“Ne’er cast a clout till May is out”. Basically speaking don’t take your vest off until the Hawthorn (May) blooms, which is as near, as makes no difference the end of May. Well in all my living memory of the winter in Scotland I don’t recall one where I haven’t worn a vest, and needed it, except for this one. For some reason the temperature has never got to a position where I have gone out in the morning and felt the need for a vest. It’s been a strange old winter and it’s not finished yet so could the next 3 months offer more unusual weather?
Birdsong means spring is on it’s way and with the lengthening hours of daylight some of the early songsters are lifting our spirits. That also means that the migrant birds, those that breed here but winter elsewhere will be getting ready to return and it’s interesting to consider that we are not the only ones to enjoy the comforts of a large, luxurious hotel although the wildlife that shares the building with us probably looks on it more as a large, luxurious cliff rather than hotel.
But slow down, we are in winter still; bats will be hibernating in various nooks and crannies high up in the building. Some of the pipistrelle species are most likely, tiny little bats that you often see just on dusk flitting around the building. There may well be others but a specialized bat survey would need to be done to identify who our batty neighbours are.
A large colony of honeybees have a hive to the right of the main hotel entrance. They have been in residence for many years and only when they swarm on a muggy summers day do they attract attention. The last large swarm happened in the middle of a wedding reception on the lawn but, luckily, a bee expert was on hand to describe what was happening and explain that swarming bees are so full of honey that they are no threat to anyone. Stay calm and enjoy one of nature’s great spectacles, and the guests did just that. For now though the bees will be busy within their colony keeping the queen at a constant temperature and soon to begin a new cycle in spring.
Jackdaws are an obvious resident on the building. They pretty much disappear in the winter, joining up with large numbers of others to scour the arable fields for food and then collecting in their thousands at communal roosts where they chat to each other and pair up for the nesting season ahead. And in early spring breeding pairs return to the Palace and use the many chimneys and ledges as nesting sites. The surrounding lawns and golf courses offer a ready and huge supply of chafer grubs, one of the staple foods of young jackies. Clever birds and very opportunistic.
Swifts are remarkable birds. Once on the wing they never return to land until they breed, even sleeping on the wing. They winter in Africa but nest, amongst other places, at the Palace. They use tiny holes in the walls to squeeze in to make a feather lined nest and rear their young. “Screaming swifts” is something birdie people like to watch. That is when groups of swifts flash around the building at high speed emitting a screaming noise. You can hear that around the Palace, mid summer.
I could go on forever. We have so much living with us at the Palace but other common species to look out for as you wander around the building this spring and summer are tawny owl, flycatcher, robin, blackbird, thrush and several species of tit. They have all been recorded nesting in/on the building over the last few years.
One final bit of wildlife information to those who might wince at the thought of bats living in the building. Bats don’t fly into your bedroom through an open window and then get stuck in your hair. Where that “old wives tale” started I have no idea but it’s just that, a tale. A bat is no more likely to get stuck in your hair than a golden eagle is to fly into your room. Now that would be fun.