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Sunday 14 April 2024

Slow March Pt.2 - 16th to 31st March,2024

This blog post gives an account of some of the highlights of what was a rather gentle month in terms of excursions, but included a few welcome harbingers of spring.

Sunday, 17th March          Nature Alive, Coalville

It was a relatively sunny day, and quite warm too. I fancied a short trip out, but had to take into consideration the fact that, being fine weather after a period of poor weather, and a Sunday also, most of my usual haunts that were not still under water would be busy with people. I had heard of the Nature Alive nature reserve in Coalville but never visited. It was formed on a brown-field site of a relatively small area, trapped between a railway line, the Coalville ring road, and a small retail park. It has some ponds, the largest of which was formed by mining subsidence.

Having parked my car and entered the site, I walked up the slope to the embankment (on which a railway branch line to Swarkestone to the north once ran), and then descended the other side and found myself confronted by a torrent of water about 4 inches (10cm) deep running down the path towards me. Fortunately I had put on wellingtons, so was able to pass along the path undeterred. It was only about 15 metres until I reached dry land and was able to explore.

In one of the two smaller ponds I found there was a Coot having a splash-about.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Nature Alive
At the main lake, a pair of drake Mallards were having an interaction.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Nature Alive
One of them then approached me, possibly hoping to be fed!
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Nature Alive
I carried on past the main lake, finding a few insects enjoying the flowers in the sunshine.
Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) - Nature Alive

Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes) (male) - Nature Alive

There were some eye-catching clumps of Marsh Marigold around.
Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) - Nature Alive
Arriving back at the main lake, there were two drake Shoveler in the distance.

Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) (male) - Nature Alive
Before I left, I could not resist taking a shot of one of the many magnificent clumps of Primrose that were on the site.

Primula (Primula vulgaris) - Nature alive

Monday, 18th March          Garden

This was a very special day, due to our first (and, so far, only) sighting of the year of Redpoll in our garden. It was a splendid male, and I did manage some shots, although I'd have been happier if I got some that were not on a feeder. Lesser Redpoll is a 'red-listed' species.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (male) - our garden
Tuesday, 19th March          Saltersford Valley Country Park  :  Donisthorpe Rail Trail

A quick visit to Saltersford Valley CP in the afternoon was a little disappointing in that the boardwalk was still closed, water levels were very high, and paths were still flooded. I saw nothing of real interest and only photographed a Mute Swan which appeared to have some staining from the discoloured water caused by leakage from the old coal mine workings.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Saltersford Valley CP
As I had spent so little time here, I decided to check out the disused railway line that is now a public trail, accessible from by the church on Church Street, Donisthorpe.

Again I found little to occupy me, but I did manage to get some photos of a Red-legged Partridge - a species that I have not photographed for a while.

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa) - Donisthorpe Rail Trail
The only other photos I took were of a lone wild violet.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) - Donisthorpe Rail Trail
Wednesday, 20th March          Garden  :  Bardon Hill area

We were visited by two male Siskin on this day, and I managed a few shots of one of them, away from the feeders.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden

The previous day, there had been reports of a group of approximately 25 Waxwings on an industrial estate near Bardon Hill. As Bardon Hill is quite local to me, I felt compelled to visit for what might be my last chance of seeing a Waxwing of the season. I did a bit of research on Google Earth and sorted out where I was going to park in an area where most roads are very busy with trucks. 

Having parked, I only had to walk a couple of hundred metres before I spotted the flock in a distant tree, a little away from the area that they had been reported in. I took some records shots, as shown below.

Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - Bardon Hill Industrial Estate
I counted 31 birds before I retraced my steps back to the road that my car was parked on, in the hope of being able to find another viewpoint for the birds that was perhaps a little nearer and not into the light, although it was not particularly bright weather.

I soon realised that there was no prospect of seeing the perched birds from this road and, to my dismay, the flock flew over my head and headed south in the approximate direction of the road that I was on. I followed the road to the end, but saw no sign of the Waxwings anywhere, although I did get a distant view of a Buzzard perched in a tree.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Bardon Hill area
Thursday, 21st March          Garden

At the back end of last year, we had got used to regular visits from Magpie. However, this year they have become rather more elusive. On this day, two Magpies visited and I managed to catch one snaffling some dried Black Soldier-fly lavae that I'd tipped out of one of the Hedgehog feeding trays.

Magpie (Pica pica) - our garden
Friday, 22nd March          Our Conservatory

I noticed a small spider crawling up the window frame in our conservatory. I have not been able to positively identify it, but believe it to be one of the Philodromus species. If I had to make a guess, I'd say a female Philodromus dispar. It was released into the wild.

possible (Philodromus dispar) (female) - our conservatory
That afternoon I went to Calke Explore, which I have already reported on.

Friday, 29th March          Garden

This was something of a red letter day, as a Comma butterfly visited the garden - the first of the year. It was a bit tatty, so I believe it to be one that had emerged from winter hibernation.

Comma (Polygonia c-album) - our garden
Although a very common bird, the male Chaffinch is rather handsome.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - our garden

Saturday, 30th March          Garden  :  Willesley Wood

This was a good day for buterflies in the garden, with Brimstone, Peacock, and Small Tortoiseshell being seen. I only got usable photos of the Small Tortoiseshell.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) - our garden
I was also pleased to see my first Bee-fly of the year.

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) - our garden
Seeing the butterflies in the garden prompted me to visit a local place which has been relatively productive for butterflies, including Brimstone.

I arrived and parked the car - although it is close to home, the road between my house and Willesley Wood is very dangerous to walk along as it is a narrow bendy road, running between dense hedges and has no verges.  There is, therefore, no option but to walk in the road, along which cars tend to travel at high speed.

As soon as I entered the site, I saw a Brimstone butterfly but it was distant and mobile, and soon disappeared. 

There were very deep puddles along the path and I was glad that I was wearing wellingtons. As I approached Thortit Lake I was astounded by how high the water level was. I suspect that it was about a metre above its usual level, and was approximately 4 inches (100 cm) deep over the path at one point. I wish, now, that I had taken some photos to illustrate this.

A female Mute Swan was busy tidying a nest, possibly incubating eggs, and it struck me that while this nest was currently like an island near the edge of the water, and quite safe from the many dogs that are walked here, when the water level receded to its normal situation the nest would be some distance from the water, and high and dry.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (female) - Thortit Lake

A little further on, the male swan was dabbling around. That tree trunk, surrounded by water, is usually well out of the water.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (male) - Thortit Lake

Close by, there was a Coot which seemed more confiding than I'm used to with this species.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Thortit Lake

There was little happening on the north side of the lake so I headed off in an anti-clockwise perambulation. Reaching the path on the south side of the lake, I was surprised to see water reaching up to the path. Usually, water is not visible from this path as it is about 150 metres away, through densely packed trees. 

At one point, I had nice views of a Heron.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Thortit Lake

I also found my second Bee-fly of the year!

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) -Willesley Wood

I then headed back to my car, stopping to photograph a very tatty Peacock by the exit gate.

Peacock (Aglais io) - Willesley Wood

I was just about to get into my car, when a Brimstone flew by and stopped briefly, further up the lane. I followed it for a while and eventually it stopped long enough for me to take a record shot.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Willesley Woodside

Sunday, 31st March          Garden

Not a particularly eventful day but I had a rare opportunity to photograph a Wren in the garden - it is not the presence of the Wren that is rare, but the opportunity to photograph one, as they are forever on the move and soon vanish!

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden

Thus ended what I believe was the wettest March on record. Fortunately, the weather seems to be improving a little and spring has now sprung - fingers are crossed that we continue to get some more helpful wildlife watching opportunities.

As usual, I expect my next blog post to be in about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard