Out in the woods
We're seeing more wildlife activity as the weather warms. The first butterflies, a brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) and a peacock (Aglais io) have been seen fluttering through the trees. Queens of the big bumblebee, (Bombus terrestris), are quartering the woodland floor in their search for nesting sites, hoping to find the old hole of a mouse or vole. There are plenty of small holes to find in the woods, so they ought to be successful. Last year, I followed a queen bumblebee for half an hour as she weaved her way across a large area of the wood, dipping under leaves and emerging again many times, finally crawling into a hole and staying there.
Felling has stopped now that spring is here and the birds are starting to nest. Some will be using the brash mounds, evidenced by the number of birds' nests we've found over the autumn and winter. A felled larch (Larix decidua) had the attention of a field vole (Microtus agrestis) last week and Karl watched the tiny mammal's acrobatics as it climbed amongst the fallen branches picking out flower buds to chew on. Moving a stem, little puffs of pollen drifted up from the opening flowers. They must be full of sweetness and protein, a good meal for a vole, though this one seemed to have made a feast. I'm not aware of voles being good climbers so the felled larch full of flower buds will have presented a good opportunity.
Circle of life
A European hornet (Vespa velutina) never woke from its hibernation spot under another log but was still identifiable under the questing threads of mycelium. Two weeks later, the mycelium had encased all but its legs and wings, breaking it down and taking the nutrients into the soil. There is now a tiny part of the woodland soil enriched by the body of a hornet, soon to become a nutrient-rich sip for some plant or tree. Others will join it, no doubt.
A toad was inadvertently woken from its slumber when a log was moved and revealed its winter quarters. Maybe it decided the time had come to get up because when we looked again a week or so later it had gone. In gardens, the frogs are up and busy, too, making their way to breeding sites. We'll see frog spawn before long.
Conversing with birds
At home, our regular birds are still reacting with eagerness to the word 'worms' but some new birds have been attempting to enter the same territory. When we appear, at the sound of the commotion as they squabble, the incumbent birds fly towards us while the outsiders hastily retreat. That birds fly to us, rather than away, is a great pleasure and worth the cost of distributing largesse in the form of mealworms. A part of me wishes we could talk to one another, but I suspect that Douglas Adams had it right when he wrote in 'Life, the Universe and Everything' about Arthur Dent's regret at learning the language of birds when he discovered that:
"their conversation was fantastically boring. It was all to do with wind speed, wing spans, power-to-weight ratios and a fair bit about berries."
Better perhaps to hear just the song and be glad of not understanding the content.
Please note: the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author, which are not necessarily those of the RHS.