Lockdown update from Swaines Green

A nature report covering the interesting flora and fauna – flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and birds – that are to be seen at Swaines Green in early June 2020.

The first Common Knapweed in amongst the buttercups

We have now entered meteorological summer, but even though it’s turned damper, it’s the dry Spring that influences the look of Swaines Green right now. Most plants have coped well enough with the drought, but it is the pond suffering the most – almost completely dried out. Interesting that the streams have still mostly been flowing – just.

Lady’s Smock

After five months in a row with above average temperatures, and record amounts of sunshine, many flowers are early. The true spring flowers such as Forget-me-not, Cowslip, Primrose and Greater Stitchwort, and the flowering trees such as Cherry, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and Dogwood, are largely over. Others such as the Yellow Archangel and Lady’s Smock are coming to an end. Currently we have the main display from the yellow Buttercups, both the Meadow and Creeping varieties, and Bird’s-foot Trefoil, and from the white Cow Parsley and the similar but smaller Pignut, across all the grasslands on site.

Thyme-leafed Speedwell

There are also Red Campions along the hedges, and a few white Ox-eye Daisies to be found, some blue Vetches, and the first of the purple Common Knapweeds are coming into flower. You can also find many much smaller and more discreet flowers, such as the Lesser Stitchwort and Bugle still flowering, and some of the Speedwells, such as the charming little Thyme-leafed Speedwell. Finally, the spectacular Yellow Flag is still in flower at the pond. In the bushes and hedgerows, the flowers now are those of the Honeysuckle, Bramble and three wild roses: the bright pink Sweet Briar and the pinkish white Field Rose and Dog Rose.

The early flights of butterflies have been out for a couple of months now, and some of the later species to take wing are now being found. There are now plenty of Orange-tips on the wing, some Meadow Browns, Large Skippers, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks, there are Speckled Woods in amongst the trees, and both Common and Holly Blues – hard to tell apart since they never keep still, but the Common Blue tends to hug the ground whereas the Holly Blue is more likely to be around the leaves of the bushes above your head. Finally, if you see a small crimson and black butterfly flitting along, it’s actually a day-flying moth: Cinnabar Moths are now active at Swaines Green.

Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown

There are also some dragonflies and damselflies to be found near the pond, despite its water levels being very much reduced. Recently reported include the Broad-bodied Chaser and the Banded Demoiselle, as well as a not positively identified Hawker species.

The bird nesting season is well advanced. Restrictions imposed by the Joint Nature Conservancy Council (JNCC) meant that checking nestboxes could not be undertaken until lockdown was relaxed mid-May, but we can report that every nestbox was used by Blue Tits and Great Tits. Similarly breeding survey work was proscribed, but our expected summer visitors have all returned. There seem to be broadly similar numbers of all our breeding species as last year, except that Bullfinches appear to have deserted us. In contrast there are more sightings of Great Spotted Woodpecker than in recent years, so perhaps there is a breeding pair here this year, and there have been two singing male Lesser Whitethroats, one up on last year. Meanwhile the pair of Moorhens at the pond seems to have raised a single chick from an initial brood of three, probably reduced in numbers due to the attentions of a pair of crows nesting beside the pond.

Finally, whilst we appreciate the good intentions of whoever placed a couple of cages beside the pond, presumably for ducks, these would not be safe for ducks to use, being readily accessible to the local foxes, and indeed there is no wildlife likely to use them. Accordingly the conservation team will remove them in due course. If you have something to donate which you think might be useful for the wildlife of Swaines Green, please contact us first – we have access to conservation experts who can advise on its suitability and placement.

If you find any interesting plants, invertebrates, animals or birds please let us know – even reports of common species help to build up a picture of the wildlife using Swaines Green. You can report sightings here. Thanks to Graham Pentelow for help with recent sightings.

Lockdown update from Swaines Green

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