Swallows and Apples

Studies increasingly show us that just looking at pleasant landscapes and watching wildlife can significantly improve our personal health and well- being.  It is sometimes referred to as Nature’s Health Service especially in terms of helping to manage the stress of modern day life.  Therefore, connecting with nature has never been so important as it is at the moment while our normal activities are suspended due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Fortunately, at a time of great need nature is not in lockdown, indeed its currently on overdrive moving apace receiving a helping hand from a long spell of fine weather.  This has been very much in evidence this week during my permitted walks from home, which have taken me around Brandy Carr and Carr Gate.  Wildlife sightings have included watching a pair of lapwings busy feeding in a paddock and later seeing them being dive bombed by a swallow.  This turned out to be quite innocent as the swallow was swooping down low to collect what appeared to be a small piece of white tissue presumably for nest building?    Nearby there is hedgerow containing several mature oak and surprisingly several midland hawthorn. This species flowers before the common hawthorn, also its leaves are less divided and importantly looking closely at the flowers it has two or three stigmas later forming two or three seeds in the berry.  The common hawthorn only has a single stigma and only one seed in the berry.  Confusingly these two native species hybridise so this is a good time of the year to tell them apart by counting the stigma rather than trying to find the seed in the autumn. 

Continuing the walk the oak are clearly in leaf well before the ash.  So are we in for a splash and a dry summer as the old country rhyme goes?  Also, I noticed one particular oak tree is holding a mass of oak apples,  These are caused by the gall wasp, Biorhiza pallida.  The eggs are laid in a dormant leaf bud and the tree reacts by producing this apple like growth around the egg and larva.  These are not apples you can eat.  However, on the plus side insects are vital for pollinating a wide range of blossom.  The attached image shows a busy bee helping to ensure there will be a good crop of apples in the garden again this year.

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