Monday, 26 April 2010

Heating up down Peppercombe.

Spring is busting out all over!  Peppercombe 17th April 2010. Warm, sultry with just a slight breeze, hazy blue sky. Welcome sight of a lone swallow on the Horns Cross telephone wire. On the walk down saw two Peacock butterflies each one settling for a while on the track, soaking up the sunshine. Also saw three bumble bees, one Orange Tip which was too flighty to photograph and  an Orange Tip Butterfly, both a Large White and Small White butterfly, two twittering, flirty coal tits and a Blackbird. The white cotton-wool like fluff high on the coast path is flowering blackthorn which is often mistaken for Hawthorne. Blackthorne always flowers earlier and unlike Hawthorne (May Flower) it flowers before the leaves are formed. Good to see the meadows are now dotted with an abundance of lesser celandine and primroses. Other wild flowers making a first appearance include Greater Stitchwart, Wood Sorrel, Wild Strawberry, Ground Ivy, White Hairy Bitter-cress, Red Campion, Alexander, Daisy, Dandelion, Dog Violets and Daffodils. As usual I took a picture of the first budding Ransom (wild garlic) which will soon be accompanied by hundreds on the banks and beside the trail. In the next couple of weeks their pungent smell will permeate the air.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Swallows and waterfalls

Nice to know that whilst the world's airlines remain grounded due to the Icelandic Volcano, those brave little swallows have still managed to make their epic journey from the other side of the ocean to arrive safely in North Devon. Isn't nature wonderful!
I spotted the first lone swallow on the telegraph wire at Horns Cross on the 17th April. Regular as clockwork I made a note in my diary last year and the first wave was also dated 17th April. I was delighted to see that there were larger numbers up the coast at Spekes Mill Mouth on Sunday 18th, about 30 could be seen swooping and swirling up above the cliffs and over the waterfall. I also saw a Kestrel hovering on the wind.
By the 19th the numbers on the Horns Cross wire had swelled to 6. I am now on the lookout for the swifts and house martins, the house martins tend to send an advanced party round about the 24th April each year. Let us know if you see them in your area.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Peppercombe - Barely Spring

Barely Spring Greens. Peppercombe Valley 27th March. Bee, beetle and a buzzard and that’s about all. The long, long March into April and at last Peppercombe is juddering to life as spring greens begin to emerge. Spring greens include the fresh leafy spikes of Alexanders, wild Bluebells, Lesser Celandine, Primroses, Foxgloves, Dogs Mercury, Ransoms and Spring Beauty. There are swathes of yellow flowering, creeping  pimpernel (?), a low growing plant which loves the damp ground where the winter rains spill down the gutter at the side of the track creating a mini stream. I saw one bee and the resident buzzard did a fly-by, the busy beetle, pictured, was doing a circuit of its own mini arena as I approached then scurried down the bolthole. Still only a couple of posies of primroses on the way down and very low growth on the Alexanders which at this time last year were tall and in flower as were the daffodils by the Pink cottage and under the red beech. Most noticeable is the emptiness on the cliff bank beside the bungalow, only five groups of primroses in bloom today. I miss the golden gorse which was once very prevalent here, only a couple of bushes remain. The gorse made the perfect frame for the picture of the bungalow which was taken on 21st April last year. The catkins are now in abundance, there are new leaves on the honeysuckle and pussy willow is in various stages of growth

Big Garden Bird Watch 2010 Results

It's Official small birds struggled to beat the snowy winter
Nearly 530,000 people took part in Big Garden Birdwatch 2010 and counted over 8 and a half million birds. The RSPB celebrated last year with the arrival of long-tailed tits in the top 10 for the first time, suggesting they were getting used to feeding on seeds and peanuts in hanging feeders and on bird tables. However, smaller bodied birds are particularly susceptible to the cold, having to eat almost continuously to stay alive, so they were very keen to get your counts and see just how the bad weather at the start of the year affected bird populations. As predicted, birds like the long-tailed tit, coal tit and goldcrest were the worst affected, with average numbers of all three species dropping significantly since the 2009 survey.
Country birds get in on the count
The weather was also responsible for many more sightings of countryside birds like fieldfares, redwings, bullfinches and yellowhammers in gardens. More usually found in fields and farmland trees and hedgerows, these birds visit our gardens for food when they can't find enough in their usual haunts. Other members of the thrush family, including song thrushes, mistle thrushes and blackbirds, were seen in much higher numbers this year, also looking for food. An unusually high number of blackcaps were also seen. In this harsher winter we might have expected their numbers to decline, but more blackcaps than usual were discovered on bird tables. Just like the long-tailed tit, this suggests that blackcaps are adapting their feeding behaviour to take advantage of bird tables and feeders, and therefore becoming more visible in gardens.
Still in decline
Although the RSPB were particularly concerned for small birds this cold and snowy winter, some of our most familiar garden birds have also continued to suffer huge declines. House sparrows might have retained top spot for the seventh year running, but in the last five years alone these chirpy birds have declined by 17%. Blackbirds rose from third to second place, while starlings dropped to third - the first time they have been out of the top two in more than 10 years.

The 2010 Big Garden Birdwatch top 10; Position Species Average per garden
1 house sparrow 3.77
2 blackbird 3.28
3 starling 3.13
4 blue tit 2.58
5 chaffinch 2.19
6 woodpigeon 1.91
7 robin 1.49
8 great tit 1.39
9 collared dove 1.33
10 goldfinch 1.29

Related Article North Devon Snow Party is Over & Big Garden Bird Watch results 2009