Nature just keeps on coming.

It seems as though all my posts are notes on nature, and, I apologise a little for that, but, when there is so much happening, so much that is new to look at every day, it is easy to forget about new governments and ash clouds, and to just get carried away with the song of blackcaps and the sight of butterflies, more of which later.

So, on the what’s new front, what is new?  For starters, my favourite rose, rosa rugosa, is beginning to flower.  I know they look blousy and flowery in their barbie pink and startling white, but the smell has to rival honeysuckle as my favourite scent.  Fortunately they are a favourite on industrial estates allowing me to stop every day to get a snort on my way to work.  Other flowers are out too, buttercups are now the yellow flower of choice for all self-respecting roadsides, as their predecessor dandelions seem to be going to seed.

There are other newcomers in the flower world if you look closely, including the very delicate looking vetch.  This member of the legume family seems to be fairly abundant once you start looking for it, mainly preferring slightly shadier conditions.

Many of the shrubs and trees appear to be flowering, with the hawthorn in full flower on both shady and sunny sides of the street.  Dogwood and sorbus (aka Mountain Ash or Rowan) are also showing off their white flowers, and the horse chestnuts are in full bloom.

I have no new birds to report, but the starlings and sparrows seem to have fledged and they are now busy repairing their nests (possibly with the aid of leaves pulled from my sweet peas) ready for the next brood.

On the insect front, I saw both a Holly Blue and a couple of Cabbage Whites in the garden today.  I am still chasing a picture of one of the Orange Tip butterflies that are patrolling verges and hedgerows, but in the mean time I did get a less than satisfactory picture of a Speckled Wood with its wings closed, an insect which is appearing in ever increasing numbers along the old railway track.

Today was also a good day for damselflies, with numbers emerging from the pond getting into double figures – the bamboo and rhubarb appearing to be good places to sit in the sun!

In the garden, perhaps half of the lettuces I planted out last week are still surviving, but one of my courgette seedlings has passed away, and my beans are awaiting the installation of a suitable climbing frame so they can be planted out (small hint there).  The bees are still making use of the pulmonaria, but are also being attracted to the aquilegia which is now in flower – although mainly in shades of purple and pink – oh, how I covet the white ones I saw round the corner!

Dare I hope? Is Summer coming?

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.