Wild @ Rivers - March 2014

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Diary Entry by Charmaine Cooper

Cold mornings and heavy rain are followed by warmer days. After the cold start the wild birds welcome the blue skies and warm sunshine and dart to and fro through the orchard. Perched on the Blackthorn in the orchard’s hedge is a pair of Yellowhammers. The male is easily identified by the lemon-yellow feathering on his head and chest; the female is less brightly coloured but does have yellow facial stripes. As they fly off they both display chestnut coloured feathering on their wings. Amongst the branches of the Cherry tree a male Robin attempts to woo a female by cheekily turning his head at an angle and crooning a strange little song to her, while he flutters his wings and displays to her. The courtship is disturbed by the cackling alarm of the Magpie startled by the Jay as it swoops down to forage under the Plum trees. A Chaffinch bursts into song as a male Bullfinch flies off from the Cherry tree displaying his striking red-pink body, black head and white rump as he seeks cover in the hedgerow.

The sudden warm sunshine has encouraged butterflies to emerge and the brightly coloured Peacock with its large lilac-blue false eyes sips nectar from the frothy blossom of the meadow’s Blackthorn. Higher up in the blossom, large fat Red-tailed Bumble Bees stumble among the flowers as they seek the sticky sweet nectar. The occasional Honey Bee buzzes in to enjoy the feast too. Other butterflies have joined the Peacock and several Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies can be seen sipping nectar from the trees’ flowers as a male Pheasant calls from the orchard’s scrub. A pair of Magpies screeches from the edge of the Meadow and a Sparrowhawk emerges from its perch in the tree hounded by the aggressive Magpies; the hawk is driven on and flies off over the scrub.

A cooler day in the orchard but despite the slight breeze a Peacock butterfly is flying. It wanders along the hedge line searching for a sunspot to bask in the weak sunshine. Under the Plum trees the purple-red heads of the Pulmonaria gently move in the breeze while scattered throughout the orchard are the delicate flowers of the Violet in colours of white, lilac and deep purple.

In the orchard’s scrub, the Goat Willow trees’ buds have gone from their soft grey to fluffy yellow headed catkins, which now attract many Bees to their nectar-laden flowers. Even the occasional Tortoiseshell butterfly can be seen visiting the tree as nectar-rich flowers are still in short supply so early in the year. A flash of sulphur-yellow crosses the sky. A large Brimstone butterfly flutters through the twisted branches of the Hawthorn trees, a striking colour against the brown, before settling amongst the pale dried grass of last year. High above the orchard’s scrub the Red Kite has returned, drifting across the sky with its large wingspan and distinctive forked tail. It slowly passes over the site and disappears from view.

As March draws to a close, the Cowslips are opening in the orchard and meadow while the delicate pale lemon flowers of the Primrose are emerging in the orchard’s scrub.

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