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Nature Notes - March 2017

Nature Notes

I am delighted to say that new spring signs are appearing everywhere.  Hazel catkins and red flowers are showing well, frog spawn is being laid in ponds, snowdrops are appearing all over the place and the first daffodils have bloomed.  Not only that, but I have seen the first green shoots of hawthorn and the cow parsley leaf fronds are growing fast.

Many birds such as song thrushes, blue tits, great tits and starlings are regularly singing, and the occasional insect can be seen flying on mild days.  I have even seen magpies building a nest.

However, winter is not over yet, and as I write on 10th February a cold easterly blast has started blowing across the British Isles.  Having said that, the days are getting longer by about 4 minutes each day, and no bad weather can change that.  On about 21st March, daylight will equal night’s darkness time the world over. After that date, northern hemisphere days will get longer and southern hemisphere days shorter until the solstice on about 21st June.  The cycle of planet earth continues and nature responds accordingly.  New life will spring up around us.

I was reading recently a paper by G. E. Hutchinson (1958), called: Homage to Santa Rosalia, or why are there so many kinds of animals?  The title refers to Hutchinson’s musings about how nature has allowed two similar species of water bugs to live together in a Sicilian spring pool next to the tomb of Santa Rosalia.  This led the writer to ponder on why there are so many species of animals; at that time estimated to be “about one million described species. Of these about three-quarters are insects, of which a quite disproportionately large number are members of a single order, the Coleoptera, namely beetles”.  He goes on to describe a story, possibly apocryphal, of the distinguished British biologist, J. B. S. Haldane, who found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked “what could one conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation?”, Haldane is said to have answered, "An inordinate fondness for beetles.".

All I can conclude is that in studying nature we are studying new beginnings in the creation of life as it is happening now before our eyes.  However it started, the natural world is forever changing in an astonishing way, a constantly wonderful series of new beginnings.

Dr. Martyn Stenning