March comes in
like a lion
Last Saturday felt like the first day of spring. The temperature was a balmy 15 degrees centigrade. The sky was a baby blue with small scudding clouds that passed swiftly overhead and for the first time this
year the sun warmed the back of your neck if you stood for a few moments. We decided to walk along the Cromford canal from the mill along to past the bridge on the river, retracing our steps once we had walked enough.
Next to the mill a rather aggressive swan was seeing off a pair of Canada geese.
We meandered slowly along noting every bit of wildlife we could find. There were so many indications of incipient spring. We found a clump of primroses ( Primula vulgaris)beside the track.
A little further on we saw the first coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) just the flower visible not the leaf. Once the sun came from behind a cloud the flower opened fully it was dazzlingly bright against the muted colours around.
Wild arum also called cuckoo pint (Arum maculatum) was beginning to show leaf in the bottom of the woodland. Wild garlic or ransomes (Allium ursinum) was just showing the tip of its leaves.
A little way down the track I found some Mercurialis perennis or dog’s mercury growing this plant is an indicator of ancient woodland thus I assume the wood beside the path must be quite old.
As we walked along we noticed several clumps of lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) beside the path. These were the first ones I had seen in flower this year. Again the contrast between the flower when the sun was hidden and the flower when the sun was out was amazing.
I discovered that the camera on my mobile takes good close up shots so I took a lot of close up photos of ferns mosses and lichens.
There were catkins on some of the trees these ones were alder catkins and I found a female flower although it is
so bright it is also minute and consequently easily overlooked. The sheep here must lamb later than in some areas as they
were all pregnant still, looking a bit miserable about it all.
We had lovely views of grey wagtail here is one in a tree if you can spot the bird in this photo I will be impressed.
A robin sat for quite a few minutes in this tree giving us a performance. Although I am conscious that this call is merely to advertise his sexual prowess and to defend his territory from rival males, it was rather glorious in spring sunshine.
Three pairs of little grebes had set up territories along the canal. They really are the most frustrating birds to photograph. I would see them sitting near the bank as I snuck up on them. Then as I got within range they would wait until I was just about to take the shot then dive coming up under tree roots on the far bank. I have quite a few shots of ripples with no little grebe visible.
If they were not so attractive I would have given up trying. It was like being at a firework display trying to take photos of the fireworks and being just that split second too late. The river was high and although we lingered by the bridge we did not see any dippers.
THE INVISIBLE GREY WAGTAIL
It was such a lovely day that we went on to Carsington water where we saw the Great Northern Diver at some distance and still in winter plumage. There were a pair of willow tits on the bird feeders too quick for me to photograph. The reserve has an impressive flock of over 30 tree sparrows. They appear to do everything together possibly a strategy to avoid
predators. Every few minutes all of the tree sparrows would land simultaneously on a bird feeder where they would frantically eat the seed scattering as much as they ate. Suddenly for no apparent reason they would all fly away back to
the trees moving as if they were a single organism.
A flock of barnacle geese were among the Canada geese. Couple of collared doves frequented the feeders keeping a close watch as they fed. We completed our day with a walk along the river at Grindleford where try as we might we could not
find a dipper. We came home along the back roads over Froggatts Edge. We passed o a narrow road that wound up and down steep valleys passed moorland fields wth stone walls and copses. The sun was low enough in the sky to cast long
shadows and produce that golden quality of light so beloved of filmmakers. A frmer had spread a load of manure over one field. As a result every corvid for miles around had converged on this field with calls of delight. They were all
frantically digging their beaks into the black smelly mess looking for invertebrates. It is strange that a substance so repellent to us should be the source of so much delight to them.
I know I am anthropomorphising, but they appeared to relish their actions. We failed to see a raven despite the hundreds
of corvids present. It was a truly marvellous day