Early May at Clandon Wood. The meadows are growing apace, many resident and migrant birds are singing and the air is scented with Hawthorn blossom.
Spring has been rather a protracted season this year, especially given the exceptionally warm spell we had in February. What it has meant is that everything has felt quite relaxed and every plant has had its turn in flowering, unlike some years where it seems as though everything happens in a flash! The early whites and yellows of Blackthorn, Grey Willow and a fabulous display from the drought-tolerant Dandelions – which clearly did well after last year’s dry summer – gave way to similarly spectacular showings from White and Red Dead-nettles, Field and Germander Speedwells and Ground-ivy. All these early-flowering species are so important as sources of nectar for spring pollinators such as Bee-flies and various Bumblebee species, which we’ve seen many of already this year; many insects also emerged early this year due to the February heatwave.
By this time of year most bird species are already well into their breeding cycle and some may already have young chicks. Species we’ve seen gathering food for hungry mouths recently include Starling and Blackbird. Our Kestrel pair seem to be settled in to the nest box and all the signs are that they will breed successfully again this year. On the West Pond we have a pair of Coots while a pair of Moorhens have again moved in to Lady Pond in the East Meadow. We are fairly confident we also have a pair of Skylarks nesting in the middle of the East Meadow again but as usual they are proving decidedly elusive!
The hedgerows and bramble patches are playing host to at least three pairs of Common Whitethroats and, as was the case last spring, a singing male Lesser Whitethroat has recently arrived in the roadside hedge which has now grown to a height and density to be to its liking. It’s always incredible to think of these 10-15 gram birds making the journey to Africa and back to Surrey every year and reminds us how important it is that they have suitable and secure places to nest when they do return.
Speaking of hedges, we have now finished laying the main section of hedgerow between the two meadows and it’s already greening up and flowering nicely. In a year or two it will have regrown and be entirely stockproof and an ideal corridor and nesting space for a variety of birds and small mammals.
The butterfly season is now underway although has been a bit stop/start thanks to the unsettled end to April and beginning of May. Nonetheless, we’ve so far managed to carry out two surveys during which we’ve recorded some of the classic hibernating and early emerging spring species such as Brimstone, Peacock, Green-veined White, Orange-tip, Holly Blue and Green Hairstreak; we’ve seen particularly good numbers of the latter lately which is encouraging as we had a good spring for them last year too, so it seems they are doing well here at Clandon Wood.