Brown To Blue To Green..

  In early April, the shades of winter brown began to be clothed in hints of green. Green fuses, tender leaves and blossom began to appear everywhere, sunshine, a little rain and blue skies with warming temperatures had began to waken my local patch....

Out for a stroll on a sunny day just after Easter and I could see the difference in my local woodland as everything decided to cautiously start growing again. My first point of call was the base of an old tree, so far nothing but a little clump of leaves, however, on that bright sunny morning, I found my first Celandine of the year - this particular plant has been there a long time and always seems to be the first in bloom of the many Celandines throughout the woodland.

Nearby, a pair of Robins were busy flitting about, giving an occasional song, but also diving into or behind a pile of brash left by the builders (it's next to a construction site).  Keeping my distance, but watching carefully, one of the pair appeared at the base of a Horse Chestnut with a large worm - they had been busy already!  After a moment or two, he disappeared into the Woodpile and then emerged worm - free, leaving them to continue I carried on through the woods. 

Wandering through, there was plenty of birdsong, however most were playing kiss chase through the branches - Blue and Great Tits, Blackbirds and the occasional Chaffinch.  Lower down, from various banks of brambles came declarations from several Wrens. 

Out in the meadow, I could hear a very familiar call - at last he had returned (I should say 'they' as I heard four in different spots that afternoon), my first Chiff Chaff of the year, in his usual bank of Willows and Birches.   

Along the bank of the brook, I also saw my first Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells of the year, some basking in the sunshine, but others jousting mid-air with each other. 


On a mid-April walk, just before we went to Suffolk there was a little more green, with buds beginning to unfurl; the Bluebells, which had previously been foliage, were suddenly showing hints of blue buds and here and there, Primroses were blooming. 

High above me in a canopy showing hints of new leaves,  I could hear a 'yaffle', looking carefully amongst the boughs overhead, I could see green, but not the right green - it was a male Green Woodpecker, taking a few moments.  He sat there for quite some time peering down imperiously at me and occasionally appearing to doze. Somewhere, nearby a Nuthatch was pinging, but he or she chose to stay hidden. 

Out in the meadow, I headed towards the banks of the brook - the grass was getting longer, with sharp spikes of thistles and Buttercup foliage tucked amongst it.  A few Peacocks were sunning themselves, as well as an occasional Comma. 

Above where the Comma was basking, a liquid song came from across the brook, my first Blackcap of the year.  He sat watching me from amidst the blossoms, before flitting off deeper undercover. 

Whilst I stood listening to a now 'singing tree', his chorus was accompanied by one of the Chiff Chaffs who frequent the row of trees there. 

Stopping by the Common Lizards' log, I peered carefully and after a moment or two realised I was being watched back - they had survived the winter!

After a while I wandered alongside the brook,  watching various Comma's and Peacocks fluttering.  From the trees there was the chatter of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Blue and Great Tits, with occasional declarations from Dunnocks and Wrens on the far bank. 

 All of a sudden I saw a nicely posed Comma and Peacock on the far side amongst a tangle of woodbine and clematis stems.  As the Peacocks tend to be quite flighty, I decided to photograph him first;  however, as I'm peering through the viewfinder, I realise that the background to the Butterfly was not stems... it was a Grass Snake, basking in the late afternoon sunshine! 

The Peacock, decided to fly off, but the Snake remained for a few minutes more, peering back at me - for by now I had a very silly grin, as it was the first time I had ever seen a Grass Snake. 

 Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) are totally harmless to us, living on a diet of amphibians or fish, which are swallowed whole.  Their diet means they require a close proximity to water, however, they will live in open woodlands, commons, embankments and gardens - they are also driven by a need to find somewhere suitable to lay their eggs, with garden compost heaps or farm manure piles being choice locations.  They are more common in Southern counties, however this handsome snake has become more uncommon through loss of suitable habitats.  As with Common Lizards, Grass Snakes are a protected species, so should only be observed from a respectful distance and never disturbed or handled. 

 The Comma, meanwhile, had given up waiting for me and had flown when I turned to look for it!

 On the weekend of the first May Bank Holiday, in between catching up at home, I had a few wanders out on my local patch.  It was a hot and sunny weekend and suddenly the woodland had become an explosion of brilliant greens, with the Oaks in bloom 

As well as the Horse Chestnut being a vision of lit candles 

and along the woodland margins, the Field Maples were in bloom as well. 

 From various directions from within the woods, I had been hearing several 'Nice to Meet You!' birds singing.  One morning, after a bit of careful listening, I manage to 'meet' the singer, a Song Thrush. who was proclaiming at the top of his voice from high in a tree. 

Lower down in the Blackthorn a movement caught my eye - it was a Blackcap, settling himself undercover before he began to sing.  

I carried on wandering through the woods, seeing a high up bundle of twigs, I looked a little more carefully and found I was being observed by a Wood Pigeon from her nest.

Further on I was kept close watch on by a rather handsome Crow. 

 As I came to the far end of the woods, a movement caught my eye, shimmiying around an Oak tree was a Nuthatch. 

I watched for a while and could see that she was collecting food and disappearing into a hole in a nearby treetrunk on a fairly regular basis; not wanting to distract her, I wandered on out to the meadow where there were several Orange Tip Butterflies on patrol, as well as Large and Small White Butterflies as well. 


Accompanied by the sound of Chiff Chaffs I wandered along, in a little clearing across the brook, several smart Great Tits were calling and flitting about - a couple of them had beaks full of food, so there must have been youngsters nearby. 

A new song was heard from a row of Oak saplings, interrupted by a 'brrrp brrrp'  every now and then.  Walking on slowly, I saw a pale bird fly over to the remnants of last year's hogweed stand. He perched on one of the old stems and was singing his heart out - the Whitethroats had returned again and he was calling for territory and a mate. 

Every now and then he would flutter up, still singing, before descending onto one of the stems. He did this several times, before returning to the row of trees, still singing.  It's the first time I've seen one displaying, so was of great interest to watch this shy bird out in the open. 

Down in the grasses, the thistles were getting bigger, however wildflowers were beginning to appear, no orchids yet, but Dandelions, Stitchwort as well as Germander and Thyme Leaved Speedwell had come into bloom. 

Inside the woods, Ransoms were in bud and there was a strong smell of garlic; the Bluebells, not as brilliant a display as some years, still filled the air with perfume and had rich and delicate shades of blue alike. 

Whilst some of the birds are still busy calling and chasing for mates, others have definitely been ahead of the game.  From the 'conversations' I've heard between them, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers are most likely nesting - there is usually a bit of chatter when changing over at the nest - one afternoon I encountered this fellow, whilst he was on a tea break (judging by the 'kick kick's' coming from the nearby woods, as in 'will you hurry up!')  

After a few moments of foraging, he did fly back in the direction of where the calls were coming from. 

 Elsewhere in the woods, the Nuthatch I previously mentioned is still busy feeding youngsters - as of this morning, small titbits had changed to big juicy caterpillars, so I hope to keep an occasional and discreet eye open for when the youngsters appear. 


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