A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
April has been unusually warm, sunny and dry – a far cry from its traditional characterisation as a month of much rainfall. As a consequence, much of the wildlife has progressed rapidly. Pipistrelle and other bats have been on the wing since the night of April 8th, hoovering up the early supply of small moths and other insects, and much of the early spring hedgerow flowers have gone over – the lesser celandines and the bull ace blossoms have set their seeds already. As a result of the fine weather, much of this month’s pictures will be of insect life; however the birds are still singing and raising their young and they have not completely escaped the attention of the camera.
In search of food, this Jay decided to investigate the Blue Tits’ nest box. It was presumably attracted by the sound of nestlings within; however it left empty-handed, so to speak. Jays are intelligent members of the crow family and it is possible that this one has simply learned from experience that a nest box represents food.
It is not only Jays that make a nuisance of themselves: this picture shows a male House Sparrow poking its beak where it’s not wanted – right into a nest box that is fully occupied. The sparrow was no threat, it was simply looking for nest sites of its own, however it was soon seen off by a pair of angry blue tits!
INQUISITIVE HOUSE SPARROW, CLEWERS LANE
A single pair of bullfinches has been calling from the hedgerow in the vicinity of the bullace trees. Now that the leaves are fully out it is not easy to spot the birds. This is a picture of a female who was dining on the bullace buds surrounded by bullace blossom:
FEMALE BULLFINCH IN BULLACE BLOSSOM, CLEWERS LANE
The little Holly Blue butterflies have been flitting along the lane, their erratic paths making them seem rather like pale blue pieces of confetti blowing in the wind. In the spring, the Holly Blue lays its eggs on holly trees and the caterpillars feed on holly buds, whereas in the Autumn, it lays its eggs on ivy and the caterpilars feed on ivy buds. Here is a snap of one resting on ivy in the spring sunshine:
HOLLY BLUE ON IVY, CLEWERS LANE
Another small, pretty butterfly which flies in an apparently random manner is the Orange Tip. The male has the beautiful orange tips to the topsides of its wings, whereas the female is plain white. Underneath, both sexes are mottled olive green and white. At this time of the year, they seem to be attracted to blue flowers such as Forget-Me-Nots and Bluebells. Here is a snap of a male feeding on a Forget-Me-Not:
MALE ORANGE TIP, CLEWERS LANE
The Brimstone butterflies are also much in evidence. They too seem to seek out blue flowers, and this is a snap of one on a Bluebell:
It may sometimes be forgotten that most Trees are flowering plants and this is a picture of a Peacock butterfly feeding high up in the hedgerow on the blossom of the Goat Willow tree:
PEACOCK BUTTERFLY ON GOAT WILLOW, CLEWERS LANE
We are fortunate to have so many beautiful and eye-catching insects; however there are many more which wouldn’t win any beauty competitions but still have a beauty of their own. This is a snap of a tiny day-flying moth called the Mint Moth and it loves Mint or Marjoram and similar herbs. You can estimate its size by comparing it with the daisy flower on which it is resting:
MINT MOTH, CLEWERS LANE
Another small, but striking insect is this one, going by the name of Corizus Hyoscyami. Its colouring tells potential predators that it is not nice to eat:
CORIZUS HYOSCYAMI, CLEWERS LANE
In the warm sunshine, the Shield Bugs are very active. Normally quite sedate, they have been flying busily about in search of a mate. Here is a snap of a cluster in the process of trying to sort out their domestic arrangements:
SHIELD BUGS, CLEWERS LANE
As mentioned, April has been dry and dusty. For the birds, the bird bath has been an important source of water for drinking and bathing. This particular lump of a Woodpigeon seems to be unfamiliar with the concept of sharing and decided to sit in the small bird bath for several minutes to the exclusion of all others.
WOODPIGEON, CLEWERS LANE
And finally, here is a picture of the Bull Ace trees in full blossom. The trees are due to be removed later this year and so it is nice that the final display should have been such a glorious one: