A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
January was very wet, very windy interspersed with some very cold nights and icy mornings. One or two small branches were brought down by the winds but, all in all, there was little immediate damage to the hedgerow and its trees. In January, cold nights sometimes lead to brilliant dawn skies, and this was the case on January 5th when, for a few minutes, the sky was lit up with bright blues, reds and oranges. My pocket camera captured this snapshot:
DAWN, 5th JAN 2014, LOOKING EAST FROM CLEWERS LANE
This snap of three distant woodpigeons perched at the top of an oak was taken a few minutes later, by which time the sky’s brilliant colours were nearly gone:
THREE WOOD PIGEONS AT DAWN, CLEWERS LANE
Despite the trying weather conditions, this little worker honeybee was out gathering nectar during a sunny break on 7th January.
HONEYBEE, 7th JAN, CLEWERS LANE
Birds have been very visible in the lane, but the wind and rain has made it difficult to take snapshots. Small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares have been spotted. Both are members of the thrush family. Both are temporary residents of the hedgerow and fields and will soon be gone, returning next autumn to stock up on food. Another member of the thrush family which has been spotted is the Mistle Thrush. Three of these were seen in a rather quarrelsome mood so presumably there is a pair and an interloper. These birds should stay all year.
A small colony of Bullfinches regularly patrols the hedgerow. The colony is a mixture of mature males, females and juvenile males from last year’s brood. The mature males are easiest to spot with their beautiful pink chests, but the females are more difficult to see as their plumage is much duller (for camouflage). The juvenile male has a pinkish brown chest.
MALE BULLFINCHES, CLEWERS LANE
Bullfinches love to eat the buds from fruit trees and were not much loved by the owners of cherry orchards back in the day. Here in Clewers Lane the hedgerow contains several wild Bullace trees (a bullace is a small plum-like fruit) and the local group of bullfinches spends quite a lot of time eating the buds at this time of year.
FEMALE BULLFINCH, CLEWERS LANE
Unlike the Bullfinch, the Nuthatch has a loud, one-note call which enables it to be identified by ear, before eye. This one was spotted running along the branches of an old ash, looking for insects in the bark. Nuthatches usually move through a tree from top to bottom, rarely from bottom up.
NUTHATCH, CLEWERS LANE
Small flocks of Goldfinches have been moving through the hedgerow and singing their light, tinkling song:
GOLDFINCH, CLEWERS LANE
Other birds are also busy: In mid-January the male Song Thrush and Dunnock began their territorial singing. The Thrush can usually be heard in the very early morning but the little Dunnock sings all day, as does the Robin. Greenfinches are also singing and the Grey Heron has been seen around the rooftops on several occasions. Long Tailed Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits are all busy in the hedgerow seeking out food and nesting materials:
BLUE TIT, CLEWERS LANE
Closer to the ground, the Lichen has been flourishing in the damp weather, although some damage was caused by the strong winds:
LICHEN, CLEWERS LANE.
Ivy is a very important plant for wildlife in that it provides shelter and nectar for insects and food for birds in winter. The berries are beginning to swell and will soon ripen to provide a good meal for many birds such as Wood Pigeon, Robin and members of the Thrush family, including the visiting Redwings.
IVY, CLEWERS LANE
REDWING, CLEWERS LANE
At ground level, the new growth of the Cow Parsley reminds us that spring is only a few weeks away:
COW PARSLEY, CLEWERS LANE