Thursday, 11 April 2013

Small Signs of Spring

As the weather here in the UK has been bad for so long I haven't had many opportunities to get out with the camera but I thought I would post some of the photos I have managed in the last few weeks. There haven't been any spectacular sightings. I tried very hard to find the Crossbills that had been seen locally but failed on each occasion. On reflection I think I may not have been looking in quite the right place...'in the Larch trees' could apply to quite a few Larch trees in the area indicated...oh well, maybe next year!

It was good to find those early harbingers of Spring, a very welcome patch of Snowdrops.
There are a few still hanging on here but these were seen a month ago.


Most of my recent bird photos have been distant and very 'twiggy' but beggars can't be choosers.


 The winter wind howls back to Northern seas; 
And in his stead comes up the Western breeze 
And budded leaves break freshly on the trees;— 
So, chaffinch, sing:  
A happy piping pipe, the world to please; 
 For this is Spring.'
(Thomas Ashe) 

A visit to a local reservoir is convenient when short of time but not always the most pleasant  experience. Being close to a town it tends to attract rowdy youths walking their often uncontrolled dogs. The reservoir which in my experience tends not to have anything very exciting also suffers from being surrounded by a very high wire fence to presumably stop the local, drunken yobs from falling comment ;-) The fence is always a problem when taking photos and you will notice the criss cross pattern of the wire in a couple of the following ones. This small flotilla of Canada Geese were enjoying a little late afternoon sunshine.

Canada Geese

As was this Mallard.

Mallard Duck

 This Pied Wagtail was busily looking for supper

Pied Wagtail

and putting its best foot forward!


'The smallest bird that walks am I,
You know me by my wagging tail,
And my piercing round black eye;
Through frost, through snow, through rain or hail'
I stay here all the winter through,
And that is more than some birds do.'
(Thomas Miller)

While this swan seen in an adjoining field looked like it was preparing for an appearance in a certain Tchaikovsky ballet!

Mute Swan

It occurred to me to wonder why Mute Swans are so called given that they do make a range of noises. Apparently, it is because they have no actual call and emit no sound during flight other than, of course, the wonderful sound of their wings as they pass over our heads.

In the Larch trees, where I mentioned I had been hoping to find the Crossbills, I was pleased to see a small flock of Siskins mixed with Goldfinches and the odd Redpoll. I managed to get a couple of photos (one can be seen at the beginning of this post) of the Siskins but as is usually the case they were very distant, feeding high in the tops of the tall trees. The old word for Siskin is Aberdevine which was particularly used in London back in the unfortunate times when shops sold them and other wild songbirds in cages :-(


'When naming the aberdevine,
It's siskin that birders assign,
I think the word finch
Might suffice in a pinch,
And I've heard even bird would be fine.'

(Tim Alborn [OEDILF])

Although we haven't had any snow in the last couple of weeks it has been reluctant to go and just last weekend, less than five miles from home, I found there were still snowdrifts at the sides of the road.

In the woodland, where I hoped to find Violets, I was amazed to find there was a covering of snow of around 35 centimetres (12 inches)!!

 In the woodland to the right there was a deep covering of snow!

However, the day before in the same direction and only two or three miles from home there was very little remaining snow to be seen which allowed for some nice springlike sights. As a child I was always thrilled to find the first Pussy Willow of the year, that thrill has never left me.

Pussy Willow

The Gorse was looking colourful too. Gorse is very attractive to invertebrates which in turn of course benefits birds. Some scarce invertebrates are dependent on it. As it flowers over a long period it is an important source of nectar when there are few other plants in flower.


Although high in a tree and doing his best to hide behind the twigs this male Bullfinch looked very striking against the blue sky...and yes it really was that blue!


If it is a thrill to find the first Pussy Willow of the year it is even more of a thrill to find my all time favourite wildflower, the Primrose. I have such fond childhood memories of lengthy walks to the woods with my mother and brother to find them. I also remember getting into all sorts of trouble, when I was only about six or seven years old, for taking my little friend to see them which involved crossing a busy main road!! Of course what I hadn't realised, being so young, was that when we eventually got there the Primroses would have finished flowering weeks before. All that walking and a telling off by my parents for nothing! ;-)


'Now primroses, close shelter'd from the cold,
Just here and there some tender flowers unfold'.
(William Cole)

On the way back home, on Saturday, we had to brake suddenly when we spotted a Pheasant and his mate crossing the road, we were very fortunate there were no cars behind us! Of course I had to try and get a photo and managed to snatch a quick one of the male as they were making their getaway across the grounds of a large house.

Well, I'm sure I have outstayed my welcome so until next time...enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.