Winter Into Spring...
I seem to have blinked and a few months have rushed by....
Needless to say, whenever I have been able, I have been out
watching around my Local Patch and have seen quite a lot over the past few
months; so please do get comfy with a nice cuppa, suitable biscuits and relax and
join me on a wander through winter arriving to spring trying to arrive...
In early November, I had a walk out on a bright sunny afternoon.
There was still quite a lot of autumn colour about and along most of the
hedges, many of the smaller birds were making the most of the sunshine and
remaining insects that were about. There were Dunnocks and Chaffinches
as well as a fair few Blackbirds, who were busy feasting on the Sloes
Of an evening, I had heard Fieldfares passing overhead and also suspected that the flock of Redwings I had seen the previous year may also have returned - they were extremely elusive then and I suspected that they would be again!
As I followed my usual route through the woods, the Jays were
being very vocal as they continued to discuss acorn rights and there seemed to
have been an explosion in the Grey Squirrel population, with them chasing,
digging and running around the trees. The Great and Blue Tits were also
dingling around in the tree canopy, feeding and also foraging in crevices in
the bark for food, with the occasional chatter of small flocks of Long Tailed
Tits as they also passed through, high overhead.
The local woodpeckers were also being quite vocal, with the
Great Spotteds going from tree to tree as they dug around for food; from time
to time amidst the 'kicking' from the Great Spotteds, I heard a yaffle, so kept
my eyes open on whom was clinging to which treetrunk! After a while, my
observation and patience paid off, when I caught a glimpse of a smart Green
Woodpecker near the top of one of the Ash trees.
Peering through the branches, I enjoyed the view for a few moments before the bird flew off, disturbed by a squirrel spiralling up the tree.
Outside the woods and in the 'meadow' I crossed to near the 'ivy
tree' where a few weeks earlier I had been watching Red Admirals, it was a mild
enough afternoon, so there were still a couple about, with one having a nice
bask in the sunshine.
I checked at the Lizards' log, however a recent chill in the air, meant that there was no sign of them, so I carried on towards the next patch of woodland with a Buzzard circling overhead against a lovely blue sky.
In the next patch of woodland, as in the first, there were plenty of small birds about and the scent of overripe apples. Having a wander in the central part, I found the floor was carpeted with little windfalls, most of which had been nibbled or pecked at - a veritable feast for the small rodents and, if they had arrived, the Redwings as well!
Just the other side of the woods, is an area of 'new' planting
(it's about ten / fifteen years old now) with a big hedgerow dividing two
sections. In the spring, it is not unusual for me to catch a glimpse of
and hear Bullfinches along there, so I kept an eye open for these shy
birds. None in the hedgerow, however, as I walked along the outside edge
of this area, looking back into the trees, who should I see but a very smart
Mrs Bullfinch enjoying the late afternoon sunshine!
Continuing on the return loop of my walk, I could see that across to the south, the corvid roost had been disturbed. The Buzzard, which had been floating around earlier, had flown overhead the corvids almost as if for fun and was floating around amongst them creating as much mayhem as possible.
Once the Rooks seemed to realise that just aerial acrobatics were on the agenda and not a corvid carryout, things settled down, with the Buzzard continuing to hang glide.
Over the following weeks, the weather really began to 'turn'
with it being windy and rather cold, it was not until early December after a weekend
of considerable (well enough for it to remain for a few days) snow, that I
managed a walk out again. On the Sunday, there had been heavy wet snow
for most of the day, followed by freezing nights; one afternoon that week I had
a little time, so went for a walk to see how the locals were faring. It
was bright and sunny, freezing but relatively calm and any chance of a discreet
approach through the woods was dashed as I was crunching along over a frozen
crust of snow!
As I stepped into the woods, the tree canopy was full of
foraging Great and Blue Tits, all chattering away and here and there Wrens were
rummaging around in clumps of new growth from the lower parts of the tree
boles. A few Robins were declaring
or finding warmer spots to perch in the sun and as well as the chatter from the Greats and Blues, Chaffinches were also flitting around the branches (I spotted this lady taking a moment)
and the Nutchatches were 'pinging' loudly as they too ran around the treetrunks looking for food.
Squirrels were also out in numbers and were digging around,
trying to recall where they had stashed food for cold days such as these!
Just outside the woods is a huge Oak tree, which some of the Chaffinches and Great Tits were flitting back and forth to. I had also heard a couple of Jays having a discussion whilst inside, however, feeling I was being watched I looked up and found myself under observation.
I crunched my way across the meadow where there were a few hardy souls about, Chaffinches were bathing in the brook and high up Goldfinches were feeding in the Alders; so I continued on to the next patch of woods.
Inside it was a hive of activity as Blue and Great Tits looked
for food, a couple of Treecreepers flitted from tree to tree, whilst the
occasional Nuthatch pinged and ran along the branches. Now and they I
heard 'kick kick' from a Great Spotted Woodpecker, who would briefly peek out
at me from behind a treetrunk.
Whilst I was standing watching all this going on, something small and brown scurried across the snow and under the brambles. I watched a bit harder... there it went again, zipping about as it looked for food. After a moment or two, it disappeared into a hollow under a knot of brambles and old leaves, (possibly a nest) before venturing out and settling under a few prickly leafy strands... it was a Wood Mouse!
The mouse sat there quite a while, washing, watching me and occasionally nibbling at bits and pieces of greenery. They will eat nuts, seeds and insects as well as some 'green' food. This is the second time I've had such an encounter with a normally nocturnal animal, although as their lifespan is quite short it is unlikely that the same mouse as I previously saw. That they are present in the woods, (there are also shrews as well) is good, they can be prolific breeders and they are important prey for Tawny Owls, which I often hear calling.
Leaving the mouse to continue foraging in peace, I turned for
home, however, just as I was leaving the woods, high in one of the Oaks at the
edge, with others no doubt nearby, I spotted a Redwing before it spotted me...
One more step forward from me and off it flew with, it appeared
a few others following through the tops of the trees...
During February there was more inclement weather, however a few hints of spring had begun to appear - the Bluebells were shooting and leafbuds were beginning to appear on the trees. In the middle of the month, on a relatively mild day, I managed a brief wander and saw my first Butterfly of the year, a Red Admiral!
The sunshine was deceiving though as it was still decidedly chilly , with much of the ground frozen, the advantage being that the going underfoot was somewhat easier! Inside the woods, the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were starting to call and look for the ladies, with drumming, chasing and the occasional squabble being heard. This one stopped for lunch, before continuing to call.
From time to time, I have seen a Little Egret floating up over the back gardens. Now I've always assumed that it was passing through from one of the balancing ponds that border a dual carriageway that runs nearby and has probably been checking garden ponds for a supplementary meal; however one afternoon I was surprised. Just before a few more days of snow, I was in the meadow and looking along the brook, when I saw something white step off the bank. I crept along carefully and there, fishing in the brook and also perching up in the trees from time to time, was the Little Egret -
The corner it was in, suggests a regular fishing location, as it corresponds with the direction that I see it flying from - my Local Patch never ceases to amaze me - given that I saw my first Little Egret up in Norfolk nearly thirty years ago when they were still rare!
Later that afternoon, as well as watching all the extraordinary
usual residents enjoying some sunshine as well as having a wash and brush up in
the brook and feeding, there were a few further treats, from watching and being
made dizzy by a Goldcrest as it spiralled around a clump of woodbine finding
food, to watching two Buzzards displaying overhead,
To catching a reasonable glimpse of one of the ever elusive Muntjac on my way home - not sure who was most surprised!
And so we come to March.
The frogs were confused, no sooner than they started to sing
then it would turn far too cold for the Frog Ball... stop / start it went in
the little pond in the woods, with muchly reduced numbers compared to previous
years. (of course they also had to contend with considerable disturbance from
construction works as a path was laid adjacent to their pond - such considerate
timing by the construction company, as was the hedge destruction for the
creation of said path, that habitat having been used for nesting by many of the
smaller birds in previous years). These chaps were patiently waiting for
the ladies, who did eventually arrive as did some smaller amounts of frogspawn.
Elsewhere in the woods, the Bluebells are now getting quite tall, although they are showing no signs of buds yet, there are not yet any Celandines showing their little sunny yellow faces, although they are starting to show their leaves above the ground. At the southern end of the woods, the ransoms are full of leaf and the scent of garlic is strong and the first Wood Anemones have bloomed.
The Blackthorn buds have swollen and look ready to burst into
bloom and here and there the salix is also showing fluffy heads of yellow for
the bees which are waking up. The primroses are in bloom as well. In the
area of new planting, a few bold fruit trees are clouds of delicate white.
I'm still waiting for the first Chiff Chaffs and Blackcaps to arrive back on the patch, however, I have heard Song Thrushes serenading of an evening and Robins and Dunnocks singing early in the mornings. We suspect that Blackbirds are settling in, in the front garden and also think the House Sparrows may be setting up a 'condo' in a tangle of honeysuckle on the side of the house...