For me, the most exciting thing about spring is that the warmth brings with it the insect life. Slowly the air and the undergrowth start moving again, breaking the stillness of winter and I find myself easily distracted, wherever I am, my eyes darting around like a chameleon as minute movements in my peripheral vision attract my gaze. My attention is all too easily diverted when there are interesting invertebrates around. Just last week, while we were working on the wall at Smallcombe Vale cemetery, I spent a good 15 minutes trying to take pictures of some of the residents we had uncovered from between the stones.
I also went to some lengths to save a Devils coach-horse beetle from the jaws of a playfully exuberant (though much more fearsome from the eyes of the beetle no doubt) puppy at Bushey Norwood the other day before pointing my camera at it and making it the subject of my own form of harassment. Poor creature – but at least it hadn’t become a dog snack.
I’ve been seeing many more bumblebees that are ready to start laying; warming up on sunny logs and searching for the best places to nest on the woodland floor. And the first Brimstone of the season graced us with its presence as it fluttered around the lower branches of a great conifer in the cemetery.
And while the snowdrops are still standing strong, more and more spring flowers are starting to appear; the first wild garlic flowers that will soon cover the floor of Smallcombe and Fairy Wood, wood anemone, primroses and lesser celandine freckle the grass banks in the cemetery and another species of anemone (I think a Balkan anemone) is beginning to blanket the layers of leaf litter around the compost loo in Fairy woods turning the ground from orange to green.
The Balkan anemone is thought to have been planted by the Mallet family who originally owned the estate that Fairy Wood used to belong to, along with many other non-local flower species such as cyclamens, spring squill and hellebore that have already been sighted among these trees.
Fairy Wood is already supporting a very rich floral display and is attracting a wealth of invertebrate life – and it’s only just begun!