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Wild westerlies, red tailed bumble, pond life and modest little brown jobbie

Date posted: Wednesday 20th March 2019

Wild westerlies, red tailed bumble, pond life and modest little brown jobbie

Wild wild weather last week! Winds gusting from the west for several days and this was the result from the night of Saturday 9 March, much to the amusement of everyone who turned up for café on Sunday morning! Apart from this impaled shed roof there was remarkably little damage to sheds and plots – plastic cloches and various loose pots discovered on other plots but nothing too drastic occurred! After the week of high winds, rain, sleet and scudding clouds it’s all become more settled – ‘March, comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb’ and ‘March winds, April showers, bring forth May flowers’ as we used to say in ‘the olden days’ when weather wasn’t knocked off kilter by climate change…

This splendid red tailed queen bumble was busy in the muscari yesterday – such a rich, deep, velvety red that Initially I thought I’d found a rarity but Bumblebee Conservation Trust soon put me right: “One of the ‘Big 7’ widespread and abundant species, found in a wide range of habitats across the UK. Queens and workers are jet-black, with a bright red tail covering up to 50% of the abdomen. Males have yellow facial hair and bright yellow bands at the front and rear of the thorax, along with a similar red tail to females (though this fades quickly in sunlight and can appear yellow or even white in worn specimens).

The species is parasitized by the similar-looking Red-tailed cuckoo bumblebee (Bombus rupestris): the female of this species can be split from the Red-tailed bumblebee by their very dark wings, and the males by their greyish yellow bands. Nests are underground and are started in old mammal nests. Populations are large, with between 100 and 300 workers. The life-cycle is long, about 5 or 6 months. The species is remarkable for its use of ‘traditional’ hibernation sites, which are north-facing banks, usually within open woodland. Large numbers of queens use these sites year after year.” (

The first clump of frogspawn has hatched out and is now a wriggling mass of black bodies all clustered together on the surface of the remaining jelly. It is extraordinary that the female frog timed her laying to exactly the day from last year – either the 27 or 28 February, despite the extremely unseasonal week of high temperatures – day length is the trigger.

Amongst all the colour of the early spring flowers – hellebores, crocuses, narcissi, pulmonaria and hyacinths this modestly attired dunnock has been foraging around on the ground underneath the bird feeders, occasionally giving a burst of it’s attractive, repetitive song, not quite up there in the diva league of that other unassumingly coloured cousin, the nightingale!