ABERNYTE NATURE WATCH
We all know what a late spring it was this year. Spring temperatures were generally low, often being not much above freezing at night until the middle of May.
The first swallow arrival I heard of was on April 15th when Barry saw one feeding over the road from the Knapp Sawmill. No doubt they would have been around on the Carse a few days earlier. We often see them at Baledgarno before they pop up in Abernyte.
He also saw four House Martins inspecting nest sites in Abernyte on 19th April. Gill in Ballindean - fresh back from Spain where she had seen house martins on migration - saw them back home on 20th April. However swallows were few and far between and many of them delayed nesting until later than usual.
Barry, who is involved in ringing swallows, found his first swallow nest containing eggs on 19th May, a full month after they had arrived. Also he found some just starting their first brood when others were already on their second brood. Swallows can have up to 3 broods in a season. He has found some starting new broods within the last few days (i.e. the beginning of August).
The recognizable Chiff-Chaff was the first spring migrant – it was heard in Kinnaird on 22nd April. Blackcaps, another warbler, were also around in Abernyte . Gordon spotted a male and female Blackcap feeding on fat balls in his garden around the same time. Later we found a Blackcap nesting in the garden where they made a tiny delicate nest bound to a number of small branches in a thicket.
John and Irene were surprised by a gathering of chattering Pied Wagtails on their house roof and on the power lines. There were 20 of them there on the 15th July.
It could be that they were gathering together as a group because they had finished breeding, or just to feed. Wagtails can have multiple broods so it is possible that this was an extended family group. However during winter Pied Wagtails are known to gather together as very large groups in order to roost communally.
They often choose odd places like trees in supermarket car parks, sometimes beside air conditioning plants which produce warm air. Cities are warmer in the winter so they’re not daft!
The alert Kinnaird nature watchers have seen Spotted Flycatchers in residence over the summer, and these birds also nested on the Abernyte Glebe. Hedgehogs were seen out about their prickly business in Kinnaird on 9th April and again on
Other notable signs of spring were: –
¨ Frogspawn seen on 23rd April (very late!)
¨ First Bat out – 1st March, but not seen again till 23rd April
Oak and Ash trees both came into leaf very late, some still just starting during the first week of June.
Trefor and Jane saw their first butterfly of the year on the 23rd April. It was a Peacock (the big showy one with the lovely luminous eye spots). If you look at it upside down you will get a shock because it looks like an owl is staring at you.
This device helps to scare off birds it is thought. Luckily for them this first butterfly was also roughly golden coloured .
On 19th April Stuart in Knapp and Barry in Abernyte both saw their first butterflies of the year. Stuart (lucky chap) saw a Comma fluttering around in his glasshouse from which it soon escaped. Barry saw a Small Tortoiseshell, which was feeding on Erica flowers in an Abernyte garden.
These are both beautiful winged beasts. Like Trefor and Jane’s Peacock they seem far too tropical to be here at all! The “Small Tort” is the one that I am sure most of you are familiar with. In autumn they go into houses and garden sheds or other cavities, where they sit patiently over winter and eventually emerge on a warm spring day to lay their eggs. Just about now (in July and August) the new brood have emerged and are to be seen feeding on various garden and wildflowers.
Buddleia and Thistle flowers are particularly popular with the Small Tort. As I have become a bit of a butterfly addict, I recently enjoyed reading “The Butterfly Isles” by Patrick Barkham.
This enthusiast set himself the challenge of seeing every species of butterfly in the UK within a single year.
I was not aware until reading this book that the lovable Hippo-like Moomintrolls created by Finnish author Tove Jansson, attribute special significance to the colour of their first butterfly of the year. If the first butterfly they see is a yellow one, then they will have a very happy year ahead of them, but if the first butterfly is bright and golden, that would be best of all.
I feel very happy when I see a beautiful golden butterfly, and the Comma which is golden all over apart from the dark spots and the “Small Tort” which is not only golden but enhanced with blue jewels on the furthest edges of its wings, do seem to have heralded us a beautiful warm dry summer!
What colour was your first butterfly of the year?
What colour will the last be and what will it mean? Only the Moomins would know...