THE NATURAL HISTORY OF A HAMPSHIRE LANE
MALE DUNNOCK IN SONG, CLEWERS LANE
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WILDLIFE SPOTTED IN CLEWERS LANE, WALTHAM CHASE DURING 2015.
Highlights taken from “A Natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase” in 2015.
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
After the snowfalls early in February, springtime finally arrived with several bright, sunny days. The air was filled with birdsong, and male blackbirds were scampering round the place charging aggressively at rivals who dared to enter a territory that had already been spoken for; and one or two early insects emerged from their winter hibernation.
The brief snows gave a nice opportunity to take some ‘Christmas card’ snaps of the birds in the hedgerow:
MALE BULLFINCH IN THE SNOW, CLEWERS LANE
March was mainly mild, windy and dry – except for one tremendous hailstorm that deposited an inch of hailstones towards the end of the month. This did not deter the birds, insects and wild flowers from their Springtime activities. This Goldcrest was spotted early in the month, flitting from plant to plant in search of food. It is the smallest British bird and also the smallest European bird, tinier than a Wren, to which it is not related. Male and female Goldcrests are very similar in appearance except for the fact that the male may have orange feathers in the crest, but it is difficult to see this distinction as the creature is rarely still for a moment.
GOLDCREST, CLEWERS LANE
April was unusualy warm, sunny and dry – a far cry from its traditional characterisation as a month of much rainfall. As a consequence, wildlife progressed rapidly. Pipistrelle and other bats were on the wing since the night of April 8th, hoovering up the early supply of small moths and other insects. A 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 weather in May was quite ordinary: one or two nice days, but many cold and windy days.Several species of wildflower came into bloom in the lane. Ramsons, or wild garlic, with its characteristic odour, appeared in the shadier, damp parts of the lane:
RAMSONS, CLEWERS LANE
The weather in June was dry with a mixture of warm, sunny days and dull, cloudy days. Good weather for young birds to fledge and the local blue tits all successfully fledged early in the month; this picture shows the final fledgling surveying the world for from its nestbox, just before leaving it for good:
BLUE TIT FLEDGLING READY TO TAKE THE PLUNGE, CLEWERS LANE
The warm and mainly dry weather of July was good for the insect life; however, the ground was bone dry and the birds had to work hard in the search for worms and grubs with which to feed their young. Early in the month I spotted a Ruby Tailed wasp darting along the wall looking for any nests of Masonry bees (into which it lays its eggs). The tiny insect moves so quickly that it is a challenge to get a half-decent snapshot of it:
RUBY TAILED WASP, CLEWERS LANE
August was a mixed bag of rain interspersed with some warm, sunny days. The much-heralded prediction of an influx of Painted Lady butterflies did not happen in this part of country. This snapshot is of a female Holly Blue laying eggs in young ivy buds:
HOLLY BLUE FEMALE ON IVY, CLEWERS LANE
September was punctuated by periods of heavy rain; however in the few sunny spells many butterfles and other insects were observed feeding on the nectar of flowers or on the sugars in ripe fallen fruit. These sources provide energy to help the insects survive hibernation or the return trip to warmer climes. This picture is of a Humming Bird Hawk moth at rest. In action, it is a totally different creature. I shot a short video of this amazing animal in action and Martin has hosted it on his website. If you press control & click on this link, you will be able to view it, provided you have a web connection: https://youtu.be/WgbjAFDiGzs
HUMMING BIRD HAWK MOTH, CLEWERS LANE
October’s early frosts heralded the first signs of Autumn: fruits ripening, seeds dispersing , colourful leaves on the deciduous trees, and very large, scary House Spiders invading local bath and living rooms on the lookout for a mate! This beautiful male Blue Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), a rare close relative of the common pheasant put in an appearance early one morning:
MALE BLUE PHEASANT (Phasianus colchicus), CLEWERS LANE
Fog, frost, gales, heavy rain and the occasional sunny day were all on the weather menu for November and, as a result, much of the autumn colour soon vanished from the trees. Most of the nectar bearing plants had also shut down for the year; however the Tufted Vetch was still going strong and is loved by the Solitary Bees that were on the wing right up to year end:
TUFTED VETCH, CLEWERS LANE