Thursday, 13 March 2014

Romantic Dandelions

A couple of days ago, when I walked round Captains Wood, I heard a Nuthatch calling but I didn't manage to see it. I've long thought that the wood looks suitable, but for some reason Nuthatches are difficult to find in Kent east of the Canterbury ring woods. I had a return visit yesterday in the hope of find it singing again.

The flowering of several species of trees in the form of catkins is one of the iconic symbols of spring. Along the roadside there are catkins in profusion. These trees are pollinated by the  wind, so the catkins have evolved to dangle in order that they might best catch the slightest breeze and drift their pollen onto neighbouring trees as they seek out a catkin of the opposite sex.

The flowers are produced very early in spring before the leaves, and are monoecious, with single-sex catkins, the male catkins are pale yellow and 5–12 cm long, and the female ones are very small and largely concealed in the buds, with only the bright-red, 1- to 3-mm-long styles visible. 

We all get used to Dandelions, probably the most prolific "weed" found along roadsides and spring up in badly kept lawns like mine. They produce flower from March onwards. The dandelion flower head has several "uses".  Folklore says that blowing the seeds off a dandelion is said to carry your thoughts and dreams to your loved one. At least, so they say........ If you want something less romantic legend has it that the number of breaths it takes to blow off all the seeds of a dandelion globe that has gone to seed, is the hour number..

I always thought that a Dandelion was a Dandelion but the latest Collins Flower Guide says that there are 232 species of Dandelion currently recognised in the British Isles! Eric Philp, in the Atlas of the Kent Flora lists about 95 species so far found in Kent with locations where they have been identified

Several species of butterfly hibernate, and the warm spring weather This spring Small Tortoiseshells have been very noticable, bringing hope that they will return to their previous levels (before the crash probably due to an alien parasitic fly Sturmia bella ).

Commas also hibernate and are often one of the earliest to emerge. The overwintering butterflies produce an early generation that breeds again.It is this later generation that will agina over winter. The Comma has had various ups and downs in it's population and it is currently doing very well and expanding its range.

This Buff-tailed Bumblebee seems to be carrying a large number of passengers.Unlike Varroa mites that devastate honeybee colonies, there's little evidence that these bumblebee mites transmit disease or inflict significant direct harm.They may, in a mutually advantageous evolutionary pact, even be of some benefit to the colony by eating detritus and moulds that might harm the brood. 

I didn't manage to find, or even hear again the Nuthatch, I have found previously, that they can be quite quiet at times and don't always show their presence, I will try again soon. Treecreepers on the otherhand were quitee in evidence, their high pitched calls supplementing the incessant calling of the Blue Tits, that seem to have a high popilation density here.

A Treecreeper at St Margaret's can cause some excitement, with our proximity to the population of Short-toed Treecreepers on the otherside of the channel. Of course in Captains Wood there is no such problem, but I thought that the picture above shows the wing-bar pattern, that distinguishes the two rather well.


Derek Faulkner said...

Great posting Tony, I enjoyed that, very educational.

jelltex said...

well, I never knew that about dandelions! Amazing.