A nuthatch in the woods.

The nuthatch has got to be one of the most elegant woodland birds. The way it feeds upside and hops acrobatically along the branch is really quite artistic. It’s colours are muted and simple – grey on top, chestnut underneath, that stripe of black across the eyes like the Mask of Zorro.

I took these photos at the woodland hide at Pensthorpe in Norfolk on a Spring-like day in February. This is one of the most satisfying hides I’ve ever visited and it never fails to perform – there are so many birds that it’s almost too much to take in.

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May is always about the Bluebells

May Day Bank Holiday took us out to Blickling Hall in Norfolk (or Bono’s house, as Alan Partridge once famously claimed), where we witnessed the annual spectacle of the bluebells. I was expecting to be a bit disappointed – so much hype suggested to me that it would not be all that impressive a display after all.

Reader, I was impressed. Exhibit A (mixing metaphors much?)

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It was like venturing into faerie land.

(I think that’s just a labrador left of shot – not a deer, optical illusion, or some kind of Elfin Beast.)

Exhibit B

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And so on…

On the magic of bluebells

The British Isles are a stronghold for bluebells, boasting more than a quarter of the world’s population. They are perennial plants that grow annually to produce dazzling displays of carpets of bluebells and they are an indicator of an ancient woodland. It is a criminal offence to remove common bluebell bulbs as it is a protected species. They also produce certain alkaloids that are similar to compounds used the treatments for HIV and cancer, and they are used in folk medicine as a diuretic.

Non-native threat

The Spanish bluebell has invaded and hybridized and threatens our native common bluebell. You can tell the difference between the common bluebell and the Spanish bluebell from a few distinctive features:

  • the common bluebell has a drooping stem
  • its flowers are narrow and bell-shaped
  • pollen is a creamy white
  • it has a scent

Did you know?

Bees sometimes bite a hole in the bottom of the bell of the flower to steal the nectar without pollinating the plant.

In the Bronze age, people used to use bluebell sap to set feathers on arrows.