Sunday, 10 April 2016

Butterflies and Mumruffins

We have been blessed with two successive Sunday's of glorious weather spread between two weeks of typical April weather with showers and sunshine. Such weather has encouraged the wildlife and down on my patch things are moving on a pace.

Whilst it is still not warm enough yet for most butterflies Brimstone's and Tortoiseshells are on the wing. The Brimstone's are large, obvious butterflies being one of the only yellow butterflies found in this part of the world but never seem to settle. Over the years I have built up a catalogue of images of the different species, but the Brimstone continues to elude me, and I fear my chance for this year has passed me by. Last weekend I chased one along the entire length of my patch. It never once alighted on a perch, the power of its flight remarkable and more direct than many. It remains a challenge for future years, its always good to have the one that got away still out there.

Elsewhere on my patch the celandines are starting to ebb, their vibrant yellow star like flowers that track the sun are now tattered and subdued their leaves already becoming overshadowed by the emergent nettles. For the past few months have my patch has been flooded by the river although most of this has been under only a few centimetres nevertheless under these damp conditions the Epilobium is starting to rise and the buttercup and forget-me-not are filling out ready for a summer show.

As for the birds there has been a marked change none more so than in the arrival of the Chiffchaff's. Their sing-song call now reverberates across my patch as several individuals. Last week one particular individual spent quite awhile foraging among the willows near the feeding station. For a bird that is so melodious its is a surprisingly drab little olive brown bird that is until you see it up close and can see the eye stripe (supercilium) and subtle colourations.

A bird with a bright supercilium that you may not be aware of is the Wren, it maybe that they are so secretive that you don't manage to see them up close but when you have a chance you can see a definite eye stripe and the delicate checkerboard along its wings. I caught this Wren after it had been singing its territorial call and came down to the rivers edge to drink and forage.

Today the Buzzards were prevalent, up to three circling up and around tussling and avoiding the mobbing crows who seemed to give them very little peace until they were able to climb up the thermals to the very heights mewing all the way.

Lastly were the Mumruffans, an old term for a Long-tailed Tit, their behaviour has changed profoundly over the past few weeks, generally these diminutive birds travel in family groups. Over the winter I was recording groups as large as 12 as parents and last years young band together to join the tit flocks and forage together in safety. In the last few weeks these flocks diminished and each of them has formed pairs. They bobbed about the brambles and thickets exploring for nest sites. Excitingly today I identified a nest site. They build tiny delicate nests with moss, grass and spider webs. This nest is lodged in a willow bough on the bankside.

This discovery is one to watch over the next few weeks and I hope I will be able to make some notes on the food being brought in and its regularity.

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