Sunday, 7 April 2013

Spring 2013 Caldbec Hill

Well the cold wet weather of late has had me stir crazy. So it was something of a relief that today (Sunday 7th April) the sun has been shining though it still remains unseasonably cold.

So I headed up to Caldbec Hill to take in the view and to see if I could find any signs of spring.
View to the East
The ploughed fields still remain rather brown without the usual green tinge for this time of year. The woodland too is rather sparse with only the evergreens holding the fort for a promise of springtime.
View to the North-east
The grass sward remains short as the minimum growing temperature for grasses is about six degrees Celsius and there have not been many days so far this year when the maximum daytime temperature has exceeded six degrees.

However there are some signs of spring. The Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) {the scientific name has changed}; are flowering in little clumps in the lower field.

Lesser Celandine cluster

Lesser Celandine is a plant native to the UK but in the US and Canada it is regarded as an invasive species.

I even saw a Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) nectaring on a lesser celandine flower. I also saw a bumblebee though it went to ground before I had a chance to determine the species.

The tree leaves are not out yet, though the sprig of beech twigs I rescued from a wind fallen tree in Barnes Wood last autumn is now beginning to burst into life as evidenced by the little bit of cotton at the base of the bud. Yet the trees outdoors still seem quite dormant.

Honey bee on flower
Lesser Celandine flowers

Beech buds breaking out
Each time I go to Caldbec Hill or Barnes wood I usually see something unexpected. Today I was passing a large oak tree when I heard a bird calling. The sound was very distinctive, a single repetitive note, as if the bird making the call was counting out the integers, ‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’, ‘four’. I thought to myself, “now if only I could see that bird and match it to its song”, then I saw it, a Nuthatch (Sitta europaea).
Oak tree
Nuthatch Info at the RSPB website

To say this shy little bird, spiralling up the larger oak limbs, made my day is no understatement.

Netherfield Hill
I always enjoy the view of Netherfield Hill. It looks like a model village from the heights and you can just about distinguish the church in the trees at the top centre of the picture. (It helps if you actually know where it is!)

I would not believe that a Dandelion (Taraxacum agg) could have a full seed head (dandelion clock) at this time of year unless I saw it with my own eyes. This surely has to be one of the fastest flower to seed plants in the South East of England.
I don’t usually feature garden plants on this blog, but I have to give credit to my neighbours who plant lovely shrubs like this one in their front gardens. Not only is it rather attractive (for a cultivated plant) but it provides a very valuable source of nectar to the insects (especially bees) at this frugal time of year.

Valuable nectar source
 Finally some more springtime plants; a speedwell possibly Green Field Speedwell  (Veronica agrestis) and Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa), these were growing by the road verge, and for the first time this year I saw a foraging Ant (Lasius niger). 
Roadside wildflowers

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