22 May 2019

Approaching Birch Services on the M62 en route to the Wirral, I was surprised to see a hooded crow perched on a sign at the side of the slip road . I passed close by and am sure it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. I’ve seen hooded crows in Ireland, Scotland, and Italy, but never one in England before, as far as I can recall. In this part of the world, we have carrion crows, not hoodies. Whether carrion crows and hooded crows are different varieties of the same species, or separate species, is still a hotly debated topic. It’s the age-old story: lumpers v splitters. Carrion and hooded crows can certainly interbreed, so perhaps I saw a hybrid.

A good couple of hours working on a picnic bench at Parkgate on the edge of the Dee Marshes, distracted only by a marsh harrier being pursued, as always, by a crow, and a group of middle-aged women at a nearby table having a very loud conversation about diarrhoea.

At Dad’s, bumblebees were swarming about his bird box, just like they did this time last year. There were scores of them. Ginger abdomens, white tails. Tree bumblebees, Bombus hypnorum. There were several bees crammed in and around the entrance hole to the bird box. Some seemed to be ventilating it by beating their wings.

Tree bumblebees
Tree bumblebees

I watched as one bumblebee blundered into a nearby Welsh poppy whose petals were semi-closed. The bee’s movements inside the flower caused the petals to close even further, trapping the furious bee inside for a good two minutes. I’ve been reading Darwin on pollination recently. I think he would have been amused.

Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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