Walton Hall Nature Trail, What's on Spring 98

Walton Hall Nature Trail, What's on Spring

Spring started early again this year with many plants in flower as early as April. However there was rather a shock to the system on 11 April. The day started wet and grey, by 9 am it was almost as dark as night with intermittent thunder and lightening lasting for a couple of hours. Heavy rain continued for the rest of the day resulting in extensive flooding with the river Ouzel bursting its banks and covering the playing fields and university ring road in a couple of feet of water. The new pond and surrounding area by the church were completely submerged so any frog spawn would have been washed away and fish from the river introduced. Sound bites on this story included 'almost 2 inches of rain (or a month's worth) in a day' and 'a once in 150 year event' both from the environment agency. The rain was followed by frost and brief snow, a typical British Easter really. See end of page for more flood pictures, I'm afraid none of them turned out very well, the light was poor and it was pouring with rain!.

Birds Many of the spring migrants have arrived back and are filling the air with their song. However early nests around Walton Lake or along the river will have been wiped out by the flooding, only the huge swan's nest seems to have survived. First cuckoo on 25 April.

Plants Look at the grasses in the meadow area, they might look all alike at first but some of them such as Sweet meadow grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) start growing and flowering before the others. This species also smells particularly strongly of new mown hay when crushed (surprisingly!). Also in the meadow look out for the pale pink Cuckoo flower which starts blooming at the beginning of April, well before the first cuckoo arrives back.

Fungi Early April has been good for a range of fungi, including St George's mushrooms and Jew's ears both near Walton lake. St George's mushrooms are so called because they often appear around St George's day (23 April), whereas Jew's ears are named after Judas Iscariot who was supposed to have been crucified on an Elder tree and this fungus most often grows on dead Elder branches.

AmphibiansLook out for frogs and toads on any damp nights, the redways and nearby roads can be covered with them when the conditions are just right.

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