Posts made in July, 2018

Playing in the traffic, patch walk 28th July

What a stupendous change to be walking in. Sunshine and clouds, but so much cooler in the wonderful wind that’s blowing. This is the sort of weather that I want to walk in.

There’s excitement practically from stepping out of the door as the cause of all the late night gull calling recently is uncovered. There’s a juvenile black backed gull in the road and he’s really in the road.

On evidence so far, junior is none too bright as he doesn’t seem to be aware that cars are going to hurt. He’s learned enough to move away from me, but not from moving cars. He’s far too busy constantly mewling for food to pay attention to things like moving cars. What really gets the juvenile moving, however, is a sudden mobbing from a pair of herring gulls. Black backed parents are having none of that though, swooping down from on high and sending the herring gulls packing. Cue much argumentative-sounding calling from the adults and from the juvenile? No prizes for guessing more food calls.

Kids, eh?

Juvenile finally gets some attention from a parent, sending him into full on begging mode and leaving even less brain cells for awareness, which is particularly dangerous as they’re now at a road junction and are literally stopping traffic.

Cars are going past just inches from juvenile – the parent bird having seen the sense of finding a safe perch – but still juvenile mews incessantly.

What’s that? Fast moving metal thing might hurt? I want food!

He strays into the road and then I intervene, hurrying the bird across the road and into a safer spot while the parent birds complain loudly. Gulls, there’s no pleasing them.

Its no point mewling at me, buddy, I’ve got no food for you. Now stay out of the traffic!

I’m so busy thinking about that encounter that I don’t really wake up again until I’m in the copse. It looks so beautiful in the sunlight and shade, with the wind making the leaves sing, but that’s the only noise out of it now. The birdsong days are long past.

In the park I can’t resist a trip around the formal garden just for the scent of the lavender planted there, before heading for the wilder fringes. At the black spruce, Braveheart the squirrel is happy to see me and the bag of nuts. Its just him today, so he’s not in a rush, taking the time to enjoy each nut. After about 5 or 6 nuts he disappears and so do I, off on a wander.

Plodding slowly around the edges of the park where there’s some more stands of nettles. Investigate, but the only creature I see is this splendidly well camouflaged creature:

I have no idea what it is, entymology never was a strong point of mine, but I do smile to see such excellent camouflage.

I loop back around to the black spruce, but there’s no squirrels there now so I head out of the park through the trees. Along the bottom road the wind and the heatwave have worked together and I’m crunching leaves underfoot at almost every step. In July. Leaf crunching in July. What an unusual year this is, I reflect, before hoping that it stays unusual and doesn’t become the new usual.

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Robin-by-the-hedge, patch walk 21st July

Its afternoon, but still not warm yet. The clouds and a steady breeze are seeing to that as it cuts through the muggy feeling. Busier and noisier on a Saturday afternoon though, people and traffic together making a volume that the fauna of high summer cannot penetrate. The clouds and the breeze are enough together to wipe the butterflies from the air also, so it makes for a fairly quiet start to the walk until I reach the park.

Its certainly not busy in the park though there are more signs of life here as a robin scolds me with “Tic, tac, toe!” before arrowing into the cover of a formal hedge. Other hidden birds are still leaving plenty of evidence that they’re around, in the shape of their moulted feathers. Interesting things to collect.

There’s signs of life over in the nettle patch too, on closer investigation. Plenty of part-munched leaves, though I can’t see anyone doing the munching right now. Given the number of blue tits resident in the park that’s probably not much of a surprise.

Round at the hedge another “Tic, tac, toe!” call tells me that I’ve been remembered and spotted. Its robin-by-the-hedge of course. His parental duties done for the year, he’s flying solo once more.

He’s a canny fellow, this robin, he won’t come down until I’ve thrown at least 2 handfuls of nibbles. He wants paying if he’s going to perform and perform he does, running through his repertoire of christmas card model poses.

The scots pines dotted through the park are witness to just how dry its been. Last year they were dropping damp and fully closed cones. This year there are dry and opened cones on the ground. The squirrels are doubtless happy about that, as the well-nibbled cones alongside the newest cones on the ground shows. So much of watching wildlife at this time of year seems to be about just finding the evidence that they’ve been there.

One squirrel is definitely happy round at the black spruce tree. Its the polite squirrel, the oh-so-careful and deliberate squirrel who very slowly makes his way over to where I’m waiting, pausing regularly and looking over at me as if to say “I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but do you perhaps have a nut for me?” He runs through this pause pantomime a few times before he’s finally at my feet, where he awaits another invitation to come up into the tree and collect a nut.

Then he’s off at the same pace to bury it before repeating the process. Its so funny and charming to watch and I’m glad he’s getting his chance to shine without his 2 much more forceful friends being around. It turns out not to be much of a chance in the end though, as a large dog comes loping into the scene, intent on squirrel hunting. Sounds like a good time to go home.

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Finding blooms, patch walk 19th July

The only birds singing now are goldfinches and so I’m particularly glad for their cheery tunes as I step out of the door. Get distracted by a little weeding and then head on up the road. There’s a shiny, iridescent black feather at the top of the road, likely magpie, perhaps crow. Either way, into the collecting pouch it goes.

By the top of the road the theme of the walk is set, small white butterflies are everywhere, they’ve really come into their pomp right now. They’re industrious creatures, never really staying still, which makes them more than a bit tricky to photograph. There’s even more of them exploring the hedgerow on the back lane, dancing up and down like a small child on a visit to Disneyland.

The copse is full of butterflies today too, though here the speckled wood butterflies are holding their own against the small white army. Its a perfect habitat for them as they hug the sunniest spots that are just like woodland edges. Pairs of them dance together in pools of light. Singles flit between grass and leaves. Just for a moment its like a perfect patch of summer woodland.

On into the park and its largely quiet. The small birds are once again absent from the robin spot, but there are friendly dogs and I’ve reason to be grateful that I always bring dog treats with me in amongst the wild animals food! Its not long before that bag is empty. No sign of small birds and no sign of squirrels either but there are plenty more feathers for me to collect and lots of cones beneath the scots pine trees too.

The wild area is filled with brambles, which have completely taken over whole patches. They’re fruiting well, but not enough sun to be ripe yet. Soon they’ll be popular with all sorts of creatures. Already popular are the thriving clumps of ragwort, flowering beautifully and covered in insects, just like I was told they would be.

Its the random things you find in the wild area that I enjoy finding most, like a bed of spearmint just besides the path, just waiting to be brushed against and let fragrant and delicious smells loose.

I take a cutting of spearmint and a bit of ragwort too. Well, you never know if they might be persuaded to grow. Spearmint has a shot, ragwort is almost certainly wishful thinking.

Delighted to see that the stand of nettles has been left and the butterflies are making the most of it, especially our old friends the speckled wood. Long may park keeping decisions like this continue.

Disturbed from my nettle reverie by a cawing commotion I look up to see what all the fuss is about. Its a rare park raid by a troupe of gulls! Normally denizens of the nearby playing fields, these Herring Gulls are on a bin raid and making quite a bit of noise about it too, right until a black backed gull arrives and establishes itself as the king of the castle – or the top of the bin at least.

Its a scene that plays out in towns everywhere, but it is no less welcome a sight for that, especially when they’re the only birds I’ve seen all walk. That’ll have to suffice until the next time, its time to head home.

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The memory of squirrels – Patch walk, 17th July

Yesterday’s rain was so welcome, not least for its cooling effects. Everything was nicely aligned for a patch walk. Felt good to be filling the food bag up again, grabbing the camera and going.

Quiet seems to be the order of the day, that quiet of high summer. I only heard the first sound from birds when encountering the sparrow colony at the top of the road. Always a welcome sound! Yet on the main road all is quiet and only a handful of sparrows are showing on the back lane. The copse, so rich in the sounds of life only a few weeks ago, now stands completely silent. Traffic is the only sound I can hear in there now. That and the crunch of leaves underfoot, the heatwave having forced the early exits of some leaves this year. I can’t resist crunching leaves!

Into the park and the quiet continues. Apart from the noisy altercations of quarreling magpies and the ambitious amorousness of a woodpigeon no bird is making a sound. Not even those I get fleeting glimpses of, like wren, dunnock and robin.

The horse chestnuts have been very busy though, growing this year’s crop of conkers so quickly that I suspect that if I stood long enough in quiet I could perhaps hear them growing. For those who favour things that grow, summer really is a boom time. For those (like me) who favour things that move, summer really can be the quietest time.

Still very much on the move though are the squirrels, who clearly haven’t forgotten about me during my absence from the patch. They’re fair sprinting over to the the spruce tree where I feed them as soon as they see me.

The three usual suspects are all there, all eager to take nuts.

A very happy 20 minutes of watching and feeding follows, as all 3 squirrels vacillate between burying the nuts…

….or deciding they can’t wait and eating them instead!

This tree is also one of the best places to pick up natural found objects and today I’m collecting cones and feathers for a pocket hitchhikers post, a new side project inspired by the artwork of Raspberry Thief. On the way home I add the first fully ripened blackberries I’ve found this year to my foraging pouch, from the same little patch of ground that helped me rescue a downed bumble bee just a few weeks ago.

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The deep green days

At 5am there had been the faintest sounds of rain. Apologetic rain, the sort of rain that knows it has to fall but feels dreadfully sorry about it so stays small and quiet, hoping its not noticed. By morning it was cooler than it had been for weeks. Cooler and cloudy, a good chance to explore before the sun re-emerged and turned the few spots of rain into humidity.

The lime tree right outside my door has noticeably raced towards seed in the past few weeks, decorating the ground and window ledges with its helicopters where they’ve snuck in through open windows.

At the top of the road the sparrows have fledged, but they’ve not gone far. They’re all in the laurel hedge and flitting down to the grass verge in search of food. Come the winter they’ll head for the beech hedge I expect, but that’s a long way away yet.

On the main road a pair of goldfinches catches my eye, but wait, there’s a sparrowhawk in pursuit of them! They dive into a bush and the sparrowhawk pursues, but they escape. The resident blackbirds in that garden are having none of this, however, and in a cacophony of wing flaps and alarm calls they mob the intruder away. Sparrowhawk flies up to a chimney pot and looks around, but the woodpigeons on the roof ridge and TV aerial seem utterly unconcerned by the presence of the predator, unconcerned to the point of disdainful looks. Apparently its hard work being a fearsome raptor some days.

On the back lane the bloom of flowers has disappeared, replaced by the deep, rich greens of the height of summer. Only the occasional stray avens near the ground or the first ripening blackberries break up the 50 shades of green of the mammoth hedge.

So early, they’re ripening so early, the heatwave forcing everything to rush to seed (and untidly too) it seems.

Even the late starting sweet chestnut in the copse is rushing to catch up, with the ground and the path through the copse littered with its worm-like flower remnants.

These are the green days now, the deep and darkening green days. Summer’s height is here.

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