Tag Archives: Spring is coming

Blooming Snowdrops Bathed in February Sun

Snowdrops-in-full-flower
Snowdrops – blooming lovely in the sunshine

Our snowdrops looked really lovely in today’s February sunshine so I thought I’d share them with everyone 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Advertisements

Catching up on Nature’s Calendar

Today I was catching up on my Spring nature records – I had my Elder bud-burst to record from Sunday and then today (as I’d anticipated in my last blog post) at lunchtime I spotted our snowdrops had opened their flowers to this morning’s warm sun. Unfortunately, it started to rain at that point so no photos yet … perhaps tomorrow.

Recording  Snowdrops on Nature's Calendar
Recording my Snowdrops on Nature’s Calendar

Phenology sounds like a phenomenally important kind of science I always think – and it certainly is. But the great thing about phenology is that many of us ‘just do it’ in our own small way without even thinking about it. As we go about our daily lives we notice nature’s own events – we spot snowdrops or bluebells coming into bloom, buds bursting on hedges, trees sprouting new leaves, frogspawn in a garden pond, a butterfly … and so on. We comment too on whether it is earlier or later than we saw them last year.

I tend to record my ‘sightings’ in a small notebook and take photos if possible. I’m usually fine with photos as long as the subject can stand still for long enough! So, flowers and frogspawn, yes; birds or deer, no!

As well as keeping my own notes and photographs I also try to share my nature records. Nature’s Calendar is one of the places where I submit my seasonal sightings. Nature’s Calendar is the Woodland Trust’s web-based phenology project and is also a really good source of information for anyone wanting to learn more about nature and the timing of seasonal events in their local area. This ongoing wildlife survey covers the whole of the UK and it’s easy to use and free to register.

As you would guess, currently Nature’s Calendar is recording Spring sightings as they occur in different parts of the country. Here is a quick peek at the key Spring events Nature’s Calendar would like us to record.

Recording Spring events for Nature's Calendar
Spring events for Nature’s Calendar

Together all of these records help to map changes in natural events over the years so every record submitted really does count. We have taken part in numerous ‘citizen science’ projects as a family and as well as being educational we find they are also lots of fun. … and of course grown-ups too can enjoy recording and learning about nature! So if you’ve never tried your hand at something like this before, why not take a look at Nature’s Calendar … beware though, it can become addictive!!

J Peggy Taylor

Beechwood sun and shadows

Weekend Nature Round-up – Signs of Spring

We probably all have our own little ways of noticing that Winter may be gradually releasing its icy grip, though this year perhaps ‘soggy’ would be a more appropriate adjective. I have noticed several of my Spring signs this weekend.

Late in the afternoon on Friday as I was busy with my usual housework I was treated to a glorious burst of singing, interspersed with a curious mix of clacking, clucking and peeping. This was one of ‘our’ starlings, singing his little heart out in our eaves. I’m not sure if he knew it was Valentine’s Day but I think he definitely sounded like he was keeping his toes crossed!

Today we took advantage of a sunny and relatively mild February Sunday and headed off into the woods for an afternoon’s ramble. As usual, being an avid nature-watcher I was on the look-out for several signs of a hopefully fairly imminent Spring.

Snowdrops almost blooming
Snowdrops almost blooming

The first of these was right outside our front door – our snowdrops are looking healthy and fit to burst. We’ll have to see what this week’s weather brings, but I’m sure those flowers will be opening very soon.

My second sighting, just a few metres into the wood, was the beautiful golden globes of the Winter Aconites Eranthis hyemalis. I always think of these flowers as ‘the’ promise that Spring is not too far off, so it is always a delight to see them. Rather like the snowdrops, they were just waiting to burst open. I’d thought today’s sun might have tempted them, but they mustn’t be quite ready.

The golden globes of Winter Aconites
The golden globes of Winter Aconites

The third sighting, close to the Winter Aconites, was my first bud-burst of 2014. The elder’s purple buds had burst forth just showing the tips of its tiny purple first leaves.

We stopped to admire the amazing reflections of the winter trees in the deep and muddy puddles along our path. The sun was still quite high and the reflected colours were much greener than a few weeks ago.

On we went, up through the sunlit beechwood, the shadows dancing across the mossy floor. This part of the wood is always full of interest, from fungi to flowers to fruits to creatures, there’s always something to discover. Today we were spotting new fungi growth on some old fallen timber – it was the fairly common Hairy Stereum Stereum hirsutum. Watching an old tree rot may not seem the most exciting thing to do, but deadwood is an amazing haven for wildlife and is especially fascinating to children [like ours] with a keen interest in both fungi and the invertebrate world.

Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring
Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring

At the ‘top of the forest’ we spotted the last of today’s new signs of Spring. Under the beech trees some familiar-shaped shoots were beginning to flex their glossy green fingers as they thrust their first leaves towards the encouraging sunshine. Here we saw the promise of bluebells! It will of course be some time yet before we are greeted by their glorious scent drifting on the breeze – but that is definitely something to look forward to.

J Peggy Taylor

Sunny Saturday in the woods

New month: Nature roundup

We seem to have spun through January and reached February already in 2014. I am relieved to say in our northern valley, apart from periodic bouts of strong winds and gales, we have not suffered with the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced elsewhere in the UK.

Walking out in our local countryside in mild winter sunshine on both days of this weekend I couldn’t help thinking about the people of Somerset and others who are still suffering flooding – a month on – with the weather forecast again offering them little in the way of respite.

In recent winters we’ve had snow that lasted for weeks but this year on the first weekend in February, muddy paths and busy burns were the only signs of winter weather we encountered. The sunshine was very pleasant and we remarked on it with other walkers we met along the way.

Whilst I would say our winter has been relatively mild, we were still very surprised on Saturday when within a short stretch of a favourite woodland path we spotted Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) in three different stages of growth.

Green Hogweed in February
Green Hogweed in February

The first example was particularly remarkable as it was not brown and broken as you’d expect in late winter, but green with newly-formed seed pods! We normally see it at that stage in August not February!

Seedhead stars on old Hogweed stems
Seedhead stars on old Hogweed stems

A little further on, along the stretch of path where summer finds us spotting curious insect-life, some brown stems of last summer’s Hogweed were still standing proud above the remains of other plants and grasses. I love the way the winter light reflects from their starry seedless heads. These old stalks still have beauty to offer yet.

Hogweed with seeds - in February
Hogweed with seeds – in February

Across the path in the lea of the towering mature pine trees we saw our third state of Hogweed. These ones were in full autumn glory, their heads sporting a full complement of perfectly formed seeds – again, a beautiful sight with the morning sun catching them as they danced in the light breeze.

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage by the burn
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage by the burn

As we retraced our steps homeward we stopped by the burn to seek out any signs of early spring flowers. No Dog’s Mercury or Wood Sorrel yet, but the very-small-flower-with-the-very-long-name was looking promising by the waters-edge. I’m talking about Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)- which, as you can see, is indeed a very long name for so small a plant. The tiny golden flowers were ready in their buds so I’m sure will appear very soon.

Sunday brought another chance for a sunny walk under azure blue skies. Today’s walk was in a different direction, along the valley side on an old mineral line before dropping into another woodland below. The spring signs I was seeking here were Blackthorn blossom, Gorse, Broom and Primroses. I found two out of four, so wasn’t disappointed.

The Blackthorn buds are filling up but none had burst forth yet. Both Gorse and Broom grow along the old railway line. I thought the Gorse looked particularly beautiful against the amazing blue of the sky.

gorse-against-blue-sky

The birch trees with their white trunks and purple twigs also caught my eye as I walked along.

winter-birches-blue-sky

There was lots of mud in the wood … but no sign of primroses today. Still, there’s plenty of time for them yet.

J Peggy Taylor

Saturday Nature Round-up

sprouting acorn in fallen oak leaves
I have taken the theme of “nature” as the thread that binds this post together, but there are several strands.

Today is Day 1 of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. I posted earlier in the week about this – and there’s still time for you to take part in the biggest wildlife survey in the world if you can find an hour to spare on Sunday.

This morning we counted ‘our’ birds … 10 jackdaws. To us they really are ‘our birds’ as they were born and raised in the old chimneys of our house.

It’s a pity ‘our’ starlings didn’t put in an appearance today, as seemingly unbelievably, starlings are becoming less common than you might think. Perhaps because it was not too cold, they were evidently visiting further flung pastures today. The starlings live in our flat-roof, above our youngest son’s bedroom. They nest there and hide out there too when it’s really cold. I did hear one of them talking on the chimney earlier in the week.

As this afternoon turned wet and squally, it seemed a good time to browse other blogs to see how nature was faring elsewhere. As a self-confessed nature nut, I must say how heartened I was to see just how many other fellow bloggers care about our natural world.

It was wonderful to see Suzy Blue’s flowering snowdrops on her Country Diary blog. Seeing snowdrops always makes me feel Spring is not too far around the corner. We have some snowdrops that grow right outside of our front door – but no sign of flowers for us just yet on our windswept northern hillside.

We live surrounded by wonderful woods. I love trees – from tiny sprouting acorns to gnarled and ancient beauties. I was fascinated today when I learned about an amazing old Irish hedgerow in a post called “Bright Skies and Dark Hedges” on Littlest Allsorts.

I am always intrigued by the ways we as humans have shaped our ‘natural’ landscapes. This avenue of veritable ‘old ladies’ can be seen along a roadside near Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. If you take a peek at it you will not be surprised to hear it is not unaccustomed to photographic attention having been chosen as a film location on several occasions, including for the popular ‘Game of Thrones’.

To weave the final strand into this Nature Round-up, I want to share with you a poem I discovered today, “A Natural Curriculum” on the blog ‘wordsthatserve’. It describes to us an “alternative 3 ‘R’s”.

I really liked this poem, especially as its first verse touched on one of my own ‘pet’ subjects, litter. For me those three concepts, Respect, Resilience and Reciprocity, as represented in this poem, should act as way-markers for human-kind as we negotiate our place on this planet.

J Peggy Taylor