In line with the government guidance, this week, time in nature has been squeezed and condensed. A few short forays to my local park and innumerable laps of our eerily quiet street the best I could muster while sticking to the law.
Outside, the seasons advance regardless of the turmoil unfolding in human society and the lives of the plants and animals continue as they always have, unchanged by the pandemic hamstringing their human admirers.
The big change observed this week on my local patch was the emergence of insect life. A few sunnier days, a marginal increase in temperature and the floodgates have well and truly opened. Butterflies have been conspicuous, the most numerous of which being Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Their presence adds a much-needed touch of colour to life here. They were not alone, however, and Comma too have emerged, brown yet far from dull; while yesterday brought my first Small White of the season.
Much like their more glamourous counterparts, bees to have dramatically increased this week. The few intrepid Buff-tailed Bumblebees now joined by Tree, White-tailed and Red-tailed bumbles, as well as my first Common Carder of the year. The greatest concentration of these furry pollinators being found on a stand of blooming Blackthorn in the centre of the local park – the setting for yesterdays allocated thirty minutes of ‘exercise’. The small white blooms, splayed and smiling, together form an irresistible draw to invertebrates of all shapes and sizes.
Also worthy of a mention on the invertebrate front was my first (ever) Dark-bordered Bee Fly; while a brief solitary bee, likely a Tawny Mining Bee, proved far too quick to photograph. As is often the norm with small, winged beasties.
Walking multiple, circular loops of the park, it was exciting to note at least four singing Chiffchaff. Their repetitive, maladroit song quite literally, music to my ears. Less so the sound of shrieking Ring-necked Parakeets, which seem to be growing more abundant by the day in my neck of the woods. Give it a decade or so and their population here may well mirror that of London.
What of the plants? Well, befitting January promise to educate myself on local plant life, I have continued to keep my eye to the ground. Locally, the fine weather this week as seen many more species set about blooming, and it was nice to note a few firsts for the year in the form of Greater Stitchwort and Cowslip. A small patch of Honesty blooming on the outskirts of the local allotment, clearly an escape from cultivation, was also pleasing to the eye.
But what of new species for current exercise in species diversity? Well, there were a few actually, including Henbit Dead-nettle, Charlock and Garden Grape Hyacinth found growing in cracks and crevices along the neighbouring street. On the slightly more mobile front, Daddy Long Legs and Garden Spider made up the arachnid haul; while I think I have successfully identified my first bryophyte here: Wall Screw Moss, Tortula muralis. How exciting, I hear you say!
All in all, that’s 114 species identified on my urban patch.