Talisman of Spring

This morning we had a few tasks to perform picking up the car from the garage and sorting out finances at the bank to name two. It was late morning before we found ourselves driving towards Derbyshire a picnic in the back of the car. Both of us were wrapped up like the Michelin man advert. It was a lovely day but the thermometer was reading just above zero so a cold day.

We stopped at Cromford Canal. Unfortunately as this is a half term week the place was heaving consequently there were dogs everywhere and the only wildlife near the mill were some mallards a few swans and a coot all looking hopefully at passers by in expectation of food. This appeared more dangerous than they anticipated judging by the violence with which some small boys were hurling crusts of bread at the birds.



Further on a couple of moorhens swam about busily amongst the old reeds. There was a work party on the canal removing the marginal vegetation with grappling hooks, garden forks and other tools. Unfortunately this section of the canal was devoid of little grebes. Indeed in view of the number of dogs off the leads and either in the water or prowling the bank it is a wonder that any wildlife still lives in this stretch of water. I was worried about the fate of water voles along this stretch of the canal without the marginal vegetation their habitat is threatened. Still we made the most of it. The trees yielded very few birds  the usual blue tits great tits and robins. Further down the canal we eventually found a lone little grebe cowering under the opposite bank. Once we had found one others appeared as is by magic and we eventually located three pairs. The moorhens seemed unperturbed by the noise and disturbance.


Just before we reached the railway junction I found the first lesser celendine of spring. This was my first talisman that spring is on the way and all is well with the world.


Lesser Celendine

In the wood I spotted a few shoots of wild garlic another indicator of spring.


Wild Garlic

The first bridge was devoid of views of dipper or grey wagtail but we did watch a nuthatch busily attacking a mossy branch and a little further on a treecreeper came very close to us. A pair of dunnocks were excavating the leaf litter  we flushed them as we approached unfortunately. Still they only moved a few metres away until we had passed.

We noticed the river was high and we stood for some time on the stone bridge with the sun on our backs waiting to see what we could find. A flash or gold above our heads was our first indicator of a grey wagtail. It obligingly perched on a rock in the middle of the river and strode up and down for a few minuted giving us excellent views.

We made our way back to the car for lunch and decided to call at Carsington reservoir. It was till sunny when we arrived early afternoon. Our first bird in the hedgerow was a willow tit. Once we had un-stiffened ourselves we plodded towards the hide avoiding small children on bikes, runners and a wheelchair. The hide was full of people several of them were volunteers, but a couple of excited children were watching the birds and commenting on them constantly. We found a female reed bunting, a host of tree sparrows, more willow tits and in the distance a great northern diver in winter plumage. I found a redshank in a bay over the other side of the reservoir and your father set up his scope so the children could see it. We finished the day with a walk towards the hide at sheep dips, but the wind had increased  and the waves were blowing up, so apart from a solitary male goldeneye and a small group of teal on the margin of the water, it was deserted. The passerines had also deserted the wood, so we called it a day and came home. Still five more species seen for this year and a good walk.

The hazel was covered in catkins



The common polypody and the harts tongue fern were both covered in spores and growing prolifically.


Harts Tongue Fern

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Common Polypody





Ivy Leaved Toadflax



Finally I was charmed by the sheer diversity of plants on the stone walls a small stone crop, ivy leaved toad flax in addition to the ferns. Mosses covered every damp surface and lichens decorated both the trees and the stones. It was a whole community in miniature with minute forests and lakes the size of puddles.  Comparing the experience with last February we did not find Coltsfoot, nor Dogs Mercury nor Spleenwort despite being told that this spring is particularly early.

Anyway time to pull myself together. The only other news is I bought a book of natural history walks in Derbyshire. I mat the mother of two of your school chums. I hadn’t seen her for twenty years but she still remembered me. I am ashamed to say I couldn’t for the life of me remember her name and spent the entire conversation trying hard not to show my appalling memory. we had a delightful talk and I was very encouraged by this conversation. I find it rare to meet someone whose values and interests coincide with my own. Once we started on discussing our gardens it was as if I had seen her yesterday.

I am rambling on. Thank you for the phone call with all your news and I will speak to you soon

Your loving mother


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