A stoat; the nesting blue tits have gone but the sparrows are still busy feeding their young.
Spring weather has arrived and despite a rather cold north-easterly wind we have had some fine sunny days.
A special delight has been catching a Stoat at the end of the garden on our wildlife cameras. We had seen it catch five young rats in succession and then a couple of days later returned and carried off an adult Rat (image 1).
Both of our Blue Tit families have fledged but our House Sparrows are continuing to feed their young with the male and female sparrows alternating their feeding every few minutes; they must be getting really exhausted with the constant attention demanded by their young birds (images 2 and 3).
Seeing the reptile attracting Wildlife Refugia Tins on Spring Watch (BBC 2) last night prompts me to put on a picture of our ‘tins’ (image 4). We have four of these pieces of rusty corrugated iron in a sunny part of the garden backed by a pile of ivy-covered logs and cut branches. These ‘tins’ warm up in the sun and various small animals take shelter and warm up under them. I have shown pictures of various creatures from the tins previously but they regularly attract grass snakes, slow-worms, frogs, toads, bank voles, and common and pygmy shrews and are always a delight to inspect and a draw for the grandchildren.
The Village Green is currently tall and lush and rich in wild grasses and flowers (image 5). The strip of Hawthorn bushes has been flowering wonderfully (image 6). These bushes mark the old track that passed from the Winchester Road (from the gate by the bus shelter) to the one-time row of farm buildings that previously occupied the land at Stroud End. Other plants on the Green have been a wonderful shows of Red Campion (image 7) and bright yellow Meadow Buttercups (image 8) and, just inside the entrance, a great show of Cow Parsley (or as I prefer to call it ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’) (image 9).
The only patch of open water publicly accessible in the parish is the pond outside the Seven Stars public house and at the moment it is resplendent with a show of Yellow Iris (image 10). The current planning application (for an enlarged car park, new accommodation block, and a new access road) would mean that the pond would go to be replaced with a much inferior ornamental pond and which would be a shame as this pond was a community led project in the first place.
With the cold winds it has been a poor year for butterflies, but we still see some Holly Blues in the boundary hedges while Peacock Butterflies feed from the village green buttercups (image 11).
I was pleased to find two bumble bee mimics on the village green, especially the red-tailed form of the Bumble-bee Hoverfly Volucella bombylans which mimics the red-tailed bumble bee (image 12) and also the perhaps less welcome Narcissus Bulb Fly which attacks narcissus roots (image 13). The brightly coloured Red and Black Froghopper is becoming common around the edges of the village green (image 14). Sitting on a grass blade was this Wandering Crab Spider (image 15) which spider actively hunts its prey unlike the flower crab spiders which wait for their prey to come to them.
The cold weather has not been good for the usually rich assemblage of May moths, but two that have appeared have been the Marbled Minor (image 16) and the Coronet (image 17). While visiting Woolmer Forest recently I found a very flowery verge along the Woolmer road with a splendid colony of Common Blue Butterflies. It is a shame they are called ‘common’ for the male is a magnificent bright blue and as bright as any tropical butterfly (image18), the female being a less showy rich brown with bright orange wing markings (image 19).
Several trips to Petersfield Heath have revealed the splendid impressively large queen European Hornets (image 20). Hornets are frequent insect predators on the heath and generally brown and yellow (unlike the black and yellow of the common wasps) but the queens are a rich reddish brown and yellow and up to 3-4cm long. I have seen Hornets catching prey and feeding on sap runs from a damaged oak tree and we once had a colony in the bat box mounted on our house.