From the archives: A badger walk (part 2)

22 April 2007: During our ‘badger walk’ on Sunday we saw and heard a variety of other wildlife…

One of the first woodland creatures we saw was this tiny muntjac deer. She showed no real sign of alarm at our presence (we were some distance away – thank goodness for the zoom lens on my new digicam!) and only moved off when a couple of dog walkers approached. Other mammals seen today were rabbits and grey squirrels.

The wood was full of bluebells, which formed a fragrant sea of blue and green around us almost everywhere we went. Amongst the thousands of normal bluebells we saw about half a dozen single plants with white flowers, plus several more clustered together in one place.

Another white flower seen during our walk was that of the wood-sorrel. This delicate bloom has five petals with pink/purple veins. Because of its clover-like leaves this species if often referred to as shamrock.

The larch is an unusual conifer – it sheds its leaves in the autumn like deciduous broadleaf trees. Larches are now sprouting fresh green leaves, of the needle-like shape which is characteristic of coniferous trees. They are also flowering. These unusual blooms will in time develop into hard brown cones…

… like these from last year, which are still attached to the tree. Larch flowers form the basis of one of the original Bach flower remedies, used to treat lack of self-confidence or feelings of inferiority.

It was nice to see so many butterflies. The species we saw most of was the speckled wood, but there were also three peacock butterflies in a clearing next to one of the badger setts – including the one in the photo above. If the wings look a little tatty, that’s because this is one of last year’s peacocks, who has hibernated as an adult through the winter. Red admiral butterflies, which migrate here from the continent each spring, attempt to hibernate but rarely if ever survive (although some may succeed nowadays thanks to our milder winters). The one I saw today (which did not let me take a photo!) looked like a freshly arrived migrant.

Back to the wildflowers, and specifically to more of my favourites of Springtime. I couldn’t resist snapping a dog violet with its lesser celandine neighbour for the mixture of purple, yellow and green in the resulting photograph (above).

A similar combination colours will become more prevalent over the next week or so as the yellow archangel, which grows among the bluebells, comes fully into flower. Right now the flowers of this species, which is found in ancient woodland sites, are only just beginning to bloom. When more of them are out the mixture of yellow and purple-blue from the archangels and the bluebells will be a beautiful sight.

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