March 2018 - Spring is Coming

Valentine's day has come and gone, and as if on cue, the birds are thinking of the breeding season ahead. A pair of great crested grebe are already practising their courtship dance at the UEA. Rooks and crows are even more vocal as they circle round their old nests, starting to renovate them for the new breeding season and the great spotted woodpeckers are starting to 'drum' as they broadcast their presence, hoping to attract a mate. Soon parent swans will chase their last year's youngsters away, as they start to look for nest sites. In our garden this winter, there has been the usual bird species feeding on shelled nuts, sunflower seeds, fat balls, and meal worms - great tits, dunnocks, blue tits, wood pigeons, collar doves, chaffinches, blackbirds, wrens, a few long tailed tits, the odd coal tit and reed bunting, and of course many of the local pheasant population, and a few grey partridges. A nuthatch did visit our garden for the sunflower seeds most of the winter, although it has disappeared now as have the many jackdaws which invaded in the winter. Greenfinches are absent, probably a sign of their apparent population crash (ten years ago the greenfinch was one of the most common bird in our garden). Field mice are abundant, both in and out of our sheds, hopefully they will return to the fields when warmer, and drier weather arrives.

In the local woods it is a great joy to see snowdrops, spring snowflakes, bright yellow aconites, and leaves of this year's bluebell population poking through the leaf litter as well as the green leaves of the cuckoo pint growing well. A few ivy berries are still hanging on although the majority have been eaten during the winter by various wild life. One of the good things about this time of year is that you can get to see the lichens and mosses, which later on in the year tend to be hidden by undergrowth and leaves. The moss is particularly evident on the base of certain tree trunks, growing upwards to about a foot or more from the ground, fed by the water and nutrients leaching and splashing up from the wet soil beneath. Many species of lichen grow on the branches of older bushes and trees, and once the leaves drop in autumn, they can be seen clearly. These complex plants are part algae, part fungi, and do not interfere with the growth of the tree or bush at all, only using it as scaffolding to grow on.

The wet weather, and the flooding of the fields appears to have moved many moles onto higher ground in the village. Mole hills can be seen everywhere, including many of our gardens, ours included. Unfortunately, they won't return to the fields once drier weather comes.

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