Blashford Blues

Once again bird news was hard to come by today, a report of a hobby was about the best. The main event by far was that the temperature finally reached such dizzy heights as to exceed that achieved in late March! The reason was not hard to find, the sky was cloudless all day, I am not sure when I last failed to see a cloud for a whole day.

blue sky!

The sky was not the only blue thing today though, I still have not seen a dragonfly this year but I did finally catch up with some common blue damselflies, although none that had fully coloured-up yet.

common blue damselfly

Even this was not the last of the blues. I was looking at some of the oak trees with their fresh, bright green leaves, all perfection. Then I realised that of course they should not look perfect, this first flush of leaves is usually eaten away by winter moth caterpillars, the main food of great tit and blue tit nestlings. From the work being done on the nestlings in the boxes we have seen that many have not done at all well this year and Jim tells me that tree beating for caterpillars has been very hard work. It seems clear that the warm March followed by cold wet April have messed up the normal order of things and resulted in many fewer moth larvae than usual. Having had this thought I checked one of the nest boxes and was pleased to see that there were young blue tits inside, along with the adult male.

blue tit family

The breeze was filled with willow seeds as Steve observed the other day it looks very like snow as it drifts about. Even when it lands it will often get lifted again if the surface is dry, however wet ground or ponds will hold onto the seeds. This makes a lot of sense as these are just the places a young willow will grow well, it is not just that willows do well in damp locations, it is also where a disproportionate amount of the seed will end up. The ones that land on water will tend to get washed up on the shore, again just where they want to be.

willow seeds collected on the pond surface

In the afternoon I went for a brief look along the Dockens Water to assess the amount of Himalayan balsam that will need pulling, the answer seems to be rather little, despite my seeing a lot of newly germinated seedlings in late March. I think a combination of frosts and flooding have removed a lot fo them, for now most of the plants seem to be recent seedlings. I did come across a beetle, one of the burying beetles, but one that is a predator of snails. This i snot the greatest picture but it does show the elongated head that allows it to reach into snail shells to get at the occupant. This one is the commonest of a few similar species called Silpha atrata and I would think it must be a female with the abdomen extended by eggs.

Silpha atrata

The warmer night had led to hopes of more moths, but so far this has not really come to pass, I think we need a few more warm days. The nearest thing to a surprise int he trap was a silver Y, a migrant species. Many of the moths that should be flying now feed at flowers, a particular favourite with a lot of species are campions and the red campion is particularly obvious in lots of places at Blashford at the moment.

red campion flower