Sunday, 19 April 2015

Nesting Herons

Terrific walk through the  RSPB Swell Wood with the family, near to Taunton. Beautiful spring day with celandine, aconites and blue-bells everywhere and warm sun shafting through the branches, all resplendent in unfolding leaves. When we return in a month or so the woods will all look so different as the canopy fills and there is a wonderful openness at the moment with so much sun getting to the forest floor. The herons were astonishingly invisible for such large birds but once in the hide you could easily se them up at the top of the canopy perched on their big messy stick nests. Amazing to see them flapping from perch to perch up in the trees and in a community of birds rather than as the familiar solitary fishermen of the levels. The harsh squark of their calls, a rather pumped up crow call, could be heard throughout the wood as you approached and after passing the binoculars from child to child we went off to explore other paths and worked hard to pretend that we couldn't see approaching ambush attacks from the boys armed with sticks.

Preparing the Apiary

Getting hives ready, two to be baited with honey in the hope of luring the first spring swarms when May arrives. A Nice neat line in the spring evening sun. 

I can't wait to go and catch some swarms if the occasion presents although I expect that the theory, of climbing a ladder to manhandle a swarm into a box, and the reality, when I find myself tottering up a tree with a pair of branch loppers in a bee suit after work, may present a steep learning curve. 
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Monday, 13 April 2015

More paw prints and birds.

Cycling to work at college after Easter and the spring is really, properly, definitely here. No gloves or waterproof jacket and welcome sunshine on the ride into work and on the 6-o-clock cycle back up the hill. Watched robins moving in to the bird box in the blooming pear tree last night, although my enthusiastic daughter nearly scared them off again with some close-up instagramme photography. The birds are all jumping from hedge to hedge with beaks full of worms and grass and the chaffinches, chiff-chaffs, blackbirds and goldfinches were in full song on the Whitley road through the fields this evening. 

I returned in the car before tea to collect badger footprints from the dead badger that I had cycled past on the roadside. It had clearly been there for a week or so but I managed to carefully manhandle it so that I could impress it's paws in the clay. Large distinct pad prints with the toes closely packed together and long solid claws on each toe. I'll cast positives from these in plaster tomorrow and fire a set of clay negative impressions in the kiln.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Bee hives and field edges.

A great couple of Easter holiday days just enjoying being in the village. Went for a walk yesterday evening along the footpaths over the fields beyond the road to the front of the house walking the field edges green with young nettles. We jumped the stream in search of rabbit skeletons and other treasures and made our way along the edge of the Taunton road with cars tearing back and forth beyond the hedge. I've walked field edges all of my life with eyes forever on the ground incase of fossils, flint arrow heads or other wonders turned over by a plough. I've never seen an arrow head, in the wild, but I recall listening with childhood envy to another boy who told me about finding them whilst we attended museum club together in Norwich castle many years ago. 

This evening we worked on the repair and painting of hives in preparation for the anticipated spring swarms, the plan being to have hives ready to receive passing swarms as bait hives or if the opportunity presents, to house a captured swarm. Terrific to be working in the shed in the apiary field as my children charged about and all keeping an eye out for the buzzards that are nesting nearby. No swallows yet but with every day the ferns promise to unfold, the blossoms on the pear tree develop and the primroses carpet more of the roadside verges and with the clocks now forward it's only a matter of time.