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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



  1. I was won over with your Hairy-footed Flower Bee, and Dark-edged Bee-fly Richard, both of which I have yet to see. Otherwise I enjoyed your usual comprehensive run-down on nature.


    1. I am not conscious of ever having seen a Hairy-footed Flower Bee before that one, Pete, but it is a gorgeous little bee. It sounds as if the female of the species is rather less attractive.

      Dark-edged Bee-fly is quite common in these parts, and a regular visitor to the garden in the season. I have never seen any of the other three species of Bee-fly anywhere, although I keep looking !

      Thank you for your words of encouragement - take good care - - - Richard

  2. Beautiful images Richard, the Lesser Redpoll and the Waxwings, so precious.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I'm delighted that you liked them - stay safe - - - Richard

  3. You call this a slow start, Richard, but it seems to me it wasn’t such a bad beginning to March, a month that can be notoriously temperamental, and the Bohemian Waxwings would have been a banner event, I am sure. Looks like your woodlands are starting to burst with life, and it’s true here too. Migrants are coming back and yesterday Miriam and I saw our first Eastern Phoebes of the spring. Cedar Waxwings too, but no Bohemians! Ah well, can’t have everything. Today is Miriam’s birthday and we are going out for sushi for lunch. Yippee! Best wishes to you both - David

    1. I guess it was me that had the 'slow start', David, rather than the wildlife. I felt that I could have done so much more in different circumstances. It was, nevertheless, an interesting month.

      Happy Birthday, Miriam, I hope that the sushi lunch came up to expectations. You may find it strange, but I don't think that I've ever had a sushi meal - just the odd solitary item a couple of times!

      Have a great week, both of you, and take good care - - - Richard

  4. Oh, that was not a slow start Richard, you have many great photos and encounters here.
    Lovely photos from the spring.
    Greetings Lasse

    1. Thank you, Lasse, for your visit and kind words. I tried to visit your own blog but my antivirus would not let me, saying that it was a know dangerous site. I hope that you can do something at your end to sort that out!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

    2. OK; Thanks for telling me, I wonder what that could be....
      Greetings Lasse

    3. My anti-virus is Norton - maybe you should contact them? Good luck! - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard,
    Across the board with a huge selection, the swan on the nest, please stay tuned Richard then we will soon be able to see the little swans, well and then the weather, it is also very, very bad here and the options for long photo tours are limited to Short trips allow me to observe the bees, butterflies and other insects at my insect hotel..:-))
    Greetings Frank

    1. If I can show you the cygnets, Frank, I will. At last, we seem to be getting fewer wet days, although we get very few days that are totally free of showers, but now the weather has turned cold again, with a risk of frost at night. I am not going out much now as my surgery is scheduled for next week and I am having to be careful that I don't do anything to stop this happening.

      Hoping to soon see some blog posts featuring your fabulous insect hotel. Take good care - - - Richard

  6. Lovely post Richard. A great variety of wildlife. Love the Redpoll images. A great little bird to get. Roll on the warmer weather. It's like hurricane season down here at the moment. Take care.

    1. It was great to get that warm spell recently, Marc, but now it has turned cold again here (10° C max), and the damselflies are not active or emerging.

      My main odo target this year will be to try and get my first ever Clubtail. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be fit and well in time to attempt this.

      Best wishes - take good care - - - Richard

  7. Bonita serie, me has hecho pasar un buen rato sobre todo con los Bombycilla garrulus, para mi una especie muy especial por lo escasa en mi país. Enhorabuena Richard y gracias por compartir.

    1. Gracias, Germán. Me alegra que hayas disfrutado de este post. No me sorprende que Bombycilla garrulus sea rara en su país. Es bastante rara en el Reino Unido, pero este año ha sido excepcionalmente bueno para ellos.

      Mis mejores deseos - cuídense mucho - - - Richard

  8. I know you have had a very wet year, but this post screams "Spring"! Birds, insects, flowers.

    Congratulations on the Lesser Redpoll. Icing on the spring birding cake came in the form of that gang of Bohemian Waxwings. They are such sleek-looking birds.

    Spring is in full swing here and I am getting whiplash trying photograph birds and then a dragon buzzes by and then I notice a butterfly on a beautiful flower and then --- you know the feeling.

    Gini and I are doing well. Her sister recently had the same procedure for which you are scheduled. She did just fine but it took a few days before her digestion could handle a normal diet. We're thinking of you.

    All our Florida sunshiny best to you and Lady Lindsay!

    1. Spring is well-and-truly with us here in UK now too, Wally, although we are experiencing a bit of a cold snap lately with a risk of frost at night - I guess you remember frost from your time in Germany! As a sure sign of spring, I am now finding that I am taking more shots of insects than of birds!

      Thank you for your encouraging words about my forthcoming procedure. I have my pre-op tomorrow so I will be asking about diet recommendations.

      My very best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

  9. Hi Richard!! Beautiful variety of images... I love them... Have a nice week

    1. Thank you, Ana. It is going to be a busy week for me, but I have a lot to look forward to. I hope that your week is splendid and relaxed! Take good care - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard :=)
    Please excuse my unavoidable late arrival. Your Spring post is captivating, with the wild flowers, insects, and many species of birds some of which I have never seen in person, like the Bohemian Waxwings, Red -legged Partridge, and the Lesser Redpoll. Your photo of the Coot is ace! I too spotted two Magpies in a tree near my balcony ,no doubt lured by the presence of the other birds, unfortunately my camera was too far away to get a photo. It was one of those missed opportunities that is an irksome memory The spider you saw looks similar to the one in my "Small Creature" post, those long thick legs and rounded body look fairly similar,...but I remember it as a large spider. perhaps because I have an irrational fear of them. Such an enjoyable post Richard, thank you also for your descriptive narrative which is second to none.
    Take care
    All the best

    1. No apology necessary, Sonjia, and it is I who must apologise to your for the consternation caused by my late response. Things have been rather hectic lately, with four medical visits this week and two, including my operation, next week, and I am getting behind with many things that I should be doing.

      I can understand your fear of spiders. I don't have a fear of them, but am not too happy when they land on my face. I have even held a tarantula a couple of times - many years ago.

      Must close now as I have other people to reply to before I catch up with chores that need to be done.

      My very best wishes to you - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard, wow that is a full blog with some wonderful observations. Waxwings and so manny! Lesser- Redpoll, Siskin and much more. That March was a verry wet month is so true. Also in our region verry high waterlevels. And some places therefore I was not able to vissit. But for plants and soil it is good also groundwater levels.
    Take care,
    Warm regards,

    1. Hello Roos. We are still getting plenty of rain, but the worst of it seems to be over. Unfortunately the strong wings still keep returning, and we are getting frosts at night. I look forward to a longer spell of dry weather so that I can sort out a few things in the garden - at present, the soil is just mud.

      Thank you for your visit and your kind words - stay safe - - - Richard

  12. Hello Richard :=) I made a comment on your post this morning, but don't see it here. In answer to your question, the only other ingredient I add to the cake is the zest. The orchard is still full of oranges so sometimes I process one whole orange, and with this recipe add a little vanilla. I can give you the recipe if you would like me to!

    1. As mentioned above, Sonjia, sorry for the delay in publishing your comment and responding to it.

  13. Beautiful photos, I like very much the Lesser Redpoll and the patridge. Have a nice weekend ! Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I got quite excited about the visit by the Lesser Redpoll.

      My best wishes to you for the weekend and the coming week - - - Richard

  14. Hello Richard :=)
    I expect you are all geared up for your forthcoming surgery, and won't have time to even think about baking a cake, but after thinking about what I wrote last time I realise that you would need more information than what I gave you, so when you feel so inclined you can try it out, that is if you feel it's worth it, so here goes.

    Boil 1 thin skinned orange for 10 mins in 500 ml of water,. Let it cool, cut in half, remove pips and puree with skin on, and add rest of the boiled water, set aside. Stir the ingredients below, "all except the flour", and when well mixed then you can add to the purred orange mix. Lastly add the flour stirring really well-

    60 ml veg oil
    125 gs powered sugar
    2 eggs
    !20 gs self raising flour

    Pour the mixture into floured and greased tin and bake for 30 mins at 180 centigrade. I don't add ginger or cinnamon, which is part of the recipe, but sometimes use one tea spoon vanilla but I think the birds like it just as much without. That's it! You can also make this cake with the juice of two oranges and the zest of one. Take your pick, I assure you it will be a welcome feast for the birds.

    I will be thinking of you in these coming days and wishing you well.
    All the best

    1. That really is cake, Sonjia - it almost sounds too good to give to the birds! Thank you so much for the recipe. It will be a while before I try making it as I will not be doing much in the way of domestic duties for a few weeks after my operation next week. When I do make it, I will be trying it for myself!

      Take good care - - - Richard

  15. Fue para mí un placer pasear contigo, siempre soy feliz con ver una mariposa, flor, pájaro, en definitiva naturaleza. Gracias y abrazos.

    1. Mientras todavía pueda, Teresa, será un placer llevarte a caminar conmigo y mostrarte toda la naturaleza que pueda.

      Mis mejores deseos - cuídense mucho - - - Richard

  16. Sorry missed this post. Wow so jealous of the Redpoll, I have never seen one and would have been over the moon if it had appeared here. Keep safe, Diane

    1. By strange coincidence, Diane, we had our second Redpoll of the year today. I expect that it will be the last.


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