Posts Tagged "cones"

At the door of autumn – patch walk, 25th August

This is a long overdue write up that I kept on meaning to post! Better late than never…

Its a sunny morning, when the clouds allow and there’s a lovely breeze blowing. For the first time since June I need to wear more than a t shirt. Feels like a little victory.

The streets are quiet, the birds still largely absent. In the copse the crow is king, stomping around imperiously. On into the park and its quiet, really quiet for a Saturday. Not long now until children will relinquish it and hidden creatures will show themselves again.

I walk through the formal garden, enjoying the last of the lavender and head down to the black spruce tree. Still no sign of squirrels, its been 3 weeks now since the last time I fed one by hand.

There’s plenty of evidence that they’re about though, in the shape of cones nibbled to the core. They’re clearly finding food.

Also finding food are the ever-present magpies, woodpigeons and jackdaws.

Jackdaws are keeping to their usual patch and I wander off in their direction, but I don’t make it any further than a multi-stemmed holly tree as a new squirrel is seeking to make my acquaintance! The female squirrel is notable for having four flashes of red on her legs, so I’m going to have to call her Redsocks. She’s eyeing me up before disappearing into the canopy, but a couple of nuts on the ground soon tempt her down. She’s utterly unconcerned that I’m there and still seems unconcerned when a passing dog comes to investigate what I’m up to.

Another squirrel has gathered a bunch of leaves and holly berries and is hightailing it across the grass. Planning to relax at home, perhaps.

Now a robin has come to investigate too, looks like its all happening under the holly tree today.

Things are happening on the tree too, it looks like its going to be a bumper year for holly berries this year, which probably explains the 2 blackbirds I’ve just spotted lurking about. Probably time for me to move on and let everyone eat in peace.

I head out to the quiet corner of the park, to see how the crops of sweet chestnut and beech nuts are doing. Rather small, but they’re both on very large and old trees, so its not surprising. They’re as far from trees grown for crop as you can imagine. The same is true of the other sweet chestnut trees in the park, though the horse chestnuts are already dropping conkers. The hunt for fungi is still yielding nothing. Much more rain is required before they’ll emerge this year I suspect.

Moving back to the black spruce, another squirrel approaches me. Hang on, its Redsocks again! She checks one nut I throw and discards it, but then takes the next and hurries off to bury it. That gives me time to make it to the tree and by the time she comes looking for me again I’m in the right place to teach her the drill. She’s quick as a flash in carefully taking a nut from my hands and then off to bury it.

She’s got smarts, this squirrel, not only fake burying on the way out but on the way back too. Its not enough to outwit a magpie on one poorly placed hiding spot though. As soon as her back was turned it was swooping down to take advantage.

Magpie marks the spot where the nut was buried, you lose this time, Redsocks.

Most nuts she buries, some nuts she eats, until its time for me to head home through the trees, feeling like I’ve made a new friend.

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Patch walk, 8th June 2018

Its a cloudy morning and with the temperature rising its already feeling quite close and humid as I step out of the door. Hmm, herring gulls are calling loudly, that’s a little unusual at this time of the year. Part way up the road the reason for all the noisy kerfuffle is revealed. 3 herring gulls are mobbing a buzzard. Its all happening at close quarters, the buzzard trying to flare its claws at its tormentors but constantly giving ground to them. By the time I’ve reached the top of the road and have an uninterrupted view things are changing again. Another buzzard floats effortlessly into the melee. The gulls don’t seem to like this change of odds and swiftly change direction, unwilling to take on 2 buzzards at once.

On the back lane, goldfinch and robin are singing while dunnock and sparrow are foraging where the road surface meets the old hedge. The only singing in the copse today is from woodpigeons. The great tit nest is still devoid of activity, the woodpigeon is off its nest and there’s no activity at the nuthatch nest hole. I suspect I’ve missed my chance to see the nuthatches fledging, they were so close a couple of days ago.

In the park and below one of the huge horse chestnut trees there’s a collection of feathers. Downy feathers, all white and grey.

Handiwork of the sparrowhawk I’ve been hearing so often recently? Seems like there are too many of them to be from the impact of just one kill. Perhaps the sparrowhawk’s favourite plucking post is right above in the horse chestnut? Its definitely worth keeping an eye on.

At the robin spot the resident robin is around, albeit a little reluctantly today as the area is currently overrun with with very active squirrels. She does come down to collect mealworms, but she’s not hanging about, smashing and grabbing, back into cover. Just how fast is she on these forays from the bushes? Faster than the zoom on my camera, I don’t manage to get a shot today.

With appointments to get to later I don’t have as much time on the patch today, so head straight to the black spruce tree and the squirrels…who aren’t there and aren’t appearing quickly from elsewhere in the park when I rattle the bag of nuts either. Still, it gives me time to collect. I do have a bit of a habit of collecting what catches my eye from what flora and fauna have left behind. Right now, with birds starting to moult, there’s plenty of feathers to collect. Crow and woodpigeon feathers are easy to identify, but the last one (all shown above) is new to me. Could it be a buzzard feather? I think it is.

Its too beautiful to leave behind either way, this one is going on display at home.

There’s also the first spruce cones of the season on the ground, not fully grown of course, but the shapes and patterns are fascinating and these are still sticky with sap.

Eventually, after going on a little wander while rattling my bag of nuts, Braveheart squirrel appears and is looking either extremely eager, extremely curious, or both together!

“Focus? Schmocus! I want to do an extreme close up!”

Its not just Braveheart who turns up today though, there’s also the polite squirrel as well as a new one who’s not come to the tree before. He squats down, both paws crossed across his chest, trying to look innocent. Trying, but the missing section of one of his ears suggests he knows how to look after himself. He gets up to the tree stump and has a good look at me, but doesn’t take a nut yet. His approach is to try and chase Braveheart for his nut instead, so the squirrels are all spinning around the trunk like fireworks.

With the sun over the yard arm and appointments imminent its time to head home.

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