Last autumn I planted some crown imperial fritillary bulbs in the garden. Whilst these are arresting and wonderful plants in their own right, what particularly interests me is that they are the only plant in Europe to be pollinated by a bird.
I would absolutely love to see Blue Tits visiting the crown imperials and so have put a camera on them. Possibly it might take the birds a few years to realise that this resource is here for them, but I’m prepared to wait.
We put thirty Dormouse nesting boxes up in the wood earlier in the year and the Blue Tits there must be delighted with the sudden influx of potential nesting sites! This weekend we went round with the licensed ecologist on the first of the monthly monitoring visits and found that fourteen of the boxes had Blue Tit nests in them at various stages of construction. One even had a clutch of eggs already, discreetly hidden under a layer of feathers.
There were no signs of Dormouse activity in any of the boxes this time but they will be checked again next month.
We have discovered that there are six cubs in the fox den in the wood. Although the average litter size for foxes is four to five, bigger litters are not uncommon:
As I was crouching down beside this camera with my computer to download the photos, one of the cubs came above ground. It visibly jumped when it saw me, not two metres away from it, and retreated back into the mouth of the burrow to stare at me from there. A very memorable and special moment indeed.
The cubs are ridiculously sweet, the colour of the earth with a reddishness about the face as a sign of what is to come. Some of them have a white tip to the end of their tail.
Thermoregulation in the young cubs is not great and so, when not busy exploring the world around the burrow, they huddle together to keep warm awaiting the return of their mother:
Although the cubs themselves are not yet on solids, the adult foxes are bringing prey back for each other.
There has been lovely weather all week, bringing the wood alive with spring butterflies. Orange Tips visiting the bluebells, Peacocks, Speckled Woods, lots of Brimstones…
… and we followed a Green-veined White as it worked its way along the woodland path from violet to violet:
This young rabbit stayed still long enough for a photo:
A Brambling sighting was a first for the wood:
Every spring a pair of Bullfinch have arrived to raise a family:
A Marsh Tit has been coming to the wool dispenser to collect wool and I wonder if it is nesting in one of the bird boxes? Last spring we moved a trail camera on a tripod from box to box to see what was nesting within each one. It was exclusively Great Tits and Blue Tits back then, but who knows what we shall discover this year.
Across in the meadows, the Smooth Newts are very active in the ponds at the moment. The bellies of the females are swollen with eggs and the over-attentive males are making nuisances of themselves.
It surely can’t be very long now before the badger cubs come above ground. Yet again, the babies have been carried around between burrows a few times this week:
The Blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows cannot fail to lift the spirits, with the Hawthorn yet to come:
And the fruit trees are in glorious flower in the orchard. Pear blossom:
And deliciously pink apple blossom:
Dark-edged Bee-fly enjoying the flowers…
..and in profile showing its tufty long fur and spindly legs:
A lovely image of a hedgehog in our daughter’s garden in the North Downs. What a shiny, wet nose it has:
At this time of year, there is an endless list of jobs to do in the garden and allotment, and the beautiful Easter weather has got us out to get some of these ticked off.
In one corner of the allotment, the rhubarb leaves are starting to thrust themselves up above ground and, from time to time, we stop by to note the progress, dreaming of the rhubarb crumbles to come.