Recent Wanderings.....


Well over the past couple of months, chances to go a wandering have been somewhat hampered by the weather, with very strong winds and a considerable number of very wet weekends...  To say that nature is somewhat confused, would be an understatement, for most of January and into February it was quite mild for the time of year, with only a few cold snaps recently occurring.  

 Fortunately, there have been a few bright sunny, if somewhat blustery days, so chores abandoned, boots on, camera in hand and well wrapped up, out I went for a few tours of my local patch.  All of the following was observed during January and February.

 One of the first things I noticed when walking through the top part of the woodland, was the emergence of the fungi I had sought during the autumn.  'Turkey Tail' brackets, small clumps of toadstools on mossy logs, blooms of resupinate fungi, slime molds and plenty of Jelly Ears appeared.  Many of the toadstools would be there one day and gone the next, the remains clearly having been nibbled or largely consumed.  

Velvet Shanks Fungi

Resupinate Fungi; an example of one type that I saw.  

Bracket fungi (I, by default, tend to call these Turkey Tails, however there seem to be many, many variations!)

Jelly or 'Jew's' Ear Fungi.  Amazing stuff this, survives all kinds of weather!

Within the woods, there has been a flock of Chaffinches feeding on the ground, then flitting up into the branches, they are extremely skittish! The trees have been full of Great and Blue Tits feeding and calling, but not yet declaring.  On various regular perches Robins have been beginning to call their territories and every so often I have heard the Nuthatches 'Pinging' to each other high up in the trees.

 I sometimes walk along the field edge of the woods, it's a bit like gazing into a huge TV - the birds carry on with their business and I can get some rather nice views into the woods before the trees and bushes 'green up'.

 One morning I did this and spent some considerable time watching a flock of Long Tailed Tits acrobatically feeding in the lower branches of an Oak tree,

 as well as being afforded some lovely views of both a male and female Chaffinch, who were taking advantage of the sunshine.  

A little further along was a smart male Blackbird, who had paused before flitting back into the cover of the woodland, I have seen a number of these in recent weeks foraging in the fallen leaves and also watched  (and heard!) them chasing around, both in the woods and around the garden as they start to find a mate and a territory.  

Great Tits and the occasional Dunnock were also seen on 'woodland TV' that day, all of them in very smart attire and good voice!

The past few weeks, both the Great Tits and the Dunnocks have started singing for a mate; I get quite a few of these little Hedge Sparrows visiting my garden and early in the morning have been delighted by their song and antics as they follow each other around, flicking their wings and flirting as they go.  

  Away from the woods, since early January, the lambs tails have been opening for some time, many of the branches are now laden with their golden streamers and

in sunnier spots along the edges of both the fallow field and woodland, I have recently glimpsed branches of Blackthorn full of buds and in some cases coming into bloom.  On my way to work of a morning, many of the Blackthorn are in full bloom already.

Over in the part of the woodland where there is 'new' planting, there are a number of fruit trees, these have also started to blossom as well.

Now all this blossom, whilst beautiful to see, with it appearing this early will not be pollinated - most of the bees and other insects are still asleep where it is still too cold for them.  This will have an effect later in the year when I'm expecting to see far less fruits for the birds.  It may also have an effect on our earlier butterflies who often nectar on blossom.  Whilst trees only blossom once however, the trusty Bramble may well save the day - I have started to see fresh buds on many of the banks of brambles, so bees, butterflies and birds as well as a host of other insects will still have a feast.  (The local fox may also have his blackberries too!)

 Speaking of banks of brambles, on one of my walks, I saw one pair of Wrens and two or three pairs of Blue Tits chasing each other around in rather energetic courtship dances.  The Wrens were much to fast to capture, however I managed a couple of the Blue Tits, 

'Come and get me!'

'Where's she gone?'

 I followed them along the bramble bank that borders the stream until I lost sight of them; they are certainly fast and very vocal!  

Elsewhere in the fallow field, (which was never mown last year, so am rather excited to see what the longer grass encourages, mice, voles? if so, the Kestrels may begin to frequent it again and I'm sure the local Tawny Owl will take advantage...) amongst the brambles, clumps of short sallow and occasionally on the skeletal hogweed stems and knapweed heads, Seven Spot Ladybirds have been out and about.  One morning, before we began to get frosts, I found one on 'lookout' with several others tucked up in the curl of a bramble leaf.

 During my walks over the past couple of weekends, I have managed to see a few Treecreepers at relatively close quarters.  Usually I just catch a glimpse as they land and spiral up a tree, however one morning this one stayed around lower down, in this part of the woods there are a lot of Hawthorn and elder trees.  

As I watched, it proceeded to investigate all the little nooks in the tree trunk,  

with it's efforts paying off, when a tasty morsel was found! 

Later on my walk back towards home I also managed to catch another glimpse of a Goldcrest - there have been a few about this year, as well as seeing my second pair of Marsh Tits in as many weeks. 

As I took a route back through the woods, I was also treated to drumming from the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Mrs even went to the top of a tree to see where it was coming from!  

There were further commotions going on amongst the Jays, I often hear them squabbling or chatting to each other, but rarely catch more than a glimpse as they fly about in the trees.  On this particular morning though I had a real treat as one landed above me and stayed put just long enough for a good look-see.  

After giving me a rather cheeky 'over-the-shoulder' stare, off it went and I continued home through a woodland full of shooting Bluebells, Cuckoo pint and in places, blooming primroses,

whilst listening to various Robins in full song.  

 It may be all confused, but I rather think spring is arriving early this year!

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