2020 A Local Patch Retrospective...

 

Where was I?  Ah yes, beginning of May 2020.  Apologies for the huge gap, but with concentrating on getting through last year, I somehow never had the words to go with the pictures, so, whilst things are still not great, am a bit more used to ‘hands, face, space’ so feel that am in calmer waters whilst in a holding pattern until things are safer…

 Anyhow, I digress! In between working from home and trying not to lose the plot entirely, I did manage to get out for quite a few walks on my local patch and as always kept a photo diary of what I was watching, so I’ve been through the photos and pieced together some of the moments that were particularly special.  Very often, those walks were a saving grace in a life where routines and plans were suddenly in disarray and observing Nature’s unhindered progress through the season was strangely of comfort when I was feeling as though I’d somehow woken into a chaotic frightening disaster movie.

 My local patch, last year, became exceedingly busy with walkers – both local and also those who drove their families, parked up on the housing estate nearby (it’s happening again) and then proceeded to ramble noisily, so quiet calming walks were (and it would appear still are) something of a rarity. I was also concerned about the impact that the increased human presence would have on what is usually a relatively quiet area – whilst there seemed to be no shortage of avian youngsters, the birds certainly seemed to move away from the usual areas and territories that I have historically observed them in and whilst Grey Squirrel numbers have increased, sightings of Muntjac or the local Fox were far less than other years.  

Unfortunately, with increased footfall, also came increased litter – plastic and glass bottles, food wrappers, beer cans, discarded masks and an abundance of dog poo bags suspended from branches….

 In May, I continued watching and listening for ‘my’ usual spring arrivals.  I began to hear more Blackcaps around the patch and although whilst in good voice, they were rather bashful about public appearances.  The Chiff Chaffs were also calling well, although these seemed to be further off from their usual perches, which were alongside what was now a busy path. 

 As the sun rose each morning, the dawn chorus was very much welcomed and on a couple of occasions I sat in the garden with a cuppa, just listening after sleepless nights. (one to listen to)



Blue and Great Tits were still calling and dancing together or settling into nesting mode, whilst the Nuthatch nest I had been monitoring remained under the care of two busy parents. I also suspected another pair were nesting at the opposite end of the woods judging by chatter and foraging activity.

Nearby to the Nuthatch nest there was traffic to and from a hollow tree, where Blue Tits were busy feeding a brood of youngsters. 

One song I had been missing was from the Whitethroats. In the meadow part of where I walk, I usually watch the males perched on old hogweed stems and singing, in between flying up and giving a bit of a ‘twirl’, however, with more footfall, although I thought I heard one, I only briefly caught a shy glimpse.   

One day, taking a slightly different route, I heard their familiar song and lurked for a while. I was not disappointed, a very smart male was both calling from various vantage points and collecting nesting material! 

The local raptors were often seen out and about, with the Buzzards having a nest on the patch, their foraging efforts were often interrupted by the local corvids – one morning I watched one take off from a quiet perch as it was being irritated by a magpie.  

On another occasion when looking up from the woodland margin, a Buzzard appeared (there’d been a  bit of preceding corvid grumbling, so had looked up from Butterlies) in a hurry overhead with talons full of prey and went into a stoop into the adjacent woodland.  

Another raptor that floats over the local farmland is a Red Kite, we sometimes get to watch it as it floats high over the garden as well; it usually seems to follow a particular route and one morning, whilst standing in the middle of the meadow, instead of a distant view, I suddenly found myself under very close scrutiny!  

As spring began to merge into summer, I began to pay closer attention to the emerging Butterflies, (which will be covered in another blog) however, whilst the majority of the birds were off and busy with youngsters, from time to time I would get to glimpse parents feeding newly fledged youngsters. 

One afternoon, wandering along the woodland and field margin, I could hear baby-bird chatter from amongst the overhanging branches.  Stepping carefully to avoid nettles and twigs in my eyes, I peered up and inside the tangle of boughs.  I was not disappointed - a young Blackcap stared curiously back at me in between looking for Mum,

who was on another branch with food

before hopping to join it’s siblings on another branch, the three of them mobbing Mum when she returned with a beakful. 

Partly sated, two of them remained on lookout for her return, whilst allowing me some lovely close views as they curiously watched me back.

A week later in the same spot, I watched one of the youngsters foraging for itself, whilst nearby a young Blackbird perched happily in the sunshine – before being called ‘indoors’ by a parent. 

One afternoon in early summer, as I began my circuit of the patch, I could hear a lot of Wren chatter amongst a bramble clump next to the path.  Standing and watching a while, I could see little brown darts scooting around amongst the dry leaves and on the lower stems, when suddenly one got braver and popped up briefly for a look-see on one of the higher stems.

Slightly further away, an adult Wren, one of the parents, yelled at the youngsters from a higher perch to try and suggest to them about being wary and exercising due diligence (and also not to go too far from their parent’s watchful eye).

On another occasion, wandering through the woodland, I found myself in a private audience with a very curious juvenile Robin.

During the summer months I tend to concentrate more on Butterflies (I’ll be doing a separate blog so that none of our dainty fluttering friends get left out) however, as part of that wander, I always stop by both Common Lizard colonies in the hope of seeing some of the characters that live there.  On quite a few occasions it was simply too warm – Lizards cannot thermoregulate, so on some of the hotter days, they definitely were not out basking! On a few late afternoons or slightly cooler days however when it was not searingly hot, I did spend some quiet time watching them watching me. 

Occasionally there would be a mass bask, where there would be a heap of Lizards sharing the same spot, whilst there would be little movements in the surrounding vegetation as others darted about. Sometimes, when crossing the meadow, following deer/rabbit paths, I'd also glimpse little movements in the grasses – stillness and a pause pays off as I then get to watch Lizards darting across and through sun-warmed vegetation.

Occasionally the less brave but very curious characters would peep up from behind a fallen log 

Or braver still characters would pick a spot, stretch out and hope no passing predators spotted them!

At one of the colonies, literally at the edge of a path, I peered at a favoured tree trunk used for basking and as I got my ‘eye’ in, gradually spotted tiny Lizards (juveniles) in some of the crevices in the timber or bark, when still they are exceedingly well camouflaged; equally so, the adults, some of whom were also showing signs of moulting also showed off their skills at camouflage from time to time.

 In late summer, on a peaceful wander over in an area of semi-mature woodland, looking down an avenue of trees, I watched a Muntjac grazing for some while – quite a treat as although I often see prints along the paths, they are somewhat elusive!

 As we headed into autumn and winter, the birds began to emerge again – during summer and after the breeding season they moult, so tend to keep a low profile until they have a fresh full set of feathers.  Within the woods I began to hear and see more of the birds out and about, some like the Long Tailed Tits in family groups, moving through the tree canopy as they fed

Or watched and listened to Great Spotted Woodpeckers bickering and trying to tell youngsters ‘how to’.  

On the return leg of my wander late one afternoon, I even got to glimpse on of the Green Woodpeckers that yaffle their way around...

Occasionally there were total birding moments as I watched Goldcrests twirling around branches as they fed (certainly in the winter months, if there is a flock of Long Tailed Tits, these are often close by)

Or occasional minutes spent watching shy Marsh Tits forage or perch,

these look similar to Coal Tits, who I’d also watch, Coal Tits however are bold little characters and just as busy!

From time to time I’d see Treecreepers shinning up the trees or scooting along boughs and clinging at impossible angles as they’d probe the bark for titbits.

Nuthatches began to appear again as well, these were also busy feeding up ahead of winter.

Of a night I was hearing the local Tawny Owls chatting and occasionally overhead would hear ‘chk chk chk’ or ‘seeee’ as Fieldfare and Redwing arrived for their winter stay.  After stormier weather and careful observation, I began to regularly watch small flocks of Redwings moving through the tree canopy and occasionally perching amongst the branches lower down and occasionally I’d even get a glimpse of our elusive Song Thrushes as well!

As the days continued to turn cooler, the woodland was a hive of activity, with Squirrels caching nuts, Blackbirds virtually inhaling sloes and other berries and the smaller birds feasting as well. There was chatter and song all around the woods, especially from the Robins - calling feeding rights from various vantage points.


Will wait to see what 2021holds on the local patch! 

 

 






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