Dog’s mercury, mercurialis perennis, is beginning to erupt from the woodland floor at Holywell Dene. This is a typical plant of ancient woodlands and so it is a good indicator of the age of the woodland here.
It’s not a particularly spectacular plant but I like its fresh green colour which is striking at this time of year, as well as the serrated edges to each leaf.
Dog’s Mercury is a harbinger of the other woodland flowers that are soon to come.
And even though Common Gorse, ulex europaeus, seems nearly to be in flower all year round, some plants are beginning to flower more strongly again now it’s almost spring.
One possible reason Gorse flowers throughout the year is as a strategy against insect pests, albeit the happily plant plays host to a myriad of invertebrate species.
The plant is also a favourite of Stonechats, Yellowhammers and Whinchats (whin is colloquialism for Gorse).
This is one of two Swift nest boxes I ordered from John Stimpson, via the Swift Conservation website, just in time for national nest box week. The boxes are the proven “Zeist” design so hopefully in a few years we might have some Swifts nesting along one side of the house. If not, I have a couple of alternative locations in mind.
I have always been fascinated by Swifts (as many other birders are) so it was fantastic to move to an area dominated by 1930’s houses, which seem to suit these birds more. It’s a shame that like so many other species, they have undergone such a marked decline in this country…so any help we give can make a difference.
The boxes come with ready-made nest forms and this helps with the uptake of the boxes apparently, as does playing Swift calls when the birds are prospecting for new nest sites.
Snowdrops are in full bloom on my work patch at St Nicholas Park. I keep popping along at lunch time to see if the frogs have returned yet to breed…the only thing in the large pond this week was a discarded mountain bike. I think it is still too cold as most days the pond has been frozen but it won’t be long now, especially if it warms up this weekend.
The Snowdrops are very pretty however and the bird life has also been very interesting, with a lone Redwing spotted twice this week and plenty of tits and finches too.
The small nature reserve punches well above its weight in many respects, particularly the diversity of its invertebrate life. I am trying not to wish the time ’til warmer days away too much but I am looking forward to the first butterflies, bumblebees and other solitary bees and wasps.
The lungwort (pulmonaria officinalis) in the garden is beginning to come into condition, with the leaves looking good and flower buds beginning to show. But one of my plants is even beginning to flower, which is about three weeks early.
Despite the mild winter it has been relatively cold recently and there’s not much chance of seeing any bumblebee queens in the next fortnight so hopefully the rest of the lungwort will remain in bud until then.
Elsewhere there are a few crocuses in flower but no sign of the bulbs I planted last autumn…I think they may have rotted in the sodden weather!