Oak Apple

oak apple

Greater stitchwort
Greater stitchwort

It’s as if someone’s thrown a switch and we’re suddenly in the peak of springtime. In the last two weeks we’ve had a covering of gravel-sized hailstones and just last weekend the crowds were braving wintery showers to cheer on the Tour de Yorkshire cyclists. This morning as we follow the towpath to the Navigation Inn (which is still struggling to get fully up and running after the December floods) orange tipwe’ve got peacock butterflies and orange tips flying alongside us. Greater stitchwort, dandelion and green alkanet are freshly in flower.

A canal side oak is bursting into leaf and amongst the catkins on its branches we spot a few oak apples, made by the gall wasp Biorhiza pallida. The wingless unisexual generation of this gall wasp has spent the winter developing in galls on the roots of the tree then emerged and climbed the trunk to lay its eggs on the buds. The buds develop into the reddish spongy oak apples and from these the bisexual generation will emerge.


blue butterflyA blue butterfly (holly or small blue?) flies up from the rock face which creates a south-facing sun trap at Addingford Steps. On the River Calder near the old Horbury Bridge woollen mills two male goosanders are diving.

lapwingA lapwing swoops over the Strands where I drew in the aftermath of the winter floods. There’s a warbler in the tall grasses. monocularFrom it’s song Barbara thinks it’s a sedge warbler, from it’s appearance – not streaky – I took it to be a reed warbler. But I’m struggling to get a decent view with my little monocular: I must bring binoculars next time!

Thrush’s Anvil

song thrush8.30 a.m.: Our revamped front garden got a vote of confidence at breakfast-time; five birds of four different species were using the bark chip mulched flower border which slopes down to the lawn from the pavement.

A song thrush was using the upended paving slab that edges the bed as an anvil, expertly bashing a snail against it until it had removed the shell completely. It then ate it, so it probably hasn’t got any young in the nest clamouring for food. A second song thrush looked on from the hedge.

brown lipped snail shellbrown lipped snail shellWhen we cleared this bed a month or two ago, I kept finding stripy brown-lipped snails amongst the ground covering ivy and rather than consign them to the compost bin, I gave them a second chance by tossing them into the bottom of the beech hedge.

At the time I thought that I would probably live to regret this as the snails will probably repay me by nibbling the flowers on the primroses that I was about to plant but I’m glad that they’re proving an attraction for our resident pair of thrushes. A few weeks ago they were taking nesting material into a thick leylandii hedge in next door’s front garden.

blackbirdA male blackbird hopped between the plants, pausing to pull back the bark chippings mulch with a swift backward hop. The bark chipping are steadily rolling down the slope towards the lawn leaving bare patches so I’ll rake them back into place next time I’m in the front garden.

robinThe other two species hopping about on the bark chip mulch were robin and house sparrow. I’m pleased with the way the new bed is shaping up and now that the miniature daffodils are fading away the next step is to add some ‘perfect for pollinators’ flowers to take us through the summer.