A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
Fog, frost, gales, heavy rain and the occasional sunny day were all on the weather menu for November and, as a result, most of the autumn colour has vanished from the trees. Not much bird and insect life remains to be seen at this time of the year as it it has either migrated to warmer climes or gone into hibernation until Spring. The Blue Tit stays with us throughout the winter and this one was snapped as it moved through the now bare trees on the lookout for spiders and grubs:
BLUE TIT, CLEWERS LANE
At this time of the year, Blue Tits are snooping around looking for potential springtime nest sites and they are fond of garden nest boxes. These should be in place before year-end and should not be located too close to food sources such as a bird table or feeder (closer than ten metres and the birds may feel disturbed by other birds coming to the feeder).
The Long Tailed Tit is another member of the Tit family that is easier to spot once the leaves have fallen. At this time of the year a small flock can be seen daily travelling along the lane inspecting the hedges and gardens for food.
Like many of our so-called resident species of bird and insect, large numbers of Starlings are summer visitors from the continent and return home once conditions deteriorate. This snapshot shows a number of them gathering on a grey November morning prior to forming large groups that migrate en masse:
STARLINGS, CLEWERS LANE
Our Goldfinches tend to overwinter in England and form into small flocks. This snapshot is of the tail-end of about twenty birds that settled on one of the tall Ash Trees in Clewers Lane one very foggy morning. When flocking, the birds keep in touch by means of twitters and chirps – very useful in thick fog :
GOLDFINCHES ON A FOGGY MORNING, CLEWERS LANE
Night after night throughout November the Tawny Owls can be heard calling each other with the familiar to-whit-to-woo. They start up at dusk and continue through to dawn whereupon the silence is broken by the sound of a Song Thrush marking out territory and/or attracting a mate.
Most of the nectar bearing plants have shut down for the year; however the Tufted Vetch is still going strong and is loved by the few Bees that emerge on the occasional sunny day:
TUFTED VETCH, CLEWERS LANE
The seed of the Tufted Vetch resembles a small pea and is sought after by pigeons. The flowers attract insects in Summer, especially butterflies and Bumble Bees, for whom it seems to be a favourite in the search for nectar.
At this time of year, Ivy is coming into flower and on a sunny day, the air is filled with the sweet, heavy scent of the blossoms. This is such an important plant for wildlife: as well as providing a late source of nectar for those insects that have not yet hibernated, its berries ripen in February are a vital source of food to our birds when there is little else to eat. The caterpillars of the Holly Blue butterfly are dependent on the unopened flower buds as a source of food and, of course, the plant provides essential all-year-round cover for insects and nesting birds:
IVY BLOSSOM, CLEWERS LANE