Weather: wet, cool, light breeze.
Observers: Linda, Lindsay, Richard, Kaye
Plans for an in-depth area bird watch followed by a bug study had to be postponed because of increasingly heavy rain. Richard checked out his proposed transect and a couple of alternative sites, but found that even the woodlice had gone too deep into shelter for us to get valid results, and we were less than enthusiastic about wetter still to find slugs. Two of us went ahead with a more routine monitoring walk, but saw much less of anything than usual. On the plus side, we had a useful planning session as we dried off by the stove.
Birds: The usual Wood Pigeons were either loafing glumly as close to tree trunks as they could get, or taking off with an unhelpful clatter. Blackbirds were mostly scuttling in leaf litter, but the odd one sang defiantly, along with Chiffchaffs, Wrens, Blue and Great Tits, a couple of Robins and a Song Thrush. We eventually saw all the songsters except Chiffchaff, but have to admit not trying very hard for this one, because it wasn’t much fun standing with binoculars pointed upwards. We found Bullfinches in a couple of locations, and just one Long-tailed Tit. A lone Starling flew over, as did a group of four Mallards, at least three of them males. Linda and Richard saw what was almost certainly the first Willow Warbler of the season – this would be about three weeks earlier than last year, and makes it all the more puzzling that we still haven’t found a Blackcap. A total of 13 species must be an all-time low, but is based on little more than forty-five minutes’ rather cursory observation.
Mammals: a Brown Rat was the only sighting.
Plants: The cool weather has extended the flowering period of Coltsfoot and Lesser Celandine, though along with Daisy and Dandelion they were shut up tight against the rain. Coltsfoot leaves, from which the plant gets its name, can be found alongside the last flowers. Gorse, White Dead-Nettles and Cowslips are probably the most conspicuous, and it was nice to find clumps of Cowslips around the Dragon Stones as well as alongside the meadow. There is a bit more Apple blossom but with such bad weather for pollinators, it’s just as well that it seems to have slowed down. It remains to be seen whether the now fading Blackthorn had enough time to set fruit. The first Garlic Mustard (Jack-by-the-hedge) is opening, and we found a fine clump of Yellow Archangel off the path south of the culvert. This may of course be another garden escape – the leaf markings on a small sample were inconclusive. Ground Ivy was a lucky find: its deep blue flowers are easy to miss among the growing pathside vegetation. A second clump of Marsh Marigolds (Kingcups) has opened in the pond.