Spring is on the way. I promise. A walk around Fibbersley (one of my ‘new’ reserves after our restructure at work) revealed a few of my favourite signs that winter is on the way out, and as someone who REALLY struggles through February (whether this is S.A.D. or simply Bee-Withdrawal-Syndrome is anyone’s guess!) I am always delighted to see the first bursts of colour that mean spring is coming. Its funny, because although there have been crocuses out for a couple of weeks, they don’t really ‘count’ for me, as they are ornamental plantings, but the first glimpse of blackthorn blossom (above) really softens my heart and lifts my spirits!
These lovely yellow flowers could easily be overlooked as dandelions, but they are called ‘Coltsfoot’ as their leaves in cross-section resemble, colt’s feet. But you won’t see the leaves on them at this time of year, for Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara, aka Ass’s foot, Bull’s foot, Butterbur, Coughwort, Farfara, Foal’s foot, Foalswort, Horse Foot and Winter heliotrope) is one of the few herbaceous plants that flower before their leaves begin to grow! Because of this weird way of blooming it is also called ‘son before the father’. Keep your eyes peeled along the edges of roads and footpaths, and anywhere else with disturbed ground.
I love the appearance of the first buds of willow – as is usual for me, there is an entomological reason – these buds will soon be covered in pollen, and being visited by the first spring bees – especially Clark’s Mining Bee (Andrena clarkella), which are stunning, fuzzy little red and black bees (see photo below, taken @ Shire Oak Park in March ’11). So keep your eyes peeled for them – and let me know if you see any, as solitary bees are very under-recorded!
Rest assured, though, we’re not finished with the cold weather yet – the saying goes “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out” which basically means don’t take you’re coat off until the Hawthorn (May Tree) has blossomed.