May Blossom

THE FIRST Hawthorn in blossom is a bush overhanging the railway cutting at the foot of Addingford Steps. It gets the warmth from the south-facing brick embankment below.

The hawthorn blossom has a sweet smell, I wouldn’t call it a ‘heady’ smell; it’s not an over-the-top sweetness nor is it sugary sweet like sherbet it’s just, um, sweetish.

Each flower has five petals, which is not surprising because Hawthorn is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae. There’s one female pistil in the middle surrounded by a number of male stamens, each with a reddish tip. When you see the haws, the hawthorn berries, later in the year, the petals and stamens have withered away but you can still see the remnant of the pistil at the end of the berry.

Botanically the haw is a true berry, even though it might seem too pulpy and woody to qualify as what we’d expect if we bought a ‘mixed berries’ yogurt. From a botanical perspective raspberries and blackberries aren’t berries, they’re collections of drupes; fleshy, thin-skinned fruits containing the seed in a stone. Smaller versions of single drupe fruits such as the cherry, plum and olive.


What bird sings from a bush by the canal, opposite a flooded marshy field known as the Strands, in what I’ve described in my field notes as an ‘agitated chattering, rasping, stoccato, occasional morse code phrases’?

Like smells, bird song is difficult to describe in words!

Sunday was International Dawn Chorus day. At this time of year you get the full variety of the dawn chorus as the summer migrants have joined our resident birds. I’m no expert on bird song but at least having got out a bit this spring I’m familiar enough with our residents to spot a new and noticeably different song.

 Crab Apple blossom at the Strands last week

This song is one that I’ve heard down by this marshy field before and I know that it’s either Reed or Sedge Warbler. I always forget which one by the time it appears next year. I didn’t manage to focus my binoculars on it but thought that I glimpsed it singing inconspicuously from halfway up in the bush.

The RSPB website (see link below) describes the song of the Sedge Warbler as ‘a noisy, rambling warble compared to the more rhythmic song of the reed warbler’. Reed Warblers are, anyway, as the name suggests, more typical of areas with large reedbeds. You’ll find Sedge Warblers in reedbeds too but also at damp wetlands like the Strands, where you’re less likely to find the Reed Warbler.

Link; The Sedge Warbler page on the RSPB website helpfully includes a recording of the song.

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  1. Thanks for the treat of birdsong. I wish there was a site in my area with recordings of the different birds. I’m housebound now so I don’t hear them as often.

    1. I’ll keep going back to the RSPB British birds site. They don’t overwhelm you with detail and the recordings and film snippets give an extra dimension to the regular photograph and description. Perhaps next year I’ll know the song when I first hear it.

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