spring

Here There Be Dragons

Its been a big week for Nar Cottage’s wildlife garden as we discovered that our first “home grown” dragonfly had completed its three year lifecycle. This photo is of an emperor dragonfly nymph “exuvia”, the exoskeletal shell left behind after the nymph transforms into a dragonfly and emerges as a winged adult. The Emperor’s emergence happens overnight so sadly we didn’t see it happening.

Emperordragonfly larvae exuvia after metamorphosis
Emperordragonfly larvae exuvia after metamorphosis

Emperors are know as early pioneers of new ponds and were one of the very first visitors to our brand new, bare-earthed pond back in 2013. Three years on and our pond looks very different, teeming with aquatic life and surrounded by lush native plants and wildflowers creeping to cover much of its surface. The Emperor dragonflies never returned after the first season, but we continue to see lots of Broad-bodied Chasers, Southern Hawkers as well as damselflies about.  Emperors will take other chaster dragonflies, so I hope our population of those survives its emergence!

Springtime in der Eifel

Spring has well and truly sprung with a couple of weeks of glorious weather in the UK and the continent. Here a small selection from a short trip to the beautiful Eifel Nationalpark on the German-Belgian border, with lush meadows dripping in springtime wildflowers and vivid dappled green woodland trails bursting with life…

Spring stitchwort flowers
White spring stitchwort flowers
Spring apple blossom
Spring apple blossom
Woodland path in dappled light
Woodland path in dappled light
Lush green springtime tree canopy
Lush green springtime tree canopy

Signs Of Spring – Insect And Amphibian Emergence

Queen buff-tailed bumble bee

At last…! Some milder days in between the blustery weather, ones when you can really feel the sun on your back. Slowly more signs of spring are present. Insects start to emerge from their overwintering. Though I’ve yet to photograph my first butterfly of the season (a brimstone on 25th March) I’ve enjoyed watching out for the early emerging bugs, bees and, that renowned augury of springtime, the first amphibian frogspawn.

My first sign of early spring insect life was this female Minotaur beetle. One of 8 British “Dor” beetles, she emerges in March and roams woodland and pastureland. Despite their size and fearsome looks, Minotaur beetles are herbivores feeding on ruminant dung. After mating she will dig a burrow up to a metre long to lay her eggs.

Minotaur beetle or Dor beetle
Minotaur beetle or Dor beetle

My second insect sighting was while out gardening. I saw the most gigantic queen buff-tailed bumblebee crash land and nectar furiously on my white crocus. She clambered across our daisy-filled “Meadow Mat” at a surprising rate of knots, looking like she was on a mission, perhaps seeking a nest site to  establish her colony for the season. Sometimes known as the Large earth bumblebee from their latin name Bombus terrestris, Buff-tailed bumblebees are one of the earliest bees to emerge in spring and also among the largest to visit gardens in Europe.

Queen buff-tailed bumble bee
Queen buff-tailed bumble bee

Looking closely you can see some mites hitching a ride on her thorax. Unlike some mites, they are not parasitic but are in fact harmless detrivores, who survive by living in the bumblebee nest and providing a cleaning service to the colony, feeding on old beeswax and other detritus.

Queen buff-tailed bumble bee with parisites
Queen buff-tailed bumble bee laden with parisites

And last but not least, frogspawn arrived to our pond on the 26th March this year, 4 days later than last year and in smaller quantities. With a greater amount of protective pond plants established, hopefully the tadpoles will stand a better chance this year against our hungry newt population.

Frospawn and mite
Frospawn and mite

Lush Green Springtime

Spring stitchwort in dappled woodland light

For me, springtime is all about pure whites and lush greens, a fresh, vibrant background colour palette against which the more vivid yellows, pinks and lilacs that pretty spring wildflowers display their wares to early pollinating insects. At this time of year the woodland floor becomes a pastel mosaic of early spring wildflowers such as greater stitchwort, water avens as well as bluebells and campions all in a mad dash to flower and seed before the renewed tree canopy shades their light for the summer season until autumn leaf-fall arrives.

Spring stitchwort in dappled woodland light
Spring stitchwort in a dappled woodland glade

Signs of Spring

Snowdrops in shaft of light

At last…the first days when you can feel the warmth of the sun on your back… aconites and snowdrops in full bloom… realising sunset is well past 5 o’clock…it must mean spring is on its way. These photos of pretty snowdrops and winter aconites were taken on a recent snowdrop walk on the Norfolk Lexham Estate in aid of their ancient church.

Snowdrops in shaft of light
Snowdrops in a shaft of light
Winter aconites amongst flint stones
Winter aconites amongst flint stones
Winter aconites in churchyard
Winter aconites in churchyard

Valentine Damselflies

Mating azure damselflies in a heart shape

The days are getting longer and it won’t be too long before we start to see frenetic activity as spring start to show little signs of its impending arrival and our native wildlife begins to feel that romance is in the air, indeed garden birds will already eyeing up their territories. Here are two azure damselflies in a heart shaped embrace reminding us that love is in the air…

Mating azure damselflies in a heart shape
Mating azure damselflies in a heart shape

 

 

 

Spring Is in The Air

Mating common toads

At last we are having some brighter warmer days and it feels like Spring is just around the corner. Norfolk seems to be quite a hotspot for common toads, and they have been very busy in my neck of the woods…

Mating common toads
Mating common toads