Clewers Lane Nature diary

APRIL 2013.

A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.

Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe

The bitter winter weather returned to bring snow showers and freezing easterly winds over the past few weeks. This seemed to confuse the spring plants such as lesser celandines and willow buds, which had started to flower four or five weeks ago but went into a kind of stasis as the cold weather arrived. However, now that the cold is giving way to warmer weather, they seem to be breaking forth once again:



With the arrival of the cold. The redwing flocks descended on the trees and shrubs in the lane, in search of berries and fruits of the hedgerow. Redwings are members of the thrush family that visit us from Scandinavia, and they are tolerant of the cold. The name comes from the colouring under the wings and can best be seen when the bird is in flight.



Some birds, which had already started to nest, abandoned them without laying – those birds that rely heavily on worms and similar invertebrates would have found it difficult to obtain enough food from the frozen ground. The house sparrows in the lane seemed to have been courting forever, before finally getting down to the business of laying.

Larger birds such as Jays, Magpies and Grey Heron have been seen frequently in the lane, but smaller birds, such as the wren have been noticeable by their absence. Here’s the first snapshot of a wren that I’ve managed to take this year.


The loud song of the wren belies its tiny size; so far this year, I’ve haven’t heard it – but it is a little early. However, the green woodpecker, and the greenfinches have definitely started to sing, along with the mistle thrush and other members of the thrush family. The cock blackbird’s efforts at five a.m. mean that an alarm clock is no longer necessary! The Robin song is heard less often now, as they are probably feeding their young. Both male and female robins sing; it’s not that easy to identify a cock robin!

One song that is easily overlooked is that of the cock bullfinch who has a fairly undistinguished ‘peep’. Fortunately, his colouring is so strong that he can be spotted by eye alone:


Mammals have been active in the lane. Badgers have been visiting the garden at night and stealing the soft fruit left out for the blackbirds. They are noisy and quite boisterous creatures and never seem to be alone. Foxes also are on the lookout for fruit or other food and can often be seen using the lane as a highway to somewhere or other. Even the squirrels have been out and about, at this time of year they will be checking the hedgerow for bird nests and their contents. What with the jays, the magpies the squirrels and rodents, all of which are partial to a bit of nest robbery, it’s a tough life for our feathered friends!


On the few days when the sun has been in evidence, one or two Brimstone butterflies have been patrolling the hedgerow and feeding on the spring flowers, as have the honeybees, but these occasions have been few and far between.

The autumn juvenile hedgehog has not been spotted this past month, and the long cold winter does not look promising for its welfare. Fingers crossed. Let’s hope that the next month proves more accommodating for the needs of the wildlife.

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