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April Ramblings

2nd May 2024 @ 8:08pm – by Henbury Webteam
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Spring has come for our faithful dog walker

Occasional Notes from a Dog Walker
April 2024

All Fool's Day came, wet but not cold. Dot the Dog and I set off for our morning walk feeling pretty fed up, especially since there was nobody about. We thought that everyone else must have forgotten to put their clocks forward – or maybe were sneaking an hour's lie-in.

Prospects brightened as we walked from Anderton's Lane towards the cottages. The day before there had been a small patch of sloe blossom in the hedge, but next morning there were huge banks of white all along. Sloe flowering was almost over elsewhere but I suppose autumn hedge-trimming had delayed things just there.

Another squirrel discovered how to lift the lids on our "squirrel-proof" bird feeders. I watched from the landing window as it put a front paw inside, but the level of seed had gone down sufficiently to make it impossible for it to reach. What surprised me was that the little beast carefully put the lid back before scampering off.

The collared doves returned to the bird table, but they are very timid and the mere approach of a much smaller starling was enough to frighten them away. They came back when the coast was clear – and then a second pair arrived and the four of them had a convivial snack together.

A walk to the Millennium Green with S showed how Spring had sprung. We found Ladies' Smock, still a few primroses (some possibly hybridised with garden varieties), cowslips and inevitably forget-me-not. The wildflower area was coming on but not for a while yet in flower. It's annoyingly surprising when talking to visitors to the Green how many people still think the local authority provides this amenity when it is really all kept going by trustees and volunteers.

Dot the Dog and I watched yet another queen wasp investigating cracks in the timber footpath sign at the entrance to the path from Henbury Rise to Whirley. Should she decide to nest there it wouldn't be good news for us dog-walkers, nor for Mums (rarely any Dads – I leave myself open to challenge!) walking small children to primary school or for teens heading for Fallibroome.

Serendipity! A self-sown snakeshead fritillary flowered in the boggy area beside our little pool – home to promiscuous candelabra primulas. I have tried to grow fritillaries several times without success, but now I know where they might be happy I shall try again – their natural habitat is watermeadows so I suppose I should have thought of that.

A morning or two after Storm Kathleen had subsided Dot the Dog and I walked over towards the cottages off Anderton's Lane. The birdsong was amazing. A pair of cock blackbirds tried to outdo one another. A bit further along a thrush sang. In the garden at home the nuthatch gave voice and on the Millennium Green we heard a chiff-chaff (named for its call).

Our "resident" bullfinch (no doubt he visits other garden feeders too) brought his lady-friend to feed with him several times. Perhaps the flutter of tiny wings soon – last year we saw several juveniles.

The smaller field-flood behind Henbury Rise attracted Dot the Dog's attention one mid-month morning. I couldn't see the object of her interest until a pair of coots swam into my view. They were still there in the afternoon, paddling and dabbling away.

In the next few days the coots took up residence on the flood, sometimes temporarily visited by a pair or two of Canada geese that were presumably in transit.

On Andertons Lane the spring flowers came again in the bank across from the Mount. There were garlic mustard and red campion flowers, and the pennywort leaves suggested a good show in a few weeks' time. Dandelions romped as always.

Butterflies appeared after their hibernation – a small white and a small tortoiseshell, and a possible brimstone, as a sunshiny day came. The sun and wind had dried out the muddy paths so that Dot the Dog and I could walk the fields without the threat of being hosed down on our return home for the first time in a few weeks.

A siskin came to the feeders, and a chaffinch seemed to have worked out how to dine on them although chaffinches are habitually ground-feeders. The female collared dove appeared from time to time, looking a bit bedraggled and therefore hopefully incubating a clutch of eggs. The coots paddled as usual for the time being round the small field-flood, but it had dried up a little despite the wet weather.

My birthday, towards the end of the month, brought three unsolicited and very natural lovely presents. First, on our morning walk, Dot the Dog stopped and stared intently towards the broken down fence behind Henbury Rise. Initially I saw nothing, but she had obviously detected movement and a few moments later Mrs Duck appeared heading towards the small field-flood with eight ducklings close behind and then Mr Duck riding (waddling) shotgun a few steps after. Off they all swam towards the pair of coots not far away. When we arrived home (for once not muddy for it was the second fine day in a row) S reported that she had seen the wren pottering about in the garden and then in the dusk there were bats flitting about.

The few dry days at month's end meant that Dot the Dog and I could return home without either of us needing hosing down on arrival. Ducks, ducklings and coots continued to enjoy themselves although their field-flood was dwindling rapidly in size. A bit of sunshine brought out a few wild-type bluebells in the bank under the hedge on the track towards the cottages from Anderton's Lane. Siskins visited the feeders and greenfinches too – and strangely S spotted a long-tailed tit, usually only a winter visitor in flocks and harbinger of bad weather (I hoped this was not a bad augury!).

Bumble bees were out in force and it looked as though mason bees were beginning to emerge from our bee nests, although a little later than usual presumably because of the awful weather thus far this year. The bumble bees enjoyed the deep pink blossom on our crab-apple tree that had brightened the dull days for us and positively glowed in the sunshine.

Last Sunday of the month brought another pleasure. As DtD and I left home for our afternoon walk we saw what I thought might be three swallows, but I was not sure. Further on we met a friend and fellow dog walker who asked if we had seen a pair of swallows over the fields – so I reckoned they must be back.

I know this is not Henbury stuff, but the following day I walked in the Peovers with my usual companions and as the mud had dried out a bit I saw three lots of badger pawmarks in different places – whether the same gang or neighbours I have no idea.

Then the end of the month – a solitary swift appeared (its scimitar wings and forked tail unmistakeable); more to come I hope. "Candles" began to appear on the horse chestnut trees and the whitebeam tree on "our" grass verge in front of the house came into full flower. The first may blossom appeared in the hedges – so you could "cast a clout" if you wished. Greenfinches thronged the feeders.

Despite the weather spring had obviously sprung.

As ever

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