A slightly longer gap between blog posts than usual as I’ve been away for a week on the Outer Hebrides. It was rather chilly up there, as you might imagine, but I gather it’s not exactly been tropical down here in Surrey either! Nonetheless, the arboretum is looking wonderful at the moment, the many vibrant and fresh greens providing the perfect backdrop for the multitude of flowers on the trees and shrubs. The wild flowers too are starting to put on a great show, from the delicate pinks and blues of Vetches and Speedwells to the bright yellows of Irises and Meadow Buttercups and the striking white of Ox-eye Daisies. The Bluebells may be all but over but in the more wooded areas of the arboretum the first Foxgloves are beginning to flower.
There is much new life to be found in the bird population in the arboretum too, Rowe’s Flashe Lake is now teeming with young Mallards, as well as several Canada goslings and a few Mandarin ducklings. This female Mandarin was vigilantly guarding her young on the edge of the meadow on the 30th.
Meanwhile Coots and Little Grebes are still on nests towards the southern end of the lake, while Moorhens are nesting right in front of the boathouse balcony, the eggs clearly visible when the adult bird vacates its position.
There are currently at least three active Great Spotted Woodpecker nests around the arboretum – in Bluebell Wood, at the top of the Spring Walk near the Viewing Platform, and by the path that runs between Holly Wood and Magnolia Wood. The latter is the easiest one to find because of its proximity to the path, and on the 26th I captured this brief bit of footage of the female bird bringing food to the noisy nestlings...
Jackdaws, too, are nesting all over the place, with clearly well-grown nestlings calling from various trees holes in Bluebell Wood. Meanwhile, on the slopes below the Owl Bench there are various Blackcap and Chiffchaff nests in the bracken and brambles.
In addition to the ducklings and goslings on the lake, I have started seeing juvenile Robins and Blackbirds around recently, as well as several family groups of Long-tailed Tits. On the morning of the 31st, I stumbled across a female Mallard on the gabions at Rowe’s Flashe Lake with all her ducklings taking shelter from the rain underneath her.
Other highlights from the past couple of weeks have included the first Hobby of the year, over Rowe's Flashe Lake briefly on the 26th and the first dragonfly I've seen here this year, an Emperor, hawking about over the slopes of Sorbus Hill on the 30th.
Another striking insect to look out for is the Scorpion Fly (Panorpa sp.) - there are plenty of them around at the moment, like this one I photographed out on Sorbus Hill on the 30th.
While out strimming and blowing paths with volunteers on the 26th I filmed this Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma sp.) ovipositing (egg-laying). I thought it looked a bit like it was on a pogo stick!
Finally on the 'cool bugs' list for this blog post is the Violet Ground Beetle (Carabus violaceus) I spotted in the Badger's Bowl on the 30th. A common enough species but always nice to see.