May 20, 2018

Where are the Swifts?

Sat in a gentle shower of dark pink flower petals floating from the old crab apple in the garden I write the beginning of this blog.

In the same week it has been hotter than South America one day and bitterly cold another. When planning to go out for the day what to wear is a nightmare. The only guarantee is that it will be wrong, so how nature plans what to do and when is a mystery.

On visiting the woodland project one bright fresh morning last week I experienced one of those transcend ant moments when your heart breaks and words fail to describe the spiritual impact of the moment. The visual, audio and olfactory senses were overwhelmed all at once by the perfection and harmony of the moment. (Pure Gerard Manley Hopkins ) A Photograph cannot record a reality such as this, so when the camera battery gave out it was a blessing because I could concentrate more on being there. 

After such a long long winter my  spirit felt down trodden and lifeless.  Possibly being so low meant I had a huge amount  of upward motion to work with (I said words are inadequate but I will try, because it would be selfish to hide it, but be assured it is safely deposited in the treasure box.)

The trees appear to be blossoming all at the same time be it late.  For the cherry and fruit trees this means the blossom as hung on for longer and not been blasted off by heavy wind and rain as is usual.


Slowly Queen bees and butterflies are starting to appear.  Cuckoo flower the favourite of the Orange Tip Butterfly, is scarce this spring  because of the late wintry weather as it is one of the first wildflowers of the season, so we will not see many butterflies that are exclusively dependant on this flower.

Having said  that Dandelions are having a bumper it seems swings and roundabouts  who benefits from what.

Like  the nature writer Richard Mabey I worry each year about the arrival of the Swifts.  This year only 2 have arrived and 2 weeks on still no more.  This is devastating as swooping screaming squadrons of swifts ARE summer.  They only stay for 6 weeks to breed and then back to Africa, so does this mean the end for them.  50% have gone in the last 10 years, but I would settle for half of last years.

As a result I contacted the Dee Estuary  Recorders who sent me a reassuring email that 50 had been counted but as the weather was so good they would could be flying very high.
Bearing in mind I have tiny dark floaters in my eyes I find spotting distant birds problematic so maybe I have seen them.

Much to my delight I did see 2 Spotted Flycatchers and these were definitely not floaters, dancing after insects in an complex  aerobatic display considerable.

Snails and slugs are back so must get my tasty camp coffee paper out to see what artist efforts I can get this year. (Photos to follow )

April 22, 2018

Herons and Egrets

Herons used to be an unusual  bird sighting, but this has changed possibly over the last few years due to the presence of RSPB Burton Point and heronry on the adjacent farmland. A couple of weeks ago you could count the egrets and herons in double figures along the front in Parkgate as  large digger was expanding the drainage ditches and stacking huge mounds of silt and mud along the edge near the main road.  A white stork has been seen checking out the heronry area at Burton Mere also.

Spring has sprung at last and is moving so fast that it is almost impossible to keep up with the blossoming and the birding.  Everything is happening at once, instead of a gradual progression and procession through the season  of the daily changes.

Wood Anemone

White Wood Anemone has joined the yellow Celandine on the woodland floor. Tree blossom and catkins have arrived together, whilst wall bearing Aubretia very late on the scene has blossomed  overnight.

The Blue tits have been sitting on their eggs for over a week now.  They amazingly can hold back the development of their clutch until the right conditions arrive for feeding their chicks. Male birds seem to be very attentive partners and fathers going by the actions of our nesting pair in the garden.

Primroses have done really well this late spring

Jackdaws have been noisily collecting moss off the roof for the lining of their nests and being very fussy about it,  going by the bits jettisoned all over the side path. Whilst Magpies are already sitting on egg in their large handbag nests.  (You can just see the tips of tails sticking out of the tops.)   Just this week I discovered my first a sparrowhawks nest which has just been built, so will hopefully have some pictures here soon. 

I appreciate one Swallow does not make a summer but walking along the marshes at Parkgate we saw four so summer is coming.  House Martins and Sand Martins are also appearing aerobatically  chasing insects.

April 1, 2018

Dunnock Spring

Without dwelling too much on the wonderful positioning of the Wirral Peninsula...again...what was the worst day of the winter for the rest of the country was one of the brightest and joyous days for us.  Moderate snow overnight but the bitter wind dropped and we were bathed in warm sunshine by mid- morning

A little bit of sunshine and warmth and nature has erupted into spring catching up on the lost few weeks of extreme cold.  The birds have burst into ebullient song, Blackbirds and Robins in the dawn and evening.  Dunnocks and Wrens accompanying Tits and Thrush during the day.

Dunnocks are very interesting birds in an underwhelming way.  Little brown jobs they spend most of their time at ground level except at this time of spring when the males sit atop bare branched trees singing loud  tuneful baritone  songs.   Usually seen in pairs they do have a varied love life. Sometimes faithful and monogamous but often having more than one partner. This applies to females as well.  As a result the chicks may unknowingly have multiple parental genes.


Much to my delight after mourning the disappearance of the rookery over the winter, on my recent visit to the Woodland Project, 20 new nests had been built. These were occupied by a noisy mix of Jackdaws and Rooks.

Lesser Celandine is the first woodland plant to appear through the leaf mold of last year.  This together with the greenery of the first Bluebell leaves means no matter what the weather throws Spring is on the way.  Sitting here in my coffee shop eating my tiny Lindt bunny everything is looking more cheerful.