May 17, 2010

This week in wildlife

Spring now is full-blown and blowsy. Everywhere the towering horse chestnuts are cream-candled, while the oaks' leaves are still narrow and unformed. Oak before ash: we're in for a splash. The maxim may be little more than a country saying, but if it were true then we could expect this summer to be a hot one, as around us the ash trees are still in bud.

It was a wet weekend, with huge thunderheads passing slowly overhead and sending hail and thunder down to batter the summer bedding and trouble the dog, but when the skies cleared the sun was warm, and the wet ground is full of weed shoots secretly germinating.

As usual, one of our two similar-sized sycamores has come into leaf well before the other, which still looks naked and embarrassed next to its brother, now threshed in green. Both are alive with tits, feeding on the aphids which coat the new leaves with honeydew and furr up the twigs with a sticky white crust.

Soon there'll be caterpillars for the birds to eat, too; if they time it right, their appearance will coincide perfectly with the hatching of their chicks, who will be fed the soft, wet, nutritionally-rich larva until they are able to digest chitin, of which most adult insects are made.