Following on from our first nightingale sighting on Thursday, more of these great songsters have arrived and are serenading visitors from the usual spots - fattengates courtyard and adder alley. Far from being the skulking fellows that they're renowned to be, we've been treated to some good views and I've had some lovely photos sent through. Thanks to Gareth Hughes and Mick Davis for these ones:
Whilst the nightingales do steal the limelight, you shouldn't ignore the other chirps, whistles, tweets and tunes. The chiffchaffs and blackcaps have been joined by willow warbler, common and lesser whitethroat and sedge warbler. We're still waiting for our first garden warbler and reed warbler so why not pop along and see if you can find our first for the year.
We'd assumed that the 4 avocets would just be passing through but they are still with us, have been engaged in 'amorous activities' and now appear to be scraping. It looks possible that we might have our first ever avocets attempting to breed on site. How exciting!
Various other migrants to look for when you visit - garganey, redstart, wheatear - have all been seen over the past few days.
Take a break from the birds to look for common liazrd, adder and a range of butterflies (brimstones, orange tips, peacocks, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and green veined white).
Out on the heathland, the bluebells, greater stitchwort and wood sorrel are looking splendid. I suggest you wander down towards black pond (have a scan for an early dragon or damsel fly) then explore black wood for the best of the flowers. From Hail's view you could spot displaying lapwing or redshank.
Don't forget about our upcoming nightingale festival. The 'evening concert' guided walks are on Saturday 26 April. The visitor centre will re-open at 6.30 pm with the cafe open for soup, sandwiches, tea and cakes and then guided walks will leave the centre at 7.30 pm and 8 pm. Whilst they are singing well during the day there really is something magical about hearing them at night.
Whilst we’re still awaiting the arrival of our first nightingale of the year, we’ve had plenty of other newcomers over the past few days.
The gentle descending tune of the willow warbler can be heard towards the bottom of the zig zags, chiffchaffs are chiff-chaffing seemingly from every tree and the beautiful song of the blackcap serenades you as you wander around the trails.
Swallows and sand martins have been passing through, we’ve seen a few pairs of lapwings on nests, and on the edges of the pools you could find redshank, little ringed plover, ringed plover, snipe and, unusually for here, avocets.
These stunning birds do occasionally stop off here, using us a bit like a service station, but for the last few days there have been four of them on the North Brooks. Very nice they are too!
For those of you who are up for a challenge, try a bit of garganey hunting. On Monday, a smart male was seen in front of Nettley’s, and for the past two days we’ve had a female. They do a great disappearing act though so be ready to be patient!
But it’s not just about the birds...I was lucky enough to spend most of the morning outside weaving a willow screen in the meadow with the help of willing families. During this few hours I saw bright sulphur-yellow brimstone butterflies, smart orange-tips and peacocks, along with buff tailed and red-tailed bumblebees.
The bluebells are on the verge of flowering on our wooded heathland trail and with them the delicate and beautiful wood sorrel. On the wetland trail greater stitchwort, primroses, celandine and violets are in bloom and looking rather lovely.
This pretty springtime flower has an array of ‘common names’ including ‘wedding cakes’, ‘star of bethlehem’, ‘poor man’s buttonholes’, ‘adder’s spit’, ‘pixy flower’ and ‘daddy’s shirt buttons’. According to folklore, picking these flowers risks starting a thunderstorm, being carried away by the pixies or being bitten by an adder!
It has 5 deeply-notched white petals, and can be seen along the hedgerows and in open woodland. Its ‘real’ name – greater stitchwort - originates from its ancient herbal use of alleviating a “stitch” in the side.
Not only are the wildflowers pretty, they’re great for wildlife too, being popular with bees, moths, butterflies and other insects. Our RSPB Phoenix youth group is working on a project to develop a wildflower meadow in the field beyond our play area. The group has been preparing the ground and planting wildflower seeds over the past year or so and in summer you should see the likes of knapweed, ox-eye daisies, red campion and corn marigold appearing. We’re doing this in conjunction with Kew garden’s ‘Grow Wild’ project.
If you have visited over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed some new flower beds appearing in the courtyard too. Our fabulous volunteer Carl has been planning a great wildlife-friendly garden and has been planting shrubs and flowers which should be great for birds, bees and butterflies. As well as looking good, our courtyard garden really will be giving nature a home.