I was greeted to work this morning by the call of a cuckoo over in the woods near Tern Hide. I didn’t manage to spot the actual cuckoo but other visitors later in the morning saw one on the other side of the reserve near Ivy South Hide. Unlike the elusive cuckoo the cuckoo pint plant is impossible to miss around the reserve at the moment. The green arrow shaped leaves you can see all through the woodland are arum also known as lords and ladies or cuckoo pint.
Do not touch as the leaves are poisonous. The flowers are at the base of the ‘poker’ at the centre of the plant. There are tiny hairs which trap insects by the flowers so that they pick up the pollen before flying away. In the autumn they will become an unmissable stalk of bright red berries. Another of my favourite plants at the moment is the garlic mustard that is popping up all over the place.
It is also known as Jack-in-the-hedge and you can eat the leaves – they have a bitter garlicky taste. If you don’t fancy that, try sniffing a crushed leaf for a good strong whiff of garlic! Watch out for the well camouflaged orangetip butterfly caterpillars that feed on these plants though!
Other nibbled leaves to look out for are those of the dock which are quickly being consumed by the beautiful metallic green dock beetle. They are best viewed along the path between Ivy North Hide and the Woodland Hide.
The woodland is becoming ever more colourful with a carpet of purple dog violets and ground ivy.
Ground ivy provides a fantastic, vibrant, splash of colour in early spring. It is also called alehoof after the distinctive shape of its leaf and its traditional use as a clarifier and preserver of beer. It smells great – try picking a leaf, bruising it and having a sniff!
The ferns are almost completely unfurled and there are small pockets of wild strawberries to look out for that have just started to flower.
The long awaited bluebells are almost completely open and I reckon they should be at their best in the next few days. The woodland on the banks of the Dockens Water is the best place to admire the sea of blue.
Bluebells are an important early food flower for bees, hoverflies and butterflies which feed on nectar. Honey bees can steal the nectar by biting a hole in the bottom of the bell, reaching the nectar without pollinating the flower. There are 2 forms of bluebell in Hampshire – the native English bluebell and the introduced Spanish bluebell. The Spanish bluebell was introduced by gardeners. It forms hybrids with English bluebells. This is bad news as in time we may lose our native English bluebell entirely.
As it was a quieter day today I made it up to Goosander Hide and enjoyed the relaxing scene of the acrobatical flight of the sand martins, the mirror dancing of the great crested grebes and the gentle grazing of two fallow deer on the bank of the lake.
Reports in from visitors today included garden warbler, white throat and black cap singing on the path from Tern Hide and 3 garden warbler were heard and seen on the track to Goosander Hide. A hobby was spotted flying to the right of Goosander Hide with sand martins and swifts feeding and chattering away over Ibsley Water.
Ringed plover and little ringed plover were on the spit to the right of the Tern Hide and both common terns and artic terns were seen flying overhead. Also over Ibsley there were sighting of a red kite and a kingfisher.
A handful of redpoll and siskin are still feeding outside of woodland hide.