Wildlife Wednesday: February and Spring’s False Start

In spite of several dreadfully wet days, February gradually brought real signs that spring was emerging. Honeybees could be seen happily buzzing around brightly coloured spring bulbs.

honey bee pollen

Honeybee on pollen-rich crocus flower

Drone flies, Eristalis tenax, were out in numbers too. They are one of the few hoverflies to overwinter in adult form, with the females emerging on mild winter days to seek out spring blossoms.

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The common Drone fly, Eristalis tenax

The willow has been flowering and is providing much needed early pollen. It has been a veritable magnet for drone flies, honey bees and buff-tailed bumble bees:

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Drone flies on Musk willow

I even found a bright green caterpillar tucked up, snug, inside a lovely hellebore flower:

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Larval stage of the Silver Y moth?

But then the #BeastfromtheEast and storm Emma arrived and things haven’t been the same since. We didn’t actually get that much snow here in Cambridge, but it has been bitter with temperatures below zero (centigrade) for several days and wind chill factors making it feel like -9 or -10.

snow

Our boiler gave up the ghost last week, which didn’t help things either. I huddled indoor  wearing too many layers to count and broke open packets of those hikers hand-warming sachets!

I didn’t expect to see much wildlife either, but of course, when everything is covered in snow and ice, our provisions for local wildlife are much more important and attractive. I saw starlings in the garden (on the fat-ball feeder) for the first time in years:

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Starlings – Love them or hate them, they are beautiful birds

The feeders have needed to be completely filled, not just topped up, daily, especially with the sunflower hearts. Providing drinking water for any length of time has been difficult.

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Long-tailed tit on the oil-and-protein rich sunflower hearts

I’ve also tried putting out uncooked oats on flat dishes for the blackbirds and robins and chopped apples for the thrushes. The apples weren’t a big success, but the oats were popular with a range of birds, including those annoying fat wood pigeons.

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Blackbirds, chaffinches and dunnocks hopping round under the feeders.

We’ve had over a dozen chaffinches visiting during the snowy weather and they are looking pretty healthy this winter. Last year it was noticeable that several had growths cause by the Fringilla papillomavirus (FPV).

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Chaffinch making a break for the undefended sunflower seeds

Out of sight of the kitchen window, at the edge of the garden, I have found several freshly excavated holes in the lawn over the last week or two. I am not sure where the dry material and fluff has come from (old nesting material?), but it looks like major expansion work is being carried out … in our garden. Oh dear.

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I am fairly certain that these holes are being created by rabbits burrowing in from the boundary ditch. At least, I have this evidence:

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Telltale tracks of visiting rabbits

Elsewhere, in the vegetable patch, our kale has been consumed in a wholescale way and the incriminating prints look like tiny hoofs.

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Not much leaf left on this black kale!

So, I am thinking that our deer must be some of the healthiest around and I’ve had to resort to buying our kale from the supermarket!

It looks like I will have to get seriously creative to keep any vegetables for ourselves this year.

Anyhow, I’ve had enough of winter now … Roll on spring.

I am joining Tina @mygardenersays for her monthly Wildlife Wednesday meme (sorry, I know I am late).

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in Bees, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Wildlife Wednesday: February and Spring’s False Start

  1. Breathing Deeply says:

    Great Fun to read! Such fine detail with a bit of whimsy thrown in. Love your pics too. Beautiful flowers!

  2. Tina says:

    Quite a difference with your first few photos compare with the last! I hope your insect critters keep warm and safe. I agree with you about starlings and your photo certain exhibited the beauty! I’m always amazed with the resiliance of wildlife when conditions change.

  3. shoreacres says:

    Have you tried putting out raisins? My mockingbirds, robins, waxwings, and others love them, and the pigeons, bluejays, and doves leave them alone.

    • You are right, I have a friend who does put out dried fruit and it is devoured with relish. Unfortunately, we have a dog and she often cleans up after the birds, so vine fruit is a big no-no for us (grape and raisin toxicity is well documented for dogs).

  4. Sue says:

    Great contrasting photos. I’ve heard about the Beast From The East on our TV news and it looks very cold, but I can’t imagine going through that without a reliable heater. Hope you’re managing to stay warm and that it ends soon for you. Interestingly, there is a prediction that Australia is in for one of its coldest winters ever, so maybe we are getting a Beast of our own! :0

  5. Brian Skeys says:

    A broken boiler, deer eating your kale and rabbits making themselves at home, roll on spring indeed!

  6. Chloris says:

    Oh dear, a broken boiler in that freezing weather. What you need is a nice furry bear onsie. Despite laughter and ridicule I have been wearing mine to garden all winter.
    Lovely photos as usual. I still can’t tell the difference between a drone fly and a honey bee.
    I wonder where all the starlings have gone. I haven’t seen one round here for years. The garden used to be full of them.

    • Lol. Photos please!!! The number of wings is the most significant thing with bees and flies (2 sets versus 1), but of course you must peer closely. I don’t understand the starling situation either …. just down the road (at Wimpole) they even record murmurations, but here we see hardly any.

  7. Excellent snapshot of the month – and I love those rabbit footprints.
    I know what you mean about fat wood pigeons – every time I see one I shout PIG!
    Hopefully we an now get back on the road to spring.
    All the best 🙂

  8. Christina says:

    Lovely images. Those bees look very happy.

  9. Sam says:

    Lovely to see bees – cheers me up and reminds me it won’t be long before spring properly rolls in. Great bird pics, too (I love starlings). Just this morning I heard that more cold weather is coming (boo) – hope your boiler is fixed! Sam x

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