May 2015 - Spring

Primrose and Lesser Celandine

I saw my first grass snake of the season today, 14th April, as it basked in the spring sunshine in Cringleford Wood. It suddenly became aware of my presence and slithered away quickly. Its camouflage was spectacular against the leaves left lying after the autumn fall.    

So far this spring I have seen several species of butterfly including Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones. These have over wintered as butterflies and many have damaged wings. The sulphur yellow male Brimstone butterflies have been on the wing for some time; the females only beginning to fly now. I saw my first females today; they could almost be mistaken for Cabbage White butterflies when flying, although the Brimstone's flight is stronger and more direct; when settled they appear greenish white. 

Wild flowers are in evidence everywhere you walk around Bawburgh with bees and butterflies taking advantage of the early sources of nectar and pollen. Blackthorn is out in bloom, and is a special favourite of pollen and nectar loving insects. Lesser Celandines are common everywhere, carpeting woodland areas yellow. Primroses, which were out in flower as early as February, continue to be in full bloom; our churchyard has a superb display. Cowslips are particularly prevalent on verges of the A47; in the past this wild flower was harvested to make cowslip wine and herbal medicines. Coltsfoot, named after the shape of its leaf which resembles the footprint of a colt, started flowering as early as February; it is unique in that it flowers when leaves are absent. For many centuries, beer made from coltsfoot was a remedy for coughs. Many of the flowers at this time of year are yellow.  Common Dog Violets and Ground Ivy provide splashes of purple. Interestingly, Dog Violet has no scent, unlike other members of the violet family for example Common Sweet Violets. The latter come in a variety of colour including white and different shades of purples.  Ground Ivy, actually a member of the dead nettle family, smells strongly of blackcurrant or tom cats.

I went on the Bawburgh Wanderers walk to Arminghall last Sunday, 12th April, and was delighted to see a wood carpeted with white Wood Anemones. This plant reproduces by spreading its roots; its seeds are mostly infertile. Ancient Greeks believed it was a gift from the wind god, Anemos, sent to herald the coming of spring. For all its beautiful appearance the Wood Anemone leaves have an unpleasant musky smell and an alternative name for the plant is 'Smell Fox'.


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