Bluebells and dandelions, nesting birds, a beetle and a snail.
First day of May and we are now well into spring and what a choice of pics to choose my ten from. The bluebells and dandelions are fully out, the birds are nesting and a host of smaller creatures are about.
We have some splendid bluebell woods around us and some of the best are in our neighbouring parish of Steep. Here, the ancient ash-maple-hazel coppiced woodlands are currently a fine blaze of blue (image 1). Our native Bluebell is a delicate plant with long narrow leaves and a strongly arching flower-head (image 2) compared with the rougher tougher upright pinkish Spanish Bluebell that grows in our gardens. Bluebells provide nectar for many insects and here is a Carder Bee queen feeding from a bluebell (image 3).
We have seen Spanish bluebells mistakenly planted in ancient woodlands and which is a shame because the two hybridise and weaken the genetics of our native bluebells. This is important because the UK is home to almost half of the world’s population of our native bluebell. Globally, this species is threatened, underlining the international obligation we have to protect this species. More information can be found in the results of the ‘Bluebells for Britain’ survey: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/application/files/6014/8155/5822/Bluebells_for_Britain.pdf
Our ancient woodlands are also home to a whole host of wild plants and at this time of year the most brilliant is the Early Purple Orchid (image 4) with its vivid red spikes rising from the woodland floor.
We have also had some splendid golden yellow spreads of Dandelions that grow best on our mown verges. If you have travelled into Petersfield you can hardly have missed the brilliant carpet of dandelions along the Winchester Road by Stoneham Park (image 5).
Birds are nesting and some are feeding nestlings and some have fledged. Starling nestlings are constantly calling for food in our eaves (image 6) and our nest boxes are home to House Sparrows (image 7) and Blue Tits (image 8). We have seen Robins, Wood Pigeons and a Mistle Thrush collecting nesting materials and of course now is the time to get up early to listen to the dawn chorus.
A few days ago, the first Cockchafer Beetle (image 9) appeared in the moth trap and yesterday there were twenty of these bulky buzzing beetles. These cockchafers were turning up right on cue as we entered May as they are also called May Bugs. I read that as larvae they can live underground for up to four or five years, but as adults they only live for up to six weeks.
Finally, we had a rainy evening a few days ago and a search by torchlight soon revealed a whole host of snails wandering over our garden vegetation and of which the banded snails were most common. This is the White-lipped Snail (image 10) distinguished from the similar Brown-lipped Snail by the colour of the shell margin.