February is proving to be a sunny but chilly month. Despite the cold there are signs of spring everywhere. Around the reserve new bright green spring growth and flowers are tentatively starting to make an appearance. In some areas the spring Daffodils are already flowering. Another welcome sign is the carpet of Sweet Violets up on the Buddleia Loop. There is a myth that you can only smell the fragrance of the flowers only once but this is untrue. One of the chemicals in the scent is Ionine which has the power to deaden the smell receptors in our nose. The fragrance then comes back stronger the second time as the brain registers the smell as a new stimulus.
Another of our early flowering plants is the Alexanders, first introduced the UK by the Romans. Alexanders is the first of the Apiaceae (formerly Umbellifer) family to bloom, normally March but the leaves start to appear in January. This plant is common near the sea and coast, seen on hedge-banks, waste places and roadsides. It is a common plant around the Discovery Centre and the car park. Cow Parsley, the plant that turns our hedgerows white in May makes its first appearance as early as late December. Their fresh new green growth has already started to sprout around the reserve paths, some plants are already well up in some of the more sheltered parts of the reserve.
Hairy Bittercress, a member of the Crucifer (Cabbage) family, is also springing up around the reserve on bare patches of ground. The tiny white flowers appear on stems emerging from a basal rosette of leaves. The plants bloom well into November but the peak time is normally in March/April. Another plant with small blue flowers is the Common Field Speedwell. First introduced in this country in 1825, it flowers throughout the year but is more noticeable in the winter and early spring months when there are fewer hedgerow blooms.
Our resident Marsh Harriers have been seen frequently this month. On 3rd February over on Lodmoor a male was seen carrying nest material. A Firecrest was also seen. The next day a Bittern was seen at 15:20 on Radipole and a female Hen Harrier was spotted over at Lodmoor. Ruffs have also been around on Lodmoor with up to 5 counted on 11th and 22nd Feb. On 6th February, hundreds of Lapwing were over at Lodmoor and over 20 Pochard were at Radipole on 7th Feb and on 12th there were 5 Spoonbills and 353 Lapwings while on Radipole the Bittern was seen again and there were 28 Black Tailed Godwits. On 17th February over 8 Water Rail were counted on Radipole, 3 Spoonbills and a Glaucous Gull were over on Lodmoor. A good day over at Lodmoor on 22nd Feb with a Ross's Gull sighted, 2 Peregrines, 5 Ruff and an Avocet. In addition Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies were seen on Radipole on 16th Feb, another sure sign that spring is on the way.
Photo Credit: Bird photos by RSPB Volunteer, Martin Jones-Gill
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