Frodsham Marsh Wind Farm in Photos #3

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (62) - Copy

One of the towers sat on a low loader ready for erecting as from the banks of No.5 tank (Cell 5).

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (58) - Copy

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (34) - Copy

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (31) - Copy23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (24) - Copy23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17) - CopyWind turbine rotor blades.

23.04.16. Wind farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4) - Copy

The rotor blades lay ready for installation close to the power sub-station on No.5 tank.
23.04.16. Wind farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6) - Copy

The sub-station.

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (10) - Copy

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (21) - CopyThe sub-station, rotor blades, Nacelle and hubs ready and in place.

23.04.16. Wind Farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17) - Copy

The rotor blades in situ on No.1 tank.

23.04.16. Wind farm componants, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (8) - Copy

Wind turbine hub and bases.

23.04.16. Hoisting crane for wind turbines, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)

The hoisting crane ready to erect wind turbines in the next few months. To give you some scale to the height of the turbines on No.1 tank.

23.04.16. Hoisting crane for wind turbines, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

All images by WSM.

Views on and from No.6 tank

 

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17) - Copyselection of images from today at No.6 tank of views that would be unfamiliar to regular visitors and taken on a fine summer’s day. 

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7) - CopyHelsby Hill is a dominant feature to the south-west of the marshes and the open water in front was once open farmland and part of the vast Lordship Marsh.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

A remnant and solitary hawthorn tree is one of the last dead hedgerows that once formed the field boundaries on Lordship Marsh.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11) - Copy

Today this area occupies No.6 deposit sludge tank that contains the sludge and silt from the nearby Manchester Ship Canal.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (24) - Copy

The Growhow works is part of an encroaching industrial sprawl from west of the Holpool Gutter at the former Ince Marshes.

23.04.16. Ramp track off Moorditch Lane, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

The ramp track to No.5 tank off Moorditch Lane.

23.04.16. Old drainage shaft tower, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)

An old drainage tower on No.5 tank which is slowly falling into disrepair.

All images by WSM.

23.04.16. Birdlog

23.04.16. Dunlin, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (10)

There was wall to wall sunshine and cotton wool clouds gently rolling in from the north-west with a little bite to the wind.

23.04.16. Black-headed Gulls and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (11)23.04.16. Dunlin, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (9)The wind direction meant that the waters of No.6 tank were relatively calm and ideal considerations prevailed to produced some excellent viewing. The Black-tailed Godwit flocks were back after a short absence and tallied c1000 birds, hidden or partly obscured were 6 winter Knot, 4 Whimbrel, 11 Ruff, 130 Redshank, 1 Curlew, 11 Avocet and nearby a flock of 450 Dunlin including a partial summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper (the first of the year). In the thicker vegetation and looking a little forlorn was a solitary Golden Plover with 6 Ringed and a Little Ringed Plover. A Common Sandpiper was frequenting the far bank shoreline.

23.04.16. Common Shelducks (displaying) and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. .Bill Morton.

23.04.16. Common Shelducks (displaying) and Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. .Bill Morton..The Common Shelduck pairs were in full territorial disputes with fights erupting willy-nilly. Along with c100 Tufted Duck it was a little surprising to see just a handful of Shoveler after some large counts earlier in the month. Gadwall were chasing each other in courtship flight and amore was well and truly in the air.

23.04.16. Views off and from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (20)

Raptors were also present with Common Buzzard being the dominant species alongside a couple of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and the female Marsh Harrier producing a brief outing mid morning.

23.04.16. Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. .Bill Morton....

The mitigation area on No.3 tank although looking the part was an ornithological sinkhole with few birds worthy of mention. Likewise Marsh Farm was very poor and apart from 4 Wheatear along the pipes on No.1 tank the whole area wouldn’t have been included today if it wasn’t for them being in the area.

Other birds noted during the course of the day included: 9 Sedge Warbler, 11 Chiffchaff, 4 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 4 Blackcap, 3 Willow Warbler, 5 Reed Warbler, 20 Sand Martin and 60 Swallow.

23.04.16. Glossy Ibis, Carr Lane Pools, Hale. Tony Broome (14)

23.04.16. Glossy Ibis, Carr Lane Pools, Hale. Tony Broome (15)23.04.16. Hale birders at Carr Lane Pools, Hale. Bill Morton (2)

 

23.04.16. Glossy Ibis, Carr Lane Pools, Hale. Carol CockburnDuring a conversation with the Broomemeister news came through of a Glossy Ibis spotted by Rob and Carol Cockbain across the river on Carr Lane Pools at Hale. It didn’t take much persuasion to fire up the burners on T’s Vauxhall Mokka and then set the dials to cruise control as we headed over for a spot of ‘patch poaching’. We arrived to find the ibis had flown off shortly before our arrival so, after exchanging pleasantries with the birding natives including Ian (Iggy) Igglesden who was vigilant enough to spot the bird flying in with a Cormorant from the direction of Hale Marsh. It flew over without stopping and circled high into a thermal before disappearing from sight to the north-west. We counted ourselves very lucky indeed and jumped back into the Broomobile and headed back to Gotham for a bit more birding.

Observer: Tony Broome, Frank Duff, WSM (images 1-8).

Glossy Ibis image by Carol Cockbain.

21.04.16. Birdlog

30.07.15. Avocet, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)DSC_1492Just a very brief visit this evening to check No.6 tank. The ducks were still present but numbers are dwindling with 57 Tufted Duck, 34 Shoveler, 50 Common Teal, 12 Gadwall and 200 Common Shelduck.

Shorebirds were taking advantage of the reducing water level on six and Redhshank have taken over from Black-tailed Godwit (at least today) with 230 birds compared to just a handful of the blackwits. A small flock of Dunlin, 2 Avocet, 2 Common Snipe and 11 Ruff were feeding along the edge of the shallow waters. Nearby a Reed Warbler was singing at the junction of 3, 5 & 6, whilst all around the evening air was filled with the sounds of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Sedge Warbler. Low flying Swallow and Sand Martin were hawking over six.

Over on No.3 tank a smaller selection of duck were present and 4 Avocet.

Walking back over the motorway bridge on Marsh Lane c4 Pipestrelle bats were feeding over head. All this watched over by a silver full moon.

Observer and image: WSM.

20.04.16. Birdlog

20.04.16. Brown Hare, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (6)

20.04.16. Redwall reed bed, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (13)The day began with wall to wall sunshine and blue sky. Too good to miss so I decided, albeit late, that I’d go to Frodsham Marsh and arrived around 10.15 hrs. Too late really and already very warm, about 14 c, reaching 21 c later in sheltered spots. Too hot! I wasn’t used to it… I walked across to the I.C.I tank, did the Weaver and Brook Furlong Lane, drove up to the farm and then had a walk along Lordship Lane, viewing No.6 tank from the south side.

20.04.16. Weaver Bend, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (1)

It was surprisingly quiet considering the conditions. Sunshine, blue sky and a light SE breeze. Maybe it was too good. Maybe the continent was in bad weather. The forecast had indicated that was the case.

20.04.16. Brown Hare, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (4)

Perhaps the best sighting of the day were 2 Brown Hare in one location, one of which loped right up to me. What gorgeous things these animals are.

20.04.16. Chiffchaff, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (6)

Still Chiffchaff were everywhere, around 20, at least 3 Willow Warbler and 10 Blackcap. New in were 2 Lesser Whitethroat, one by the I.C.I tank and then 1 by the old log. Singles of Common Sandpiper and Swallow, both around the Weaver. 3 male Wheatear at Marsh Farm were nice and a single Sedge Warbler on Lordship Lane sang briefly. No.6 had a few waders including 4 Avocet, 150 Black-tailed Godwit, 60 Redshank, 120 Dunlin and 3 Ruff, plus about 80 Tufted Ducks.

Observer and images: Tony Broome.

20.04.16. Mallard and ducklings, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (9)

A little later in the day we had a brief walk along the edge of Lordship Lane and popped our heads over No.6 tank where some of the birds TB had seen earlier were still present with the addition of a male Marsh Harrier quartering the distant reed beds and 6 Avocet.

Observers: Sparky, WSM

Butterflies were more in evidence with 50+ Small Tortoishell, 10+ Peacocks, 3 Small White and 4 male Orange Tip (Tony Broome).

20.04.16. Wheatear, Marh Farm, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome (8)

 

19.04.16. Birdlog

19.04.16. Grey Heron, Moorditch Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)A couple of hours in the evening sunshine and a watch over No.6 tank was rewarded with 6 Whimbrel, 60 Black-tailed Godwit, 130 Redshank, 30 Golden Plover, 8 Avocet, 120 Dunlin and 9 Ruff.

Ducks continued their stay on the waters here with 67 Tufted Duck, 45 Common Shelduck, 12 Gadwall, 46 Shoveler and 67 Common Teal. A small gathering of Cormorant were flying in to roost and 10 Barnacle Goose dropped in to spend the night with 40 Great Black-backed Gull.

19.04.16. Sun set from No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

19.04.16. Sun set over the Allan Williams gun turret, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (2)The evening sunshine and masses of insects swarming over the banks of the tank encouraged hundreds of Swallow and Sand Martin to linger with the sounds of Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Sedge Warbler filling the air. as the big solar disc slid away over the Merseyside skyline.

Observer and images: WSM.

NB. If any one finds a set of keys can you leave a message in the comments box. Thanks.

17.04.16. Birdlog

17.04.16. No.6 tank sign post, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

17,04.16. Whimbrel, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.Yet another frost at home in east Cheshire that delayed my early start. However, it was a balmy 3 c on the Frodsham Marsh with hardly any wind and it felt very pleasant.

I parked up as usual at the old log (south-east corner of No.1 tank) and scanned the clear blue sky for flyovers, the hot latte warming my hands. Mid-April and it felt good with a feeling that there was going to be birds about and I set off down Brook Furlong Lane to do a tour of the area and walking back along the I.C.I tank and the River Weaver. Chiffchaff were much in evidence again with pairs displaying and the males trying to out-do each other in song. 2 Swallow sat quietly on top of a Hawthorn bush, perhaps having dropped in after a night flight.

17,04.16. House Martin, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome..

17,04.16. Blackcap, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome. (1)

A Blackcap put in a brief appearance and a mixed flock of Linnet and Goldfinch erupted as a female Sparrowhawk appeared on the prowl out of nowhere. By the I.C.I tank a flock of hirundines, mainly Swallow and Sand Martin contained my first House Martin of the year! There were 2 Willow Warbler singing from the tank willow thickets, their sybyllic descending songs always the sign of Spring for me. A Redpoll sp called as it flew over unseen as I dropped down to the footpath along the river from the Weaver Bend to Redwall reed bed. Singles of Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover fed along the far shoreline.

17,04.16. Whimbrel, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome..

It was quiet until I got back to the car when a loud liquid bubbling call got me looking skywards immediately. Whimbrel! Excellent birds with a haunting call that evokes thoughts of faraway places and desolate marshes…I never tire of hearing it. A couple of big black cumulus clouds and the strengthening of the wind to a cold north-easterly brought a Swift down, another new migrant.

17,04.16. Marsh Harrier, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome. (6)

17,04.16. Marsh Harrier, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome. (1)I walked up to Marsh Farm and a female Marsh Harrier circled over the reedbed before drifting off towards No.4 tank. 3 Wheatear fed on the Score bank opposite the farm but waders were hard to identify in the growing heat haze. I drove around to No.6 tank, stopping occasionally on Lordship Lane. There were 4 more Blackcap, another Willow Warbler, and yet more Chiffchaff, these totalling 25 or more for the day. I looked out across No.6 from the south side and sifted through the mass of waders.

17.04.16. Black-tailed Godwits, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome. 4K1A7867.

An excellent gathering of 1680 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 8 Ruff, 1 Knot, 100+ Redshank, 6 Avocet, 290 Dunlin, 48 Golden Plover, 1 Common Snipe and 4 Common Gull. A fine tally, I continued around to No.4, the mitigation on No.3 and the other side of No.6. There was a steady trickle of hirundines heading north. 40+ Swallow and 50+ Sand Martin flew low into the fresh northerly wind. It was 10 c but felt much colder. 3 more Whimbrel came off No.3 and disappeared south at a rate of knots, calling continuously.

17.04.16. Sparrowhawk, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome..

17.04.16. Common Whitethroat, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

A pair of Sparrowhawk displayed over the motorway, the slow wing beats and dives of the male a pleasure to watch. 2 female Marsh Harrier hunted together, one chasing off a Common Buzzard that came too close. a flock of 40+ Linnet flew from bushes on No4 and out over No.6. I sat in the car and scanned the fields towards the motorway. The Black-tailed Godwit were leaving No.6 in parties of a couple of hundred to feed in a wet field alongside the motorway. mixed in with a few Curlew. All of a sudden a small bird hopped out of the nettles next to the car and sat there looking at me. a Whitethroat! Another new migrant for the day. It disappeared just as fast and despite searching for it I only got brief glimpses and no calls or song at all.

17.04.16. Peacock Butterfly, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

If you add the insects, Small Tortoishell, Peacock and Orange Tip Butterflies and Common Carder Bee, Red-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, it had been a brilliant day’s birding in sunshine and blue skies, even if it was a little on the cold side!

Observer: Tony Broome.

17,04.16. View from the old bird log looking to Brook Furlong Lane, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome. (1)

A view from the old bird log looking to Brook Furlong Lane.

17,04.16. No.6 tank (secluded pool), Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

A view of No.6 tank (secluded pool).

17,04.16. View from the I.C.I tank looking north-west to the Weaver Bend, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

View from the I.C.I tank looking north-west to the Weaver Bend.

17,04.16. View from the I.C.I tank looking south-west to Helsby Hill, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

View from the I.C.I tank looking south-west to Helsby Hill.

17,04.16. Track from Ship Street to the I.C.I tank, Frodsham Marsh. Tony Broome.

The track from Ship Street to the I.C.I tank.

All above images by Tony Broome.

Overlooking the pipes that stretch across No.1 tank from the cattle grid were 2 Wheatear. A Common Sandpiper was below Marsh Farm on the score side of the Manchester Ship Canal. A couple of released Red-legged Partridge on the dumped dung pile just off Moorditch Lane. The female Marsh Harrier was flying over No.4 tank before drifting off to No.6 tank. One Whimbrel over the marsh also seen by Ray Atkinson.

Observer: Paul Crawley.

 

16.04.16. Birdlog

16.04.16. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)

The sun was shining and a cold blast was blowing from the east but spirits were high to unwrap a new birding day on the marshes.

16.04.16. Pipes along No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)My first port of call was to the pipe line on No.1 tank and 4 Wheatear there were 4 Greenland forms. Another two (Northern) were out on the banks of Frodsham Score opposite Marsh Farm. The big female Peregrine was sat up on the blue-topped chimney but didn’t linger there for long.

16.04.16. Golden Plovers, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (6)

16.04.16. Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (16)Walking along the southern track on No.5 tank to view the birds on the flooded sludge deposit tank. The most prominent species were undoubtedly the summer flock of Black-tailed Godwit numbering 1200 birds and the majority in splendid summer plumage. Hidden amongst them were 7 winter plumage Knot, 74 Dunlin, 2 Ruff (partial summer birds), just a few Golden Plover left with the godwit flock with 39 birds here. A flock of 100 Curlew were out on the much drier area of the tank to the west.

16.04.16. Black-tailed Godwits, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (9)

Ducks were reduced in the species stakes and their numbers are also dropping off too. 87 Shoveler, 70 Tufted Duck, 70 Common Teal with low counts of Common Shelduck, Gadwall and Mallard.

16.04.16. No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (4)

A few hardy Sand Martin were heading north while a handful of Swallow were lingering a little longer.

16.04.16. male Marsh Harrier, No.6 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

A female Marsh Harrier swoop in but didn’t stay for long. A few hours later a calling male was spotted very high overhead drifted off to the west.

Observer: WSM (images 1-9).

IMG_3321 copy

3 male Wheatear on No.1 tank and half a dozen Swallow feeding low over the fields. The gates are all open so the sheep are roaming free? Sedge and Willow Warbler singing along Moorditch Lane and 4 House Martin flew over Moorditch lane onto No.5. Other Wheatears included a male and 2 female in the ploughed field near the model airfield along Lordship Lane.

Observer: Paul Crawley.

16.04.16. Coot chicks, Holpool Gutter, Ince Marshes. Paul Ralston (1)

16.04.16. Gadwall pair, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (2)I was out for a couple of hours this afternoon from Ince berth and over No.4 tank. There were c30 Swallow over the small water treatment plant on the road to the Pig Farm with Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler also in the area.

At the berth were both Raven and Great Black-backed Gull which filled their bellies full of salt marsh mutton across the opposite bank. Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Coot and a single Great Crested Grebe were on the Manchester Ship Canal waters with Redshank and Oystercatcher both seen and heard. 10.04.16. Wheatear, Frodsham Marsh. Tony BroomeA flock of 60 Raven were drifting around the salt marsh and smaller numbers were seen about the walk chastising the local Common Buzzard no doubt all benefiting from the glut of lamb and mutton carcasses strewn about the marshes. The ‘Splashing Pool’ held more Tufted Duck and Gadwall and a Coot was showing off her new clutch of chicks. On No.4 tank a White Wagtail was along side a drainage ditch and more Swallow and Sand Martin passed overhead.

16.04.16. female Marsh Harrier, No.4 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Ralston (1)

The female Marsh Harrier was hunting the reed bed shadowed by a Kestrel. Back by the Holpool Gutter and a Peregrine was high up over the Growhow Works and the Mute Swan herd was feeding in the crop field at Ince marsh.

Observer: Paul Ralston (images 10-11 & 13).

Images 12 by Tony Broome.

Wind Farm in Photos #2

16.04.16. Arrival of lorry carrying wind turbine blade on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)

16.04.16. Arrival of lorry carrying wind turbine blade on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (17)The arrival this week of the first wind turbine blades to Frodsham Marsh got local and national media coverage so a few images taken today including a video (upload later).

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (15)

Components and blades in place and ready for assembly and how close they are to Frodsham village (the green swath on the hillside and the house to the left is my childhood home at Churchfields with St Laurence Church above).

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (13)

A view looking south-east to Frodsham from the north banks of No.5 tank (or cell 5 if you’re from Peel Energy).

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (9)

Turbine blade.

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades on No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (7)

Components ferried in on a truck on No.5 tank.

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.5 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (5)

 

Turbines and cranes on No.5 tank (Cell 5).16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (1)

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (30)16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (44)16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (15)Turbine blades aligned for installation on No.1 tank (Cell 1).

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (12)

Blue-topped chimney at Weston Point and components on No.1 tank.

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Bill Morton (10)

Images 1-13 by WSM.

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley (2)

16.04.16. Wind turbine blades, No.1 tank, Frodsham Marsh. Paul Crawley.Images 14 -15 by Paul Crawley.

A short video of a contractor delivering a rotor blade for one of the wind turbines on the marsh. https://vimeo.com/163104366

Nature Notes #48

The Humble Willow

24.03.15. Pussy Willow, Frodsham Marsh. Bill MortonThe name ‘Pussy Willow’ should immediately conjure up an image of soft, silvery, downy buds on a common wayside tree and then catkins as winter releases its grip and spring sunshine warms the air. It is another name for Goat Willow Salix caprea, one of the many species of willow in the British Isles. Across Frodsham Marsh these fabulous trees are usually dismissed as ‘trash’ trees and their importance and value to wildlife underestimated. Walk down any of the tracks and most birders will stop briefly to peer through the tangle of branches and buds on a willow in the hope of seeing and identifying a bird glimpsed briefly. They’ll probably give it a few seconds or a minute or so before moving on, without ever having looked at the tree itself.
Photo 2 copy
Photo 3I was sat in my car drinking hot coffee and taking a break after walking around the .IC.I tank last weekend. The SE wind was fresh to say the least and felt cold. Apart from Gorse, Sloes and a few Daffodils, there no other flowering plants in bloom, or so I thought. It suddenly struck me that there were a lot of bees visiting a nearby willow which was in early flower, so I went to have a look. It looked greenish with splashes of pale yellow from a distance, so I wondered what was attracting the insects. It was covered in Buff-tailed Bumblebees, the odd Red-tailed and Tree Bumblebee and a Small Tortoishell butterfly.
Photo 4 copy Photo 5 copy
I took a couple of quick pictures and began to look closer at the flowers. They were amazing. The downy buds were bursting into colour and the yellow stamens were covered in pollen which was attracting the insects.

Three species of bumblebees were present but Buff-tailed Bumblebee was by far the most numerous. Tree and Red-tailed were present in small numbers.
Photo 6 copy
I noticed other insects which I took to be hoverflies. One actually was and I think I’ve correctly identified it as Eristalis pertinax, a common early species which should be readily identified by its yellow front and middle tarsi, which this one appeared to have.
Photo 7 copy
The other insect turned out to be (but correct me if you think my identification is incorrect) Gwynne’s Mining Bee, Andrena bicolor, a relatively common spring species. The females are 6-8 mm long and have bright reddish-brown ‘fur’ on the thorax and a orangy coloured hind tibiae. The males are 6-7.5mm and are overall blackish. It was very windy and not easy to take photos as the branches were moving all the time, so the pictures aren’t completely sharp.
Photo 8 copy

The catkins are amazing things when you look at them enlarged, like miniature alien worlds with forests of anthers in which bumblebees plough furrows and smaller insects struggle to walk. Even after the spring flush of catkins, the leaves provide food for many species of insects including a long list of moths. Photo 9 copyThe insects in turn attract predators including a wide variety of birds. Along with another favourite species of mine, the Sycamore, willows are always the trees I head for in the hope of finding something unusual whether it’s a bird or otherwise. Have a look more closely next time you stop by a willow in flower and instead of seeing nothing you will be guaranteed to find something of interest.

And of course, every autumn scene is enhanced by the glow of yellow, orange and red willow leaves as the trees take a break from providing the natural world with food throughout the summer.

The humble Willow is actually anything but humble.

Written by Tony Broome (images 2-9). Image 1 by WSM.

“Oh where are you now
Pussy willow that smiled on this leaf?
When I was alone you promised the stone from your heart
My head kissed the ground”

Sid Barrett

Dark Globe.