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Full of the joys of spring
The swallows arrived back early last week. I spotted their familiar swooping flight when I was looking round sheep and lambs in fields below Raisgill. The following day a pair were sitting preening themselves on the electric wires by the High Laithe and it appears that they have decided it is worth settling here for the summer because there are now quite a few more of them. I wonder if it is the same birds and their families that return every year?
The journey home tonight was via Settle as I had some things to drop off for my mum and as we came back over the top via Malham Tarn and Darnbrook all along our route gangs of lambs were racing and chasing in fields on either side of the road. They were quite obviously full of the joys of spring and probably just glad to be warm and dry for once. I have never noticed it quite so much before, but there seem to be an awful lot of flowers on the ash trees. You can see them quite clearly as you drive along when the trees are silhouetted against the sky. I have not looked that closely, but I think they are predominantly the male flowers which are knobbly and purple. But it seems that the common ash (Fraxinus Excelsior) is a bit of a mixed up tree. Some trees, holly for example produce male and female flowers on separate trees and they are known as dioic which means literally “two houses”.
Other species of tree produce both male and female flowers on the same tree; but the ash seems rather undecided on the matter. Some trees are male, others are female and some ash trees produce both male and female flowers, usually well separated, but on the same tree.
But that’s not the end of it because the ash has another trick up its sleeve as it can be male one year and can then produce female flowers the next and vice versa. It is the female flowers that develop into keys which I suppose explains why you see them on some trees one year and not the next.
I’m not sure who was the most startled me or the badger, because when I went out to feed the cats on Saturday night Tommy Brock came ambling out of the summerhouse only a few feet in front of me. He (I’m assuming it’s a male) stopped dead in his tracks caught in the beam of the torch. He sniffed, looked at me and then in quite an unconcerned manner ambled off under the redcurrant bushes - the cats, all three of them were standing round my feet and they were all fluffed up and growling.
It was a long tiring trip up to the capital last week and by the time David and I arrived home late on Thursday night, we were weary of travelling and glad to be home.