Posts Tagged "sweet chestnut"

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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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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Finding nests. Patch walk 2nd June 2018.

Its still raining lightly when I step out, rain that becomes suddenly stronger under the trees when the wind shakes the raindrops from the leaves. Its fine by me, I’d much rather be walking in the rain than in close heat.

Creeping buttercup, daisies and clover are all recovering back to flowering in the verges after their recent buzz cut. Where edges and corners are forgotten on the back lane there are foxgloves coming into flower. Wild finds a way.

It seems as if it may be an unpromising walk in the rainy weather, but getting into the copse soon puts pay to that assumption. It starts with hearing an unusual bird call. That always catches my attention and gets me looking. Once summer is reached so much of birdwatching is really bird listening anyway. Flashes of movement focus me and then I see a Great Tit, going into a tree hole. Its a great tit nest!

Finding the nest makes it already the best patch walk of the week. I watch both parents come and go for a while, they’re being very busy and attentive and making multiple visits in just a few minutes. I don’t want to disturb them though, so move on.

Elated by the nest find, I almost pass by the sweet chestnut tree with the the nuthatch nest in it. That would be double foolish today, as the sweet chestnut has a new resident – there’s another nest in the tree. Woodpigeons have built a twiggy nest in a V of branches.

Its hidden quite well, although I could imagine a squirrel finding it. We’ll see if they make it. The nuthatch parents appear at their nest too and then I can see a little beak begging at the nest hole!


How fantastic, the nutchatch chicks are getting closer and closer to fledging. I’m really rooting for this nest to make it, having seen its progress from the resident male calling for a mate to nest building, laying and feeding the young.  What a great tree this sweet chestnut is too, supporting 2 nests. That won’t be the only amorous woodpigeon pair I see today too.

On into the park and the difference in the rain to yesterday in the sun is remarkable. Its practically deserted, I see only half a dozen people the whole time. It makes such an impact on how much wildlife I see. Squirrels and blackbirds are feeding on the ground and are unconcerned as I quietly pass by.

At the hedge, having passed another robin at an oak tree with a beakful of caterpillars, I’m optimistic of seeing robin by the hedge. He rewards my optimism, going up and down the hedge a few times before eventually coming down to the ground to get food.

The female robin appears too, going back and forth from Mr Robin to the nest, but the expected food pass never comes before I move on.

Past the deserted play area – deserted other than for the magpies on the cut grass (6 for gold) – and round to the black spruce tree. The squirrels definitely don’t disappoint today.

Braveheart and Buddy both come over quickly and get down to the serious business of eating nuts. I keep them apart, Braveheart on the stump, Buddy on the V between branch and trunk, and it all goes swimmingly. Buddy in particular settles easily today, sitting right in the V of the branch and stump and giving me a really up-close view of exactly how they eat the monkey nuts I give them. Crack open the case, strip off the skin and eat the nut like you’re holding a particularly full sandwich that you don’t want to drop anything out of. I like it! Its such a privilege to be trusted by wildlife like this, to see it up close.

Head home, past multiple cooing and canoodling pairs of woodpigeons on the way. Something has really changed for woodpigeons overnight, love is in the air for them.

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