Early Spring

The two churches of Trimley St Martin and Trimley St Mary sit side by side; one thrives and the other crumbles. The reason two substantial churches were built so close together for neighbouring village parishes is apparently down to a family feud. The resulting Darwinian struggle for congregations had only one conclusion. Poor St Mary; the insult is compounded because, not only is she abandoned, but also renowned for possessing a remarkably ugly tower with uncomfortable proportions and chipped concrete facade.

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Trimley St Mary Church’s graveyard pushes up bright spring bulbs. 

Spring is early, very early and daffodils bloom alongside snowdrops and bluebells are half way to flowering. The blossom on Prunus species including bird cherry Prunus avium is in its prime. Goat willow (pussy willow) Salix caprea buds are bursting white, plump and festooned with yellow stamens. Willows are dioecious and the male tree produces rounded, staminate catkins whereas female trees produce quite different pistillate catkins (longer, thinner and spikier). Not many plants are dioecious but willows, gingkos and cannabis are; why this unrelated assortment have bucked the monoecious trend is not well understood.

An early bumblebee Bombus pratorum, or is it a buff-tailed bumblebee Bombus terrestris, is the only obvious insect on the wing. An excellent UK bumblebee identification guide suggests the latter; the heavyweight trashes a catkin in its quest for pollen.

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Male goat willow staminate catkins.
Early bumblebee on a goat willow catkin and bird cherry blossom.

Alder Alnus glutinosa is monoecious so male and female catkins are found on the same tree. The alder male catkins are a soft purple before they burst and turn a pale, golden yellow. Female catkins are small, shiny green cones before fertilised seeds become hard sculpted in black and provide food for siskins through the winter.

Purple alder catkins; alder adorned by a male siskin; grey squirrel feeding on oak buds; and a goldfinch on elm buds.

The ground has been waterlogged until recently and now with a drying wind in the east, the plough is out turning the few fields of winter fallow. Chaffinches, linnets and yellowhammers work the freshly exposed ground for seeds. The wide acres of winter wheat Triticum aestivum are now a bland green and offers little to finches, buntings and larks; unfortunately the crop will continue to do so through the summer. At this stage, the young crop offers endless opportunities for gulls, crows and magpies that pick and paddle for worms. The other major arable crop, oil seed rape Brassica napus, with its pungent pollen and blinding mustard yellow flowers, produces small seeds in long thin pods and these are loved by many farmland birds but especially linnets and woodpigeons.

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A linnet, one of a small flock, feeding on seeds found within a freshly ploughed spring fallow.

A fox finds a sun trap in the lee of the wood and escapes the cold wind. Early spring when not dull grey and blowing a gale is bright, beautiful and biting.

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Spring fox.

 

 

 

 

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