Monday, 8 June 2015

7th June - They Were Long and Clear

A beautiful morning, if still a little cool with the north westerly breeze.  Early starts are not necessary  as we have entered the dreaded time of early June.  The birds are all hidden away in the leaf canopy absorbed in looking after fledged young.  The rush of spring flowers has abated as grasses grow tall, and Bramble snakes over the forest floor covering any open space.  The spring butterflies are now giving way to the summer species but there is always a gap and that can mean almost nothing is about.  

It looks like I have missed out on the Holly Blue butterfly this year, and I haven't heard a Willow Warbler anywhere.  the chances of a Holly Blue are very slim now but hopefully there is still some places to look for Willow Warbler.

Today though I wanted to give the woods one more chance to look for the Roe Deer family that has also been avoiding me this year.  Helen and I set off late morning and walked along Brislands in the sunshine with a couple of Song Thrush singing, but no sign of any butterflies.

Turning into Gradwell the Jackdaw were calling from the top of the chimney pots where they probably have a nest.  This one was looking down while deep in conversation with its partner probably on the nest.

From Gradwell we took the path into Old Down.  I disturbed a Red Admiral that was sunning on the bare earth, a good sign?

Crossing into Old Down the sky to the north looked beautiful, full of little fluffy clouds in a sky that demonstrated a range of blue.  The  Four Trees can be seen in the left hand bottom corner.

As we entered Old Down it struck me how quiet it was, the usual song of the Chiffchaff no longer there.  Away in the distance though there was always the song of the Wren, this years success story in the woods.

A while ago I photographed the Larch tree branch and how the cones were beginning to form.  Today they looked different again, with a lime green fleshy look and signs of sap appearing.  We both could not recall seeing them like this, but this branch is quite low and has allowed the chance to see the fresh new cones.

As we came out into the open area there was the increased noise of young birds, as well as Blue Tits and Great Tits there was also a lot of Long-tailed Tit activity, this adult was busy scouring the oak leaves for possible caterpillars.

While this young bird was busy preening.

Not quite got the hang of the look yet.

Looking across the open part of the wood here, where the larches have been thinned out it reminds me of the scene from Jurassic Park when the first dinosaurs are seen, the long thin trunks of the larch representing the long necks of the Brachiosaurus that were grazing on the trees and swimming in the lake

I know it takes some imagination, but hey!  Its early June.

we headed of the main path and looped around on the southern perimeter path.  Foxglove spikes could be seen everywhere, but there were only a few with the pink petals showing.

From the perimeter path we crossed over the main path and then carried on around towards the west.  The kestrel was not in its nest box, and we could hear one calling from the trees above us.

Here the quest was the deer, but apart from trails in the long grass they could not be seen.

It was now just gone midday and the sun in sheltered spots was quite warm.  Hoping to see butterflies in he open rides we headed back towards the crossroads.  There was just a couple f butterflies and they were both Speckled Woods, one sitting nicely on a bramble leaf.

A little further on the buzzing of bees became quite strong and looking up we found a large swarm of bees on one of the branches of a beech tree.  Swarming is the process by which a new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. I am not sure how many there are here but I wouldn't think it was tens of thousands.

Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies. In the process of swarming the original single colony reproduces to two and sometimes more colonies.

Worker bees create queen cups throughout the year. When the hive gets ready to swarm the queen lays eggs into the queen cups. New queens are raised and the hive may swarm as soon as the queen cells are capped and before the new virgin queens emerge from their queen cells. A laying queen is too heavy to fly long distances. Therefore, the workers will stop feeding her before the anticipated swarm date and the queen will stop laying eggs. Swarming creates an interruption in the brood cycle of the original colony. 

During the swarm preparation, scout bees will simply find a nearby location for the swarm to cluster. When a honey bee swarm emerges from a hive they do not fly far at first. They may gather in a tree or on a branch only a few metres from the hive. There, they cluster about the queen and send 20 - 50 scout bees out to find suitable new nest locations. This intermediate stop is not for permanent habitation and they will normally leave within a few hours to a suitable location. It is from this temporary location that the cluster will determine the final nest site based on the level of excitement of the dances of the scout bees. It is unusual if a swarm clusters for more than three days at an intermediate stop.

Leaving the bees we turned off towards Old Down Cottage.  The path here is now very open and in the sunshine a very light and warm area.  Very soon a couple more Speckled Woods passed and this female Brimstone that settled on a Pink Campion.  It is nearing the end of the Brimstone's first flight season so this female was probably looking for somewhere to lay eggs.

In the sheltered spots the Bramble and the Foxgloves are beginning to flower much to the delight of the Bumblebees.  I got in close to one of the petals just after a bee had entered, and you can see how deep they go in.

Then it came out and you can see the pollen on the thorax.

As you can see the spikes of the foxgloves are quite dense here, if the weather holds and we have plenty of sunshine I would expect the flowers will be out in force by the next weekend.

We left the wood and headed off in the direction of the pond.  The fishing close season ended at the end of May, and there were quite a few fisherman around the pond.  As a result we decided not to walk around but just watched for a short while from the road.

Just like Thursday there was a large Hornet flying over the water and even settling on the lily pads.  Just above the surface of the water were lots of small flying insects and I can only suspect it was hunting these.

There was no sign of any dragonflies, or even damselflies.

As we walked towards Kitwood a Song Thrush was in full song above us.  It must have another brood nearby.  Perched high in a Holly tree for once it was visible.

At Kitwood I stopped to look at the small flower meadow, and at the back I picked up a Small Heath butterfly.  I watched it with binoculars as it drifted away from view.  Nice to see but I would like a closer one.

We then walked through Homestead Farm.  All the fields have been left to grow, and there were buttercups and flowering grasses but probably not enough flowers yet for the butterflies.  As a result it was just a walk with little to show for it.

We crossed the road and headed up the hill past the Shetland Ponies.  There were the calls of young Blue Tits from the hedges and as we reached the top an adult appeared on one of the fence posts again with the now common pose caterpillar in beak.

And that was basically it.  we stopped at the garden centre for a drink and something to eat, then walked down through the field to Blackberry.  The owner has finally fenced off the footpath meaning that it will now not be possible to get close to the butterflies, this has been a great spot for Marbled White, Common Blue and Small Copper.  On a positive not though the field on the other side has been left to grow so maybe the spotted orchids will have a chance at the end of the month.

The walk had not been scintillating in terms of things to see, but there are always one or two things that can brighten things up, and the bees and the distant Small Heath were nice.  During the afternoon as we sat in the garden a Blue butterfly appeared around the hydrangeas.  Helen commented that we had been looking for one on of those all morning, and I like she assumed it was a Common Blue.  But, when it settled it turned out it wasn't, it was in fact a Holly Blue!  Who would have believed it?  Now for the Willow Warbler and the Roe Deer family!.

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