallard at the far end of the pond. As I crossed the small bridge there was a loud call, and I saw movement amongst the Bogbean. The movement became a black blur which then turned into a Moorhen chick.
Both adult birds then appeared, what I assume was the male flew off as if scared and went down in a clump of Iris. The female swam out calling in alarm, the two young chicks stayed where they were, so I can only assume that the call was to tell them to do just that, and to distract me away from them.
There were at least five eggs, but I could only find two chicks, so she has already lost three. The remaining chicks do not look very old, so they can only recently have hatched so I wonder who has taken the three.
The Coot seems to be quite settled here now, but it was a little concerned about all the activity.
I walked around the pond, at the back a Chiffchaff sang, and I could also make out at least two Blackcaps. Every so often a Green Woodpecker would call, adding to the scene.
On the Periwinkle bank Bee Flies were hovering around the flowers, and settling on the leaves both dead and alive. I love the pattern on the wings of the Bee Fly.
Close to the bank there were small groups of tadpoles, the first I have seen this year.
I left the pond and started off towards the wood, one of the singing Blackcaps was singing in a bush close to the road.
With the warmth and sunshine I decided to walk along the open rides. Immediately I came across a male Brimstone, and for once it stopped on one of the bluebells.
It quickly became clear that butterflies were moving about, following the Brimstone was a Peacock, again settling on the Bluebells.
And then my first Large White of the year, again, the Bluebells the attraction.
I turned on to the east west path, this as are a lot of the paths now is very open, and was covered in sunshine. Butterflies were flying every where including Orange Tips and Small Whites. I would say that there were more butterflies about than I can recall over the last few years at this time of year.
The Bluebells were looking splendid, the blue deep and vivid.
The leaves have come on fast over the last week. Looking out across the fields the trees in the distance were covered with various shades of greens and browns, the sunshine enhancing and picking them out.
The fields left without grazing animals have become covered in Dandelions, both flowering and in seed.
At the West End a patch of Ransoms was providing a good spot for a nectaring Bumblebee.
Looking out from the West End, the greens within the distant trees were highlighted by the vivid yellow of the Rapeseed.
Another Blackcap was singing in one of the Oak trees at the edge of the wood.
This end of the wood has been opened up to light, whereas before it was a dark and dismal place, now the light is enhancing the bluebells, and seems to have breathed life into the Ransoms with large clumps mixing in with the Bluebells.
I had decided to walk the perimeter path in the hope of finding the Early Purple Orchids, I was not to be disappointed. As I headed towards the spot there was a purple spike standing out in the sunshine.
There were two flowering spikes all in excellent condition, probably the best I have seen them.
Another two were just emerging, the flowers just developing. In the past I have seen only two flowers here, so to find at least four was promising.
I walked a little further and stopped once again to admire the carpet of Bluebells stretching into the Hazel trees.
A little further on was a clearing created by the winter forestry work. While not a full carpet the scene was quite impressive.
I carried on around the path, and came upon another group of Early Purple Orchids, this was by far more than I have seen here in the wood.
I have walked this path for the last four years, searching this area for orchids and never finding them so it was really pleasing to see this clump, but even more pleasing when I came across another group a little further on.
Three distinct groups of Early Purple Orchids was an amazing find when you consider for the last four years the one group I did find struggled. Whether this is due to the increased light that was now reaching the floor of the wood I don't know, but they are a welcome sight.
Another flower that is doing very well in the wood is the Field Mouse Ear. Like the Ransoms it is mixing with the Bluebells to produce a welcome scene.
More Bluebell carpets greeted me as I made my way to the main footpath again.
Butterflies were still moving everywhere, but most of them would not settle. Birds were singing, I could hear Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Robin Wren and even a Garden Warbler that avoided me. The one bird missing is still the Willow Warbler, hopefully they are present around the Plain Farm area.
I headed down the main path and then turned towards the Gradwell exit. However rather than head out of the wood I turned back onto the south perimeter path, and then back up the footpath. Along the way I stopped to photograph this, any idea what is in here?
I headed back towards the Old Down Cottage entrance. The path here has filtered sunshine with plenty of shadows. I thought this might be a good place for a Speckled Wood butterfly and was proved to be right as I found one sitting on a dead leaf in a patch of sunshine.
Jays seem to have been following me as I walked around the wood but they would fly off when I tried to photograph them. This one almost let me get a photograph.
Back at the pond I walked around the primrose Bank, it was now in sunshine, and while there were no butterflies about there were several different insects, all of which I have struggled to identify.
First up was this bee busy pollinating this Archangel.
The petals of the flowers are shaped such that they for a roof that rubs on to the back of the bee.
Nest was this fly that I think is a type of Caddis Fly.
Then finally this wasp or fly, it may be a type of Saw Fly.
A short but very rewarding walk with plenty of butterflies about, some incredible displays of Blue bells, and of course the high numbers of Early Purple Orchids. I was critical of the recent forestry work, but it does seem that allowing the light in by thinning out the trees has benefited the flowers and butterflies, I am looking forward to seeing what the summer brings, it already looks like it will be an incredible show of Foxgloves.