Looking at the Rev.White’s diary entries for this corresponding week in 1769,
‘Bees gather on the Crosuss’. ‘Missel-bird sings’. Daws to the churches’,
seems to confirm my suspicion that we have actually had a fairly typical old style winter again. Yesterday I saw my first hive-bee on the Crocus. Also my first butterfly: a Comma. Song and Mistle thrushes singing lustily on the 18th nearby, and on Valentine’s I had my first Blackbird singing in the dawn chorus (my second earliest beating last year’s Alton male of the 11th Feb) Jackdaws are all pairing up and seeking out chimneys and hollow trees, Kestrels seem to be everywhere, especially males making themselves obvious in their territories.
However some of my yellow crocuses were ‘blowing’ in January BEFORE any snowdrops, and on the 18th Feb some (albeit recently planted and therefore of suspect origins!) hawthorns were in leaf in Cobham, Surrey.
The mixed phenological message continues in the amphibian world with an intrepid very punctual Palmate Newt male seen on 9th January (same newt was a day earlier last year). Male frogs are stirring but the sheen of ice is keeping them frustrated. Next rain and it will be parptastic mating mayhem!
One super rare observation in my pond is that of an overwintering Great Crested newt eft (close to emergence). Palmate efts regularly overwinter, as do some Smooths, but GCN is a great rarity. My friend the ‘newt king’ Trevor Beebee had only seen it once. I have seen it once in the wild in Cumbria. Several overwintered in an old bath I was using to rear them in (also in Cumbria). I suspect that the overwintered larvae on emergence give rise to the also incredibly rare Smooth shaped GCNs. These are GCN with build and proportions of a Smooth Newt adult but with typical warty skin. I have seen these again in the Lake District, and Kent, 3 in all.
Alpine newt larvae also regularly overwinter. Maybe this trait gives them a head start in life as Alpines seem to end up being very numerous in introducted sites, out-competing the natives.
Other highlights;- found a Buttoned Snout overwintering in a Farnham Cellar on Saturday. Embarrassing really. I asked the great Graham Collins ‘what a moth like a Buttoned snout might be overwintering’…..err a BUTTONED SNOUT?? he replied!! I had forgot that it overwinters!!
Also a serious plug for the British Museum Ice Age Art exhibition. You really gotta see it!
30,000 year old sculptures and drawings. Extinct giant cave Lions and bears made of equally defunct mammoth ivory. Deep time………….. FROZEN!! Stupendous, congrats BM, it’s magic!!