News & Views 35
Nature Notes Except for the second week of December, it has been a fairly mild winter up to this week and signs of spring are all about us. Snowdrops, of course, are already blooming as are Hellebores and there are instances of Lesser celandine and Primroses in flower. Daffodils are showing well(depending on variety) and Bluebells are peeping through. In sheltered places buds are loosening on Sycamore, Elder and Willow, male catkins hang from Hazel branches and seedlings of several wild plants are making an appearance. Frosty weather will not harm any of them unless it is very severe. Slugs and snails have started emerging from their hibernacula in hollows, cavities in old walls etc but I suspect we all hope that the cold spell will kill off many of them. More bizarrely I have seen my first butterfly - a Small tortoiseshell! However, it was not outside but flying around in the Tesco store in Mold. I suppose it had hibernated in some corner, probably in a store room, been disturbed or perhaps the temperature had been increased, and it had taken flight. It would probably find somewhere else to hide and continue its sleep for another few weeks when, hopefully, the weather warms up. A lady from Rectory Lane telephoned me to say she had just seen about 35 Waxwings strip all the berries from a Sorbus cashmiriana tree in her garden. I was a little surprised that the tree still had berries, as they have long since either fallen off or been eaten by resident birds from the tree in our garden. The lady's tree is one that she had grown from seed many years ago and is a white berried species similar to Sorbus glabrescens. Most Sorbus are hybrids and hybrids do not usually come true to type from seed
but certain plants are 'apomictic', that is they breed true without pollination and the progeny are genetically identical to the parent plant. Sorbus trees are one such example. Birds often do not eat the berries of the white Sorbus until they have been softened by frost.
For those who are not familiar with Waxwings they are described as " about the size of Starlings and in flight they look very similar with their short, triangular wings. They are mostly pink-beige with a characteristic crest. They have a black mask and bib. The tail is tipped with yellow and there are yellow and white markings on the wings. The secondary wing feathers have red waxy 'fingers'. The vent is red and the legs and bill are black". 'Waxwing years' occur infrequently and it usually signifies a shortage of berries in Northern Scandinavia and Russia - their normal habitat. This could be a 'Waxwing year' as there are reports of the birds being widespread, with many reports from Cheshire. In the February 2005 issue of News and Views, I wrote of many Waxwings feeding on the berries from the trees round the Craft Centre in Ruthin and as many as nine hundred and thirty five birds were counted on one occasion and I think that will take some beating. John Almond
Published on Jan 31, 2013