Well, lots to talk about since my last blog post, even though it's only been a couple of weeks. It's been a mixed bag on the weather side of things, with an extended spell of north-easterly winds giving a couple of weeks of largely dry, often fine but chilly weather. Now the winds are back in the south/south-west and after the warmest day of the year so far on Good Friday we're now back to rather damp and unsettled for the Easter weekend. Still, there are signs of new life bursting forth all over the arboretum now.
As happened this time last year the north-easterly winds have rather held back some of the spring migrant birds, but this past week or so the first Chiffchaffs have begun returning, and just this morning I noted at least five around the arboretum, some occasionally singing their eponymous song, despite the foul weather.
|Chiffchaff - Ann Jacobs|
Another bird we tend to see more of at this time of year, Pochards have been present throughout the month on Rowe's Flashe Lake, and in varying numbers, peaking at five on the 8th and the 10th. Volunteer Ann Jacobs captured these great pictures of one of the drakes, including one of him in mid-dive!
|Pochard - Ann Jacobs|
Also making more regular appearances at Rowe's Flashe recently have been a couple of Kingfishers, which Ann again managed to photograph on the 22nd.
|Kingfishers - Ann Jacobs|
The other star bird which has been receiving a fair amount of photographic attention is the Firecrest that's been seen on and off near the boathouse. Both John Rowland and Richard Waters managed to get some lovely shots.
|Firecrest - Richard Waters|
|Firecrest - Richard Waters|
|Firecrest - John Rowland|
Water Rails are being heard more regularly again in the Phillimore Wetland, and there were definitely two present on the 8th and the 13th. We now appear to have a regular pair of Red-legged Partridge hanging around which I've seen near the boathouse or in a Bluebell Wood a few times recently. Makes a change from the ubiquitous Pheasants!
|Red-legged Partridge - Matt Phelps|
If you've walked through the upper arboretum in the past week or two you may have noticed a lot of birds flying up from the ground around you. These are the gathering Redwings feeding up and preparing to head back to Scandinavia and Russia for the breeding season. On sunnier days they have been particularly chattery, even singing occasionally.
While migrant birds are busying themselves arriving and departing, many of our resident species are already getting into the business of nest building and breeding. I stumbled across this Long-tailed Tit nest the other day. Such incredible engineering to build something like this out of moss and lichen!
|Long-tailed Tit nest - Matt Phelps|
On Good Friday there appeared to be some raptor migration going on, with at least 4-5 Buzzards flying purposefully north, a Red Kite south and a female Goshawk moving powerfully north/north-west which Ed Stubbs later picked up at considerable height over Allden's Hill just to the north of the arboretum. There have been occasional sightings of Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, while single Peregrines were seen on the 13th and the 22nd.
|Buzzard - Ann Jacobs|
The sunshine in the past week or two has been enough to coax out the first of the hibernating butterflies. On the 13th I saw a Peacock, while on the 17th I saw my first Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell of the year. The most remarkable lepidopteran moment recently though was the Humming-bird Hawk-moth I stumbled across nectaring on Daffodils near the Winter Garden on the 13th. I had only ever previously seen this species in mid to late summer as it tends to migrate up from the continent. I can only assume this individual had hibernated nearby.
|Humming-bird Hawk-moth - Matt Phelps|
Butterflies and moths aren't the only winged insects springing back to life with the onset of spring, as there are now plenty of bumblebees and honey bees to be seen out on the early flowering plants and, much like the bees, Ann Jacobs has been busy photographing them.
|Buff-tailed Bumblebee - Ann Jacobs|
|Honey bee - Ann Jacobs|
|Roe buck - Ann Jacobs|