Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Blossom time

This week the May blossom on the hawthorn trees is in full bloom. It can be pink or white, but always has a strong fragrance that attracts a lot of insects. The scrubby habitat at Paxton is dominated by hawthorn, and that is a good thing. The thorns and dense growth provide protection for nesting birds, particularly warblers, and then the berries are devoured by the first winter thrushes of autumn.

In my last blog I mentioned that bird cherries also attract insects, particularly moths whose caterpillars devour the leaves. Well, it has already happened. The two pictures of bird cherry trees were both taken this month. It's amazing that they survive at all.

On the insect front, we are seeing a dense hatch of damselflies and damoiselles this week, but not many dragonflies yet. If you see one, it is likely to be a hairy dragonfly.

The picture shows the shed skin of a dragonfly from the pond by the visitors' centre. Most of our damselflies are blue, but there are several kinds out now, including common blue, azure and red-eyed.

Orange tip butterflies are still around, but this week the smaller butterflies have been putting in an appearance. Today we found common blues and an exquisite little brown argus, and yesterday there were small coppers and holly blues on the wing.

If you are able to get there, and butterflies and plants are your thing, I recommend a trip to "Hills and Holes" at Barnack, near Stamford. This is green hairstreak butterfly time there. Meanwhile, back at the Pits, there's a lot more interest to come in June.

This week was a good one for birds too. On Monday an osprey few over the centre and on Wednesday we saw a black tern. Today we have an American blue-winged teal. Our nightingales and Cetti’s warblers continue to sing and the lesser whitethroat that lives on the mound near the car park is singing again. It sounds a bit like the start of a chaffinch song.

On Sunday, the Friends of Paxton Pits held their Family Spring Watch event, which attracted over 500 people. It was a huge success due to all the volunteers who helped and due to the support of staff from the Wildlife Trust and the District Council. It was particuarly nice to see so many families from the village, arriving on foot.

Our building works are now in the final stages. This week the electric pumps will be connected to our sewage system and so we should be able to abandon our septic tank next week. The new Education Centre is almost finished apart from a few snags and the telephone line should go in next week.