Posts Tagged "brambles"

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 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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Patch walk, 13th June 2018

Its a sunny morning but there’s a lovely breeze. Just about perfect weather to be outside in.

Been a while since the roadside grass verges have been cut now and they’re starting to become lovely, rich habitats. Alongside the daisies and creeping buttercup now the clover is flowering in force and the bees are loving it. It seems like the local councillor who tried to use the platform of World Environment Day to complain about the verges not being cut didn’t actually look at the verges closely. Sigh.

Bees are buzzing on the back lane bushes too. Sparrows cheeping, goldfinches singing from unseen perches. More bramble flowers are opening, nettles are forcing their way through and the first bindweed flowers are out.

Shining almost as brightly as the sun that is lighting them, their large trumpets  offer treasure to the brave pollinators who will venture in.

The copse is beginning to fall silent. Nesting is over here, it seems. Woodpigeons are calling, but the woodpigeon nest lies empty. No sound from tits, blackbird, wren or chaffinch. Summer has embraced the copse.

Its different in the park at the robin spot.

Here the robin pair can’t get enough of the mealworms I’ve brought for them, ferrying them back to their nest site and coming back for more. It does the heart good when they trust enough to come close, giving a “Tik!” call to remind me to throw more mealworms down.

Both birds are looking good and I’m full of optimism for this nest. I stand and watch them for ages.

Its good to see a school group using the park today, looks like a couple of classes exploring, but the noise of them in this usually quiet park has sent the wildlife running for cover. I can’t even see the normally ever-present magpies and there’s only one ambitiously amorous woodpigeon chasing an unimpressed female around. Best to head for home I think, collecting a recently moulted woodpigeon feather off the ground on the way out of the park.

Little did I know just how helpful that was about to be. On the bottom road I spy an exhausted and grounded buff tailed bumblebee, almost disappearing into the cracks between the stones. Good job I’ve got that feather! I use it to scoop up the bee, got to do something and fast, she’s barely moving, legs splayed. Its still too far to home, she needs something now. In my head a little voice is saying, in dramatic medical drama tones, “flowers, I need flowers, stat!” as I look around frantically, holding a feather and a bee out in front of me. I remember there’s a bank of flowers just around the corner, in an area abandoned behind a hedge.

Hurrying, I can see the area is full of flowers and also full of bees, so this must be the good stuff. To me it look like they’re dog roses (but I’m dreadful at identifying anything other than wildflowers) and I carefully place the bee on one of the flowers. Instinct kicks in, she tries to feed, but moving very slowly. When she looks like she’s trying to move to another flower I pick her up again, placing her at the centre of the next option. Again and again she feeds, again and again I move her and bit by bit she comes back to life. Now standing on all of her legs instead of dragging them, now rubbing her legs against her body, now her flat-folded wings separating and starting to vibrate.

When she is strong enough to move herself to the next flower, my heart soars. She’s going to make it. I don’t think I’ve done anything even remotely as rewarding for days. Get home with a big smile on my face. Don’t just look up for wildlife, remember to look down too.

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Patch walk, 9th June 2018

Its cloudy and cooler than I was expecting. Feels cooler than the forecast said, which is all good by me. Just plodding along today. I have time to spend and you can miss so much when you move quickly.

The back lane feels full of life today. Where flowering bushes are overhanging garden walls and fences they are busy with bees. Honeybee, Garden Bumblebee and Tree Bumblebee all spotted.

Tiny flowers on this one particular bush, so the the bees are constantly on the move. This makes photographing them something of a lottery! The garden bumblebees already have leg baskets that are filling with pollen, its heartening to see.

The brambles are starting to flower by the hedge that runs the entire length of the lane. Summer ploughing ever on onwards. At the bottom of the lane, 4 long-tailed tits fly across the lane in front of me, from garden to garden. The first long-tailed tits I’ve seen for months. New birds out exploring the world with their parents? That’s a happy thought.

Chaffinch is singing in the copse and that’s the only good news from there today. The woodpigeon nest is empty again today, with no sign of them. Is it another failed nest in the copse this year? It could well be. The possibility of predation by the sparrowhawk in the park over the road can’t be ruled out. The nest wasn’t in a particularly hidden position.

I can hear the sparrowhawk calling as soon as I enter the park. The collection of feathers is still there at the bottom of the horse chestnut, but so are lots of droppings. This might not be a plucking post, this might be a sparrowhawk nest! I can’t see anything from the ground, the leaf cover is too dense, but I’ll try to work out a way to see from higher ground.

Head over to the robin spot and the resident robin is quickly on to mealworms, but not just taking the one and going – they’re filling their beak up with the lot! Hang on, now there’s 2 of them and they’re both hoovering up all the mealworms I’m putting down. Then they’re both flying off to the same rough area of the park. It has to be a nest. Is this what happened to winter and spring’s highly unusual arrangement of 3 robins in the same very small area? Did 2 of them finally pair up and breed?

Before I can even think about going and investigating further, Buddy the squirrel turns up and he’s making it very clear he wants a nut. He pops up into a yew tree when I tell him but now I’m in a dilemma. I can’t go looking for the nest and and risk Buddy following me and discovering where the nest is, for the safety of the birds. I need something that will temporarily make the squirrels want to be elsewhere in the park…and here it comes in the shape of Bonniedog. No squirrel in its right mind wants to be anywhere near her. She’s a lovely-natured dog, unless you’re a squirrel. Its textbook.

With the squirrels safely elsewhere I can can stalk the robins, looking for the nest. It has to be done carefully, patiently, at a distance. Binoculars required, don’t disturb the birds or the nest site. Move slowly, move deliberately, watch where you’re putting your feet. After about 20 minutes I’ve identified which particular bush they’re nesting in. That’s enough for today, really don’t want to go closer and risk disturbing.

Look at my watch, I’ve spent an hour just feeding and watching robins. So, I head onwards, ending up at the black spruce where Buddy escaped to and Braveheart has joined him there.

“Wherever you go, I shall stalk you for nuts!”

Evidence quickly confirms that they’re both pretty darn hungry. Its not surprising, this is a rough time for squirrels, with all of last years stocks exhausted and not much new food emerged yet. Summer can be a real winter for squirrels.

Keeping them separate by feeding them at different points on the tree I give them their first nuts and they do their utmost to plough through the rest of the bag of nuts.

“Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

I’m there for ages, until they both satiated and starting to run off and bury nuts. Feels like its about time for my lunch now too, so its time to head home from a very enjoyable patch walk.

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