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April 24th- pied wagtail, queen wasp and red mason bee

A day of big temperature range. We awoke to a bird bath frozen over. The overnight minimum of -2C, climbed to 18.3C early in the afternoon. Ptolemy and I went for a walk in Gilling Woods. We walk everyday now and see this time as a gift, natural history is a perfectly valid subject as far as we are concerned and he scribes notes as we go.

There were so many highlights, we feasted again on wood sorrel leaves and admired the last wood anenomes that still flowering in shady areas. Bluebells are starting to flower and will be at their best soon. Wild cherry trees are in full bloom on the North facing slope of the wood. We stood below and listened to the loud hum of bees feeding above us. Cowslips and dandelions dominated the avenue. Tolly found 9 peacock butterflies feeding on dandelions, together with a green- veined white, a tortoiseshell and an orange tip.

Birdwise, blackcaps dominated. They are very common this year. We found four singing tree pipits, a species which does very well in this area, especially in clear-fell areas. Willow warbler, chiffchaff, green woodpecker, marsh tit, treecreeper and goldcrest were also of note.

Back in the garden, I spent an hour or so sketching a queen wasp collecting wood from our fence. Her scraping was clearly audible up to about thirty feet away. The red mason bees nesting nearby flew fast at her if she landed too close. They punched well above their weight, but their tactics worked each time as the wasp was forced to land further away.

We saw a female pied wagtail with a very large white feather in the driveway of the Fairfax Arms. A beautiful looking bird with such elegant proportions and clean cut markings. She was giving nothing away though and would not fly to the nest site while we watched.

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