Clewers Lane Nature diary


SEPTEMBER 2014.

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

Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe

September’s warm and sunny weather was a contrast to the very wet August. The Bramble and Elder fruits were able to ripen fully, much to the satisfaction of the wildlife and the humans who eat them. The Ivy buds began to open and, by the end of the month, were in full flower and attracting the many insects that feed on the pollen and nectar, such as Hoverflies, Squash bugs and small Wasps. These, in turn, are a food source for Hornets and I watched several of them circling around a large clump of Ivy blossom before swooping down to try to catch one of the Hoverflies. Fortunately for the Hoverflies, they were too nimble for the much larger Hornets and were able to evade the predators. Eventually, the Hornets gave up, but I noticed that they were back on other occasions.

Even though it is nice and warm here at the moment, the clock is ticking for those animals that are summer visitors and they have begun their journeys back to their native land, which is often Africa. The Chiffchaff is such an animal and, in the goat willow trees, I noticed a small group of the birds heading in a southerly direction. This one paused for a moment to enable me to get this shot:



CHIFFCHAFF, CLEWERS LANE

Life is tough for the wildlife, even though the weather is mild and the food plenty. This pile of feathers is all that was left of a blackbird after a Sparrowhawk struck. The Sparrowhawk flies at great speed along a hedge to strike its prey at great speed. The transfer of momentum that takes place when a large bird moving at speed hits a small bird at rest is sufficient to kill the prey instantly from shock. The Sparrowhawk then lands with the dead prey and plucks the feathers, producing this typical pattern. The fact that we have so many House sparrows in the lane may be one of the reasons why the Sparrowhawks often visit, but they will take anything up to blackbird size, and I have even seen the larger female Sparrowhawk take a collared dove:


SPARROWHAWK KILL, CLEWERS LANE

Painted Lady butterflies have at last put in an appearance. These insects also travel here from Africa and sometimes arrive in huge numbers:


PAINTED LADY, CLEWERS LANE

As the trees begin to shed their leaves, it becomes easier to spot the smaller birds that inhabit them. On one of the few overcast mornings of the month I noticed a small group of Goldcrests moving through the Bullace and Willow trees, looking for insects. The light was not conducive to taking snapshots with my pocket camera but I did manage to get a poor quality snap of this little fellow hovering:


HOVERING GOLDCREST, CLEWERS LANE

The resident Bullfinches seem to have successfully raised offspring, judging by the presence of this juvenile bird that was busy eating the buds from the Bullace trees:


JUVENILE BULLFINCH, CLEWERS LANE

Wrens and Robins are beginning to lay territorial claims by singing and chasing off any intruders of the same species that dare to enter their ‘patch’. This little Wren was a ball of aggression as it saw off a rival:


WREN, CLEWERS LANE

Brimstone Butterflies are flitting around the hedgerow and are a fairly common sight at this time of the year. There is also a similar insect called the Brimstone Moth – this will often come to lighted windows at night in the summer. It is slightly smaller than the Brimstone Butterfly:



BRIMSTONE BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE BRIMSTONE MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

Other insects on view at the moment include this bright red and black ground bug that eats small seeds:


RED AND BLACK GROUND BUG, CLEWERS LANE

Another fairly attractive moth is the Yellow Underwing which was snapped on the grass verge. When its wings are open, the egg-yolk yellow underwings are fully displayed. The underwings can just be seen in the ‘V’ created by the upper wings at rest:


YELLOW UNDERWING MOTH, CLEWERS LANE

This large Grasshopper was also spotted leaping about in the undergrowth:


GRASSHOPPER, CLEWERS LANE

And finally, for this month, as evidence of what a productive summer it has been for the fruiting trees and shrubs, here is a snapshot of the ripe fruits on the Elder trees:


ELDER BERRIES, CLEWERS LANE

Elder flowers are collected and used to flavour drinks such as Elderflower cordial. In September when the berries are black and ripe, many birds feast on them in competition with humans who may use the ripe berries for fermenting into Elderberry wine. Unripe green berries are best avoided as they are classed as poisonous.

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