Despite the lockdown, wildlife at Carlton Marshes continues to enjoy the wetland paradise that has been created for it but because of the lockdown staff are unable to do the usual careful counting of breeding birds, butterflies and other wildlife. Staff and volunteers haven't started their usual annual surveys, as we are only visiting reserves for essential livestock and safety checks.
Across the county we are all getting the opportunity to focus on our garden wildlife and the wildlife we can find on our daily walks, runs and bike rides. Many people have started a garden bird list, I've managed to add red kite, greenfinch and sparrowhawk to mine in recent days. Butterflies are now out and I've seen a variety of species over the beautiful Easter weekend, including peacock, small tortoiseshell and orange-tip butterflies. The fresh, bright orange colour of the newly emerged orange-tip butterfly have certainly been a welcome sight for me and I've also been spotting their caterpillar food plants on my walks. Garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-Hedge, is one of them and is a common plant on road verges and hedgerows and it is important because it is one of the plants that orange-tip caterpillars feed on. If you crush it in your hands it smells strongly of garlic. Other plants which butterflies depend on include: nettles, bird's-foot-trefoil, ivy, common sorrel and common dog-violet, as well as grasses such as cock's-foot, timothy and meadow foxtail. You may have some of these plants in your garden, could you leave a patch unmown for the butterflies this spring?
I like taking pictures of wild plants I've seen in the garden or on walks. I struggle to take good pictures of birds and butterflies, but luckily plants stay still, so you can get a decent iPhone picture. I've put some of my recent finds below. Perhaps lockdown could be an opportunity for us to get to know the plants around us a bit better. You could do the Garden Wildflower Hunt a new lockdown survey by Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) to get people recording the wild plants in their garden. Can you start appreciating some of your 'weeds' for the beautiful wild plants they are?