Tuesday, 4 April 2017

3rd April - I'll Walk Out In The Flowers And Feel Better

And so we move into April, a quarter of the year gone already and spring well and truly with us.  Hawthorn and Blackthorn blossom have turned the hedges and woods into a white mass, and all around there are wild flowers appearing.  The weather too has been heart warming, blue skies and plenty of sunshine, and it was the late afternoon sun that encouraged Helen and I to head out.

Before we left though a quick walk around the garden to admire the Snake's Head Fritillaries that have just started to flower as the Daffodils die back.  I planted these last year as bulbs, and this year they have spread and are putting on a lovely show.  They are also a big attraction to the White-tailed Bumblebees that disappear right inside the flower head.


Like the butterflies the flower gets its name from the chequered appearance on the petals.  We headed along Brislands into the sunshine.  Ahead of us the light was catching the moss on the boughs of the oak trees that stretch out over the road.


As is usual at this time of year in fair weather the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes could be heard singing, proclaiming both their territories and probably the fact that they have a mate brooding eggs.

s we came out into the open fields of Brislands a Buzzard flew out of the last tree, sending alarm calls from within the hedgerow.  It settled in the middle of the field, then almost immediately flew up, and was joined by another.  They then proceeded to circle to gain height flying close to each other as they did so.


The field to our left is just beginning to see the small shoots of green appear, and dotted around the field were small groups of feral pigeons.  Some looked like they had come from the cote at the bottom of Blackberry Lane, but their were others that may very well have dropped in on their way back to their home areas.

Walking down the path into Old Down Wood we could see that the Bluebell shoots are now very well developed, and in places where the sun could get through there were the first signs of flowers.


At this time of year with there no leaves on the trees to speak of the light floods the floor of the wood and the flowers rule.  In sunny spots there are the Lesser Celandines, and these now have been joined by the Wood Anemones, small white flowers with yellow stamens that are open in the sunshine, but close as the light reduces.  There was sufficient light about as we walked through the wood for these to be in full flower.
  


The Wood Anemones are quite widespread and common, but there is another white flower that also flowers at this time but is harder to find.  It is easier to look for the leaves, around clumps of moss, which are a lovely lime green, and shaped very much like a clover leaf.  This is the Wood Sorrel, and I did manage to find one in flower, but not quite fully out.


The leaves are described as having a trefoil shape, and like the flower itself, they will fold up in the darker light too. 

We walked around the perimeter path through a lovely carpet of Bluebell shoots, in a few months time this will be an amazing show of blue flowers.  Above us one of the many singing Chiffchaffs moved through the bare branches.


the path lead us onto the main east west path of the wood, and we headed towards the crossroads.  I came across yet another white flower, this time the Field Mouse Ear.  It is
a kind of chickweed with tiny white flowers that is found in all kinds of habitats all over the UK, from gardens to grasslands, waste grounds to walls. It flowers from April to September and its thought that its seeds can last in the soil for up to 40 years. 


We wanted to check on the Tawny Owl, but above us we could hear the Raven pair calling to each other.  For such a large black bird they were able to hide very succesfully in the top of the Larch trees, and we only knew they were there when there was a short brief view or they were calling.

I checked the owl tree and I could see that there was one present.  With the Ravens about I didn't want to disturb the owl so we backed away.  However last week when we came into the wood we did manage to see one quite well.  I was able to take this photograph.


As we did move though the owl left the tree and flew away to a chorus of alarm calls.  What surprised us then was that another owl then left the tree and followed it.  If you look closely at the picture, you will see on the right of the photograph another owl, given away by the talons on the branch.

This is a bit of a concern, because it would be unusual to see two together like this at this time of year.  The female would well into brooding the eggs in the nest hole, and with two together they must be a pair, no Tawny Owl would allow anyone but its mate to be so close.  Fast forward and with the presence of the Ravens so close has that been a factor?  I couldn't see a second bird today, so was it also just the female taking a break from her duties.  I will really never know, but will continue to keep an eye on both the owls and the ravens.

It has been quite a good time over the last few weeks for owl sighting away from Four Marks, you can find the details here.

We walked on through the wood coming out on the main path towards Old Down Cottage.  Chiffchaffs continued to sing all around us, and Goldfinches could be heard at the top of the Larch trees.  As we reached the entrance there was a really large carpet of Wood Anemones taking in the last of the sunshine.  I can recall a really good carpet of Bluebells here, but never a comparable one of anemones.


We walked on to the pond, and stopped to take in the reflections around the edge of the pond.  A single drake mallard swam across and hauled out to waddle into the small pond.  Around the edge of the pond in the marshy areas Cuckoo flower, or Lady's Smock was flowering.



It's pale pink flowers are in bloom from April to June and are thought to coincide with the arrival of the first cuckoo - a sure sign that spring has arrived at last.  It is also an important food source for the Orange Tip butterfly, so they will be about soon.

Just as we were about to move on I caught some movement in the small trees by the side of the pond.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared in the small branches, it was only there for a brief moment, and then was off across the pond.


Walking along the road there were more flowers by the side of the road, a small clump of Forget-Me-Nots.


While in the shadier,darker areas some delicate violets.


Ahead of us a Song Thrush was in full song, normally they are either hard to find in the tree or they fly away on approach, but this one was very visible.


And it also allowed me to get closer.


We walked and headed home with the Blackbirds still in song all around us.  As we reached the house, the Starlings that would until recently been gathering on the TV aerials and the trees, were now split up, and the males singing from positions close to their nest sites.


Unfortunately the weather will not be so kind for the next few days, but there is dryer spell to follow, and hopefully some more sunshine.  The flowers are abundant both specifically and in quantity right now and it is a case of enjoying them while you can because soon both the bracken and the bramble plus the tree canopy will over run them

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