Our Patch: True Colours – Mellow Yellow

By on Tuesday, April 1, 2014

our_patch_sj_jarmanWhen I tell people I write a column about UK wildlife, I usually get the same reaction: Firstly a smile and “Ooh that’s interesting,” followed by a pause, a bit of thought, and then – “But what do you find to write about? Wildlife here is so drab and dull.”

So I thought I might embark on a series of colour-themed columns for people who think our wildlife is boring or dowdy!

Last weekend was the vernal equinox, and we’re starting to feel the warm embrace of spring.

bumblebee

Creatures are reappearing that we haven’t seen for a while. Several times this week, a drowsy, clumsy bumblebee has crashed into me or nearly become a meal for an inquisitive dog, reminding me less of Rimsky-Korsakov and more of the cake walk at a baseball game!

Black and yellow are such eye-catching colours (bees and wasps deliberately wear this livery so we can beware of their foul taste and sting in the tail).

The male blackbird, currently courting and nest-building in most gardens in Prescot, is in some ways very simply dressed. The black tuxedo matched with a yellow tie (bill), however, is actually incredibly dapper in his case.

yellowhammer

Their song at this time of year is loud, clear and tuneful, making them unmissable and occasionally an irritant, as they tend to start their choir practice fairly early!

We have some birds in our patch which are now becoming increasingly rare, and the summer plumage of the Yellowhammer, akin to that of a canary, is as a result becoming a lot harder to see.

Look to the shrubs borders of fields; male Yellowhammers (pictured) are fairly easy to spot, as they take to the uppermost branches to sing for a mate. Once heard chirping, they can take a minute to spot, and once you’ve seen them, you wonder how you could have missed him in the first place.

crocusWe can still see a few crocuses – simple yellow flowers with bright green spiky leaves. One of the first flowers to be seen, they are a welcome sight when the ground has been hard and barren for so long.

The waxy flowers can be seen from a good way away, and the children are always drawn to them, even when they are hidden in the undergrowth. When discovered, these little drops of gold are prized particularly by my girls, and I have to watch carefully that they don’t accidentally pick one.

‘Easter lilies’ (daffodils) are in gardens, parks and woodlands all around our area.

yellow field

These familiar flowers provide much-needed nectar and pollen for the emerging insects, at a time when there is little other food for them and they are trying to start a new colony or to find a mate to breed with.

I cannot do any more justice to them than Wordsworth did in describing the moment you happen across fields of daffodils – it’s breath-taking. They also have a sweet scent, which is not really that easy to sense unless they are in your home, or in very large numbers.

Before the flowers and blossom of spring are here, many trees have catkins to brighten a morning walk.

Last weekend, when the sun was shining, I thought I saw a tree with yellow blossom. On closer examination, however, it was actually covered in furry and spiky catkins, which did not appear so yellow close up, but like sable, the colour on the tip of each hair is the colour seen.

Soon we will have much yellow to enjoy – dandelions and broom, brimstones and wasps – but for now we have to enjoy the glimpses of colour starting to appear in and around our patch.

Images: Bumblebee (Ian Clark)
Yellow fields (Trevor Jarman)

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SJ, also known as Sarah and Sarah-Jane, held her dream job as a breastfeeding peer support worker until becoming a full-time mum of three. She still volunteers at Whiston Hospital.

In her spare time, SJ loves to read, and play cello with the Knowsley Youth Orchestra. She confesses to being a secret singer ever since hubby Trev bought her SingStar.

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