Author Archives: Tony Finn

May Nature Notes

Hedgerow Flowers
The last two weeks has seen the appearance of our hedgerow flowers, several of them already mentioned in other blogs. It may just be my own perception of this but there seem to be more of them appearing in new places following the hedge cutting.
Blooming May
An English hedgerow would not be complete without the snowy white scented May blossom of the Hawthorn. The blossom attracts many insects and the tree itself provides a habitat for many animals; nesting birds, spiders and other invertebrates on the leaves and in its furrowed bark.
The young leaves have a slightly nutty taste. When I was a child we knew them has ‘bread and cheese’. No idea why!
Hawthorn Mythology
Hawthorn trees can live for many years, some are hundreds of years old. So it is no surprise that the ancient hawthorn features in centuries of myth and legend.
Fairies are said to live in and around them. Anyone falling asleep under the hawthorn tree could find themselves carried away by the fairy people.
Have you ever wondered why one sometimes sees one or two isolated gnarled and windswept hawthorn trees in a field or on a hillside? These ‘lone trees’ are the fairy trees. Cut one down at your peril!
Britain’s most famous hawthorn is the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury. Legend tells of how Joseph of Arimathea arrived at a hill overlooking Glastonbury Tor with a few disciples and two sacred vessels containing the blood and sweat of Jesus. Where he thrust his staff into the ground it sprouted and grew into a thorn tree. Though the original is obviously not there any more, one of its supposed descendants does still stand on the hill.
May blossom featured in early May festivals. Before the calendar changes of the C18 it would have been in flower earlier in the month.
Marsh Marigolds
In the marshy area near the middle entrance to the Orchard is a wonderful display of yellow marsh marigolds. Quite an abundance following the cutting back of the dogwood earlier this year.
Help with identification
Don’t forget, the Association has a selection of ID charts (birds, insects, trees etc) which you are welcome to borrow.

April Nature Notes

After the unusually cold weather in March, we are still waiting for its wildlife to appear! A solitary Brimstone butterfly was spotted in the sunshine last Saturday morning. The few days of relatively warmer weather have encouraged the appearance of some tentative leaf growth. So optimistically, here are a few things that may be seen in the coming weeks:

Spring Flowers and Blossom
The delicate white flowered wood anemone and the first blossom of the year, the buckthorn and blackthorn should be making an appearance this month. The celendines are now beginning to appear.

Summer Visitors
As you will see from our blog entries the summer migrants are beginning to arrive. For many people the first swallows are signs of summer to come. As you enjoy their aerobatics as they swoop across the meadows, it is sad to think that only 1 in 4 of their chicks will make the journey to S Africa and back again for next year.

Already here too is one of the first arrivals, the little chiff chaff having made its long journey from West Africa. It is often to be seen and heard in a morning or evening in the tree tops at the north end of the Orchard. And yes, its very recognisable call is a repeated ‘chiff chaff’! For me, the melodic down the scale song of the willow warbler heralds the arrival of spring as it sits at the top of one of the tall trees.

Amphibians
Frogs, toads and newts are coming out from their winter inactivity and searching for suitable ponds in which to lay their eggs. Young frogs and toads are called tadpoles. Of course you know that but did you know that baby newts are called newtlets!

Easter Egg Hunt – thank you!

Jaci and I have been busy bagging up and delivering all the extra egg hunt goodie bags. A very big thank you to all who helped with the egg hunt. With so many people attending your help was invaluable and very much appreciated, not just by myself but everyone who attended yet another successful Fairfield event.

Can you believe that 137 children took part in the egg hunt, many coming from all corners of Lancaster. Jaci and I could not believe the length of the queue we had shortly after 2 pm. With it being such a cold day, we had prepared for what we thought was an optimistic eighty hunters. So lots of IOUs given out!

And of course, another big thank you to our cake makers. You never fail us!

We also had a record number of Easter bonnets too. Each bonnet wearer received a beautifully made egg cosy donated by one of our Fairfield members. Unfortunately I do not have the persons name so if you know who made them please thank them for me.

Well done all!

Wildlife in March

Welcome to Spring. Here are a few things to look out for this month.

Boxing March Hares!
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the males fighting over a mate. It is in fact a female ‘thumping’ an over amorous male suitor!

Brimstone Butterfly
One of the first butterflies to be seen on the wing, you may be fortunate enough to see one on a warm, sunny day. Later in the month you may see it around the snowy white blossom of the alder buckthorn (the food plant of its caterpillars). Called Brimstone because of its pale sulphur coloured wings. Its yellow coloured wings probably also gave us the name ‘butter’fly. You may also spot a Peacock butterfly as it emerges from its winter hibernation.

Little rays of sunshine
One of the first spring woodland flowers is the brightly coloured Celendine. Easy to spot with its heart shaped leaves and star shaped flowers with their shiny yellow petals. Look for them amongst the open woodland and on the ground along the path edges.

Nesting instincts: Setting up Home
There will certainly be lots of bird activity around the reserve this month. Look for birds carrying nesting material as they busily set up home! We now have plenty of nestboxes where you can observe little birds such as the blue tit.

Head for the hills!
The Curlews, Snipe and Oyster Catchers that have been so prominent over the winter months will soon be leaving to nest on the hills and river valleys.

Have fun spotting and let us know what you see!

Nestboxes

Today Ian , Tony and Richard of the RSPB braved the cold and wind to put up several new nestboxes. I think that I can remember where we put them!

We have put them in places where they can be observed from the paths – here are some of the locations:

  • There are tit boxes on the ash tree along the path to Cromwell Rd, on the willows alongside Lucy Brook which can be seen from this path east of the ash tree
  • Bat boxes and a nest box near the junction of this path and the N end of the Orchard
  • Additional tit boxes in the orchard itself.

So keep a look out over the coming months for activity and let us know what you see.

Spring is on its way!

Hazel Catkins

Hazel Catkins

Time to get Wildlife spotting. Let us know what you see around the Fairfield Orchard and FAUNA Nature Reserve.  Remember – wildlife is both animals and plants!

Keep your eyes open for the first hazel catkins and spring flowers …

Have a look on the Wildlife Blog to see what other people have been spotting around the Orchard and FAUNA …