A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
T he changeable weather over the past month has been something of a challenge to the wildlife. The third spell of snow was short-lived but still managed to cover the emerging celandines for a day or so and interrupted their flowering. Once again, the birds in the lane temporarily postponed their territorial hostilities to concentrate on finding food, and around this time, a grey heron arrived and spent some time on the ridges of the houses in Clewers Lane – especially those with garden ponds. Apart from taking fish from garden ponds, herons will also take frogs, toads and small mammals – they can sometimes be seen searching fields for these. The beak is sharp and dangerous, and best avoided unless wearing protective glasses!
GREY HERON, CLEWERS LANE
The blue tits have already paired up and can be seen excitedly dotting about the hedgerow and trees as if joined by an invisible cord. Although this one is alone on the feeder, its partner is in the hedge nearby:
BLUE TIT, CLEWERS LANE
Take a look at any of the large trees in the lane and you will see wood pigeons, just quietly sitting there. They seem to be everywhere this year. Like other pigeons and doves they nest in summer rather than in spring and so their mating displays haven’t started yet. They are attractively marked but are not the brightest button in the box; this one thought it a good idea to check out the peanut feeder – which just about held up under the weight of the bird !
WOOD PIGEON, CLEWERS LANE
Preparations for breeding rights in the bird world are hotting up. A pair of buzzards has been displaying over the field of Jhansi Farm, whilst in the hedgerows and gardens, dunnocks, robins and blackbird males are busy fighting off rivals -sometimes with alarming ferocity. This robin has just spotted another in its patch and has taken off to do battle:
ANGRY ROBIN, CLEWERS LANE
Meanwhile, the resident jays continue their daily patrol of the hedgerow along Clewers Lane, probably checking out the nesting activities of the smaller birds as a future source of food. They have also buried many acorns in the field of Jhansi Farm and from time to time they dig these up and eat them.
JAY, CLEWERS LANE
The blackbird males have now joined the dawn chorus, and during the day, a pair of chaffinches can be seen in the hedgerow along Clewers Lane .The brightly coloured male can be heard delivering his song from the top of one of the ash trees.
MALE CHAFFINCH, CLEWERS LANE
The welcome spell of spring sunshine in mid-February seemed to kick-start the wildlife. Daffodils suddenly opened their buds and the insect life awoke from its hibernation. Red admirals appeared on the daffodils in search of nectar, and solitary orange-tailed bumblebees could be seen and heard bumbling about. Honey bees and bluebottles sunned themselves on south facing walls before flying off to the hellebore flowers in search of nectar.
RED ADMIRAL ON DAFFODIL, CLEWERS LANE
The buds are now beginning to burst open on the trees and bushes in the hedgerow. The willow buds are the first to crack open and show their contents, soon to be followed by the blackthorn flowers, signifying that spring may really be on its way:
WILLOW BUDS, CLEWERS LANE
Once the top soil had thawed, the invertebrates began to surface in search of old leaves and other vegetable matter. Unfortunately for this worm, it came to the surface just as this vigilant robin was passing by:
ROBIN AND WORM, CLEWERS LANE