Sunday, November 1, 2020
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Notes from the sticks: Spring unsprung

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AT THIS time of year it can seem as if spring will never arrive in Lancashire. Night-time temperatures are forecast to be around 2 or 3 degrees C until the end of the month, barely creeping into double figures during the day. There are daffodils in abundance lining the road verges and a few wild flowers, but trees and shrubs remain resolutely in bud, with the honourable exception of the flowering currant.

However there is hope, thanks to the British Science Association which has worked out that spring progresses from the south-west to the north-east at a fairly standard rate of about 2 mph. That sounded very slow to me until I realised it means about 50 miles a day, taking three weeks to progress from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

The figure is an average of seven signs of spring recorded by members of the public and submitted to the Nature’s Calendar website – see here for details of how you can take part and add to records going back to 1736. The words ‘climate change’ do feature a lot, but as far as I can see without the dreaded prefix ‘man-made’.

These are the seven signs of spring used in the calculation (the Nature’s Calendar site includes many more) and their rates of movement through the countryside as recorded in 2015.

  • Ladybird sighting – 6.5 mph
  • Hawthorn leafing – 6.3 mph
  • Swallows arriving – 2.4 mph
  • Hawthorn flowering – 1.9 mph
  • Orange tip butterfly – 1.4 mph
  • Oak leafing – 1.3 mph
  • Frogspawn – 1 mph

Many will be familiar with the orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines) but if not this little film shows you all you need to know. Only the males have the orange wing tips; the females are mainly white with a small grey tip. Both have beautiful leaf-like mottling on their underwings which renders them practically invisible when at rest.

The British Science Association findings were released on the BBC’s Springwatch in June 2015, but I would not have seen it as I cannot bear Chris Packham at any price. Leaving aside his hectoring pronouncements, I cannot understand the logic of a man who wants deer culled to save songbirds but who managed to get a temporary ban on shooting crows, which take the eggs and young of songbirds (and did it at lambing time when crows are a particular nuisance, attacking ewes and lambs).

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If you are in self-isolation, you could take some snaps of the birds outside your window. The Wilko shop chain is inviting entries for a competition to find pictures for its 2021 Wild Bird Calendar, with 12 £100 Wilko gift cards on offer.

The contest ends on 29 March. Details here.

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At last, a bit of action from the gunneras.

This is the first picture, taken on February 26:

Since then they have been submerged by the stream in spate several times, and quite a bit of their ‘island’ has been washed away, exposing some of the roots. But as far as I can tell they will take as much water as they can get, and the stream will deposit new material in its own time.

This picture was taken on Thursday (and the sun was out!):

The first leaf at the front of the left hand plant hasn’t done much, but it was a bit optimistic coming out in February. Both plants are now clearly showing several more leaves.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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