Hazel catkins are a sure sign that spring is in progress. The yellow catkins are the male flowers, dangling and spreading their pollen into the drifting winds. It is always worth carrying with you a hand lens so that you can take a look at the much smaller, red female flowers which catch the scattered pollen on sticky red tufts
For centuries, hazel has been grown for its wood using coppicing – a traditional method that involves cutting trees to ground level and allowing them to re-grow and produce multiple long, strong stems. The hazel catkin is often called lambs tails due to their looking a lot like a lamb’s tail and they also appear during the lambing season. Traditionally, pollarded hazel shoots were used for lambing pens!
hazel catkins (male and female flowers)
female hazel flowers
How exiting can a bleary-eyed glimpse out of the upstairs windows be on a grey and grim morning at the end of February. Usually not at all, but this morning was different when I slowly focused on a sparrowhawk perched very quietly on the brick wall in my Wrenthorpe garden. Understandably, the usual sparrows and other small birds that normally feed on my offerings were no where to be seen! The photo was taken in low light and through the window, but hopefully it still shows what a really handsome bird it is.
male sparrowhawk, Wrenthorpe
Spring really is hurtling our way as a glance around the countryside will show – hazel catkins, insects on the wing and lapwings displaying are all sure signs. Lapwings are back on their local breeding grounds and are really in full swing now as they display over the fields in the area. They can easily be seen as I drive into my village, Ryhill, particularly around Chevet, Wintersett and on the Nostell side of the village.
Lapwing with Wintersett village in the distance
I had my first primrose of the year at Brockadale today, Sunday 22nd February and also noted 30+ fieldfare and displaying buzzard.
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris)
Just a heads up to let you all know that Francis has created a Wakefield Naturalists’ Society Twitter feed. Were are @Wakeynats if you want to follow us and I have added the Twitter feed to the bottom of the pages here.
The recent cold biting north and north easterly winds may be persuading us to think it is still winter and to stay indoors in the warm. However, perhaps spring is closer than we think. Indeed, this morning I watched a robin in the garden at Wrenthorpe busy collecting nesting material and taking it to an old nesting box at the back of the garden shed. Blue tits have also been ‘viewing homes’ before deciding on the best nest boxes for them. A surprise sighting yesterday in the garden was of two firecrests. Sadly, they did not stay long and I guess they will nest elsewhere.
Flowers are understandably scarce at the moment. However, recent visits toNostell Priory have been rewarded with seeing fantastic carpets of snowdrops
I went up onto the tower in mid-January and found that mounds of bird remains had accumulated at the base of the spire, below the favourite perches of the two peregrines. I would estimate that feral pigeons accounted for half of the remains. There were signs of a number of black-headed gulls having been eaten, two or three woodcock and at least two little grebe. Other species identified were jackdaw, starling, blackbird, fieldfare, redwing and teal.
I have just heard the sad news that our Vice-President and long serving member, John Laws, passed away on Friday 6th February after a long illness. John and Catherine joined the Society in the late 80s and have been regular attendees of the indoor meetings ever since. Our thoughts are with Catherine and the family. John’s funeral will take place at St Helen’s Church, Sandal on February 23rd. I will post more details when I have them.