Yesterday I think I managed to experience all the seasons in one day - there was a bit of snow, some very persistent rain, patchy fog, and the sun even shone through for a couple of glorious hours! It was hard to know whether to wrap up warm, or be thinking about putting away my winter coat for the year.
And through it all, I definitely felt like this gorgeous red squirrel cautiously peering from behind a Scots pine and asking 'is Spring really nearly here?'
Find more great images from Mark Hamblin, or if you simply want a 'spring fix' before the real thing arrives, check out RSPB Images.
I keep thinking that spring is nearly here, but then winter makes a late comeback. Surely it can't be long?
Here at The Lodge we've been watching a smörgåsbord of finches - siskins, redpolls and chaffinches, with a sprinkling of bramblings - around the bird feeders at the Gatehouse. Chances are that most of these birds are passing through on their way back to their northern breeding grounds, perhaps in Scotland but maybe as far afield as Norway, Sweden or even the Baltic.
The siskins look pretty smart - all yellow, black, green and streaky - but I'm particularly fond of the lesser redpolls, as pictured above.
On the feeders, they try their hardest to look fierce, but the effect is somewhat limited when they're not much bigger than a blue tit and weigh in at a hefty 11g - the same as 11 paperclips!
This fab picture was taken by Guy Rogers and can be found with thousands of others at RSPB Images.
We got one day, one glorious day this week when you thought 'spring... I remember that'. On that day I managed to have a walk through The Lodge reserve on a lunch break.
Sitting on the edge of the old quarry among spongy plants, and looking over a distant view of train lines and pylons I felt compelled to look elsewhere for nature.
I found it close at hand (under my hand) in the form of mosses and liverworts, grouped within the lower or primitive plants. Their marginal existence often goes unnoticed but along with their strange lichen neighbours, they make up a whole micro world of plant life.
The heads of the moss’s spore capsules stick up like miniature trees providing a canopy for insect life to run through. With a bit of imagination, it’s a mini safari!
When these spore capsules are ripe, a special ring of cells rupture to expose the microscopic spores which are released in little bursts through tiny 'teeth' as the wind blows past. In some species (Sphagnum mosses) the capsules explode open, firing their spores onto new pastures.
Lichens are actually part plant part fungi, with different cells living in harmony to make life forms that can scratch out a living even on exposed rocks.
Mosses are pretty cool looking when you get really close up and they only grow in wet, low nutrient conditions which means that they generally indicate an unpolluted environment. They are the things that make places like this woodland look especially verdant and rich in life.
They all provide a splash of colour and interest to even the most remote places. If you’ve seen any interesting examples of these miniature plants or fungi, I’d love to hear from you.
Nearly five years ago (I didn't realise it had been so long!), I wrote a blog post about looking for a mystic creature with black fur, ad long tail and red-tipped teeth.
A water shrew.
Whilst I was reliably informed they did exist, my own experiences suggested otherwise! I even wrote another post three years ago, as my quest to see the UK's largest shrew continued.
Fast forward to today. An email pops up informing all those on the list my nemesis is happily swimming around a pond, almost on my route to the canteen. It seems to good to be true!
But this time, this glorious time, there he (or she) is. Brazen as you like. Swimming round a little pond, a crowd of onlookers has already assembled as the shrew dives, ducks and weaves amongst the pond weed, hunting for its lunch. Success at last !
It had to happen. I was always confident - honest guv!
It’s a hard life being a frog. Of around 2000 eggs laid by each female, only a few will reach adulthood. They were recently exposed as the culprits behind an unidentified jelly found in the countryside, previously attributed to meteors!
It turns out it’s just unfertilised egg plasma which they release when under-attack by herons, grass snakes, cats, crows, rats or foxes. Like I said, a hard life.
This one looks pretty chilled out though, with the primrose positioned almost like a fascinator; very elegant. Sue Kennedy of www.rspb-images.com caught this great shot.