New life abounds in our natural world

The weather is typical for April with snow one minute and warm sunshine the next. On Saturday while at Jedburgh, I had to dodge a violent hailstorm, but the sun was out minutes later and the cumulus clouds and blue sky provided some brilliant photo opportunities.

Thursday, 21st April 2016, 6:20 am
The enigmatic toothwort which is well worth looking out for just now.

The bird count on my usual riverside walk rose at the weekend with the arrival of the summer visitors – one group of migrants which is always welcome. I have been averaging around 20 species since the turn of the year but on Sunday I managed 25 – six of which were migrant species. The number of willow warblers went up from one during the past fortnight to ten and I clocked my first house martins.

The flower species along the riverbank are increasing in number as well, with the welcome appearance of wood anemone and sweet violet to add to the earlier spring blooms. One plant I always look for each year is the strange looking toothwort, which always appears under the same tree. If it was any later it would be hidden by the emerging vegetation and easily missed. This odd parasitic plant has no green leaves whatsoever, but derives all its nutrients from the roots of the host tree. The only portions that appear above ground in April to May are the short flower-bearing shoots, which bear a spike of two-lipped, flesh coloured flowers. The scales which represent the leaves also secrete water, which escapes and softens the ground around the plant. It is by no means common and is well worth looking out for before the ground vegetation gets too dense.

Spring fever has definitely taken hold in the garden with one nest box being occupied by blue tits and the other being frequently entered by both house sparrows and great tits. It will be interesting to see who wins. As usual, the box with the in-built camera remains vacant!

The frog spawn in the pond has been forsaken by its solitary frog sentry, as it changes in appearance. The tiny full stops inside are now like little commas, so it shouldn’t be long before the tadpoles emerge.

After being absent all winter, siskins are starting to come to the bird table, as their natural food supply runs out.

Yes spring is a great time in the natural world, when there’s so much to see and new life abounds.