It's been a while since we went on a proper walk, and we certainly hadn't planned to this afternoon. But the weather was nice and we didn't have our beekeeping gear...so why not? I met Chris after work and we took a picnic lunch up to Brading Down. Lots of planes, microlights and autogyros taking advantage of the still, calm weather.
To work off some of the excess lunch we decided to stroll down, across and back up. We've done this walk before and there are always good things to be found. I didn't have my proper camera with me today but I was very grateful for my phone:
I do love bees. If I'm honest, I might love bumblebees a little bit more than honeybees. I mean, look at them! They're so cute and almost cuddly. And their ridiculous bodies that look far too big to fly...how can you not love a bumblebee? We saw so many all the way round on our walk, lots of different varieties as well which is quite pleasing. Definitely a sign of a healthy ecosystem.
Wild roses were out in bloom, and we also saw our first blackthorn. Late spring/early summer can be a tough time for honeybees to find forage as we traditionally get a 'June gap' when the early flowers stop but before the next ones blossom. But with blackthorn out already, it looks like we won't have to worry about that this year.
Chris and I have very different styles as we walk. He is very much interested in the animals and wildlife that we find, can tell what sort of bird is which and is always the first to spot something interesting like a lizard sunning itself on a leaf (we found one of those today too). I love to see all these things, but I also really love all the different plants and flowers that we see. I really want to get better at knowing what things are, and I think my next purchase is definitely going to have to be some kind of field guide to wildflowers. In the meantime, I shall settle for taking photos and identifying plants once we get home. I'm pretty sure this is the Common Spotted Orchid, but I'm happy to be corrected if anyone knows better! Quite a thrill to find as I've never seen it before, despite the 'common' in its name.
Even though we were walking on bridleways and established paths, the vegetation was so lush and overgrown that it felt as though we were exploring unknown territory. I could have easily stopped here for a long time and looked out at that landscape. I am constantly amazed by how beautiful this island is.
Our path took us past a small farm in the middle of the woods that had peacocks - really - wandering around. And as we walked past them we noticed a kerfuffle in one of the trees nearby. As we watched, two young jackdaws emerged from their nest in the tree and took their first flight. Slightly uncertain and distinctly wobbly, they were shaky to start with and one of them even crashed into the undergrowth nearby and then had a hard time trying to extricate himself from some stinging nettles. We could hear their parents calling from the branches above, and finally a third fledgling popped out from the nest and flew precariously to a nearby branch. I was quite concerned about them, but as we watched they all seemed to get the hang of their wings and flew away. A magic moment indeed.
There was plenty more magic on our climb back up the hill: a group of four or five wrens hiding near a nest in the woodland; a baby rabbit that watched us get closer and closer before scampering to safety in the warren; and some neatly nibbled nutshells that are the sign of a dormouse - something Chris would dearly love to see. It felt good to stretch our legs and get out from the routine of Saturday beekeeping, and our efforts were definitely rewarded today.