Saturday, 20 April 2013

April Fool

  With April 1st landing on a British Bank Holiday Monday, it somehow seemed inevitable that the cold weather would politely step aside and allow spring to take its rightful place at centre stage. I was wrong. April 1st was as cold a day as the winter had provided.

  Snow and ice are a constant reminder that spring temperatures remain some time off. Though the pair of mallard ducks continue to utilise the small nearby pond, the frogspawn appears to have succumbed to this latest freeze. To my inexperienced eye, all that appears to remain is semi-defrosted goo. I am guessing that the ice has destroyed any hope of tadpoles this year.

  Of course, it could be that the mallards (or some other appreciative animal) have chosen to dine on the unprotected eggs, and all that remains is leftover soup. As unlikely as it seems, I am (blindly) hopeful that the tadpoles will once again be swimming in the pond when the weather finally warms. Perhaps I am actually looking at the view of hatched eggs, and the tadpoles will emerge from the recesses of the pond when they are a little more substantial in size. Maybe.
  It is unclear whether the mallards have laid their eggs yet. The continued presence of the male suggests not, as it seems they lose interest and leave the female shortly after the incubation period begins (RSPB). The incubation period usually lasts for about a month. I can't help but wonder whether any delay is a conscious decision based on the current temperatures.

Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)

  Having never consciously seen a redwing or a meadow pipit before the last couple of weeks, both have reappeared again on the Sanctuary's fields. March to April must be a good time to see such birds in South Wales, but I shall look out for them throughout the year now I am aware of their presence. Both were feeding off the ground, but whereas the redwings moved together as an obvious pair, the meadow pipits were a grouped together as a flock.

 Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

 Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)

  The meadow pipit was so camouflaged against the field that it was incredibly difficult to spot. Most of the birds could not be seen at all until a sudden noise or a gust of wind would spook a single bird into the air, prompting the others to hurriedly follow. Never travelling very high or far, the pipits would quickly settle onto another part of the field to resume feeding. Much of their efforts were concentrated around horse manure, which I assume carried numerous larvae.

  Across the Sanctuary, there are plenty of birds about, including all the usual suspects, but none look particularly comfortable in the continuing cold temperatures. The presence of the sanctuary appears to have had a positive impact on the local sparrow, chaffinch and dunnock populations, with the availability of food greatly surpassing that of a natural winter environment. It seems that many have come to accept the sanctuary as a reliable source of food.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) and house sparrows (passer domesticus)

  In spite of the cold, the ramsons are also thriving. Although not yet flowering (aside from one or two), or strong with their garlic aroma, they have turned the riverbanks a rich and vibrant green. They are a welcome sight, and a promise of warmer times ahead.

Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

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