Male catkins of the goat willow Salix caprea
– also known as pussy willow for the soft furriness of the unopened buds. My ears detected a steady buzzing as I wheeled the barrow back from the bonfire area towards the end of the day; the sun was about to set, the temperature had noticeably dropped, but there was a distinct sound of activity coming from one of the four large multistemmed trees which preside over the hazel coppice. The source of the sound was at first difficult to locate, but the richness of the tone suggested a significant number of individuals, reminding me of standing below a hornets’ nest as countless creatures flew in and out, completely ignoring me in their determined industry. A bit early in the year for hornets, I thought. Surely early too for bees to be swarming – I silently berated myself for not knowing more about these fascinating things, resolving to buy Dave Goulson’s A Sting in the Tale
, on my wish list for months, without further ado – and, look as I might, I could find no sign of a nest. But still, the closer I got to the tree, the louder the insistent thrumming noise. Only one direction left to look, then...
And there they were. A cloud of what looked from the ground like fat bumbles (though I couldn’t be sure), making the most of the pollen and nectar from this early flowering tree – good for them. And, by extension, for us.