Pamber hedgerows and roadside verges have sprung into life, with shrubs and trees in full leaf and some already in flower. Wildflowers are beginning to put in an appearance and singing birds indicate the presence of nesting birds.
Above: There are several singing Yellowhammers in the parish at the moment, their territories focused around stretches of hedgerow where they nest. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Now is the time to check for unusual hedgerow shrub and tree species mixed in with more common and widespread component ones such as Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Ash and English Oak. One in particular is worth looking out for: Wild Service-tree Sorbus torminalis. An indicator of ancient woodland heritage, there are trees scattered throughout Pamber Forest and other woodland areas in the Parish. But there is also a tree in the hedgerow beside New Road in Little London, in full flower at the moment. See if you can find any others while walking public footpaths in the parish.
Above: The distinctive leaf of a Wild Service-tree. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: The caterpillar (left) and newly-emerged adult (right) of the Brimstone butterfly.
Look carefully and you will find the occasional Alder Buckthorn growing in the hedgerows. The leaves are food for the caterpillars of the Brimstone butterfly and unsympathetic or untimely hedge cutting runs the risk of destroying them.
Above: The pupa (left) and adult (right) of the Orange-tip butterfly, a species that, in Pamber, largely depends on Garlic Mustard as the larval foodplant.
There are still a few adult Orange-tips on the wing and by now females will have laid their eggs on Garlic Mustard, a plant that is locally abundant on verges, and in gardens. Adults aside, the life-cycle of this charming butterfly is linked to its larval foodplant: eggs are laid on it and when fully grown the larvae pupate attached to drying stems. If the plant is cut back before the following spring then the next generation of Orange-tips will be killed. For more information on managing hedgerows for wildlife, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species has produced some instructive guidelines
Above: Listen for the rattling song of the Lesser Whitethroat, an occasional summer visitor to hedgerows and scrub in the parish. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Above: A cousin of the Lesser Whitethroat, the Blackcap is more widespread, and a locally common nesting bird in mature gardens and hedgerows in Pamber. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd
Throughout spring and early summer a succession of white umbellifers (carrot family members) adorns roadside verges in the parish. But the spread and increasing abundance of two of these should not be taken as a good sign. Both Cow Parsley Anthriscus sylvestris and Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata benefit where nitrogen levels in the soil have been elevated by run-off from agricultural fields laden with fertiliser, typically to the detriment of floral diversity generally. Ecologists refer to the process as ‘eutrophication’ but it’s pollution by another name.
Above: The abundance of Hemlock Water-dropwort Oenanthe crocata in hedgerows and ditches bordering intensively farmed land is a relatively recent phenomenon. Although the flowers of this deadly poisonous plant are a good source of nectar for insects, the plant itself is more an indication of soil ill-health in the context of Pamber verges. Paul Sterry/Nature Photographers Ltd