Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Spring is a-springing

Last night saw one of the sharpest frosts of the year, but the lovely sunshine that followed put spring in the air and a spring in my step.

Not that I went very far. I was content to walk the few hundred yards to Stefen Leys Pocket Park. A tortoiseshell butterfly flitted across my path as I entered and a flock of wood pigeons clattered into the air, scything their way across the blue sky in a frantic arc. A pair of bullfinches worked their way through the trees and a blackbird took to the air carrying nesting materials. 

Spawn of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria, formed
clumps at the pool. Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
24 February, 2016

Other creatures were busy at the generation game and the pond was alive with toads thrashing their way around, each female struggling with three or more grappling suitors. However, frogs had beaten them to it and I was pleased to see a dozen or so clumps of their spawn. The water must have been very cold during the night but no harm will have been done.

Pleasingly only the native 7-spot Ladybird was noted.
Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry. 24 February, 2016
Ladybirds had emerged from their winter bolt-holes - usually a cluster of dead leaves - and were ambling about. It may be some time before aphids become available as a food source but they will subsist on their fat reserves until then. All that I saw were 7-spot Ladybirds, Coccinella 7-punctata, but it surely won't be long before the unwelcome Harlequin Ladybird, Harmonia axyridis, is on the scene.

A number of Alder trees have been planted in the pocket park.
Stefen Leys, Daventry. 24 February, 2016

Job done! Male Alder catkins are beginning
to wither. Stefen Leys. 24 February, 2016

Alder trees were still sporting their catkins but these had lost their golden-green colour of recent weeks and, their job largely done, were taking on more sombre brown tones with many of them littering the ground. The female catkins were beginning to swell too, and will soon take on their familiar cone-like form.

Buds on Beech trees are swelling. Stefen Leys, Daventry.
24 February, 2016

A few beech trees, Fagus sylvatica, are found in the pocket park. All are coppiced or occur as a low pollard. Their buds were lengthening even as last year's leaves stubbornly clung to twigs elsewhere. The rather silky-hairy leaves will soon unfold to a lovely green.

Predictably, the temperature began to drop rapidly as the sun dipped towards the west but I was uplifted by the signs of spring. As noted in other blogs, it is the day-length rather than temperature which controls many of these advances so, even if we now enter a chilly spell, things will move on.

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