A natural history of the Hedgerows and Gardens in Clewers Lane, Waltham Chase.
Words and pictures by Gordon Larcombe
March weather has been varied: some nice sunny days and cold nights interspersed with periods of heavy rain and gale force winds.
GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER MALE, CLEWERS LANE
Just after dawn the Great Spotted Woodpecker males can often be heard drumming on the large trees in the lane. One quiet, grey Sunday morning I managed to capture a short video of a male doing just this in the large Ash Tree halfway up the lane. The video (taken with my tiny pocket camera) runs for about one minute on Windows:
VIDEO CLIP OF GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER DRUMMING, CLEWERS LANE
As the male Great Spotted does not sing, he uses the drum roll to mark out his territory and he always selects a dead section of a branch on which to perform his taradiddle that can be heard up to half a mile away. In the video clip the bird can be seen looking around and I suspect that was because another faint drum roll could be heard in the background. The speed with which he hammers the branch is astonishing – his head is a blur in the clip – and it has been estimated that the speed is thirty times per second. Some headache!
Judging by their numbers this Spring, the relatively mild winter seems to have helped the Ladybirds and the Wrens. These small creatures are vulnerable to hard winters. Ladybirds try to survive the cold by hibernating; Wrens, however, do not hibernate and have a different strategy for coping with extreme cold – with such a small body mass, they are vulnerable to the cold and so they gather together in large numbers in a sheltered place such as an old woodpecker nest and use their combined warmth to outlast the cold. Unfortunately, some will die from suffocation but many will survive by using this tactic.
WREN, CLEWERS LANE
SEVEN-SPOT LADYBIRDS, CLEWERS LANE
On bright sunny days Butterflies have been on the wing, especially hibernators such as Red Admiral, Brimstone and the Peacock – a snapshot of one sunning itself on a wall is shown here:
PEACOCK BUTTERFLY, CLEWERS LANE
It’s bad luck for the garden worms because the Blackbirds are now feeding their young in the nest with segments of worms. This snapshot was taken earlier in the month, on a frosty morning, when the female was still gathering material with which to build her nest:
FEMALE BLACKBIRD WITH NEST MATERIAL, CLEWERS LANE
At this time of the year, the insects are eager to refuel their energy supples with available nectar from flowers and so early bloomers are much sought after. This snapshot of Lesser Celandines on the Clewers Lane verge reminds us of how beautiful and important our verges can be :
LESSER CELANDINES ON THE VERGES, CLEWERS LANE