This week continued to be unseasonably cold, with frost on some mornings – irritating for those who drive to work, but not for me. However, on Monday I did notice the first hawthorn flowers of this Spring, but only in one place. Everywhere else is green, with the buds just waiting to open, but not yet. Many of the ornamental cherries have lost their flowers and are looking a shadow of their former selves, but their place is being taken by wild and bird cherries (prunus padus). The latter are fairly distinctive having a spike of white flowers – they seem quite popular in industrial estates – the name is due to the popularity of their bitter fruits with birds.
In the verges there are now some buttercups competing with the dandelions, but I was surprised to see some clover flowering already on the industrial estate. I didn’t think it would be out this early, so that shows how little I know.
I have no new bird sightings for the week although the number of house martins seems to be increasing which is good news because there is some concern about the numbers returning from their wintering grounds. We have started feeding mealworms to the garden birds in the last week (not a cheap hobby as they can easily eat their own bodyweight in worms every day – or so it seems). The main takers are about six sparrows and one great tit. The starlings would be the main takers if we hadn’t put them behind bars (the mealworms that is, not the starlings), so, instead, they have taken to waiting for a sparrow to land with a mealworm and then they attack it. Some have learned to fly straight off with their booty and avoid the ambush. Other birds are making regular appearances with chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches as well as a robin and blue tit visiting each morning. At work I have been lucky enough to watch a few pairs of bullfinches from my office window – they have been on the grass eating the seeds of the dandelions.
I finally saw a speckled wood butterfly this morning, well, about 4 or 5. They were busy patrolling the nettles and garlic mustard on the old railway track as we walked back from town. There were a couple of orange tips about as well. Hopefully there will be more if the weather stays warm. Today was also the day for my first damselfly of the year. I spotted this large red damselfly in the garden, its wings sparkled in the sunlight as it flew up from near the pond to rest on the bamboo. I found a larva case on a plant nearby so I think it may have emerged today.
All in all it has been quite a good week for nature spotting in Northamptonshire.