Monday, 16 March 2009

Birds, Bees, Butterflies and every Corvid

Many bloggers have posted great stuff about the arrival of spring this weekend. At last it felt like we were getting rid of this long winter. Which explains of course why my head this morning looks like a ripe tomato..... I'll never learn, wear a hat in the spring sunshine.

What this glorious weather did do of course is bring out the wildlife en masse. I think it is the arrival of insects in the countryside which really starts to move the year on. Certainly there were a lot of Queen bumblers droning about yesterday. I also spied 3 different species of butterfly, 3 Brimstones, half a dozen Small Tortoiseshell and at one point one of these was next to a newly emerged from hibernation Peacock. Would have made a fabulous photograph if they hadn't flown off just as I got the camera ready.

There was also a lovely bit of behaviour with one of the Brimstones as a House Sparrow tried to catch it on the wing, watched this for a while until the Brimstone left uneaten to live another day.

Yesterday was glorious so a friend and I went on a nature ramble in Dorset. I'll not say exactly where as this involves a Badger site not far from houses. Save to say it was a "reet canny walk".......... off we go then!!

The walk began in a wide footpath with overgrown hedges. These were alive with birds doing what birds do in the spring, the lads showing off to the girls. Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Tit and Robin were everywhere. As were one of my favourite birds the classic Little Brown Job, the Dunnock. Normally fairly secretive, they do sing from perches as this one was. In the same bush were 2 others having a bit of a flirtatious time with their constant wing flicking, which is why some older people call this a Shufflewing.

Walking through the village to the woods, many chimney pots had Jackdaws nest building. I watched this pair for ages, as they were collecting nesting materiel from the roof. Lovely bit of pair bonding going on while the male passed items to the female. In the distance is a Rookery and this is where I was heading

But en route spotted this very common moss, Bryum capillare on a wall

Into the Rookery by the church the noise was deafening. Also the Rooks were not that good at nest building; or as my companion said, they're dropping more than they're using. We watched these for about 10 minutes and isn't it just amazing how entertaining the Crow family are. I love crows and just feel uplifted watching their squabbling and messing about, especially this time of the year. I wonder if they minded me photographing their bottoms?

This part of the walk took us past an ancient stone wall, absolutely covered in plants. I think I'll do another posting one day about the value of stone walls for wildlife, but for the moment a photo of Navelwort, named after the dimple in the centre of each leaf. This one was producing it's strange flower spike. Like all members of the sedum family these fleshy leaves store water and help it survive periods of drought, which is why it's often found on old stone walls growing in very little soil.

Speaking of water, this area has a spring fed water trough, so an arty shot of cold, spring derived water on a warm spring day.

Just around the corner from this we were greeted with a carpet of yellow Lesser Celendines in flower. It just lifts the spirits seeing this blast of colour.

But eventually we got into an ancient woodland. Quite an interesting place really, as although classic mixed deciduous Ash and Hazel woodland, at some point it must have been enclosed as there are old stone walls running through it, quite a bit of Laurel at one end and now seems to be used by mountain bikers. Which was interesting, the path snaking through the wood was wide and full of jumps, but off the path the woodland was pretty much as it should be.

Quite a bit of it seems to be coppiced and this gave a wonderful mix of lower and upper story habitats, but open for ground loving plants, such as these Violets, which were present in both blue and white form, or the Dogs-Mercury below.

Bluebells were starting to come through, Aliums, and a whole host of other plants, emerging into the spring sunshine, such as these Wood Anemonies, not quite in flower, but just as beautiful in the green.

The woods were absolutely alive with birds, usual Great and Blue Tits everywhere, but a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling, as were a pair of Jay's with their harsh call, though I never managed to get a good look at them. Which made me realise we'd now seen nearly every member of the Crow family on this walk, except Raven, Hooded Crow and Chough, and the latter two I'd not see in Dorset anyway...... more about this at the bottom of this posting.

I tried to get a decent photo of this Nuthatch, one of 2 on this tree, but it was a bit far away really. Oh well a record shot I suppose. They were calling continuously. One bird I didn't see was a Treecreeper which was slightly surprising, but we can't win them all.

I did however find a huge Badger Sett, with this entrance being very freshly dug out, or at least having a spring clean, so I know it's active and why I'm not saying where this walk was given the woods are also used by mountain bikers. Can't really see this in the photo but a lot of green vegetation was mixed into the spoil. It was while looking around the Badger domicile I spotted what I'm pretty certain is a common Carder-Bee, Bombus pascuorum. I should know this but there was something about it which made me think it wasn't.

We'd been out 2 hours now, so time to walk back home, which brought us back into the glorious sunshine, and past a lot of Mistletoe on fruit trees in a farm.

Finally back home we were relaxing with a cuppa in the garden, more Small Tortoiseshells there, when Baxter (who acts as tour guide on all our walks) heard a commotion overhead. Before even looking up, I knew what was going on as that deep Cronk Cronk was heard. 3 or 4 Carrion crow were hassling a Raven as it flew over the house. Quite a few Raven up on the ridges only a few miles as the crow flies from where I was. Brilliant, I couldn't recall seeing a Magpie today, but they're everywhere and often don't register, but that Raven meant that every Corvid possible in Dorset was seen in 3 hours, and a confirmed Magpie in the garden not long afterwards. Fantastic.

Certainly Baxter was very happy with his walk and spent the rest of the day relaxing in the garden. Well he only has little legs. There will be more from him later in the year, as he has his own blog now.


  1. Looks like you had a great day out. An enjoyable mix of reading matter and photographs.

  2. Andrew,
    What a wonderful Nature walk I have shared with you! I loved every moment of it, you observed such a rich variety of things and lots of lovely photos for us to share.

    I haven't seen any butterflies in our area yet but several Bumble Bees have 'cruised' across the garden in the last couple of days.

    Thanks for a lovely post.

  3. We have almost forgotten that the BEST things in life are free! Your blog reminds us of the beauty around us in everyday life!

  4. We all await the arrival of the migrant birds, Andrew. But, for me,like you, the emerging inverts seem to signal the real sense of spring.
    Excellent post.

  5. Now that, is some walk!! I hope we get some small tortoishells this year, last year they were very few and far between

  6. Lovely walk in the spring with you this morning, as we go into autumnal mode. I have just finished reading the book 'Corvus: My life with birds' that you might enjoy. Written by a Scottish lady... I've loaned the book to a friend and can't remember her name but if you are interested I will find it out.

  7. Hi all, thanks for the comments.

    Midmarsh, Glad you liked the topic, quite hard to know what to write which will interest people.

    ShySongbird: writing a blog has made me even more observent. a great joy to just stop and stare

    IndianWLC : I couldn't agree more, what is around us is very special, and above all Free.

    Dean : I have a lot to learn about Inverts, mammals were always my thing in the past.

    Warren : thanks, hope you're lucky this year.

    Gilly : you've reminded me about this book, it's by Esther Woolfson. It's my birthday in a fortnight, may drop some subtle hints. Have you heard anything about Pav recently?

  8. Pav was returned to me Andrew.. his new home didn't work out. I haven't had any further good homes offered so he remains. He is settling in fairly good now and if I keep to a routine with him, he is not toooo much trouble :) After seeing 3 dead pukeko on the road about 3 ks from us, at least he lives a safe life with us although a little restricted. But he certainly seems happy enough here and he is quite a character :)

    Hope you get the book for your birthday - I loved it.

  9. Thanks Gilly, I had a peek at your blog and there he was. should have looed before my comment. I'm sure you'll look after him very well.

  10. Hey there Andrew, what a great read. I sat in a car park tonight (waiting for daughter to finish a class) and read through this on my new phone!

    Now... one thing did get my attention. I too love the dunnocks and just a few days ago thought I saw a parent being followed by two young furiously flapping their wings. I am guessing I could be wrong with that assumption. Could you perhaps elaborate on what I may have actually seen?

    Oh... thanks for the peacock mentions too... I'll keep an eye out for them now too. Have a great week :-D

  11. I feel like I was walking there too, great walk but I'm tired now....need to put the feet up!

  12. Great post, Anvdrew. The book sounds as one I would love to share with JJ, LOL.

    Haven't seen my Dunnocks lately, perhaps there is something brewing in the air?

  13. Hi Shirl, dunnocks are remarkable birds but mainly overlooked, I'll drop you a line seperately to this.

    Goosey - hope you're rested now

    Yoke, ahh yes, how is JJ? Good to know we corvid lovers are out there

  14. Enjoyed the pictures very much. Seeing them is getting me excited for spring to arrive here.

  15. Have you painted that house yet Oldcrow??? Glad they gave you a bit of a "spring" in your step :-)