What a wonderful taste of Spring we have had in the last couple of weeks or to be more precise I should probably say taste of Summer! It really has been glorious here but this week it's back down to earth with a bump, well a crash really :-) Many parts of the UK have plunged from temperatures in the low 20sC/70sF to sub zero and snow!! It hasn't been quite that bad where I live but we have had some much needed rain and it has turned very cold but of course the Blackthorn is in flower which often coincides with a cold spell, hence the old country term 'Blackthorn Winter'.
Blackthorn (In the Autumn it will bear Sloes)
The lovely weather has brought the butterflies out but I am rather worried that this cold snap will have an adverse effect on them. After a good start here last year they were disappointingly sparse during the Summer so I was hoping they would fare better this year. So far I have only managed to photograph Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells, none of which posed on anything pretty unfortunately. The lovely pattern on the wings of the Peacock butterfly has always reminded me of the 'faces' of Pansy flowers. This one was on a house wall.
'A velvet-winged butterfly flew,
And the pansies themselves were not brighter
Than the beautiful creature in hue.'
(Eben E. Rexford)
And this one showing the underside.
All my recent walks have been within a couple of miles of home but on one occasion we went further afield to Draycote Reservoir which as some readers will remember is a favourite place of mine to see birds, particularly water birds, which living in such a landlocked area I wouldn't usually see at all. Due to illness for much of last year, I hadn't been there for over twelve months and I was shocked to see how extremely low the water was and really it was disappointing as everything was very distant making photos with my 50-250mm lens very difficult. This drake Teal was about the only bird I managed on the water apart from some Great Crested Grebes which I will put on my next post.
At the end of a pleasant but not very productive walk I saw this Woodpecker foraging for ants. The sun was setting which made the colours slightly odd.
Back to local walks and I was pleased to see a Redpoll, it was distant but nice to see as they usually escape me, I think it is the Lesser rather than the Mealy but stand to be corrected.
During these very local walks in the last few weeks I have seen and heard House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Magpies, Starlings, Song Thrushes, Yellowhammers, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpeckers, Treecreepers, Nuthatches, Common Buzzards, Kestrels, Skylarks, Linnets, Coal Tits, Pheasants, Canada Geese, Coots, Moorhens, Mallards and the single Lesser Redpoll. Also a huge amount of Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Long-tailed Tits, Dunnocks, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves, Carrion Crows and Rooks. Oddly, I haven't seen Bullfinches for some weeks. On March 23rd I was pleased to hear my first Chiffchaff of the year and just two days later they seemed to be calling their names to me everywhere I went, such a welcome sound in the early Spring :-)
'Live in each season as it passes:
breathe the air, drink the drink,
taste the fruit and resign yourself
to the influences of each'
(Henry David Thoreau)
This Dunnock didn't seem at all bothered by my presence, I began to wonder if it was super-glued to the branch ;-) Frustratingly, and despite the lovely weather I mentioned, most of the birds in this post were photographed in moments when the sun had either disappeared or was very hazy :-(
For me, one of the loveliest things about this time of year is the emergence of Spring wildflowers, as a child it was always a thrill to find the first Violets of the year...and it still is.
Although I love them all, my favourite wildflower has always been the Primrose. I remember, as children, each year Mum would take my brother and me on what seemed quite a long trek to see them in a particular wood where they grew in great abundance, they looked an absolute picture.
'I dream of uplands, where the primrose shines
And waves her yellow lamps above the lea;
Of tangled copses, swung with trailing vines;
Of open vistas, skirted with tall pines,
Where green fields wait for me.'
I know I quite often show photos of Yellowhammers but I keep finding them on different local walks :-) They are actually on the red list of UK birds of conservation concern so I am always pleased to see them.
The Small Tortoiseshell butterfly suffered a worrying decline a few years ago but thankfully seems to have done much better in the last two or three years.
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Finally this Buzzard was one of many I have enjoyed watching soaring high in the skies in the last couple of weeks.
I hope everyone (who celebrates it) has a Happy Easter. I intend to post sooner next time. Until then...enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.