Grey days to start the month but not too cold. Ladies' Smock and dandelions prolific over Dot the Dog's fields (she has a very proprietorial attitude). Appropriately the first may blossom (hawthorn) came out in the hedges – seemed a week or two early this year but you can "cast a clout"! The sun began to shine and was distinctly warm.
Over towards Whirley is a field that houses alpacas, a Shetland pony and a couple of sheep – and a lamb that was loudly demanding its mother's attention. I don't suppose many people have met close up a young lamb. Some years ago, when DtD was little more than a pup, we went up to the farm she had come from to get a free-range chicken for our family Easter lunch. Lambing was in full flow. We were presented to a very (an hour or two old) young lamb. Its fleece was not the soft woolly variety we expected – it was clearly weatherproof and felt like a Brillo pad.
Blank Holiday Monday showed that such events do not disturb the farming year – fresh tractor/roller tracks over "our" fields suggested that the arrival of cattle was imminent. An afternoon walk was punctuated by the hoots of a steam traction engine so there must have been a rally nearby. No tracks on Anderton's Lane so it must have been on the A537 (and will have exacerbated the pothole and traffic problems).
The local fox family had been dining on rabbit dinners again and the "candles" on the horse chestnut trees were even brighter than before.
Dot and I saw 15 or so starlings digging for cranefly larvae one morning. They flew off in a group on DtD's approach – not enough to make a murmuration but good to see them because their numbers have declined in recent years. We do have a small colony living in our neighbour's roofspace and around 8 of them help to hoover up the morning offering on the bird table – noisily.
Mid-month I was out for the morning walk with Dot the Dog in my shirt sleeves (she always wears her habitual black and white collie-coat but now with less mud attached). I'm always surprised at this time of year how many people go out and about in arctic clothing when the world is warming up.
Finally the bright and dry weather broke. Thus, with a good bit of rain overnight the field-flood seemed to have topped up a bit and floated a pair of geese. Their behaviour suggested nesting.
One afternoon we had a strange visitor to the garden that I thought might be a hooded crow (my Little Gem guide to birds is very old and no longer in print). Very unusual in Embry but in consultation with a friend who is a confirmed birder it was decided it must have been, although not much seen "so far south". Watch out for a big grey crow with a black hood and dark wings
Our neighbour's starling family seem to have reproduced successfully. The juveniles can obviously fly (a bit) but would still rather be fed by mum and dad, who were trying to show them how to forage in the undergrowth at the (wildish) bottom of our garden. They'll learn!
The farmer fixed the fences over the fields towards Whirley. Unfortunately some dog-walkers seem to have thought that fences are put up to obstruct their walks and had cut the wire when they could have had a bit more exercise by walking a bit further through open gates. It gets the dog-walking community a bad name, and it should be remembered that the fence is there to keep stock in and the "recreational" fields actually represent someone's livelihood.
To the Green to cut paths through the wildflower meadow. Bees beginning to enjoy the red clover and the earliest ragged robin. Butterflies (whites and tortoiseshells) about. The mason bees are still working overtime in our bee-houses.
Rabbits around too! As I mowed our front lawn one morning a juvenile sprinted across the grass, under the hedge and into our neighbours' garden. DtD was put on alert wearing her ARP (Anti-Rabbit Patrol) helmet (those too young to understand the allusion should watch Dad's Army).
The cattle arrived on 15/5/22 – exploring their new boundaries. More timid dog walkers gave them a wide berth but DtD went to her "Club" on 16/5/22, so she and I acquainted ourselves with them next day. She won't be let off the lead unless we have to run! The cattle are usually inquisitive (but not threatening) for a few days and then ignore us but dogs must always be under control.
Cattle grazed contentedly next morning in the little top field and DtD took no notice. In the afternoon we found tadpoles in the garden pool and a few juvenile frogs disturbed by lawnmowing. Not sure where they came from – we had no spawn or tadpoles last year.
The cattle remained very docile but seemed in two distinct groups – presumably they came as two separate herds and were sticking with their pals. Where they had grazed the grass looked almost as though it had been scythed a few inches above ground. Cattle don't bite off the grass – they curl their long tongues round it, pull it off and then chew it (not many people know that).
A rather faded Painted Lady butterfly in the garden – much earlier than usual. It must have overwintered rather than migrated but they don't usually survive – must be global warming and a mild winter.
The cattle finally made up their differences and now appeared mostly as a single large group. Presumably the bosses of the two herds had agreed a pecking order.
Alas! Towards the end of the month Dot the Dog developed an abscess on her elbow. We think she lacerated it on some stray barbed wire while exploring rabbit holes. She looked rather sorry for herself but was put on antibiotics. However, "restricted exercise" was ordered by the vet, so our activities (and comments) may be somewhat curtailed, possibly for a few weeks.
On a (very) much brighter note – the swifts arrived! Two pairs spotted high up from our garden while DtD was having her restricted walk round the lawn on her lead (not well-received). Swallows spotted in Broken Cross (on the way back from the vet).
By the very end of the month DtD was on the mend, sporting 2 stitches in her wound and allowed longer walks along Anderton's Lane, across to Moss Cottage/Mossways and then to Henbury Rise. She was much less grumpy but fed up with not being allowed to play ball.
The wildflower meadow on the Millennium Green looked like providing a great show for the Jubilee weekend – especially the marsh and spotted orchids which are proliferating year by year, having arrived quite unexpectedly a few years ago. Bees very happy! More butterflies about – whites and meadow browns in particular.
At home we had three juvenile bullfinches on the feeders (all brightly-coloured males) and seven young starlings sitting in our daphne and occasionally popping on to the bird table, not quite sure what to do now that Mum and Dad aren't feeding them.
The bats were about (pipistrelles we think) as we looked out of the kitchen window at dusk – easily distinguished from small birds by their flight pattern.
Horrid of Henbury