Led by Michael Keith-Lucas in outstanding summer weather – in mid Spring!!, a large group consisted of MK-L, Susan T, 19 visitors and 2 additional RDHNS ‘observers’, Colin and Fred., 23 in total.
The weather was warm and dry with a clear sky.
The plant life is already well into Spring growth, with Cuckoo Flower, Archangel and Garlic Mustard abundant. The star of the show was of course, the Bluebell, now at its peak.
M K-L advised how this date has got earlier by about 4 weeks since the 1970’s. Gromwell (Lithospermum) has new growth up to 40cm. as well as last years dried seed heads still on display. In the meadow, the method of surviving dry weather by two different species of buttercup was discussed. Ranunculus bulbosus has underground bulbs as a water reserve while Ranunculus repens simply dies back to the root stock in very dry weather. Goldilocks (Ranunculus auricomus) was noted in the top woodland.
The trees also had spectacular displays of flowers – Horse Chestnut, Sycamore and some Beech especially. (Although some individual Beech trees are yet to show leaf). The Walnut at the start of the walk had immature catkins. The MAY trees were in full bloom but the Guilder Rose flowers are yet to open.
The insect world was also displaying well. Orange tip, Brimstone, Blue (probably Holly) and Speckled Wood were observed. The eggs of the Orange Tip were found on Garlic Mustard. There were also three species of Shield Bug on the Garlic Mustard, which apparently, has a strong aphrodisiac effect on them!!
There was a good level of bird-song. Three different calls from Nuthatch were noted as well as Chiff Chaff, Great Tit, Black Cap, and of course, Cuckoo. (The Cuckoo arrived here on Tuesday 12th April, according to Granville). A Buzzard was sighted wheeling overhead, and the pair are nesting on the West bank of the Hidden Valley, in one of four large conifers. Pheasants are abundant with Cock birds having set-tos over their plainer looking hens, that are now sitting tight on nests.
No deer were noted today, although there is plenty of evidence with two ‘couches’ seen close to the main path in the top wood. Badgers too, are active both in the wood and the main field. The trapping measures for squirrels must be having an effect as none were seen.
Also attached is a picture of Star of Bethlehem, (I believe). This is beneath the large Sycamore growing in the Parkland to the West front of the House, near the end of the normal walk route. Is this a garden escapee?