Posted by: Ross Gardner | May 1, 2012

Window of Opportunity

The rain has been pretty incessant just lately, but yesterday presented a window of opportunity, with the promise of more rain to come, through which to observe the progress of the gathering spring.  I decided to visit a small ancient wood in south Essex, which I have this year decided to study and write about.  It is perhaps an unremarkable wood when compared to other, larger expanses close by, but so often it is in such circumstances that the essence of a place, of a habitat, come to the fore.

Yesterday was sunny and pleasantly warm, probably about 15 degrees C.  The wood was unsurprisingly (given the rain) and delightfully bursting with green.  Most of the oaks were yet to flush, but the understorey of hornbeam and hawthorn had filled the place with vibrant, fresh green.  Bluebell and stitchwort had bloomed alongside the latter flowers of the wood anemone that had begun to do so several weeks before.

Nomad Bee (Nomada sp.). Ross Gardner 2012

Today though, was the first one of this spring when I witnessed the something of that great invertebrate prolificy to hint towards the throng to come.  Small creatures were everywhere.  Much more besides the speckled wood butterflies that flitted in and out of the shadows and the foraging bumblebees that more readily drew the gaze.  Wherever the sunlight hit the ground countless small flying creatures zipped and fidgetted, basking in the warmth reflected by the browned leaf-litter.  I stood transfixed for some time, watching the same that were sunbathing on the leaves of hornbeam trees lit by the sun.  Numerous species of fly settled intermittently on the leaves to soak up the rays; not the favourites of many, but adding theirs to the air of abundant life within the wood.  Nomad bees did the same, alongside the mining-bees whose nests they will commandeer  for their young.  Ichneumon wasps moved agitatedly about the foliage, no doubt searching the leaves for the eggs of others in which to lay their own.

The cloud made its return by the evening and seems likely to persist, but through the window spring waits.

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