Yellow Days

It is often said that early spring flowers are mostly yellow and there is some truth in this, at Blashford Lakes just now it is certainly the most frequent flower colour. Although not usually actually the “Prime rose” or first flower the primrose is undoubtedly yellow.

primrose

One of the many primroses in flower near the Education Centre.

I am not entirely sure that they are native at Blashford, or at least if they were I suspect they were eradicated by the gravel workings and these are the result of plantings, however they do well and are spreading.

By contrast the wild daffodils are genuinely wild, they grow only where the original woodland ground surface remains, although they are also slowly spreading onto ground that was disturbed.

wild daffodil

wild daffodils

The surrounding area has quite a good population of wild daffodils, although they do show signs of hybridising near to the larger plantings of garden cultivars. For this reason we have removed just about all the cultivated varieties from the reserve, although we still manage to find a few hidden away somewhere every year.

One of the more important early nectar sources for insects is the lesser celandine, these are so reflectively yellow that they are difficult to photograph. They have  a dish-shaped flower which reflects the sun into the centre heating it up. The flowers also reflect ultraviolet light very strongly, especially around the flower centre, making them very attractive to bees and hoverflies which see these wavelengths very well.

lesser celandine

lesser celandine

Another very attractive flower to insects is willow, the catkins are also yellow, although this is because of the abundant pollen, which is also the main prize for many of the insects that visit.

Willow catkins

willow catkins

These are the male flowers and the trees are single sexed, so only about half have the “Pussy willow” flowers.

willow catkins with wasp

Willow catkins, look closely at one of the lower flowers and you can see a small wasp.

Although both sexes produce nectar the male trees are especially valuable for bees as they need pollen as a food source in the spring, apparently this stimulates the queens to lay eggs.

Other yellow flowers include gorse, flowering now ,although peaking usually in May and famously never not in flower hence the saying that “When gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season”.

gorse

gorse, a very prickly member of the pea family.

In the alder carr the opposite-leaved golden saxifrage is now flowering, the flowers are not large or very obvious, but they continue the yellow theme.

opposite-leaved golden saxifrage

opposite-leaved golden saxifrage

This plant only colonised Blashford Lakes in the last ten years, I think carried down the Dockens Water, possibly from our reserve at Linwood where it is very common.

 

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Finding Gold and Watching Out for Tough Ted

Bird News: Ibsley Waterruff 1, little ringed plover 2, water pipit 1, goldeneye 7, mandarin duck 1, sedge warbler 1, Cetti’s warbler 1. Ivy LakeCetti’s warbler 1, scaup 1, garden warbler 1, water rail 2+.

Apart from the odd shower the day was largely sunny, although with an increasingly brisk south-west wind. Opening the Tern hide I saw the water pipit briefly before it flew off to the south over Ellingham Drove, I have seen it do this before and I wonder if it goes to the shingle area around Ellingham Pound, I must make time to check sometime. A single ruff remains and I saw at least 2 little ringed plovers distantly up the lake. A drake mandarin duck flew west over the lake, it seems we have a pair around regularly at present, perhaps they will breed locally this year.

Over beside Ivy Lake I heard my first garden warbler of the year, just south of the Woodland hide. It was also good to see a water rail on the silt pond, there is a pair at the Ivy North hide and it seems there may also be potential for a further breeding territory ont he silt pond as well. The Cetti’s warbler was also singing by the pond and I heard a report of another singing near the Lapwing hide, another species that has not bred on the reserve in my time working here.

Despite a return to more normal weather for the time of year there are still signs of the season moving on, I saw a group of bluebells in full flower and the pendulous sedge near the Centre is coming into flower as well, the long drooping flower heads have masses of pollen.

pendulous sedge in flower

Another plant I noticed in flower today was one that I only realised even grew on the reserve earlier this year, what’s more it is easily visible from one of the paths I walk down several times each day, which just shows how unobservant I am! I am not talking about a single plant either but two large patches a few metres across, the plant is opposite-leaved golden saxifrage, a plant of damp or even wet woodland.

opposite-leaved golden saxifrage

During the day I heard reports of a sedge warbler singing near the Lapwing hide, the first this year and rather later than in most years, in fact there often reed warblers about by now, so although this has been a rather early year for most species is has not been for all. There were a few sand martin, swallow and a house martin or two about over several of the lakes at different times, although numbers of sand martin are still very low, hopefully they are still out there somewhere.

When I went to lock up the hides I was in for a surprise on Ivy Lake, the return of the drake scaup, it seems to have settled in with the local tufted ducks and was displaying to a female tufty, so perhaps it will stay all summer. I was also amused to see the logbook in the Ivy North hide, which included reference to a bird we might want to avoid, the “Tough Ted duck”.

Closing the Tern hide I saw a group of 7 goldeneye, including 2 adult drakes, I doubt they will be with us much longer.