Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back in London, a week and a half on

After a great week in north Wales I rushed into the park after all my morning chores at 1pm, eager not to miss the best of the sunshine. I needn't have worried. It is a beautiful afternoon.

The park had changed a little in the week and a half that I've been away. There are bright Lesser Celandines (Ranunculus ficaria) beginning to appear everywhere with their pretty heart-shaped leaves, but they are nowhere near as prolific as they were in Wales earlier this week. The violets in the ecological park have gone over so completely that you wouldn't know that they had been there. In Wales the violets are at their peak, one of many signs of how much later Spring has been up there than in London. I am so glad that I had the chance to enjoy them in all their glory while they lasted.

The story is very different with the biennial Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata). My father says that Garlic Mustard is also known as Jack-by-the-hedge, which I hadn't heard before. The one lonely plant in flower has been joined by dozens of others throughout the woodland and ecological park. It is a similar tale with the Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum), which is now abundant and forming beautiful carpets of purple colour. They are being joined in one or two places by their white cousin, the White Dead-nettle (Lamium album) which is rarely seen before April. I was delighted to see great swathes of Cowslips (Primula veris) throughout the ecological park. The butterfly sanctuary has been planted with cowslips in neat squares of earth, presumably to spred them even further, but they look desperate for water. In amongst the Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) I spotted two types of tiny white flowers. They are both distinctive but none of my books has been able to help me identify them. I was particularly pleased to see what looks like Blue-Eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna, above) coming into flower in various places in both the ecological park and woodland. The bright deep blue of the flowers against their deep green leaves is a pleasure to see. There are lots of dandelions and daisies, the enemies of garden lawns but all lovely in the woodland and ecological park.

Of the shrubs and trees the best displays are being offered by the laurels and the trees in blossom. Each laurel has flowers in various stages of display - some of them are just about to come into bloom, others are in full bloom and others are going over. The blackthorn trees have full blossom without leaves, but other trees have both blossom and leaves, and they are all looking beautiful. At one point I turned from photographing some insects and saw snow. A gust of wind had blown off hundreds of tiny petals and the air was filled with a snow-like blizzard of pure white. The catkins and pussy willow have now gone over.

There were lots of butterflies but they defied my attempts to photograph them: several whites, some commas and two peacocks. I also saw two shield bugs. There were a scattering of other insects, including bees and flies, but apart from the butterflies it was very quiet on the insect front.

The birds were few and far between, apart from the pigeons, but the tits were very vocal. There were tiny fish in Downtown pond, mallards and a couple of coots at Globe pond but no sign of life at Stave Hill pond. The coots have quietened down, which is a relief. Sitting for a quick pint at the Moby Dick I saw two swans on Greenland Dock, together with some coots and mallards.

I'll add some more photographs from today over the next few days.

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