Sweet Nothings

 

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This pair of Southern Screamers were spotted billing and cooing like a pair of love birds on a recent visit to Martin Mere Wetland Centre in Lancashire. No social distancing for them, but now the reserve is open again, visitor numbers are limited and you have to book in advance. Once through the entrance and on to the reserve, all is well-managed with plenty of hand washing/sanitising points and comfortable distancing from other visitors.

The Screamers are natives of South America, and have a distinctive screaming call, loud enough to make your hair stand on end. They’re fairly large and turkey-like, with partly webbed feet, hollow bones and air sacs beneath the skin, which would all help in getting them off the ground and being able to stay there once in the air.

They have large, thick legs, light red in colour and just looking at these legs and pondering on them being hollow is – for me at least – quite fascinating. They mate for life and this pair were clearly being sensitive and gentle, interacting as they sat side by side.

I gather there is nothing of note in their plumage to help distinguish between male and female, but my fantasy on seeing them was that the male had the white dog collar (Rev. S. Screamer?) and the female had the fluffy pale grey hairdo.

She also preened and groomed his head, making me wonder if he might be just a tiny bit henpecked…..see the look on his face!

Buff tailed bumble bee

It’s good to see there are bees in the garden. There are plenty of nectar sources; among these are the pale pink blossoms on the blackberry vine which wends its way along the wall under the kitchen window. Already the petals are dropping as the fruits begin to form.

Bees go for purple flowers and we have quite a lot of these. The lavender, which they are strongly attracted to, is just coming into flower.

As a child I was scared to pass lavender bushes smothered in bees. Now I’ll happily lose time watching the bees at work on them, trying to ID them – usually not doing particularly well so I have to go indoors to refer to the bee chart we have on the wall.

Maybe I need a bee ID book…? (birthday present hint!).

 

Rhinoceros beetle

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This handsome hunk seems to have taken up residence on our patio decking. He falls down between the cracks sometimes, but climbs up and then upturns himself, legs flailing.

I’ve rescued him a couple of times and set him on his way in the nearby planter, which has woody-rooted Box shrubs for him to feel more at home with.

I found him a short while ago on the patio table which we’d abandoned in a hurry at lunch time when it pelted with rain. He’d waited until the rain cleared and was having a stroll across the table top.

He flew down to ground level but let me offer him a lift to greater heights so I could take this photo of him, then he flew off down again to get on with doing his own thing.

The female doesn’t have a horn, and the Latin name for this beetle is Oryctes nasicornis, the nasicornis bit sounding decidedly nasal!

Waterlilies

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The first waterlilies of the season have just opened to a rousing fanfare from me of “They’re here! The first this year.”

Our pond is always a source of interest and delight and has been even more so during these lockdown weeks, when we’ve had more time to appreciate our outdoor space and sit soaking up the sunshine and ambience in the garden. We are lucky, I know that.

Birdsong has become more audible with less traffic and almost no flights from and into Manchester airport, so empty skies have brought louder birdsong. The resident blackbird on our patch sits on nearby roof- and tree-tops singing beautifully, interspersing his song with a 4-note signature which he repeats quite often – and I reply, giving him something to cock his head to one side over and briefly ponder on before he’s off on the next riff of fabulous sounds.

But back to the waterlilies, which are a joy to behold and observe as they bud, then open and often attract visiting hoverflies, which alight on their petals.

There’s life in the old log yet

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This stump of a freshly felled tree in Anderton Nature Park caught my eye when walking there yesterday. It’s quite sad to see the remains of what must have been quite a large tree – maybe it had become diseased, maybe it was getting dangerous. We did hear the branch of a nearby tree creaking loudly and a bit alarmingly in the wind, as though it might have been loosening, ready to break off. We moved on sharpish!

The path took us through a wood full of past-their-best bluebells. Most of them were shrivelling and going to seed, but a few of the fresher and younger ones still looked magnificent. Right now the ground under the trees is carpeted with ramsens in full bloom, looking like soft white feathers.

The tree stump was surrounded by ramsens, and along with the ferns growing there they formed a wreath of green life, an appropriate memorial for a felled tree.