11 October 2020

2020 / 63

10:00 – 13:00
Bright, clear and relatively mild at 17*C

It is later in the morning than is ideal here and the Wood is Sunday-morning busy. Frustrating, given the new signs and increased Forestry presence… This woman’s two dogs are friendly enough, but the Rottweiler puppy is a little overfamiliar. I would much rather entertain him though than the smaller ‘yappy’ dogs over on the north side. They are just annoying, and the constant whistling and calling from the owners is unnecessary and invasive. Gosh, what a grump I am… I love dogs, and dogs in general are fine here. Its the owners that irritate me. Shouting to dogs, talking on phones. Music, hi-vis clothing. Litter…
There’s an older couple later with a pair of bins and its nice to talk with them. But what is an appropriate response when one is asked whether there is “anything interesting about?”…
Is the “interesting” stuff easy to see? Firecrest, Crossbill, Siskin. Will they know the calls…? Are Redwing and Stonechat “interesting…?
What about deer, or darters?
Crossbill excited them, and they were happy to have been watching a Kestrel. This is what I love, and asserts in me an inclination to host a series of introduction to woodland birds next spring. Pitching a walk and tour lends itself to an appreciation of more familiar birds that one overlooks. Like Kestrels.
I perhaps have a tendency to be dismissive and go “oh look, a kestrel” because I can identify it instantly and just write a note in the book. How often do we spend time watching that bird, enjoying it. Learning it and appreciating it, especially relatively close up and in good light?
Too seldom, that’s the truth of it.
I am pleased to be at a stage now where I am moving beyond that and actually ‘watching birds’ properly and appreciating them far more than I ever have. this Wood has taught me so much in that respect. Slow down, be mindful and aware. The downside of this is a more recent tendency this year not to log and count everything, and submit records, and to manage my database of numbers and all the other details I used to write up and store. I drift through, wander and enjoy differently.

Rather like listening to music. I have noticed a similar tendency over the past couple of years to listen to less music. This is in part because I developed a habit of writing about (in another blog) researching and reviewing everything I listened to and maintained a list of whatever song I played at any time. Then entering online discussions about particular artists or albums. Maintaining all that became laborious and boring, which in its turn stopped me listening. Now I have returned to the youthful joy of ‘putting a record on’ and just listening to it for its own sake.
Same I come to the Wood and watch birds, enjoy the landscape and connect with the place (and with myself) differently. Just simply to “be” and appreciate the situation for what it is. It is too easy NOT to do this.
I have found that an awkward balance at times.
Even writing this can be a challenge sometimes and narratives get delayed and are never as much fun to write retrospectively

Next it is horseriders. A big group today. Not sure I have seen SIX of them together before, including two young girls on small ponies being led by women on the larger animals. And the have six, seven dogs. Maybe more? A couple I have met, including a lovely spaniel named Daisy and something black and fluffy called Holly. I have learned to remove my hat and take off my bins form around my neck when they come past, but stand in a spot where the horses can easily see me and don’t get spooked. I know they shouldn’t be in here, but I can’t help but be respectful.
Their presence will be reported, because of the damage done to sensitive areas, the grass that is completely ruined by their constant passage. etc Unlawful access and removal of fencing in order to get in at all is not my battle… Otherwise, they are a much more peaceful presence than almost any other visitors, and significantly more so than the MotoX riders that trash the rides and will leave great piles of litter now. Energy drink bottles, crisp packets and oil cans. Tins, biscuit wrappers… always in the same place too. I have a bag and a grabber with me today and take another large sackful out.

But none of this is what I came in for, or set out to write about.
I have time for a longer session, one in which I have actually challenged myself to document more carefully than others.
And starting with the east clearfell again, where there has been more activity lately than I previously recall. Less so at past ten o’clock though, and my ears will identify more birds than my eyes.
Chaffinch, Wren, Robin. Blackbirds. An increase in their numbers…? Five or six here, some of which will be migrant visitors. Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit. Nuthatch. Goldcrest.

A single Grey Heron going away from me over the north side.
That dataset I mentioned will tell me the last time I had one? No more than 3 or 4 times a year perhaps. I had two once apparently. “Occasional visitor overhead”…

The track edges have been cut since Friday. A flail mower has been in and everything smells fresh and ‘new’. new light, new plant colonisation with any luck. There are still thistles and Knapweed with ragged flowers here and there.
But not here, in Firecrest Alley, where i Have not walked since earlier in the spring. It’s a dark place, quite chilly and could also do with a little more light coming in. Lots of holly, but not many berries yet. Its a concentrated effort to pick up one Firecrest somewhere to the right, and otherwise only squirrels and the occasional squeaking Coal Tit make any sound. There’s a Buzzard up too, mewling, making its leisurely way out to the clearfell behind. I am following its passage, and emerge at the stream into bright sunlight. Agitated Crows have picked up the Buzzard and are ‘encouraging’ it to move off over the Chilworth Pines. But they are non-committal in their protests and really just ‘going through the motions’ – the raptor is equally unperturbed and neither hurried nor aggressive.
While watching this exchange, I pick up two Crossbills calling overhead, a couple of Meadow Pipits and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers are calling to each other from left and right.

Feel the quiet, breath the space. I like the clearfell from here, it feels remote and inaccessible. Birdsong is carried delicately on the still air. A silent splendour prevails. Browngold yellow and copper green. Pipits passing, wrens unseen. Heather turning, bracken burning. Finches come when summer’s done. Goldfinch charm over 20 now, 30 maybe. A couple of Siskins. Chaffinch. Greenfinch. Unusual.

In the wake of summer’s rush come Redwing and Mistle Thrush…

Voles in holes. Two under mat #9, scurrying in little circles. and a Common Shrew under 10 which is only I think the second live one I have seen here. Long nose sniffs me when I lift the mat and he runs off to one side.
And so I pick my way through damp grass and brash of bones, stumbling on roots and furrows along the stream course up towards the high seat. In two places, the line is clear where the BTO set up nets, and small coils of string hand on the new trees to secure them in place. Here is where the Grasshopper Warbler was ringed. There is a Hornet buzzing around, and a couple of Chiffchaffs. I expected more fungi, but there is barely any. Lichens and mosses are beautiful, and tiny insectivorous plants that I know nothing about. Lots of tiny flies, and still a occasional crickets.

And a Stonechat. Nice to see them still here, but who is to say this is one of the resident family or a new bird coming through? There is just one a juvenile and it ducks and bobs characteristically on gorse and heather, always keeping bout 25m ahead of me. “Not heard to call”.

As it begins to cloud over and the sky take son a more dramatic appearance, so the soundtrack changes. Out here now, the chirrup of two migrant Skylarks lift my head to track them in the grey-blue. Which in turn connects me with a half dozen late House Martins and a Pied Wagtail. More Siskins – distinct increasing. Odd mixture of calls.
Cheeps, chirrups, whistles and wheezes

Walking back up the Broad. Wandering. In a small tit flock, there are 2 or three flycatching Chiffchaffs. They’ve had a good year, like these Crossbills. Two more calling overhead – perhaps the same birds as before. I wonder how many are here…?
There’s a Raven. Grunting, so I expect there’s a second bird within a few minutes but it doesn’t appear. A reasonable ‘daylist’ is forming. 36 species, says the spreadsheet list.

And a Brimstone. Patrolling the top edge of the Wood opposite the gate.
I wonder if that is the last butterfly this year…?

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