A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
In the frosty January mornings, the songs of the male Song Thrush and Dunnock could be heard as the birds began to mark out their territories along the lane. Both species have mellifluous songs: that of the Song Thrush carrying far and wide; that of the Dunnock often being drowned out by the chirping of the House Sparrow colonies. A less noisy creature was this grey Heron who found a useful perch in a large Oak tree:
GREY HERON, CLEWERS LANE
THREE MALE BULLFINCHES, CLEWERS LANE
A small group of Bullfinches is ever present in the Hedgerow, feeding off the buds of the Bull Ace and other trees. Here you can see three mature males. Although the males are brightly coloured, the birds are quite secretive. Often the best way of detecting their presence is through their distinctive plaintive call. You can hear a sample of the call by opening this audio file (double click the icon):
It is not the world’s best quality as it was recorded with my pocket camera. House Sparrows can be heard chattering in the background, and towards the end, a Blue Tit begins its scolding alarm call and then a Robin jumps in to finish.
The Bullfinch is a species about whose survival there is much concern by conservationist bodies – it is classed as AMBER risk due to rapid decreases in its population.
The House Sparrow is of an even greater concern – it is RED listed, which means that it is in big trouble. A colony of twenty to thirty birds inhabits the hedgerow and houses halfway up the lane. The birds will soon be building their nests in the roof spaces of some of the houses, accompanied by much chirping and twittering as the males display for their selected females:
HOUSE SPARROW, CLEWERS LANE
Mentioned earlier, the Song Thrush is also a RED listed bird whereas the Dunnock is AMBER listed. Given the desperate conservation status of all these species: Dunnock, Bullfinch, House Sparrow and Song Thrush and include winter visitors such as the Redwing, which is also RED listed, and it is clear that places like Clewers Lane, with long-established hedgerows and trees are a lifeboat to survival.
On colder winter days, a small flock of a dozen or so Long Tailed Tits can be seen patrolling the hedgerow from West to East on the lookout for food:
Occasionally a Chaffinch or two puts in an appearance – this one is a female:
Flocks of Goldfinches are regular visitors, their tinkling song spills out over the landscape as the members of the group keep in touch with one another. This one paused for a moment to pose:
A handsome Nuthatch put in a noisy appearance atop one of the old Ash Trees in the hedgerow:
Our cheeky Grey Squirrel was out and about in the sunshine, prowling through the hedgerow on the lookout for seeds, berries and other morsels:
Finally for this month, small groups of Starlings have been congregating in the Hedgerow. This was good to see because the Starling is another RED listed species due to a severe decline in its population. Here is a small snapshot of one group, taken just after dawn on a grey morning:
On the verges, the leaves of the Lesser Celandine plants are showing through the grass and leaves to remind us that in a few weeks’ time the verges will be covered in yellow flowers – a welcome source of nectar for the early insects: