Lockdown Nature Notes 3

Despite us not being able to see much of it, spring is still springing. This is the painting-by-numbers time of year when every day colours in just a little bit more green until suddenly the picture is complete. Someone once talked about the number of different shades of black that Van Dyke used. It would be interesting to count how many shades of green spring brings. For starters, think of the differences between Maples, Oaks, Larch and Beech…

We had a beautiful week last week with almost wall to wall sunshine and as a result more flowers appeared, more butterflies were on the wing and the birds were really singing their hearts out. Of the migrants, I’ve only heard Blackcap and Chiffchaff so far, but I am told there is a Nightingale at Witley Common and Whitethroats have also been seen. There was a report of a cuckoo at Elstead Common so my bet is that the Faustian Cuckoo, Colin, has returned in search of easy mealworms, but will he be in luck this year? Possibly not as, even if they could get there, how would all those photographers keep 2 metres apart…oh dear! 

Veronica has seen Egyptian and Greylag Geese by the River Wey and Sue recorded a Redstart and Swallows on Thursley Common. Despite bad weather in Greece earlier in the month, which affected many migrating birds, Sand Martins have been reported as well as Swallows and hopefully Swifts will be here before too long. Going past Busbridge Lakes I caught a glimpse of a Heron poised on the bank, frozen with concentration on fishing.

Flowers that have emerged since last week include Shining Cranesbill, Common Vetch, Common Dog Violet and Three-cornered Leek (there’s a good patch of this at the Brighton Road end of Heath Lane). Herb Bennet is in bud and the leaves of White Bryony are looking very vigorous. Ferns are unfurling, the first fronds of Bracken have appeared and, in the wet area of Tuesley Lane, there are some very fine plants of Greater Horsetail as well as some Pendulous Sedge and Lady’s Smock.

The sun brought out the first Speckled Woods of the year and a Comma. There are many more Orange Tips around now and several Holly Blues, plus, of course, Brimstones. 

If you happen to be in Munstead Heath Road – the Brighton Road end – take a deep breath and enjoy the wonderful fragrance of Balsam Poplars. Not only do the trees release this scent as the resin covered buds open, but if infused in oils the buds can be used to create ointments for injury, pain relief, burns, inflammation and respiratory problems. However, as they contain salicin, if you are allergic to aspirin it would probably be better to avoid any of these treatments.

Keep cheerful and keep looking, listening and sniffing – you never know what delights you might find! Have a good week…

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