As usual the UK weather has been keeping us on our toes with tantalising glimpses of spring sunshine, and then hailstorms and gales! However, our local green spaces are now well on track with the growing season.
Buds are bursting forth, blossom is out, and the birds are singing- these are the obvious signs of Spring, but there are other aspects of nature busy at work at this time of year that we sometimes overlook. Look closer when you are next walking through Panshanger Park, and you will see there is plenty beyond the most obvious.
After a steady winter season, the ponds, and lakes at Panshanger will be starting to wake up. Most of the invertebrates in still water become more dormant during the winter, quite often burrowing down into the mud or substrate. In spring, as the water temperatures increase, they will become more active. For some, for example may fly larvae and the nymphs of early season dragonflies such as broad bodied chasers, the activity is in readiness for emergence from the water in April or May.
Others may be just starting out their lives in the pond at this time of year. Have a close, but careful, look along the water’s edge and you may see a wriggling mass of frog or toad tadpoles. Come late spring they will be leaving the water as miniature versions of their adult form. But in the meantime, initially as herbivores they will be hoovering up the algae, moss, and phytoplankton in the water. These tadpoles may well provide a tasty meal for the dragonfly nymphs in the water that are building up their energy to emerge from the pond.
Of course, at this time of year it would be remiss to not mention the stunning natural spectacle that are the bluebells. The bluebells are early spring emergents, they aim to be ahead of the leaves of the trees being fully out. This means there is plenty of light getting to the ground for the bluebells to grow before the tree canopy shades them out. Head to Lady Hughes Wood along the central track from Thieves Lane car park for the best views.
The UK is home to over half the world’s bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). We are honoured custodians of this beautiful flower that carpets our woods with purple each spring. They are delicate however, so keeping to the paths and viewing them from a distance will protect them and allow others to enjoy them too.
Main picture: Bluebells in Lady Hughes wood ©Emma Lovell