A new month has arrived and this week has also seen a big change in the weather. The endless blue skies have disappeared, replaced with bubbling grey clouds and heavy rain showers. It might be good for the ground but it’s never much fun to work in. Still, the week has ended on a dry, if blustery note, so I can’t complain too much. I took some pictures on my Saturday walk and nothing says summer's on its way like happy cows out grazing the moor.
This week I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to a somewhat puzzling question. Across the road from the farm, viewable from my living room, are several horse chestnut trees, all in magnificent flower. However, as you can see, most of them are white, but one of them has dark pink flowers.
I had heard that some flowers change colour after they are pollinated, but it seemed unlikely that one whole tree had been pollinated and the others not at all. Ashley had a look in his tree guide, and found that there are different varieties of horse chestnuts, which may have different coloured flowers, so we can assume that the pink tree is a different variety. However, the book also said that yellow spots on the white flower may turn pink after pollination, so I took a closer look at them, and you can see, some have yellow spots and others pink. That’s the miracle of nature. Bees can’t see the pink colouration and so don’t bother visiting that flower, saving their energy for the unpollinated ones. Better for the bee, and the tree.
I also have some news from Greylake this week. Site manager Harry was out there doing a site check last weekend and found evidence that the wildlife were making the most of our absence. Grass snakes were sunning themselves on the path edges, although they vanished quickly when he got close and an otter had left a spraint right in front of the door to the main hide.
This week, on Friday, Ashley and I made a trip out there (in separate vehicles) to repair a couple of gates. We also found the wildlife much in evidence. A little egret flew up from the area around the floating platform, where I’ve never seen one before as it is usually too busy, and this swan had made a nest right in the gateway to one of the fields. She stood up slightly as I approached so I caught a glimpse of four or five eggs. She wasn’t keen on my presence so I moved quickly away.
The barn owl seems to have won the fight over the box in the barn that I have mentioned before. It flew out when I visited on Wednesday but I haven’t seen the kestrels around the last couple of times I have been there. However, in the barn across the road, a pair (the same pair?) are hopefully taking up residence in the box there. We’ve seen and heard them several times in the last few days.
The swallows are still sitting tight on their nest and I've been attempting to set up a camera trap to get better pictures of them. I managed to get this one but its been tricky getting the camera set up properly under the eaves. I'll keep working on it. Just shows you how dark it is under there. This was taken in the middle of the day, admittedly a cloudy day, but its using night mode.
I haven’t had much time for investigating other nests this week, nor was the weather very suitable for it. I hope to have more news next week but birds are fickle and change their minds about nest sites so it’s hard to keep track.
The bittern has still been booming here, and we also heard one booming at Greylake. Another great sighting here was a pair of wheatear, the first this year. And on my walk yesterday I heard and then saw a lesser whitethroat skulking about in the hedge. My first ever sighting, so very pleased with that.
Today is International Dawn Chorus day. Whether or not you were up with the dawn to hear it, I hope you are enjoying the birdsong at home or on your local exercise. We are sharing some of our best birdsong with you on social media and we’d love to hear what birds you’ve been listening to, or which songs you like best. Just post with the hashtags #IDCD, #InternationalDawnChorusDay or #DawnChorusDay.
Happy listening and I’ll see you next time.
P.S. All photos taken by me at home, on exercise or during essential work.
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