A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
January’s weather has mainly consisted of rain, rain and yet more rain accompanied by strong winds and unseasonably high temperatures. Occasionally the clouds cleared and rainwater turned to ice – a rare occurrence, which seemed to puzzle this Wood Pigeon as it sat in the sunshine for thirty minutes on this ice-up birdbath, seemingly trying to work out why the drinking water was ‘hard’!
WOOD PIGEON ON ICE, CLEWERS LANE
There has been much birdsong in January. During the night, the local Tawny Owls have been very vocal until dawn begins to break, at which time the dawn chorus takes over. Mistle Thrushes, Song Thrushes, Robins and Blackbirds are the first to greet the dawn and, as daylight develops, Dunnocks and Nuthatches join in. Occasionally, all goes quiet and a glance upwards will reveal the shape of a predator on the wing. On one very wet and windy morning in early January, a familiar shape was spotted gliding silently about a metre high above the ground to come to rest, semi-hidden on a tree stump, where it spent some time looking out for potential prey. It was a Male Sparrowhawk, distinguishable from the female by its reddish brown chest feathers as opposed to the blackish chest feathers of the female:
MALE SPARROWHAWK, CLEWERS LANE
After a while, the bird moved off and the birdsong could be heard once more. Two of the birds most likely to fall prey are the House Sparrow and the Dunnock (or Hedge Sparow) . At this time of year, the male Dunnock has the habit of seeking out an exposed location from which to sing loudly, thus making itself an easy target:
MALE DUNNOCK, CLEWERS LANE
House Sparrows present an easy target because they congregate in large, noisy groups in which one or two displaying males may momentatrily be distracted from the dangers around them. This is a female of the species:
FEMALE HOIUSE SPARROW, CLEWERS LANE
A pair of Mistle Thrushes has been checking out the local greenery for nest sites. This snapshot was taken of them in the large Ash Tree halfway down the lane:
A PAIR OF MISTLE THRUSHES, CLEWERS LANE
The bright yellow flowers of the Lesser Celandine began to appear in early January – their flowers are a valuable source of nectar for the few insects on the wing, such as Bumble Bees:
LESSER CELANDINE, CLEWERS LANE
And finally, for this month, the breaks in the cloudy weather allowed for one or two spectacular sunrises. This picture was taken down the lane facing east:
JANUARY SUNRISE, CLEWERS LANE