A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
October continued with the warm weather which had characterised September. However, unlike September, it was very wet. Summer-visiting creatures continued to stop over on their return journeys. Chiffchaffs and Grey Wagtails were observed heading in a southerly direction:
GREY WAGTAIL, CLEWERS LANE
Although it appears to be mainly yellow in colour, the Grey Wagtail is so called after the colour of the feathers on its back, and it is usually found near running water where it hunts for winged insects. Chiffchaffs are so called because of the sound of their rather monotonous call – although it is not usually heard at this time of year:
CHIFFCHAFF, CLEWERS LANE
As the leaves fall from the smaller trees in the hedgerow, small flocks of Long-Tailed Tits can once again be seen patrolling the length of the lane on the lookout for insects.
The Ivy blossom nectar continues to attract autumn’s flying insects. This Red Admiral butterfly looked especially splendid in the late sunlight:
RED ADMIRAL, CLEWERS LANE
At the end of September, I spotted a late clutch of Large White butterfly eggs and these quickly hatched into sixteen tiny caterpillars which then proceeded to spend October munching their way through green stuff until they were several centimetres long, at which time they abruptly abandoned their larder and set off to pupate into chrysalises. Those that survive the winter will emerge as Large White butterflies in the spring:
LARGE WHITE CATERPILLARS, CLEWERS LANE
Some other insects are preparing to hibernate. These bugs will drop to the ground and spend winter months as moribund creatures in leaf litter and other vegetable matter:
SPIKED SHIELDBUG, CLEWERS LANE
GREEN SHIELD BUGS, CLEWERS LANE
Mammals use the autumn season of dozy insects, sweet fruits and nutritious seeds to fatten up and stock their larders with food to help them survive the forthcoming winter. Some of them, such as the Bats, will fully hibernate in groups in their regular roosts in old buildings, lofts and hollow trees. Hedgehogs usually partially hibernate in old undergrowth and emerge during warm spells in order to search for nourishment. Other mammals, such as rodents are usually active on all but the coldest days when they remain in their purpose-built nests:
This snapshot of a wood mouse was taken as it emerged from a hedge of blackberries that it was searching early one morning:
WOODMOUSE, CLEWERS LANE
The Wood mouse differs in appearance from the House Mouse in that it has white fur underneath and larger ears. The Yellow Necked Wood mouse also has a yellow band of fur under its throat area.
Grey Squirrels are rather keen on acorns and take full advantage of the several mature oaks in Clewers Lane. Squirrels bury their acorns all over the place in late autumn as a winter survival cache. To stop the acorns germinating and spoiling, squirrels always bite off the tip of the acorns before burying (The Jay, which also eats acorns, buries its acorns without damaging it and it is believed that the Jay, not the Squirrel, is responsible for the spread of Oak trees). This Grey Squirrel was resting atop a telegraph pole, surveying the world, early one morning:
GREY SQUIRREL, CLEWERS LANE
Although a creature the size of a Grey Squirrel is probably safe from the attention of a Kestrel, even the larger female of the species, it will still run for cover when this shape appears in the sky:
KESTREL (or WINDHOVER), CLEWERS LANE
This large Common Frog will be a target for the Kestrel if it is spotted:
COMMON FROG, CLEWERS LANE
As the winter approaches, the House Sparrows begin to return from the Hedgerows to check out their winter roosts in the houses in Clewers Lane:
HOUSE SPARROWS, CLEWERS LANE
Finally, the large, old Dog Rose which climbs up the Ash Tree opposite Meadow Gardens is covered in bright red hips which will feed the Redwings and Waxwings if they visit in the winter. The Dog Rose climbs some thirty feet or more up the tree:
DOG ROSE, CLEWERS LANE
The Dog Rose is so called because the ancient Greeks believed that the root could be used to cure a person who had been bitten by a mad dog. The Romans perpetuated the myth by naming the plant Rosa Canina which translates as Dog Rose. These days the flower is recognised as an emblem of the British monarchy and the hips are well known as a constituent of rose hip syrup – the source of vitamin C for many children.