Easter Round Up

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.

The plant is native from Turkey across to India and is bird pollinated across its entire range. Here, it is only Blue Tits that are exactly the right size and shape to make contact with both the male and female parts of the flower and thus pollinate it. They access the flowers from below, holding on to the central stem until launching themselves upwards into the bells. The plant produces plentiful amounts of nectar and this is sucrose-free so that the birds can digest it. Interestingly, the nectar of other species of fritillary, pollinated by bumblebees rather than birds, does contain sucrose.
Blue tit in the wood last year

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.

Box 11 with a bird nest of moss, hay and feathers within. A yellow duster blocks the hole as the lid is edged sideways to peer in

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:

Night-time suckling
The cubs are now starting to be seen out during the day, but stay very close to the den:

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:

A ball of cubs

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…

A female Brimstone, the males being lemon-yellow

… 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:

An Easter Bunny

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.

Marsh Tit about to collect some wool

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.

Not a great photo but the female is lighter with a rotund abdomen

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.

Getting the first early potatoes in

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.

One thought on “Easter Round Up

  1. Oh my goodness, those fox cubs are just gorgeous. I haven’t seen a country fox for many years and I haven’t seen a Brimstone either. My niece saw one last week so I know they are about. Happy Easter. X

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