Lockdown Nature Notes 2

Spring is certainly getting on with it. Loads of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps have arrived, Swallows have been sighted and a Cuckoo was recorded in East Sussex last week. If they haven’t already arrived, Willow Warblers and Redstarts should be here soon. There is no shortage of Buzzards and Red Kites – Barbara spotted three Buzzards and two Red Kites from her garden and I had a good view of a Kite over Shackstead Lane. From the very large to the very tiny, Carol had an enviably close encounter with a Goldcrest in the Farnham Road in Guildford. Various people have mentioned Wrens and Dunnocks in their gardens and a family of Bullfinches has been raiding my next door neighbour’s apple tree. There are Nuthatches everywhere and a plenty of Chaffinches, Greenfinches and, happily, Sparrows. The Sparrows seem to be particularly fond of gardens where there are hedges.

It’s still possible to walk down the footpath from Quartermile Road but you can’t now go into the woodland owned by Ladywell Convent as Waverley Council has asked them to close it for the time being. However, follow the main path downhill and then turn right and there is an alternative path that runs alongside Busbridge Lakes and comes out on Tuesley Lane. So as well as catching glimpses of Treecreepers and admiring the swathes of Lesser Celandines, you can also take in birds like Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck and some exotics like (I think) Emperor Geese. 

Talking of exotics, Ian and Jennifer came across this lovely Western Skunk Cabbage in Water Lane (yes, apparently they do have a very unpleasant odour). 

Skunk Cabbages are common wildflowers in North America where they like boggy, wet conditions. Here you’ll find them by streams and also in ditches where I guess they’ve escaped to from gardens. They are good for attracting insects and other pollinators. I can’t imagine why you might want to but don‘t try eating the leaves raw as they will make your mouth burn and swell.

There are more butterflies around now. As well as Brimstones and Peacocks, Holly Blues and Orange Tips have been seen as well as Small White and Comma. Apart from the plants mentioned last week  I’ve now seen Barren Strawberry, Ground Ivy, Red Campion, Yellow Archangel, Lady’s Smock, Wood Spurge, Early Dog Violets, Red Valerian, Slender, Birds-eye and Field Speedwell, Jack-by-the-hedge and Field Woodrush.  Last week I mentioned a large patch of Borage near Munstead Wood. Since then I’ve read a bit more about the plant and find it’s a “sort of super plant”. Not only is it very attractive to bees (hence the local names of bee bread and bee bush) but Pliny, Dioscorides and Francis Bacon all believed it would drive away all “sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy”. Syrup made of the flowers “comforteth the heart, purgeth melancholy and quieteth the phrenticke and lunaticke person”. Pliny also believed Borage was the Nepenthe of Homer, which when drunk steeped in wine, brought absolute forgetfulness, but I’m not sure Borage is entirely to blame for that…It is also, of course, a well-known garnish for Pimms.

So, lots to look forward to this coming week – more flowers, more birds, more butterflies and It sounds as though the weather is going to remain reasonably good. So, stay as cheerful as you can under the circumstances and keep your eyes and ears open, it’s a wonderful time of year.

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