Saturday 7 March 2015

Tree Following ~ Silver Birch during February to March 2015



This post is the twelfth in my Tree Following series, part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am following a Silver Birch, B. pendula, in Suffolk, UK. You will find the other Tree Follower links on the Loose and Leafy blog ... so do take the chance to catch up with happenings in the arboreal world!

I shall make a firm decision in the days ahead, but I shall probably decide to keep up with my Silver Birch for another year, as it may be interesting to compare and contrast some of my 2014 and 2015 observations. However, I have almost decided to add in a 'bonus tree' ... so watch this space.

Although Silver Birch trees have been in the news as a backdrop to the scene that has gone viral of the Green Woodpecker and the Weasel, I felt that there was surprisingly little to report, back here at the ranch this month. I had hoped for more signs of spring, and indeed they are there, but you still have to keep a sharp eye open for them. A shrub in our front garden is just beginning to come into leaf, and I shall be delighted when the Silver Birch shows signs of green growth.

Arrows showing (right) few signs of new growth and lower down (left), the branches almost in leaf (close-up below)

For the time-being I must content myself with the catkins that 'sprout' in pairs from the end of all but the highest bare branches and the tight 'leaf buds' that can be seen if you look carefully.

New growth on its way!

Goldfinch heading for the Silver Birch

Diary Entry

Thursday 5 March 2015
Time: 14.05
Weather: cool and bright

Just as I was feeling a tiny bit despondent about the lack of recent birdlife in my home patch, a strange noise made me prick up my ears. Something was afoot, and it sounded like a disturbance of some kind. I looked out the window as quickly as I could, only to see the distinctive body of a Sparrow Hawk, as it flew past the birch fronds at some speed and headed on towards the tall trees that line the local nature reserve beyond. As I type the danger has passed, but there is a distinct hush, and I imagine the small birds lying low in the undergrowth. I expect the will resume their spring songs in due course. I suspect the disturbing noise was caused by the Magpies in response to the arrival of the bird of prey.   

Postscript: two of the first birds to be seen some thirty minutes later were the Bullfinches, adding their distinctive sparkle to the scene. The male's rosy colour shows up particularly well in the bare twigs.

I wasn't quick enough with the camera ...
 so here's one I took earlier! 


One or two of the local birds are turning their attention to the breeding season, and pairing up in preparation, though the lively Long-tailed Tits have been noticeable by their absence. I thought I would turn to poets and song-writers who have been drawn to the Silver Birch. I have a strong recollection of a happy day (c.1971) around the camp fire during our Brownie Revels, singing the Canadian folk song, 'Land of the Silver Birch, home of the beaver', as we munched our baked potatoes and toasted marshmallows. The song rings in my ears to this day, reminding me that our suburban tree would probably have been better suited to a more rugged existence in northern climes. Strangely in her poem, 'Child's Song in Spring', Edith Nesbit (of The Railway Children) described the Silver Birch as 'a dainty lady' in 'a satin gown'. I came across this rather lovely Silver Birch poem by James Nash for Valentine's Day.

Tree Following Sighting Update  . . .

I have marked the 'wild things' seen during this last month in yellow.

Avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch, seen at any time in the last 11 months) are in pink.

I saw a 7-spot Ladybird just outside my Tree Following range this month, so am looking forward to more invertebrate signs of the new season in the days ahead. I have also seen two Bumblebees, but neither were bear the Silver Birch. There have been a few moths, and each time I see one, I am conscious how shamefully little I know about these fly-by-nights.  

  • TFb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker 
  • TFb2   Great tit (several, often on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit
  • TFb4   Blackbird (I saw four at once, but no sign of the bald one) 
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie (about three frequently around below the feeder)
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two frequently below feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (several on feeder, noisy!)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow    
  • TFb13 Goldfinch 
  • TFb14  Jay
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren 
  • TFb17  Bullfinch (a pair)
  • TFb18  Sparrowhawk

Mammal sightings include ...

  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bats
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel

On the insect front, sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March 2014]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] 
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April 2014]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [October 2014]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird [May 2014]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014 
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June 2014
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July 2014]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August 2014]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014]
  • TFi23 Ants [August 2014]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October 2014] (about fifteen) 
  • TFi27 Harlequin Ladybird [October 2014] 
  • TFi28 Moths (though not so many in December) [November/December 2014] [February/March 2015]



Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

If I were to make a bird list, it would look very much like yours - with the exception of Sparrowhawk. Kestrels are quite common here and for a couple of years there were red kites. Inland one almost always sees buzzards over the fields. They seem to stay in pairs all year round so if I see one I look for another.

I like Edith Nesbit's description.

eileeninmd said...

Caroline, great report on your tree. The woodpecker and weasel are famous now around the world. It is nice to see the new growth appearing and spring is on the way.. Have a happy weekend!

Lea said...

Lovely blue sky!
Spring is nearly here
Have a wonderful day!

Amanda Peters said...

I do like the Silver Birch tree, so it will be interesting to see if there is anything different this year.
Going back to recording my Ladybirds and Harlequin's, if I put them on Ispot (I have a account ) do I still need to record them with the Ladybird recording. It doesn't take much but have got a little confused as they are all linked together... Do you know ?
Thanks Amanda xx

Donna said...

I love how you keep these observations going on your tree. And your lovely bird looks a lot like our bluebird. I am winding down my observations of my silver maple soon, but i look forward to hearing more about yours Caroline.

Angie said...

A good idea to follow for a second year and compare findings Caroline. I do look forward to seeing just what you have in mind for the Bonus Tree.
I really admire your wildlife recordings - puts many of us to shame. Well done on having the dedication. I'm impressed :)

virtualhorizon said...

What wonderful information you've included in this month's post. The wildlife you can see on and around it is just marvelous, as is the tree itself.

sage said...

I am amazed at your ability to keep up (and identify) so many birds and insects. Visiting from Crafty Green Poet's blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm so looking forward to your catkins developing! Lovely tree and a great contrast between the silvery bark and the blue sky.
Our garden bird list here is the same as yours except we very rarely see goldfinches and bullfinches, the jays have now gone elsewhere, we only hear the yaffle (green woodpecker) and I have seen a sparrowhawk exactly once, chasing a dunnock over the fence. Peep!
Keep up the good work :)