A wonderful weekend

Two important first in the garden, first butterfly a Comma so not the one I was expecting, which confused my poor brain no end. Also first Bee fly which I have to admit I find more exciting presumably Dark-edged Bee-fly, Bombylius major. Both of them on Primula denticulata one of the best early flowers you can grow in your garden.

A trip to Stocks Reservoir resulted in a small number of Toads in amplexus and a larger number of males waiting, no spawn seen though the water was very cloudy from a pea soup green algae bloom. Garden also filling with soft toys! which the cat is starting to catch. Blue and Great tits are checking out the nest boxes but but don’t think we have any takers yet.

Bee fly
Bee fly
Comma Butterfly
Comma Butterfly
Toads at Stocks Reservoir
Toads at Stocks Reservoir

A beautiful day in the Forest of Bowland

We went for a walk around Stocks reservoir and then up to Cross o Greets.We could hear lots of male toads croaking for females and some females with males clinging to their backs were heading for the water. I had some dried up honey in the cupboard and put it out for early flying Queen bumblebees and wasps, this one seems to have the same approach as I have with cake - in with the face and begin.



Toads are gathering to spawn up at Stocks Reservoir

Fantastic views - Cross o Greets

Fields are filling up with lambs

The day ended with a lovely sunset

I bet the honey tasted good after hibernating all winter

and someones creaky old bones probably feel a lot better.

Value

Saw a Wren collecting moss with Wrens the male makes several nests and then tries to temp a female, and a pair of Kestrels looking round the outside of the barn possibly prospecting for nest sites. More flowers are now out in particular Dogs mercury plus the leaves of wild garlic are starting to show. Still no insects to speak of. Saw three baby bunnies in the garden today, as did the cat! The frog spawn has now transformed into a ball of wiggling tiny tadpoles. Saw the Gray wagtails again. Found a possible Blackbird egg in a friends garden it was broken and on the ground so could have hatched.

I often ponder things and my latest is, what is more valuable or more important to preserve a site with small populations of one or more rare species or a site with large populations of common many species? Which is more deserving of our resources. I know which I would find the most interesting as a naturalist but which has more value to wildlife as a whole and to the wider human community? I think these are important question that need to be asked far more frequently.

Should we stop placing such high value on rare species?

Attended an interesting talk by Martin Colledge on Gisburn Forest Past Present and Future organised by the Friends of Bowland. One of the things he highlighted was a meadow restoration project at the Gisburn Forest Hub. This meadow now has an abundance of common meadow species but he said apologetically no “rare species”. I think he said this because he believed there was a lot of  “hardened naturalists” in the audience. I think it is sad that there is, I am afraid to say, a well deserved perception that naturalists value rarity above all.  I have to say I strongly disagree with ascribing this high value to rarity,  if a species is rare it is by its very nature less ecologically significant than an abundant species (excluding apex predators). I believe this attitude damages wildlife conservation because it devalues the common, the wildlife most people encounter most of the time. I also think this attitude is a barrier to a lot of people becoming more deeply involved with natural history organisations.

We have a pair of Pied wagtails and at least one Gray wagtail about the place. Interestingly every year at this time we see Grey wagtails then they disappear,  later we always see fledglings about the place for a while where they go in between no idea. Plus the first Redpolls of the year. Not seen the Starling with the damaged wing for a few days hope it has been able to rejoin its companions.

A visit to the fishery cafe end of Stocks reservoir revealed large quantities of frog spawn in the pond and a few Toads near the pond, with one pair in amplexus but no spawn in the pond or the reservoir.

March

On the 9th a Gray wagtail singing at the back of the house. Yesterday loud chattering in the trees and when we went indoors about 30 Siskins descended on the feeders. Today we are back down to 6 or 7 Siskins so presume we have seen migration in action. Regularly hearing and seeing at least one pair of Curlew. More and more plants starting to bud and a few now in flower such as the lungwort Pulmonaria  we eagerly await the bursting into flower of the Primula denticulata as these provide excellent early nectar for any early flying insects coming out of hibernation or emerging from pupa. Had a meeting yesterday with some fellow members of the Clitheroe Naturalists about how we could promote the group and bring in new “younger” blood. One of the things discussed was having one or more “Wildlife Wanders”. My idea for these are a group of us meet at an interesting location and wander about looking at the wildlife. Hopefully there would be a mix of people who “know a bit” and people who would like to “learn a bit” about wildlife, a provisional date for one of these wanders is 27th May.

Some other dates for the diary; next week Th 16 Mar at 7.30pm a  Talk on Gisburn Forest, Past Present and Future by Martin Colledge at Tosside village hall  Organised by Friends of Bowland and save the date Sat 13 May, Join Sharon & Peter Flint to explore the trails in Gisburn Forest, visiting Bottoms Beck and some nearby marshy areas to examine aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. Craven Conservation.

Spring thick and fast

In the last week so much is happening have had no time to record it. 26 Feb. the first lump of frogspawn in the pond followed by a new clump on each of the following two days. Then a break until this morning with one more clump.

Frog spawn
Frog spawn

Blue tits are exploring the nest boxes and possibly a Robin is building in one of the old kettles I have recycled as a nest box in the big tin shed. Now hearing Curlews and lots of bird song. Gamy wing the Starling has now learned to use both the peanut and fat snack feeders. Saw a queen wasp yesterday. We are getting more Siskins and Goldfinches now, plus still the occasional Brambling. Longtailed tits still visiting as groups but also as pairs. Been frantically sowing seed and splitting/transplanting perennials in the garden. At this time of year I dig up a lot of the Oxeyed daisy’s Leucanthemum vulgare and other wild flowers which have self seeded in the beds and plant them out in the meadow areas. I find this a very effective way of creating meadow areas.

A lot of people don’t realise that many native wild flower species make excellent garden border plants, I wish I had a pound for every time someone has said, I would grow wild flowers in my garden but my soil is too rich! This is a complete MYTH, wild flowers will thrive in garden borders and the richer the soil the better the show. Many will produce a better display than a lot of so called “garden plants”. The poor soil rule only applies to WILDFLOWER MEADOWS where you are growing a mix of flowers and grasses. In this situation the grasses would grow too strong and smother the flowers if the soil was rich.

Had another Sparrowhawk close encounter when one chased some Blue tits around the small Holly bush about three meters from where I was stood.

Frog and Toad survey, I am very interested in what is going on with Frogs and Toads in Bowland and am interested in any sightings of Frog or Toad spawn and in particular any sightings or evidence of Toads crossing roads in the Bowland area if you want you can use the online form on this site.

Also I would encourage everyone to report sightings to the PondNet Spawn Survey 2017 http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/spawnsurvey2017/ there are also some really good identification guides on that page.