Sunday 1 April 2012: Wood ant on blackthorn
The morning was spent catching up on e-mails and doing a bit of gardening - the broad beans are now planted and salad crops have been sown in containers near the back door, so that they can be watered with kitchen waste water as our hose pipe ban comes into force on Thursday.
The weather turned out much nicer than expected (though cooler than recently) so after lunch the whole family went for a walk to Bedford Purlieus NNR. We were shocked at how dry everything was - there was no water at all in the stream that runs through the middle of the site.
The main feature of the day was the vast number of wood ants everywhere - huge nests seething with them and birch trunks lined with phalanxes of ants, mrching to and fro. At one point Alex had his arm covered with them, and on several occasions Pete plunged his arm into the nests to see whether he could record any of the rare associated beetles.
Other wildlife was thin on the ground. We found three slow-worms under the usual tin - but I was too slow to get a photograph to add to my Shakespearean series (blind-worm's sting - not that they actually have a sting, being completely harmless legless lizards!) We also had good views of red kite and nuthatch. The most surprising find of the day was a goldfish in one of the fire-tank ponds, which are used by breeeding great crested newts. I don't know who put this there, but it needs to be found another home, as goldfish prey on newt eggs and larvae.