Posts Tagged "woodpigeon"

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.

Read More

Making a bee-lion for the park, patch walk 16th August

Alongside the park sits a Victorian building, brimming with the confidence of the age it was made in. A civic building, adorned with cast iron statues that declare self belief.

The bees don’t care about Victorian self belief. They care that the mouth of this lion offers an ideal location for a hive and something in me wants to wildly applaud them for this choice, for making a monument to human folly into something much more real and important. These honeybees are busy indeed as they cover the nearby flowers that remain, unnoticed by almost all. How glorious.

Its glorious getting back into the park too, on a rare quiet morning. The summer club has claimed the park most days so far and really that’s as it should be. Public parks should be used for public uses, lest cash-strapped councils start viewing them as “land resources”. Its undeniable, however, that 50+ excited children playing games don’t always make for the best nature viewing conditions and so I’ve left them to enjoy their summer and spent time elsewhere, knowing that come September that I’ll be back.

Yet on this day they weren’t there.

Waiting to cross into the park and a little drama is unfolding overhead as a pair of speckled wood butterflies do battle. Swirling, tumbling, parting and coming back together until one flees to the safety of the ivy.

Victor or loser? I don’t know, but I feel like I win every time I get to see one of these interactions, staring open mouthed at the side of the road as busy people go thundering past.

Woodpigeons are wandering, magpies are chattering. From hidden perches robins are singing again. There is change in the air.

No squirrels appear at the black spruce tree, they’re all at the other end of the park today, it seems.

One cheeky fellow responds instantly to the shake of the bag of nuts and quickly jumps on to the nuts I throw down, unconcerned that I’m right there. Eats a couple, then its off to bury more.

Sloes are ripening, rowans are heavy with berries. Blue tits and robins call from the overgrown and wild area. By the old bowling green the jackdaws are stamping around, all confidence and power.

Its a curious thing, confidence, I can’t help but reflect as I start to head home. Those who placed statues of lions had it and this jackdaw seems to have it in equal measure. There’s likely a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m far too happy to have been back on the patch today to work out what it is.

Read More

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.

Read More

Of sparrows & squirrels, Patch Walk 20th June 2018

A soft rain starts to fall as I step out of the door. I could go back in and get a waterproof, its probably the sensible decision, but…no, its a very welcome chance to take a walk in the summer rain. Grasp the chance and go.

Up the road there’s a sparrow trying to hover by a garden wall, trying to pick insects off the wall. Then, it flies up to the eaves of a nearby house and disappears. Hang on, did I just see what I think I saw? I watch a while longer, seeing other sparrows coming and going from the same spot below the roof. Could it really be a sparrow nesting colony? I’ve had sparrows in my garden and on my feeders for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never seen where they’ve nested before. I’m very excited that this might be it! Best of all, they’re nesting in the house where the new occupants replaced their whole garden with astroturf. Nature fights back…

Nature also fights back on the back lane, when the soft rain turns into a sudden deluge. I shelter under a tree for a while, enjoying watching how the rain can turn even the most unappealing looking nook or crannie into something with a dash of magic.

As the rain softens again I head off towards the copse, enjoying seeing some interesting wall decorations along the way. Not entirely sure how this dandelion managed to root itself, but its undeniably impressive work!

In the copse the wind is stirring the trees into wild dances, the leaves acting like giant sails. The sound of it is glorious, but its the only sound I do hear in the copse today. Despite waiting and watching the bushes at the edge of the road for a while all I see today is a pair of drenched woodpigeons.

The rain seems to have emptied the park, I’ve got the place practically to myself. The tree cover is so dense in parts that there’s still no rain on the ground beneath some of them. Very useful when you’re standing and watching wildlife and I expect the robins at the robin spot find it useful too.

Only one parent appears to collect mealworms today and interestingly they’re flying off in the opposite direction to where their nest is located when they’ve collected the food. Could they have already fledged from the nest, or is parent robin flying a deliberately deceptive route today?

Onwards, past singing chaffinch and wren and calling great tit, until I’m at the black spruce tree. A shake of nuts and the squirrels start coming.

Its fascinating to see their different personalities at work. From the bold and the brazen, who know exactly where to place themselves to ensure they get a nut, to the cautious and the clever, who watch for an opening from a distance before sprinting in.

One is almost apologetically polite in the way its little face pops into view to ask if it can have a nut.

There’s at least 5 squirrels taking nuts again today, Autumn can’t come soon enough for these little fellows. Once again they eat every single nut out of my bag and I’m left handing out the shelled nuts left in the bottom, as well as I can do, anyway. Buddy the squirrel soon works out the best way to get them.

The robin from the laurel bush is also being brazen in its efforts to make sure that I’ve seen that they’re there and they want some food. They’re instantly on to the nibbles I throw and swiftly joined by the resident blackbird too.

With the food bags empty, its time to go. Its been good to see the patch in the summer rain.

Read More

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.

Read More