Monday, 3 March 2014

The first day of spring?

Today, March the First is, according to the BBC, the first day of spring. This has been hotly disputed by other authorities but I have no intention of investigating the issue.


Honey Bee, with its pollen basket loaded with orange
pollen, visiting snowdrops in my garden. 1 March, 2014

Certainly the local Honey Bees, Apis mellifera, were out on a lovely day hard at work in my garden. Their main target was the snowdrops but also receiving attention were the flowers of Winter Honeysuckle,  Lonicera fragrantissima, which has now been in bloom for about three weeks. It isn't in my garden but sprawls through the fence from my neighbour; in truth I wouldn't grow it myself because, although the flowers are indeed fragrant the shrub in general is a dull, uninspiring thing - unless you are a Honey Bee. A friend of mine has two hives only about 100 metres from my garden. The bees are almost certainly from these hives so the owner will be pleased that they've come through the winter.

Diptera - two-winged flies - were also out and about, basking in the sunshine on convenient surfaces. For the record they were: Eudasyphora cyanicolor - a very common "greenbottle" - and Phaonia tuguriorum. A tiny fly almost escaped my notice but it turned out to be Lonchoptera bifurcata, a common but easily overlooked member of the small family Lonchopteridae, often called Pointed-winged Flies.

I found time for a stroll out on the road to Eydon. It is a long, straight, uninspiring bit of highway but a couple of things caught my attention. 

Coltsfoot flowering on a roadside verge near Byfield.
1 March, 2014
Beside the road a mound of material, formed by the dredging of a nearby ditch, were clumps of Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara.I was a little surprised as I generally find it growing on stiff clay soils, rather than this largely alluvial material. Coltsfoot produces its flowers well before the leaves develop - an unusual but clearly successful strategy as it is very widespread. The dried leaves were once smoked as a remedy for asthma and coughs. These flowers just need a spell of warm sunshine to open fully.
Yellow Brain Fungus on dead sycamore branch.
Near Byfield at SP522525  1 March, 2014

A little further on something bright orange-yellow was clinging to a dead sycamore branch. A closer examination showed it to be another specimen of Yellow Brain Fungus, Tremella mesenterica, noted only a few days earlier near Root Spinney - but this was a much better specimen. Apparently another name is Golden Jelly Fungus.

The forecast for the next two or three days is distinctly 'iffy' so I was glad to have this short, if not very exciting, chance to get out.

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