Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What a great time of year

Here we are, still in February but everything seems to be waking up already. Yesterday, even though there was a chilly start to the day, the birds round us treated us to a good attempt at a dawn chorus. The sparrows that nest in the holes in our gable wall were squabbling and chattering and the blackbirds look really busy everywhere.

The thermometer climbed to a dizzy 9°C yesterday afternoon and with a completely clear blue sky, you could be forgiven for thinking that spring had arrived. Officially, we have to wait another four weeks for that.

I noticed that the flower buds on the three peach trees in the orchard are beginning to swell. I have already given them a precautionary treatment against peach leaf curl. It was really bad in last year’s humid conditions and it was only Bordeaux mixture which finally seemed to do the trick.

The bees were extraordinarily active yesterday afternoon. All the queens are now in lay and whenever there is a chance, the field bees get outside in order to gather pollen, a little nectar where they can find it and of course, water. Most of the pollen coming in at the moment is from the Hazel catkins and bright yellow but some of the bees were coming back with pinky orange pollen in their baskets. Perhaps from Alder catkins or perhaps from Snowdrops?

I watched some bees working amongst the Celandine flowers which have opened along a sunny bank under the woods. Here they seemed to be collecting nectar rather than pollen as they were going from flower to flower without stopping to pack anything into their baskets.

The first dandelions have started to open and together with the daisies, Celandine, Snowdrops, Crocus, Primroses, Viburnum Tinus and Gorse which are all in flower at the moment, the bees have a pretty good selection to choose from. So far, amongst the trees it is only the Hazels and Alders which are providing anything useful in terms of the quantity of pollen the hives need for their spring build-up but the Willows are just beginning to bud.

We are expecting a few cold days now with a wind from the north-east so I should think that things will slow down for a while. Two steps forward, one step back!

These two field bees are bringing in pollen from different sources, - the yellow from Hazel catkins and the orange probably from Alder. The bee nearer to the camera is possibly older than the other since she has less "fur" on her thorax and abdomen.

 Like a flight of bomber aircraft coming in to land, three Caucasian bees bring in a good load of Hazel pollen during the afternoon of February 19th.

This bee is collecting some nectar from a Celandine flower. There are no big nectar flows in this region until the Dandelions flower from March onwards.

The Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, will not really be in full bloom until some time in March but there are already a few flowers around.

There probably is no month of the year when the Daisy, Bellis perennis is not in bloom. Even after the most severe frosts or when there is snow on the ground, they just keep on flowering.

An old favourite, Virburnum tinus, an evergreen which comes into flower here at the end of winter and keeps going until the early summer. Quite a number of insects like visiting the flowers.

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