The Countryside and Some Childhood Memorys.

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman

Although here in West Lancashire on the west coast of England we have had hard frosts in the mornings it is soon banished by blue skies and lovely sunny days. At this time of the year the sun yields much more heat which makes forays into the countryside a pleasanter experience than those endured over the last four months.

Early spring is one of my favourite times of the year, when many birds and plants begin to respond to the call of spring. Although some respond to the call much earlier than others. The feathered fraternity drawn by the call flit among the naked boughs singing a song of life to encourage the still closed buds. Yes we are at last climbing out of the dark days of winter.

Walking across the meadow still suffering from the dank months of winter, I listened to the "teacher teacher" call of the great tit reverberating around the near by trees.It gives one a sense of optimism. I also observed a kestrel hovering over the grassland. Suddenly two crows left the trees and headed straight for the hovering bird.The kestrel, aware of the imminent attack, moved with superior Ariel prowess to evade their clumsy assault.

Somewhere in the distance the gentle bleeting of sheep seemed to embrace this first promise of brighter, longer days ahead. In the middle distance I heard the throaty call of a startled pheasant, which carried over the quietness of this spring morning.

I was making my way to a small plantation which is situated at the southern boundary of the meadow.The plantation was created twenty years ago and I have witnessed the small saplings grow into quite large trees and shrubs during this period.The plantation consists of alder, aspen, hawthorn, various fruit trees including cherry, Guelder rose, dogwood, plum, and elder. However, the shrub that I had walked across the meadow to see was the blackthorn.

blackthorn

The blackthorn explodes into bloom before the leaves appear. Picture courtesy of Hagen Graebner.
The blackthorn explodes into bloom before the leaves appear. Picture courtesy of Hagen Graebner.

Blackthorn

This shrub like tree is common in this locality and at this time of the year they produce a plethora of white blossom which affords a stunning display.The area is transformed into a "snowy" tangle of thorny branches an explosion of colour on leafless branches. The flowers are typical of the rose family to which the blackthorn belongs, having five petals.

Little birds of thornythickets abound in the plantation of native trees and shrubs. The bullfinch and his wife are regular visitors when the blackthorn is in bloom.The male in particular is a stunningly well coloured bird but he is a recluse, shy and elusive. They are much given to concealment and are rarely seen in the open. The male in his breeding splendour is a very handsome creature he has a black head, pinkish-red throat and breast, bluish grey back and a distinctive, whiterump. His wife has a warmish brown breast, in place of the striking pinkish red of the male, and is brownish grey above.



Bullfinch

The male bullfinch is a handsome bird. But he is reclusive and rarely seen in the open. Picture courtesy of Mjobling.
The male bullfinch is a handsome bird. But he is reclusive and rarely seen in the open. Picture courtesy of Mjobling.

Bullfinch

The white rump evident in both species is often the diagnostic feature, as one often sees them disappear into their thorny kingdom. They are more likely to be encountered when the blackthorn and the later flowering fruit trees such as plum and apple are in bloom, for they are fond of pecking at the petals and the unopened flower buds, causing great damage when numbers of bullfinches occur. They are particularly disliked by fruit growers especially commercial growers because of that fact.

These thorny thickets bring to mind the days of my childhood, crawling on all fours into the inner sanctum of this thorny kingdom. It started, I suppose, as a children's pastime, participating in the games of hide and seek, or making a "secret" den only known to a privileged few..

However, circumstances conspired at times that I was alone. On one such occasion I realised I could observe wildlife just by sitting still or by crawling quietly through these untidy shrub undergrowth. In this way I have come face to face with rabbits, hedgehogs and even on one occasion a stoat, while over head in the dome of this tangled world small birds flit from branch to branch going about their business not in the least wary of this strange presence I must have presented to them.

This position in this untidy, thorny undergrowth also taught me another lesson which has been advantageous to me even until this day when observing wildlife. That is to find a secluded spot remain still and quiet and let nature come to me. Another creature often encountered in my childhood crawlings at this time of the year is the bumble bee. I often encountered these large solitary bees searching inside the thicket beneath the low branches. The hum of their wings sounded extremely loud in the confines of the undergrowth. These solitary bees were the queens which had hibernated during the winter after mating during the summer. The rest of the colony died at the end of the season. Her only objective was to find a suitable location in which to build a nest. She is not yet interested in the pollen secreted in the plethora of blooms adorning the roof top our entangled world. In fact she seems oblivious to her surroundings in her quest for a new site and I never once felt she was perturbed by my presence.

One of the first species to emerge from hibernation, during March is the queen of Bombus terrestris should favourable weather conditions prevail. She and she alone has the responsibility of starting a new colony.

Bumblebee

Worker bee Bombus terrestris. photograph courtesy of Alvesgasper.
Worker bee Bombus terrestris. photograph courtesy of Alvesgasper.
The queen after hibernating in the soil emerges to find a suitable location for a new colony to be raised. Picture by kind permission of Joan Burkmar.
The queen after hibernating in the soil emerges to find a suitable location for a new colony to be raised. Picture by kind permission of Joan Burkmar.

A challenging season

It is the beginning of a challenging season for the queen. Studies have revealed that only around 47% of the eggs she lays will produce adult bees. Some of these adults will become the workers which will forage throughout the summer in order to keep the colony well supplied with pollen and nectar. It is another amazing fact of nature that some of the eggs hatch into larvae are destined to become queens. These are laid later in the life of the colony when the queen, which produces them, stops secreting a certain pheromone. These larvae will be fed more frequently and for longer than larvae destined to become workers. It is these queens which will hibernate over winter leaving the rest of the colony to die off. The cycle begins again in the following spring.

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Comments 9 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

hypnodude. bees are so important to life as you say. Funnily enough I saw the first Queen of the year just this morning.I wish her well.Thank you for reading.


hypnodude profile image

hypnodude 6 years ago from Italy

Another beautiful hub, I like bumblebees a lot, together with common bees. Without them there would be no life on Earth, and they are so beautiful to see. I didn't knew about the queen thing though, interesting to know, I thought that all the colony would remain alive. Strange way of perpetuating life for such an intelligent insect. Rated clearly up. :)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Darlene, you always say the most encouraging things, which I thank you for my friend.

jayjay40 thank you for joining me on this walk in the countryside.

Carol thank you, the weather here is also unpredictable,it is possible to have all four seasons in a day.

Peggy W It would be a pleasure to accompany a fellow nature lover on a walk. Thank you for reading and for leaving your kind comment.

billyaustindillon , nice to meet you. Thank you for reading and for your appreciated comment.

Hi,jill thank you also. Your love and passion for nature is well known to me. Therefore your comments are well received.


jill of alltrades profile image

jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

Wow, I enjoyed this walk with you D.A.L. I love your photos too. I wish I was there so I could take some pictures too.

Thanks for sharing!


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 6 years ago

Lovely article - a walk in the Lancashire country side - great shorts and descriptions.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a pleasure it would be to go on those countryside walks with you in person explaining the flora, fauna and insects of the region! Loved this hub, your writing and the photos. Many thanks!


reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

D.A.L.it is always a pleasure to take a walk with you in your English countryside. Spring is on it's way in Michigan as well. But we will have one more blow before March is done.


jayjay40 profile image

jayjay40 6 years ago from Bristol England

Beautiful photographs and a lovely peaceful walk in the countryside. Thank you


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Oh, finally I get to enjoy another walk with you, maybe I will try to crawl and sit under the thorny bruch to see what nature has in store for me...I love the journy and miss these moments of bless, nature is my love, and tree's are my passion, I must admit I am a tree hugger. The bird picture is awesome, and this hub is the best hub in the world. Always, your friend...darski

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