Saturday, 9 April 2011

April; come she will.

This week we have enjoyed fabulous warm weather and witnessed the hawthorns transformed to leafy green while the blackthorns are now a riot of frothy blossom. Bees and other insects abound. And I've got a tan already!

We have just seen the first orange-tip and holly blue butterflies and, of course their food plants (lady's smock and ivy) are on the go too. At Ray House there are primroses and cowslips in flower, evidence that this was once a garden.

Access: The Meadow Trail is fully functional gain, but it might get muddy if we get an April shower. As a result of the recent work carried out by contractors for Anglian Water, the path is wider than it used to be. The loss of "edge" on one stretch makes it likely that people will fall into the Hayling Carr, so we will put up a bit more fence there.

Fungi: You might expect to find edible fungi in the autumn; that's what I thought anyway, so I was surprised to find an extraordianry looking mushroom growing by the Ouse Valley Way this week. It was a morel; very much sought after by the Hugh Fearnley-Whittinstalls of this world and worth perhaps £30 a pound. That's why I'm not telling you exactly where I found it. I left it there to reproduce and for others to enjoy.

Reptiles and amphibians are much in evidence this week. Grass snakes have been seen on Cloudy Pit and the Sailing Lake and we have seen and heard frogs on every patrol. On a visit to Barford Road Pocket Park I saw four lizards.

Birds: By winter's end, all our nightingale territories look destroyed by browsing deer and r
abbits, so we bite our nails until the birds arrive. The first nightingale arrived on April 4th. That's the earliest they have ever been heard here, but it's not the first time they have come on that date. Now we have four or more singing but I'm still having panic attacks. Will they stay? I hope our last minute efforts to hedge off some territories will pay off.

Other birds are settling in at the moment. Highlights include common terns, a grasshopper warbler and perhaps four singing Cetti's warblers. Other migrant birds might be seen passing through but not staying. Keep an eye open for wheatears, redstarts and whinchats. Lucky viewers at Welney saw a blue-throat last week. Please find one at Paxton for me!

Jobs: Now that so many birds are nesting we have to stop any habitat management and move on to maintenance jobs around the trails. There are a few piles of sticks and posts to clear away then we start mowing and trimming. There are pot-holes to fill in and fishing platforms to fix. We have just put in two new benches and a gate.