Ok, so I may have struggled a bit with the 3 D's, and you might say that having both dragon and damsel flies is cheating, but hopefully you'll still enjoy the blog.

Yes, here we are again and it’s going to be quite a long one this week, I think. As spring really takes hold, there’s more and more going on out there for me to show you.

Whenever you go outside at the moment, spring assaults your senses. The green is so vivid, especially when backlit by the sun. The birdsong is a glorious cacophony made all the louder by the lack of other noise and the hum of insects is a constant background track. Even the smells of the fresh grass and flowers are incredibly powerful. I hope you’re getting the chance to go out safely and enjoy this sensual overload but if not, I hope my blogs bring some of the joy of spring into your home.

I’ll kick off with a couple of lovely photos of the reserve. The first is taken looking up towards the monument on Red Hill, showing how the woods have burst into green. The second was taken on a dusk walk on Thursday, with a beautiful purple sky.

  

I’ve brought you quite a bit of info about birds in my recent blogs, and I will talk a bit about them later, but after my dragonfly photo which I posted on Thursday, we spotted this striking chap out on the reserve, which I identified later to be a scarlet tiger moth caterpillar.

  The scarlet tiger moth is locally common in the south of England but rare elsewhere. It flies both day and night and prefers wet habitats.

   The hairy dragonfly is the UK's smallest and earliest emerging hawker and can be identified by its hairy thorax. It is uncommon but increasing its range.

So that got me to thinking that there’s lots of little creatures out there which go under the radar and I went on a bug hunt in the garden to find out what was about. In just a few minutes I found all these invertebrates, which I have identified with varying degrees of success. And the good news is, because I can get close up, I can actually get a decent picture on my phone.

  The common crab spider is an ambush predator, lying in wait for its prey but not making a web.

   The large red damselfly is common and widespread throughout the UK and can be distinguished from the small red by its black legs. The small red has red legs.

  A common and widespread bee in the UK, the red mason bee nests in cavities in brickwork or may make use of bug hotels. Unlike most bees which carry pollen on their legs, the red mason bee carries it on hairs on the underside of its abdomen.

   Corizus hyoscyami, a bug of the rhopalidae family, known commonly as scentless plant bugs because of their reduced scent gland opening compared to other bugs. They have been spreading northwards through Britain and have now reached Yorkshire.

   I have decided this is a small white butterfly, rather than a large white because the black tips to the forewings are not well defined, but I would need a better look to be sure. It is common and widespread throughout the UK and has a taste for cabbages.

  I believe this is a cricket, rather than a grasshopper, because I can just make out the longish antennae, however it is so small that any further ID is beyond me, and I'm not even certain of that. It was very cute though.

Why don’t you have a look round your garden and see what you can find? We’d love to see your pictures.

Moving back to birds, nesting continues around the farm. I found three new nests this week, which were a pair of wood pigeons in a tree in the yard, blue tits making use of one of our bird boxes, and best of all a song thrush nest building in one of the big sheds, which I managed to get a photo of, just about!

The swallows are now firmly sitting on their nest, so they have presumably laid and are now incubating. I just about managed to get a photo of one peeking over the edge.

The wrens are still about, but I haven’t been able to locate their new nest site yet. Activity around the pied wagtail nest has dropped off a lot, so I think they are probably incubating now as well. I did spot one returning to the nest on Wednesday and grabbed a picture for you.

Speaking of wagtails, we saw a number of yellow wagtails out on the reserve on Thursday and one sat quite handily for me on a branch to photograph. They will have returned from their migration to West Africa and be scouting for nest sites on the ground, hidden amongst the vegetation, where they weave long grass into a cup shape and line it with wool and fur. Declines in breeding populations have put this colourful bird on the red list for conservation.

  Yes, that little yellow blob in the middle is a wagtail!

My favourite moment of the week was on my evening walk on Thursday, when I took that previous sunset photo. Just as it got dark, the snipe started chipping and then about ten minutes later, there was a whoosh overhead as the snipe began drumming. This is a truly odd noise, made by the tail feathers vibrating. I won’t try to describe it but I will go out again next week and try to record it for you. I heard the bittern booming as well but it was a little faint and intermittent, so I didn’t manage to get a recording of that.

My second favourite moment was on Tuesday lunchtime when two hobbies treated us to a display of aerial acrobatics. The were swooping and diving in the strong winds, coming quite close to our vehicles. It was good to see them returning from their migration to sub-Saharan Africa.

And on Friday we heard our first cuckoo of the year on the reserve. They aren’t doing so well at the moment so it’s great that we’ve got one calling here.

I think that’s all the news this week. I’ll be back with another blog next week but will try to bring you updates on social media in the meantime and don’t forget the RSPB have lots of great content for you to enjoy during lockdown to bring you closer to nature.

 

Kathryn

 

P.S. All photos taken by me at home, on permitted exercise or during essential work.

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