Nature Notes For April 2020

Repeating the country saying about March as ‘coming in like a lion and out like a lamb’ may not be true this year as its been relatively calm and dry here anyway compared with the drowning we got in February, and there have clearly been very few frosts. In fact, when the sun has come out its felt quite pleasant, so much so that all the daffs are out, trees are blossoming everywhere and Pat Brace in Cavalier Road put a note through my door while I was away saying that a Brimstone butterfly was seen here on 14th February, Valentines day!
Talking of romance, there’s been a number of birds pairing up now and Allison Wells in Belle Vue emailed to notify me of Greenfinches swapping food with each other, Wrens eyeing up a nest box, as were a pair of Blue Tits plus two Blackbirds were looking to build again right next to where they successfully bred last year.

I’m waiting for the fun to start here too as I watch a pair of Magpies building their big stick structure near the top of a large conifer in my rear garden, which is also the favourite perch of the Red Kites. I can’t wait to see the commotion that’ll surely follow when / if the Magpies have eggs or young as they won’t tolerate raptors near them, and I doubt very much that the Kites will give up their favourite viewing point!
A few willing and (just) able bodies continued with the stream cleaning near the viaduct last month and we are beginning to see the fruits of our labour with all sorts of debris being found and disposed of. The sunlight can now get into places it couldn’t, meaning weed growth might now be encouraged, mud and sticks dragged away to the edges of the stream means the flow can increase which in turn will help flush some of the silt away. If gravel beds can be exposed again then fish and invertebrates that need this to breed upon might return.
You might ask why am I concerned about this? Well, call it a boyhood memory revival if you like. Before Network Rail fenced the stream off and before it was as bad as it now, kids could get into the water and catch sticklebacks, bullheads, frogs and tadpoles from the water and on the embankment and would spend hours in the summer months looking for lizards and slow-worms. The reptiles might well still exist ‘up there’ but to go and search for them now would of course be trespassing and they’re better left alone anyway. But the deteriorating state of the natural spring that held such an abundance of fantastic water creatures is frankly a crime so I’m doing my best, with a lot of help, to try and reverse this. If you agree and want to help, please contact me.

Michael Freer sent me a nice photo of one of a pair of Treecreepers he spied inching around a tree overhanging the Loddon last month. Its quite unusual to get close to these secretive birds and Id have loved to have included the shot of this bird but it just wouldn’t show on the thumbnail print that we can print. Regardless, Michael was well pleased with his sighting. So too Laura Haystaff who noted a slight movement in a tree in her Moor View back garden and could just make out the bright orange headstripe of a Goldcrest seeking out insects amongst the foliage. Being Europe’s smallest bird these guys need to eat a good percentage of their body weight a day to survive but thankfully this mild winter should mean that their numbers will have been maintained and at the end of this year’s breeding season perhaps we will all see more of them.

Rick Bourne
Don’t forget to send all your nature related photos to rickbourne@yahoo.com or naturenotes@basinga.org.uk
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