2019 / 32
07:00 – 10:15
Mild 10°C and hazy sunshine. Light Sw, becoming warm and brighter.
I come here today again seeking sanctuary and freedom, the gentle refreshment and awakening of a wood in spring. All around is green leaf, mist, birdsong and contemplative breathing space.
Wrens loudest today, and Robins. Two, three maybe even four male Blackbirds chasing around, flying fast and low across the east clearfell into various clumps. Scolding, agitated alarm calls. I can hear two Chiffchaffs, but at least four Blackcaps. Pause to separate one from the other – but yes, four between the top of the track and the stream. Inspired by such a good start, I make a note to purposefully count the Blackcaps, and on my circuitous route I note 13 birds. This includes two very active pairs – the first females I have seen in the Wood this year. That compares with 8 Chiffchaffs – Blackcaps outnumbering the earlier arrivals for the first time. Significantly the highest count ever too, having previously recorded high totals of ‘only’ 8 each in 2017 and 2018.
Descending to the stream, there are violets on the right trackside most of the way down. One patch of 40 flowers. They contain in bursts all the way down to the wayleave.
Approaching the start of transect Section 2, my eye is drawn to the standing water in the ditch at the side of the track. The Bog Beacon (Mitrula paludosa) fungus has flowered again and looks splendid – a rare specimen.
A jogger- in hi-vis orange – nods “Good morning” and continues off down The Broad. A deer barks, just to let everyone know he’s there. In section 2, the apple blossom I saw on Friday has come out in force, but I don’t recall it from last year. And next to this, the first of several flowering Rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia)
Chiffchaff, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit. Violets among the leaf litter; stichwort and Wood Spurge along the path. Great Tits and Stock Doves. I take a deer path into the firs for a few minutes, and disturb another gang of male Blackbirds.
The softness of young larches – leaves like fur…
Overhead, two Blackheaded Gulls flying north. And – what’s that?? Well, b*gger me – a LAPWING!! Yes, it really is, though I can scarce believe my luck. Unseasonal, and totally unexpected. It’s wonderful when diligent patchwork returns a random record like this. I haven’t seen a Lapwing in or around Southampton for over a year, and to add another bird species to the Hut Wood list is a fine feeling. 78 now – this is the first addition for 2019. It’s not in view for long and soon disappears over the farmland. Smile-making excitement, and my initial gloom is decisively kicked into touch.
Instead of coming out through the Gorse Gap this morning (after a lovely Treecreeper moment at The Bottom by the stream) I choose to cut through the Northern Belt (adding two more Blackcaps) and leave the wood at the Velmore ‘in’ by the outbuildings. There’s a man here with a bonfire. A second, cursory nod.
Magpie (3), Rook / Jackdaw (mixed 100), two hen Pheasants and one male. Pied Wagtail, Blackbird and two Mistle Thrush. A Buzzard takes off from a hedge and moves away. A distant Skylark lifting. two Goldfinches come into the wood, jangling overhead, and clouds of small micro-moths rise up from the muddy track by the gate.
At 9.00am, it’s lovely and warm at Marshall’s. The sun has just risen above the wood, and its light falls on the grass where a Jay is caught rummaging about in the spotlight beam. Also here, the third pair of Robins I have seen together. They all must have young somewhere? Th eAsh trees are still bare, like slim, naked thighs…
There’s ‘something big and clumsy’ cashing about in a Willow at the end of Q4, and I am drawn to check it out. This is how we find flycatchers- but it turns out to be a second pair of Blackcaps. It is grassy here and cooler, and scattered oak leaves lie where they fell on the thick grass. Another Chiffchaff showing well, and the morning’s first Nuthatch.
It’s bright again coming up where the tracks join, and I am shielding my eyes to see. Not up to the viewpoint today, but left from here along North Walk in what could be considered the ‘wrong’ direction. The Ashy Mining Bees are active earlier than the Tawny ones – they really are beautiful insects. I take some time to inspect the pool, and realise how easy it is to overlook the surviving tadpoles. there are at least 30 still here, hiding in the soft mud and carefully under the floating (and sunken) large oak leaves. Lifting one of these gently, at least a half dozen hurriedly wriggle out. Encouraging.
A Peacock surprises me – an earlier flier. Simon is doing this week’s butterfly transect walk tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon. Hopefully some of Speckled Wood also on the wing this morning will pass onto his route. I count seven – including three amorous, spiralling pairs. And a Brimstone, later, up at the top of the Crossing by the logpile. The Crossing I note has no violets, or bees, although the former are emerging at the top and along the south side of the track.
The resident male Pheasant is cautiously walking up The Broad towards the fallen tree, and watching him from the Crossing it is a delight to greet a small group (maybe four?) Siskins dropping in.
At back up by the gate, Forget-me-nots, Dandelions and large patches of not-yet-flowering Herb Robert:
‘Herb Robert is very familiar: it lives with man, much as the Robin flips into his garden and to his back door’ – Geoffrey Grigson, ‘The Englishman’s Flora’
An excellent tally of 35 bird species, 3 butterflies, the Bog Beacon fungus and tons of flowers. Not to mention the Lapwing. A LAPWING!!
Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,