The weather this Saturday was glorious – no wind, blue sky and warm sunshine. Perfect for a stroll around the countryside. So I set off around 8am and apart from the warmth, the first thing I noticed was the air laden with the fragrances of spring blossom.
In the last week the spring weather has caused trees and flowers including the willow to blossom…
Pussy willow – the furry catkin of the willow tree against a gorgeous blue sky, and a lone honeybee
Butterflies are waking up after hibernation. A red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flew through my garden last week and a friend told me he saw a brimstone in his garden and another wended its way gently past a window at work today.
Red admiral feeding on a convulvulus flower
Red admiral are resident and can be seen all year round when weather permits. Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) are also resident and hibernate over the winter but they are now out and about aroused by the warm weather. Bumble bees have also become more abundant in the last few weeks and I now see them on most days.
The birds are all singing and a walk through parks and fields is accompanied by the song of greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, dunnock and robin, most noticeably. And on my hike across the fields abundant yellowhammer, reed bunting and corn bunting, three Emberiza species, were all in full voice:
E.citrinella – one of many yellowhammer, this one is a male, patrolling the hedgerows
E.schoeniclus – reed bunting male
E.calandra – corn bunting making its very distinctive call
Yellowhammer, reed bunting and corn bunting perch in hedgerows and make feeding forays to the ground in the neighbouring fields where they feast on seeds and during the breeding season and summer will eat invertebrates. I pass one location where there has been a mixed group of 20-30 reed bunting and yellowhammer present regularly over the last month. Corn bunting have made a recent comeback to the fields around Histon, they disappear at harvest time, middle to end of August, and reappear in the Spring when they can be seen perched on top of brambles, bushes and short trees making their very characteristic song.
Skylark were also singing constantly. Farmland species such as these have seen their habitat severely depleted in recent times, consequently their numbers are reduced as a result.
A red fox and a small group of roe deer put in appearances, the fox was heading a cross the fields to Landbeach heading away from a place I photographed cubs last year, so I hope they are breeding here again this year.
Roe deer – Capreolus capreolus – the leader on the right is sporting native antlers
A pair of crows chased off a buzzard which thermalled over the fields before disappearing into the haze towards Waterbeach and a flock of several hundred black headed gulls squawked noisily over the fields. I observed them for several minutes with binoculars and I think they were all black heads, but there could have been a few individuals of other species mixed in. A sparrowhawk flew at very high speed from the Linnet Hedge across South Bean Field before rising up and passing through a gap in the treeline, causing mayhem with the birdlife in the gardens beyond and a female kestrel was looking for rodents in the South Fallow Field. It was the first time I’d seen birds of prey here for several months so it was great to see three species on one walk.