Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Spring onto Patch

Some signes of spring on patch.

23rd March. The sun, blue skies and heat all proved to be a bit of a shock to the system today as I wandered along the wagon-ways. It was a real pleasure to dump some of the layers. I found a decent patch of Colts-foot Tussilago farfara next to the pathway. This is one of the early spring flowers. One of its vernacular names, Son-before-father, refers to the fact that the plant flowers before the leaves have opened. The common name of Colts-foot refers to the hoof like shape of the leaves. The leaves were used as a cough medicine and Colts-foot rock was available at the chemist at one time. During the war it was apparently viewed as a cough treatment and not rationed. Not that I remember any of this I hasten to add!

A few days ago I failed to positively identify my first butterfly of the year, but today there was no doubt that I had seen my first Peacock Butterfly. This was followed within minutes by a Comma Butterfly. Both were near to my home and both coming close to examine me. I did get brief sightings of another two butterflies, I think again Peacocks, and one of those almost touched my ear as it flew around my head. Another nice sighting for the day was a Brown Hare which I came within a few metres of, as it seemed to feed and clean itself in the grass. I’m sure it was so pre-occupied that it hadn’t realised I was there. On my return it had moved along the hedge-way only slightly.

The air was full of birdsong today and this included a number of Skylarks. Strangely these have been the first Skylarks I have heard on patch this year. Unusually I have heard Chiffchaff before hearing the Skylark. Incidentally I did hear and see another Chiffchaff today. I’ve also been surprised this year by the lack of Lapwing taking up territories. There were none about today in the area that held them last year. I did eventually find four of them. Three of them appeared to be settled in the opposite fields from last year and one of them was near the small flash towards Holystone. The flash also held one Moorhen.

The pair of Kestrels met at one of the high pylons. The male immediately flying off to hunt over the fields, and the female landing on the pylon where she stayed for a few minutes before also flying off to hover over the opposite fields. A couple of Yellowhammers were in the hedge and I briefly heard another sing. Pheasant was heard and a number of Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were both heard and seen. Nine Stock Doves lifted from the field.

As I was nearing home I heard the call of an Oystercatcher and I looked into the sky to try and catch sight of it but failed to do so. A sound which is becoming increasingly common in Killingworth. A Mistle Thrush was singing from high up in the trees. A song that can easily confuse I think. Very like a poor version of the Blackbird, and more repetitive. I remember last year listening to the ‘storm cock, at Holywell with Holywell Birding. Very soon afterwards both Cain and I were soaked in a storm! I have to say the weather didn’t look like taking a turn for the worse today. This Mistle Thrush flew off still in full song. It definitely felt like spring today!

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