A Spring Walk...


Well, the other weekend I went for a bit of a walk on the Local Patch and thought you may care to come along with me...

 It is a sunny and slightly breezy afternoon, quite warm in some of the more sheltered spots and not too chilly in the others!

 As we walk to the woods, in the Blackthorn and Brambles at the edge, are a number of small birds, a Robin is singing loudly, he considers this to be 'his' patch and several Great and Blue Tits are flitting about.  At about eye level, there is one of the local House Sparrows, a female, who is obviously having a busy day - she is collecting materials for a nest. 

We watch her for a while, whilst she watches us quizzically back, before flying off to continue her home improvements.

 As we enter the woods, to our left is a reasonable sized pond, we walk softly as we can hear frogs singing and as we walk carefully down the slope to the edge, we can see a lot of little heads bobbing in the water as well as quite a bit of paddling going on.

There are a considerable number of them and we watch quietly (any movement prompts them to disappear under the chickweed and water) as they continue about their business.  There are quite a few froggy couples apparently relaxing...

until small groups of males appear and try to suggest a change in partners.

Whilst onlookers watch from a quiet spot... 

They have actually appeared a week or so earlier this year, despite it being cooler of late.  The pond is a lot shallower, with many of the fallen branches in the bottom showing; this year, instead of being around the edges, there are clumps of frogspawn in the middle, where it is deeper and where most of the Annual Frog Ball is going on.

We head off along a little path, just inside the edge of the woods, which goes through a few Wren and Robin territories.  Along the path there are patches of Brambles, small Elder trees, Holly and the floor of the woodland is green with Bluebell shoots.

 In the branches of the trees above us, we can see numerous Blue Tits chasing about and can hear a Great Tit loudly calling the ladies.  After a moment or so, we see him high up on a branch, 

calling and listening, before flitting off to another vantage point.   Looking around, we can hear a thin clear, but melodious song coming from above us.

There are a number of rough barked mature trees and as we peer up the trunks, we suddenly spot the singer

It is one of the Treecreepers that frequent this part of the woods.  Now usually we will have seen them flit to a tree and scurry quickly up the trunk, pausing now and then to probe for food, however this one is most likely letting the lady Treecreepers know that he is looking for a mate.  We watch and listen a little while longer, before he decides to ascend the tree and then flies on ahead of us.

We wander down the slope to see if we can catch sight of one of the Wrens, who favours one of the big bramble patches, we can certainly hear him, as well as another a little further ahead of us, however, apart from seeing a few 'quick flits' as a little brown dart changes location, we are unlucky with any clear views.

 Futher along the path, we come to an area where part of a large Ash tree has split away and filled a clearing with broken branches.  We peer through an alternative route, into a thicket of Elder and Brambles, which the birds love to hide in.

Catching some sunshine is a handsome male Blackbird,

who keeps an eye on us, as well as others that we can hear foraging amongst the leaves on the ground.  As we stand there, every now and then there is a peal of Blackbird song as males chase each other or pursue females through the vegetation.

We start to pick our way through the Elder, flowering purple ground ivy and emerging stinging nettles, being careful to avoid the molehills and rabbit holes.  We can still hear the 'other Wren' so stop and watch for a while, having caught a glimpse of it pausing on the mossy surface of a fallen log.  Sometimes they will follow a 'circuit' and return, however this one was on a mission.  Ahead of us, on a favourite perch, is a Robin, in full song

Joining in, from above, we can hear a clear 'pinging' chatter going on, it is one of the Nuthatches being exceedingly vocal! We spot it on one of the remaining Ash branches, just as it decides to fly off into a thicket ahead of us.  The Robin moves to another branch as well, so we walk on along the path, heading towards a clear area in the woods; as we do so, there is 'Ping, Ping' again and into the sunlight, the Nuthatch flits briefly, before going off to another favourite tree. 

Walking across the clear area of the western end of the woodland, the floor is thick with Bluebell foliage.  Here and there are a few buds, but none are opening just yet.  We exit the woods along a tractor trail, which runs alongside a row of young Oaks and Salix; one of the Salix has just come into flower and is a vision of yellow! 

We wander over to have a closer look and can see several bees flying around the top branches and making the most of the yellow banquet before them; if any confirmation was needed, this is it - once this tree flowers, spring has begun and everything else follows suit!

 Further along the path, some of the Blackthorn has started to bloom as well and we walk along to have a look and also to peer into the next patch of woodland, a moment of 'Bird TV'! 

Amongst the Brambles and Blackthorn, we can hear the bubbling chirping and chattering of a pair of Long Tailed tits, who are busy nest building; further into the woods, in a Hazel tree, one of a pair of Marsh Tits is chirping away and hopping about amidst the branches. 

We watch as it flits busily about before turning back the way we came, to head down the hill and across the fallow field, to see what is about along the edge of the brook on the far side.

 Picking our way along a deer or rabbit path in between the clumps of soggy grass, we arrive on the lower path alongside the brook.  The Ash, Alder and Oak trees are full of Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Great and Blue Tits.  Here and there we can hear and catch sight of Dunnocks.  This part of the field is South facing and is out of the wind, so it is warm and sunny.

From out of the middle of the grasses and a stumpy stand of willows, we hear a Wren, which then shoots across to the far side of the bank into the lower branches of a tree. 

He stays there a moment, before descending lower still and continues to serenade us from within the safety of the vegetation.  Last year, there had been at least one family of Wrens who had, it seems, nested in amongst the grasses, bushes and hogweed out in the middle of the field, I wonder if this character is one of those?

 We meander along the path, looking and listening, at one point even catching a glimpse of a passing Sparrowhawk and one of the local Buzzards, turning lazy circles in the sky above. 

We reach an old log, which is where I had seen Common Lizards at the end of last summer, but are distracted by a familiar sound in the brambles behind.  Whilst one is on lookout, 

and they are continually 'chatting' away to each other, a pair of Long Tailed Tits are in serious nest building mode!  They watch us back briefly, before deciding we are no threat and then continue taking it in turn to disappear under the brambles with beakfuls of grey feathers to line their nest. 

Whilst they are busy, we begin to peer at the log, which, as it was last year, has quite a covering of vegetation in places.  I recall that there was a particular spot on it, that the Lizards liked to peer out from.  Sure enough and doing it's best to blend in with the background, there is a young Lizard, probably one of last year's brood and minus it's tail, sunning itself. 

It watches us for a while, before darting back into the safety of a nearby crevice, after a while however, curiosity and sunshine got the better of it and it re-appeared.

 We carry on watching the Long Tailed Tits, marvelling at the huge beakfulls of feathers they are returning with.  We wonder where they are finding all the feathers from! 

With the nights still being very chilly, it appears that they are constructing a very cosy nest (we cannot see it, it is under and behind the brambles, away from prying eyes!).  As we watch, a movement on the far end of the log amongst the stems of bramble and grass catches our eye.

 Almost matching most of the colours surrounding it, is a handsome (male I think) adult Lizard. 

He stays there catching some sunshine, as well as possibly watching a few of the insects which the sun has brought out.

 Following the path along, we watch along the bramble and brook bank, seeing pairs of Blue Tits in kiss chase mode, quite an exhausting courtship routine, with the speeds they are going.  Here and there are Great Tits calling and also flitting and from the vegetation on the far bank we can often hear Wrens.  We also see quite a few Ladybirds in the curls of Bramble leaves warming in the sunshine. 

We divert off into the next patch of woodland in the hope of maybe another Treecreeper, none seen, however there are many of the Tits chasing about and calling.  This patch of woodland is mostly of Oak and Hawthorn trees, as well as Elder.  Amongst the branches of one of the gnarled Hawthorn, we spot a tiny bird, flitting and fluttering acrobatically amongst the branches.

It is a female Goldcrest, Britain's smallest bird. 

We stand watching her and another as they both perform their aerial routines whilst foraging.  (closer examination of some of the shots, showed that her foraging paid off, at one point she captured a small fly - record shot only, but 'best of the worst' are in the collage above!) 

We decide that time is getting on, so head back up the hill, to follow the path around the edge of the field.  Amongst the shoots of whichever cereal crop that has been sown, there are masses of tiny blue flowers, a Speedwell variety of some kind.

 Along the woodland / field margin, most of the trees are showing ripe buds or foliage that is just beginning to unfurl 

and the hazel trees are festooned with lambstails and looking carefully at them, we can see both the male and female flowers, they've finally sorted their timing out! 

Under the eaves of the trees and looking back into the woods, we see a single stem of blue with the promise of more to come... 

Spring, is springing!


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