Flights of Spring

Amazing skies and warm sun has brought out some fliers .

Two days of walks along the river and then at Harlestone Firs in Northampton have been full of flight.

Bumble bees were attracted to the blossom at the garden centre along with honey bees and a range of hover flies.

These Great Tits were busy along the River bank.

Great Tits are the largest of our tits and are easily identified they have a black head and white cheeks, they also have a black stripe down their chest which is wider in males. The Male and female are quite similar the males head can be more glossy.

It has a characteristic two syllable song described as ‘ teacher, teacher’. They nest early and start looking for sites in February . They lay 7-9 eggs they eat mainly insects and feed their young caterpillars. The lifespan is approximately 3 years.

While walking in Harlestone firs I saw something hopping , flying and investigating the undergrowth and the Beech trees, it was a Carrion Crow which had caught my eye.

This was a very attractive bird and really interesting to watch as it searched for food.

Carrion Crows(Corvus Corone) are often seen alone. They are very adaptable and intelligent. They eat carrion, seeds, nut, worms and fruits in fact they have been found to eat 1000 different foods.

They have the largest brains of all birds except for parrots.

  • They have excellent memories they move food often and remember where it is.
  • They can use basic tools.
  • They sometimes run ants across their feathers , it’s thought the ants release formic acid that acts as a pest control for the crow.
  • They steal other birds eggs for food..
  • A crow has feathers around its beak and thighs unlike a rook.
  • The woods at Harlestone are a mixture of coniferous , pines and stands if larch and desciduous, mixed ,Beech ,silver birch . This area of woodland had a stunning green carpet of Dog’s Mercury. The colour was almost unreal.
  • The coniferous stands look fantastic against the blue sky.
  • Along the edge of these pines is a sunny ride and this is where the final two fliers appeared. A shadow flitted over me , I looked up to see a pair of dancing butterflies. I saw three of these paired off dancers. They were Commas (Polygonia c-album). Later on I found one sunning itself.
  • These butterflies are widespread , their name comes from the comma shaped white mark in their underside. When their wings are closed they are well camouflaged.
  • There was a severe decline in commas in the middle of the 1800s, this was thought to be because if the decline in hop production. Hop was a larval food plant for the comma. In the 1960s it made a big comeback and the larval food plant being used was nettles
  • The caterpillars are found in nettles, hop, Elm, Currants and Willow.
  • In March the Comma comes out of hibernation. It mates and produces a new generation that appears June/July.
  • Interestingly the majority of this generation have dark undersides and go on later in the year to hibernate.Some of the offspring however have lighter undersides and brighter upsides. These are called Hutchinsoni a different form. These breed and produce another generation that will overwinter. The percentage of this Hutchinsoni form is triggered by the changing day length.
  • A great website for more interesting information is
  • My last flight specialist of the walk was another butterfly, but named after a bird- The Peacock(Inachis iois).This one looked rather pale and worn but still lovely, it was sun bathing at the edge of a open ride.
  • Peacocks hibernate through the winter, in the weeks before they go into hibernation some of their blood sugar is converted to glycerol to act as an antifreeze. The hibernate in areas where the temperature hopefully remains constant.
  • They wake up and look to feed and then will mate and lay eggs. They lay groups of 500 eggs that are in layers on the underside of nettle leaves. These layers help to protect the eggs from drying out and predation. As the caterpillars hatch the year old adults die. This new generation pupate in July and hatch out in August the life cycle continues as they will then hibernate in the winter.
  • Having a patch of nettles somewhere in the garden is a fantastic larval food plant for the Comma , the Peacock and the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Small additions to a garden can really increase its diversity.
  • This was two days of fantastic fliers , all in the sunshine , coat free. Roll on Spring !

  • One thought on “Flights of Spring

    1. Wonderful post,brilliant photos throughout,and full of interesting information,after this walk I think I need a cup of tea !


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