The Natural History of a Hampshire lane Vol 2


THE NATURAL HISTORY OF A HAMPSHIRE LANE

Volume Two

2013



AUTUMN JUVENILE HEDGEHOG

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WILDLIFE SPOTTED IN CLEWERS LANE, WALTHAM CHASE DURING 2013.

Highlights taken from “A Natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase” in 2013.

Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe

The weather in early January was relatively mild for the time of year and many varieties of resident birdsong could be heard at dawn: goldfinches, robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, song thrushes, mistle thrushes, chaffinches and greenfinches were all easy on the ear. Many of these birds were readily visible because the late January snowfall created a shortage of natural food and encouraged them to come to feeders; whilst the few leaves that were left on the hedgerow provided little cover for those birds that were feeding off the hedgerow. Bullfinches, Nuthatches and Long Tailed Tits being particularly photogenic:


Male Bullfinch


Nuthatch                  Long Tailed Tit

 

In February, even the Starlings were feeding off the fat balls and the complexity of their colouring could be clearly seen. Definitely not another little brown bird! What use is snow without a Robin? This one duly obliged by perching on one of the snow laden branches:


Robin


Common Starling showing details of markings

The weather in March was changeable. A third spell of snow covered the Celandine flowers which were beginning to bloom on the verges. The hedgerow plants were all in bud – spring would soon be arriving. Also arriving during March was a large Grey Heron which visited the lane several times on the lookout for food – rodents mainly. The resident pair of Jays was also very visible as the birds moved through the hedgerow on the lookout for signs of nest building by small birds – the potential eggs and chicks being a source of food for the Jays:


Grey Heron


Jay

April finally saw Spring arrive. The verges in the lane were filled with the bright yellow of celandine flowers and the pale green of the umbellifer plants. In the hedgerow, willow buds were bursting open and so too were the leaf buds of the Hawthorn and Bull Ace trees. The last few berries on the ivy and the wild rose plants were eaten by the bullfinches, redwings and waxwings before these last two species returned to the colder northern climes for the summer:


Clewers Lane Verge


Waxwing


Redwing

May was heralded by several days of sunshine before the wind and the rain returned. At night, the local bats began the take to the wing in search of insects. The warm sunshine was enough to stimulate a Brimstone butterfly to begin to feed on the nectar of early-flowering plants such as the lungwort. Another early flower is the dog Violet and one or two could be spotted in the undergrowth. Also putting in an appearance this month was a surprise visitor from West Africa – a male Whitethroat:


Male Whitethroat


Dog Violet


Brimstone

In June, Clewers Lane was a symphony of green and white as the Hawthorn trees, Cow Parsley and Wild Garlic all burst into flower. The Mistle Thrushes were busy, feeding their brood; however, the first Blackbird chicks had already begun to fledge:


Clewers Lane Verge


Mistle Thrush with worms


Fledgling Blackbird

More fledglings appeared throughout July, particularly Robins, Starlings and House Sparrows. Insects became more plentiful, particularly the beautiful (but poisonous) Burnet Moth:


Five Spot Burnet Moth


Fledgling Robin


Fledgling House Sparrow

August was warm and sunny – honestly! Butterflies seemed to be more evident than in recent years, particularly the Small Tortoiseshell and Holly Blues. Peacock Butterflies, with wing markings that mimic a larger animal, were numerous too. Strange-looking Bush Crickets and handsome Goldfinches also seemed to be more populous than in recent years:


Goldfinch


Speckled Green Bush Cricket


Peacock Butterfly

The warm weather continued into September and the hedgerow in Clewers Lane filled with the fruits of Autumn: Bull Aces, Hawthorns, Blackberries, Rose Hips, Elderberries, Acorns, Horse Chestnuts, Ash Keys, together with seeds of the many grasses and wild flowers on the verge. Insects were still much in evidence as these:


Corizus Hyoscami


Holly Blue Butterfly laying eggs on Ivy.


White Plume Moth

October brought with it an Indian Summer and extended what had hitherto been a good Summer for insects, particularly Hoverflies and Butterflies, including the Comma – so called because of the small white ‘comma’ marking on the underside of each wing. An interesting Potter Wasp was spotted – the female builds a pea-sized container from clay and lays an egg inside it, then repeats the process until she has finished laying. The weather was so unseasonably warm at one stage, that a common frog appeared to be cooling off in a water container:


Comma feeding on Blackberries


Common Frog


Potter Wasp

In November a raptor appeared in the skies above Clewers Lane and was immediately set upon by two of the local crows who dive bombed it until it flew off. A Harlequin Ladybird was seen – which may or may not be bad news for the indigenous ladybirds. The Harlequin is a foreign import and has much the same diet as our native species. However, because it has a voracious appetite, it may represent unwelcome competition – much as the Grey Squirrel was for the Red Squirrel. The Squash Bug is a near relative of the Shield Bugs and is easier to spot at this time of the year when the leaves have fallen from the trees:


Two Crows dive-bombing a Raptor (on the lower left)


A Harlequin Ladybird


Squash Bug

And so to December, bringing heavy rain and strong winds that mean that only the toughest can endure. Two of our once common species of bird, the House Sparrow and the Common Starling have populations which have been in sharp decline and so it is encouraging to note, that even at this time of the year, there are still small colonies of both birds preparing for life in 2014 in Clewers Lane:


Common Starlings at Dusk


Colony of House Sparrows in the Hedgerow

To my surprise, and as if to show that you don’t have to be big to survive the recent storms, this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was spotted sunbathing on a windowsill on December 28th :


Small Tortoiseshell on 28 December, Clewers Lane.

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2 Responses to The Natural History of a Hampshire lane Vol 2

  1. Thank you for the wonderful pictures reviewing the 2013 nature diary featuring Clewers Lane.

    • Gordon Larcombe says:

      Thanks you for your kind comments, Dorothy! I plan to keep snapping away in 2014 – once the wind and rain have abated……… G

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